James Jean

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James Jean
Born1979 (1979) (age 39-40)
NationalityTaiwanese American
EducationSchool of Visual Arts[1]
Known forPainting

James Jean is a Taiwanese American visual artist, known for both his commercial work and fine art gallery work. He is known in the American comics industry as a cover artist for various books published by DC Comics, as well as for his work for Prada, ESPN and Atlantic Records. His work, which has been collected in numerous volumes, has been compared by The New York Times to that of Maxfield Parrish.

Early life[edit]

Jean was born in Taiwan and was raised in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey.[2] Growing up, Jean was interested in playing music, specifically the trumpet. However, he turned toward art instead as he pursued a higher education.[3] He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, from which he graduated in 2001.[1][4]


In 2001, Jean became a cover artist for DC Comics, garnering seven Eisner awards, three consecutive Harvey awards, two gold medals and a silver from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, and a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators of New York. He also worked in advertising,[5] and has contributed to many national and international publications. His clients included Time Magazine, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, ESPN, Atlantic Records, Target, Linkin Park, Playboy, Knopf, Prada among others. He illustrated covers for the comic book series Fables and The Umbrella Academy, for which he has won six Eisner Awards for "Best Cover Artist".[6] In 2006, he won Best Artist from the World Fantasy Awards.[7] He also did the album art for My Chemical Romance 's album The Black Parade, which was released in 2006.

In 2008, Jean retired from illustration and commercial projects in order to focus on painting.[8][9] Jean draws from his Taiwanese American background as a source of inspiration in his artwork. [10] He often incorporates traditional Chinese and Japanese aesthetics into his pieces which focus on contemporary subjects, working to dismantle the distinction between commercial and fine art by creating surreal imagery driven by a narrative.[11][12] His Figure Studies contain some portraits of Sasha Grey.[13] In the summer of 2015, Jean was commissioned to paint a large-scale mural for the annual POW! WOW! Hawai`i Art Event at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Luce Pavilion.[14] In the winter of 2015, Jean was chosen by Apple Inc. to help launch the iPad Pro[15] and Apple Pencil.[16] For Chinese New Year of 2016, Jean collaborated with Beats by Dre by creating exclusive art for a limited edition pair of headphones.[17]

Notable works[edit]

Prada advertisement featuring James Jean designs


In 2007, Jean created a mural for the Prada Epicenter stores in New York and Los Angeles.[18] He also created a backdrop for Prada's Spring/Summer 2008 show in Milan.[19]

Aspects of the Epicenter mural and the Milan wallpaper were transformed into clothing, handbags, shoes, and packaging. Prada undertook a global campaign that featured Jean's work in advertising environments, animation, and special events.[citation needed]

In 2008, Jean again collaborated with Prada, developing an animated short based on the wallpapers, clothing, and accessories produced in 2007. He wrote, storyboarded, and did the visual development for the animation, which would be eventually titled "Trembled Blossoms", taken from the poem "Ode to Psyche”, by John Keats.

Phillip Lim[edit]

In 2010, Jean was commissioned by fashion designer Phillip Lim to paint a series of portraits featuring Los Angeles-based actors, musicians, and tastemakers, including Rachel Bilson, Selma Blair, and Devendra Banhart.[20]

Lotte Art Museum[edit]

In 2019, Jean brought his largest solo exhibition so far, "Eternal Journey", to Seoul's Lotte Art Museum. Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami visited Seoul to support Jean's display. This exhibit was divided into five sections according to the colors of Asian philosophy (red, blue, black, white, and yellow). Jean showcased over 500 artworks, including new pieces which were inspired by Seoul's modernity. One notable piece was the 10 meter wide painting "Descendants -- Blue Wood." This piece was inspired by the Lotte World Tower and its resemblance to the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk. Other artworks include drawings, sculptures, and various installations. [21][22]

Critical analysis[edit]

Dana Jennings of The New York Times says of Jean's work: "And, as with his Fables work, the paintings and illustrations are often suffused with a dreamy romanticism and lyricism worthy of Maxfield Parrish, even as Mr. Jean subverts those and other isms."[4]

Published works[edit]

Jean currently has seven published works, all of which collect his illustrations and art: Process Recess volumes 1 - 3 (v2 & v3 have both a regular and a special edition), Fables: Covers, XOXO and Kindling:12 Removable Prints. Kindling is an oversized poster book featuring works from Jean's 2009 gallery show of the same name. The Process Recess volumes display Jean's process in his illustrations, by showing both the original sketches and the final coloring, Process Recess is also the name of his blog, which includes similar content. Fables: Covers is a collection of the cover art illustrations James Jean has made for the comic book series Fables. XOXO is a selection of his illustrations displayed in the form of postcards.

