A place where Minnesota's design community can blow its collective mind about creative expression in every medium from websites to landscapes, chocolate to bicycles.

Illustrator James Jean Revealed

Posted: November 12th, 2009 | Author: Todd | Filed under: illustration, input, opinion | Tags: | 2 Comments »

illustration-james-jean-01

illustration-james-jean-02

illustration-james-jean-03

Diego Rivera did some wonderful frescoes but I didn’t truly fall in love with his work until I had the opportunity to see a show of his amazing sketches at the San Francisco Art Institute (where he happens to have left one of his frescoes). There is something about a raw look at an artist’s creative process – before all the filtering for an audience happens – that is really marvelous to behold.

So it is with illustrator James Jean. Flipping through his online portfolio is like attending an extravagant concert listening to highly produced love songs. It’s breath taking work. Yet there is something about shuffling through his “SKETCH” section that is somehow more satisfying. Like sitting up close in a small acoustic setting where you can see the musician sweat and see that the heartache in the song is real.

Each of James’ sketch books is dated and described simply by its color or a letter. Immersion begins (as it should) with a handsome photo of the actual book showing the patina it acquired during its tenure. The experience proceeds with subject matter that is often less fanciful than his formal portfolio. Figure studies, people on the bus, writings… but I love the lose, gestural quality of the work and the thought. I imagine when he did these sketches he wasn’t thinking about me (in the abstract) at all. He was focused on the moment and how to represent it.

I am left to wonder why designers (so far as they differ from artists) are conditioned away from showing process in this way – favoring instead the polished end result. Limiting ourselves to a small number of samples even within that criteria. Shying away even from polished work that wasn’t actually produced. Not only do I have piles of sketch books but endless folders and files full of work that was never published, printed or launched. By keeping all this work hidden away we deny everyone the chance to be an archaeologist of our creative legacy. Even more troubling is the idea that perhaps we miss the opportunity to let others fall in love with our work.


2 Comments on “Illustrator James Jean Revealed”

  1. 1 jzerger said at 4:26 pm on November 12th, 2009:

    Beautiful work on his part, and interesting insights on your part. Great post.

  2. 2 cindy said at 6:46 pm on November 12th, 2009:

    mmmmm…and I get to revel in your sketchbooks…pure process… pure beauty.