James Jean is a Taiwanese-American visual artist based in Los Angeles. He explores the phantasmagorical dreamy world through painting, daily drawing on a sketchbook, and digital art. He is well known for the sophisticated line and ambient tones that make us think of bright hallucinations. He previously worked for DC comics in 2001, where he started the career as an illustrator of American comic books. However, he left the company in 2008 and started to concentrate on large scale painting so as to build his own pictorial world and to work what he was interested in. Rather than trying to fulfill the expectations of someone else, he tries to look into the internal stories of the works, which have been visually revealed in the sketchbook pages about himself. The otherworldy fairytales are both affiliated to fine art and pop culture, making the intersection of commercial art and fine art. As an Asian-American identity, His work bridges the past and the present by incorporating traditional techniques and manga-style. Japanese manga, anime, ukiyo-e, and American comic books, as well as childhood dreams, have influenced him to establish the enthralling fantasticism. Especially, his interest in the image of the ocean, which has a powerful waveform, is embodied within the reinterpretation of Hokusai’s <The Great Wave Off Kanagawa>. He emphasises to draw every day, showing that his consistent drawing practice turns into a final work. As he said, he believes the body as a mechanical vehicle for emotions, so, he keeps trying to that vehicle operating on a daily basis. In addition, he mentioned that the distinction between an artist and a non-artist depends on consistently making. Particularly, his sketchbook is used for the final place to create art and the lab working on ideas that become larger paintings to him
I am mesmerised by the fact that the traditional elements in his painting do not seem to be conventional anymore. To describe in more detail, he transforms the natural subjects such as birds, flowers, water, which are ordinary in oriental painting, into the unusual vision. It seems to me that he deals with the harmony of human beings and nature, which is the main motif in East Asian painting. In other words, the subjects amid waveform that connect to nature are the main motif in oriental painting, and he makes the world into an unfamiliar fantasy. Thus, his art with the semi-realistic manga style connects to the oriental world but also opens the psychedelic fantasy. In addition, the use of complementary colours evokes the strangeness and the gorgeousness at the same time because it makes the contrast but also the connection. It is also interesting to find that his artwork composes a lot of narratives even though he looks shy and quiet.
* quoted from interview*
Everywhere I see you, you’re carrying your sketchbook, filled with the most intricate and complicated drawings. How do you know where to begin? And where to end? Frequently, I’ll start something with no plan or idea of where it’s going to go. These drawings are done in pen, so there’s no erasing, no retreating. The drawing ends when anything I add feels like mere decoration.
What kind of stuff did you like drawing and/or painting as a kid? I never painted; that didn’t happen until college. But I always drew and doodled in the margins. Faces, twisting bodies, abstract motifs. When I was 13, I read my first comic book, and I was mesmerized by the anatomy and the way artists could describe different surfaces and materials with inked lines, from the way veins would course over stretched ligaments through spandex to the way an underboob would catch reflected light.