I try to see if I can bring something interesting to the equation.
Currently working out of Hackney in East London, French-born illustrator Jean Jullien is known globally for charming drawings in his signature simplistic style: thick black lines and bright colours which make his work pop out on Instagram, where the artist currently has 1 million followers.
Having cut his teeth in illustration as a student at Central St Martins, Jullien is most notably the creator of the “Peace for Paris” symbol which he crafted as a response to the terror attacks in France in November of 2015, and which has now permanently embedded itself in France’s cultural history. Born in a coastal town and a natural lover of all things beach, many of Jullien’s drawings — and his more recent painting works — express a tranquil seaside theme.
From skateboards to t-shirts, coats to chairs to 15 metre sculptural installations, Jullien has collaborated with a wide range of brands and creators to release products with his unique designs. Let’s Be Brief were invited into his studio in Hackney to discuss the breadth of media which makes up Jean’s prolific artistic output.
It’s an interesting era because we live in a time where the practice is very mixed between personal and commercial. You sort of have to adapt yourself
Q) You collaborate with galleries, with fashion brands and on board games to name a few – how do you decide if a collaboration is a good fit and what’s the greatest element you bring to the creative approach?
I try to see if I can bring something interesting to the equation. I like to work with diverse types of mediums because you could potentially do the same type of idea but they would come out very differently according to the medium. I also try to see it from an ethical point of view, i.e. if the people that I work with see eye-to-eye, and that is quite difficult when it comes to commercial jobs. That’s how I pay my rent, and sometimes I have to make a bit more compromises—which I try not to. It’s an interesting era because we live in a time where the practice is very mixed between personal and commercial. You sort of have to adapt yourself…
Q) How do you gestate ideas? What is your starting point and how does the process unfold?
In general, I have developed a slightly different approach to personal and commercial jobs—commercial jobs are kind of like problem solving, [where] someone comes with a problem or something they ask you to do and you have to come up with the best solution for that. Especially since I have been painting more, my exhibitions are more things that I want to communicate—things that are more personal from experiences, and that is a completely different kind of process where you just grab from experience when you travel, spend times that make you happy or see things that you like and then you try and capture the essence of that, transcript it and share it later.
I think I have a tendency for cynicism that I try to battle in my work, and maybe that is why it comes out as so positive or naïve.
Q) Do you have consistent themes / styles running through your art? Colours, textures, materials?
I think humour is definitely something that has always been there. Colours, a certain naiveté—even though it’s not something that I put on, it’s just how I express myself. There is the beach of course—because my family comes from the seaside and I go back as much as possible. I find it very inspiring, and it is definitely a running theme especially through my paintings. I think I have a tendency for cynicism that I try to battle in my work, and maybe that is why it comes out as so positive or naïve.
Q) You have a positive style of art and illustration. Do you think your art helps fulfil a wider purpose for those who enjoy it?
The nice thing with social media is that you actually can gauge that (how people enjoy your work) a little bit. And from the feedback which comes in from people it does seem to make people happy—to make them feel at peace or be reminiscent of things that they like. I guess you could criticise it for not being challenging, but I think we have a lot of challenges already.
Q) How has digital change the way you create art? and how will digital shape the future for you?
Well I always draw with pen and paper and then scan and do a process to share it. But when I started doing what I do it was around 2008, I was using Myspace and Facebook to show my work—I was at St Martins studying and I would share equally the things I was doing for myself or for class. So it’s always been there in my practice—I started with that and it was very organic and the way it progresses has been very organic. I’m trying to reflect on it now and see what’s good, what’s not good about it (digital). But in terms of how I share my work and how I create it, it has always been there.
Q) How did you find your own voice with illustration initially? Where did you draw upon for inspiration?
There’s a lot of poster artists who are French like Savignac, Americans like Paul Rand and Saul Bass. People that were using quite rough brushes—and there was something very earnest and bold and communicative [in their work] and I like that. They were also blurring the line between their work and something more artistic so sure it did serve a communication purpose, but it could also be appreciated just as a beautiful image—and that is something that I did find quite seductive. Of course the world evolved and liberalism evolved and you have to sort of question these things now more.
As the world evolves, I do as well.
Q) What advice / principles do you have?
As the world evolves and I do as well, I maybe have more dilemmas when working with people especially working internationally. I find that quite complicated at times. I find refuge a lot in self-initiated work like exhibitions but I’m also conscious that there is practical aspect to it. it still is my job and I do need to make compromises. I just try to navigate that. And that would definitely come more from my parents and the education that we’ve been given. Which is to try to be as mindful as possible.
Thanks to Cordelia Diamond for the editorial support.