Magic Touch

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    James Jean, Maze. Courtesy of artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery.

    James Jean, Maze. Courtesy of artist and Jonathan Levine Gallery.

    Award-winning illustrator James Jean is dreamy. His art is an OxyContin cloud in a clear winter sky. The fluid lines, vibrant color and fantastic subject matter combine melancholia and poetry. Fashion designer Miuccia Prada was so inspired by Jean’s work that she used his art on dresses for her Spring/Summer 2008 collection and has displayed his pieces in her flagship stores across the world. This winter Jean returns to personal projects, culminating in his first solo show on January 10 at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York.

    GIANT: Do you work from home or a studio?
    James Jean: The studio is part of my home. I have a door I use to shut away distractions such as pets and women.

    What’s your typical day like?
    JJ: I start around 10 [am], work like hell until 10 [pm]. I’ve worked longer, but I’m trying to have more fun and some social time.

    What made you aware that you needed some downtime?
    JJ: The long fingernails and jars of urine tipped me off. Your work can be wistful.

    What’s the happiest you’ve ever been?
    JJ: I’m even-keeled; one guy actually said I always seem sedated. I don’t have highs or lows. I’m focused—like a laser beam.

    How do you work?
    JJ: I plan everything out and have a sketch to work from, but there’s also a lot of improvisation. The last 20 percent of a painting is the most important. This involves destroying what’s there and coming up with some new idea or element that creates that final feeling of magic.

    Early sketch of Toy Vendor.

    James Jean, early sketch of Toy Vendor.

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