Artist Q&A | Jaen

Posted on October 01, 2014 by Stickerbomb Staff

Hello there, I'm Jæn and I'm from Bordeaux, France. 

I've always considered over-specialisation with utter doubt, so I like to keep my work varied: illustration, character design, fine arts, graphic design, photography and sometimes just elaborating concepts and playing with ideas and stories. However, I grow more interested in making colourful art, playful illustrations and funny character design, and feel less interested in photography and graphic design. Less and less dark or abstract. I'm not comfortable with labels, but I suppose people can generally find pop surrealism, symbolism, low brow and street art elements in what I make.

In earlier works, my main influences were much more conceptual and intellectual: philosophy, my interest in languages (I have two Master's degrees in english and japanese, among other business and management-oriented classes), symbolism, mysticism, spirituality, and science fields such as quantum physics, astrophysics and biology were the stuff my mortar was made of. I had a thrill packing what I did with deep thoughts and intricate mind constructs.

It has changed a lot: I want to have fun doing it, do not necessary need a pompous concept behind everything, know what I want to share and why. Also, I enjoy more working with colours and traditional media, letting the aesthetic experience come to a greater balance with the content.

It wouldn't be thorough if I didn't mention more common  influences like movies (Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Miyazaki Hayao, Hollywood blockbusters and fun movies altogether), music (from The Queens of the Stone Age to Radiohead, or from Devendra Banhart to electronica/hip-hop/trip-hop or whatever good track I enjoy), and people and places around me. 

So, if anything unique, it is probably a result of a path cut through this maelström of interests in various fields forming the skeleton of my work. I have been told that quite strangely for such a disparate activity, one could find an idiosyncratic essence connecting the music, visual art and all the other things I make, so even though I'm not sure what it is, I guess it will be an enlightening quest to find more about it. 

I have always been self-taught and never tried to learn by copying anyone else's work, so I never had that "I need to create my own style" phase that some artists do. If I have a distinct style, it's the result of making slow progress towards something I like better over the years rather than a fully conscious construct.

I have always had a passion for creating. And that goes for anything, scenarios and cooking included. I guess it stemmed from the fact that the happiest moments in my childhood were the ones spent in creating worlds in my head (I had become a lucid dreamer by the beginning of my teenage years, so I still created while sleeping),  and later drawing and writing about them. It was both escapism and envisioning what the world should be if I could change it. And I soon understood it was "my thing". I knew no boundaries - and no real writer's block so far. 

So, of course, I also loved dwelling into other creative's worlds, their peculiar aesthetics, both soaking in them and thinking about how I would change them or make them mine. In that perspective,  the world was just the ultimate work of art, so much things to discover and understand, so many dots to connect. I also shifted from art as competing with the world to abandon escapism and consider art as enriching the world, which is a lot healthier.

I was born in front of the sea in Arachon, close to Bordeaux, but I've spent the first 7 years of my life in a suburb of London and then in Paris, before going back to Arcachon. So, regular family trips included, growing up was not entirely linked to one place. 

That said, the best place to chill and create was my room, were I was thoroughly enjoying spending hours alone filling whole textbooks of maps, characters and stories to build coherent worlds. Still, when given the opportunity to use my imagination with other kids, I loved it just as much - creating board games, drawing contests, making up stories. High school brought me to music, up to the point that at the end of it, 90% of my friends were musicians. At that time, music was the true core of my artistic activity and I could see me do this as a job without any doubt. We all knew each other, had very different conceptions of what was good music - making small clans despite a few  common favorites, but still ending all partying together and sharing gigs. That was a great time, very creative, opening new worlds of interactions with other artists and making you face how you wanted to manage the sharing-with-people aspect of it.

In Bordeaux, you have a small but passionate underground artistic activity, boring commercial galleries filled with abstract and watercolour paintings without personality, and then galleries and museums focusing on the old or already-established novelty, and good contemporary art once in a while. So, a very few small places keep a fresher and more spontaneous activity afloat, but that's clearly not enough.

Some efforts are being made, though, I hope more middle and big players in the field will help rejuvenate the local art scene towards something bigger and better.

I'm a member of Disparate, an association of very very varied artists with a focus on illustration and low brow, mainly exhibiting handmade art fanzines. It's pretty cool and inspirational, and they have nice exhibitions in places all around town quite regularly.

Also, a large part of my friends are photographers, and we all go once a month to a small associative event called les Mercredis Photographiques, that is just a welcoming barbecue-for-all spirit with a one-off exhibition of different photographers. What is great is that you can go there without knowing anyone, and leave it with many friends, of all ages and social backgrounds.

There are other places worth the visit from times to times, but it definitely needs more good proper art spaces showing something else than pompous contemporary art or your grandma's idea of still life paintings! Although your grandma is very nice and sure knows how to use a brush, ahem.

I'd love to have such a tale to tell of the most important thing to have happened to me. The providential encounter with a flamboyant mentor, a gold cup won against all odds, or an angel descending from the skies to tell me to devote my life to art, but like I said before, the truth is I've been doing this mainly out of a continous intrinsic motivation my whole life, so when I finished my studies, I knew a few things I didn't want to do, and I just realised - not like a bang but like a slow, progressive feeling - that all the self-taught art I had been doing on the side since ages, well, it could well be the best job I could ever have!

Most of my work is done at home, even if I can go into nature to draw a bit sometimes. Usually, I either start working when I wake up, or after the morning if I want to exercise before. It can go on the whole day, or I can save some of it for the evening. Most of the time, I start to socialise at the end of the afternoon, and I'm generally not the kind of artist working all night long and thriving on a autistic sleeping pattern (noting down ideas before going to sleep, between two dreams or when waking up is enough taking advantage of that night magic that inspires most artists), so this normal-ish work hours are quite a great fit.

Learning to recognise when you make something worthless, and when you're actually making something good too has been my biggest challenge. Trying to always fit the initial art mojo that made you start the project in the final work. Accepting that people want to give you money for what you do, and happily so - getting rid of that weird worthless feeling that you are only bothering people when you get your art out.

Let me spare you all the McBess and other super famous artists.

For something more typical of the low brow Stickerbomb spirit, I would mention local artist Duch. