Inspo Series: James Jean

I’m always curious to know the driving forces behind someone’s creativity. Knowing what books they read, what podcasts they listen to, and even the individuals they are inspired by helps paint a bigger picture of who they are as a creative. Knowing this, I figured it would be interesting to jot down the things that I’m inspired by. Hope you enjoy this mini-series!



James Jean is an illustrator based in California that works within both commercial and fine art realms. He rose further in popularity by collaborating with fashion entities such as PRADA and Philip Lim and illustrating posters for Hollywood films like Bladerunner 2049 and Shape of Water. I’d say he’s equally, if not more, well known for his personal and distinctive body of work.

Jean graduated from the School of Visual Arts. Fun fact: he was roommates with Yuko Shimizu when she attended SVA for graduate school. I have to note that because they’re both prolific illustrators that are very in tune with creating work that addresses and challenges culture. Not to mention how highly skilled and intelligent they are!

It’s been an amazing journey to watch how Jean developed his life and career. I think I discovered him mid-2000’s, back when artist-centric websites were (and still!) the rage and blogs were the method of showcasing process.

James Jean in home and studio, captured by  MAEKAN

James Jean in home and studio, captured by MAEKAN

Year Of Monkey by James Jean

Year Of Monkey by James Jean

I came across a story on MAEKAN with James Jean and Juncha. It delved into the idea of unlearning as a way to help an artist grow. When things feel stagnant — which is the ultimate creativity killer — how does one overcome that?

Unlearning involves letting go of long-held ideas so they can be better understood objectively and if necessary, discarded. By freeing oneself to assess the value of an idea as it contributes to the bigger picture, it can allow an artist to improve their current style, or even pursue an entirely new creative direction altogether.

MAEKAN hit the target when addressing how Jean is comfortable with being uncomfortable. He continuously puts out work that pushes the limitations of what is both expected of an illustrator and a painting/visual. By result of constant exploration and a discomfort with repetition, he’s come to have a distinct style that transcends mediums and collaborations.