So, when I decided to get into illustration around 2007, it was kind of the height of the “James Jean era”, where he could do no wrong and everyone wanted to make work like his, myself included (except, of course, I couldn’t draw as well as he could and can).
This recent interview with him is really strange. Apparently, he’s been going through a terrible divorce that has no end in sight, and is psychologically fractured and completely broke, despite his (I’m sure we’d all agree) meteoric success.
I guess it’s just easy in all of this hustle, of all the “self-promotion”, contracts, networking, clients, and whatever to lose sight of how we are all defining ourselves in terms of success. Illustrators tend to have a very set way of measuring success. If you support yourself full-time, make a good living doing so, have a large big name client list, and win all of the right prestigious awards, we view you as successful.
But I mean, obviously that’s not correct. Right? Success by that definition has literally been the one thing that has been James’ “undoing.”
I don’t know what to think really, and it’s hard to say based on this interview (which is completely weird, the interviewer must have had set questions that they had to ask, and didn’t engage in a dialog at all), but I will say that it’s kind of heartbreaking to see one of your art heroes stumble.