ART LOVE — James Jean

Justin here (Designer, Janitor, and interim CEO whenever Jon is napping). I’m here to share some of my inspirations. —

I forget how I discovered this guy back when I was a teenager, but through the years, I have consistently and instinctually, like a stretch-reflex, name-dropped James Jean as my favorite living artist. He has truly inspired me; not just with a momentary warm fuzzy feeling, but a lasting insatiable injection of childlike determination that anything is possible within the boundaries of a piece of paper. Part of it is for sure because he’s Taiwanese like me, but another is simply that the quality and breadth of work is so damn impressive.

It wasn’t until podcasts and interviews started popping up on the Internet that I learned he wasn’t mystically born the titillating god of imagination and hand-eye coordination. He really put in the hours from an early age; through school at SVA and his first working jobs, he never stopped. Like at all. So to me, he is an artist’s artist. He has developed a language that no one else can speak, but somehow many can understand—a seductive language of extremes, of eastern and western tongues, of classicism, of comic book nostalgia, and of romance. The man is made of pure skill and patient obsession.

My favorite quote about him is from Takahashi Murakami on his first time looking through James Jean’s sketchbooks. He said, “For him, to live is to draw.” Still gives me goosebumps every time.

I've also included a definitely not-embarrassing email I wrote to him 10 years ago, which clearly shows that my relationship with him was far from fanboy and instead teetered somewhere between soulmates and best friends. I will cherish it forever.