  • Process Recess (AdHouse Books, 2005) [23]
  • Process Recess 2: Portfolio (AdHouse Books, 2007)[24]
  • Xoxo: Hugs and Kisses (Chronicle Books, 2008) [25]
  • Fables: Covers (DC Comics, 2008) [26]
  • Process Recess 3: The Hallowed Seam (AdHouse Books, 2009) [27]
  • Kindling: 12 Removable Prints (Chronicle Books, 2009) [28]
  • Rift (Chronicle Books, 2010) [29]
  • Rebus (Chronicle Books, 2011) [30]
  • Memu: 100 Postcards (Chronicle Books, 2014) [31]
  • Fables: The Complete Covers (DC Comics, 2015) [32]
  • Xenograph (James Jean, 2015) [33]
  • Pareidolia (PIE Books, 2015) [34]
  • Zugzwang (James Jean, 2016) [35]


  1. ^ a b "Painfully Self-aware And 'Serious' " Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine, Communication Arts Insights, March 31, 2009
  2. ^ Seman, Rob "He draws on comic book love" Archived 2012-07-29 at Archive.today, Daily Record (Morristown), March 30, 2004. Accessed August 30, 2007. "Jean, who grew up in Parsippany on Westminster Drive, was a weekly customer at Funnybooks, on North Beverwyck Road, but never expected his work would one day wind up on store shelves."
  3. ^ "James Jean". Widewalls. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  4. ^ a b Jennings, Dana. "The Power of Fairy Tales". "Comics Canonization". The New York Times. August 18, 2011
  5. ^ Melrose, Kevin. "The 25 best comic covers of 2008", "Robot 6", Comic Book Resources, January 2, 2009
  6. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008). "Fables". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The Vertigo Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 72–81. ISBN 978-0-7566-4122-1. OCLC 213309015.
  7. ^ World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on 2010-12-01. Retrieved 4 Feb 2011.
  8. ^ "Jean's announcement of retirement from illustration and commercial work". Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-05-16.
  9. ^ "James Jean Kindling: New Works on Paper and Canvas". Jonathan LeVine Gallery. 2009. accessed August 20, 2011.
  10. ^ "An Interview with James JeanNeocha – Culture & Creativity in Asia". Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  11. ^ "JAMES JEAN ETERNAL JOURNEY". LOTTE Foundation for Arts. April 4, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  12. ^ "James Jean - Artist Profile". WOW x WOW. 2016-09-16. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  13. ^ "Sasha Grey, through the eyes of James Jean". Juxtapoz. June 20, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  14. ^ Work at the Honolulu Museum of Art
  15. ^ James Jean recruited by Apple
  16. ^ Apple Pencil Artist James Jean Shows off His Exquisite Digital Artwork
  17. ^ James Jean and Beats by Dre bring in the Chinese New Year
  18. ^ Work for Prada featured in TMagazine, The New York Times fashion magazine
  19. ^ "Prada Trembled Blossoms Issue 02" Archived 2010-11-23 at the Wayback Machine. Wallpaper Magazine. accessed August 20, 2011.
  20. ^ Kantor, Jessica. "FNO Highlight of the Day: Phillip Lim L.A. Boutique" Archived 2012-03-15 at the Wayback Machine. Vogue magazine. August 19, 2010
  21. ^ Herald, The Korea (2019-04-10). "Complete edition of visual artist James Jean". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  22. ^ "James Jean Opens Largest Solo Exhibition to Date in Seoul, "Eternal Journey"". HYPEBEAST. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  23. ^ Process Recess - AdHouse Books catalog
  24. ^ Process Recess 2 - AdHouse Books catalog
  25. ^ "Xoxo - Chronicle Books catalog". Archived from the original on 2010-08-01. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
  26. ^ Fables Covers - DC Comics catalog
  27. ^ Process Recess 3 - AdHouse Books catalog
  28. ^ "Kindling - Chronicle Books catalog". Archived from the original on 2010-02-28. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
  29. ^ "Rift - Chronicle books catalog". Archived from the original on 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  30. ^ "Rebus - Chronicle books catalog". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  31. ^ "Memu - Chronicle books catalog". Archived from the original on 2016-08-19. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
  32. ^ Fables: The Complete Covers - James Jean website
  33. ^ Xenograph - James Jean website Archived 2015-05-07 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Pareidolia - Pie Books catalog
  35. ^ Zugzwang - James Jean website

External links[edit]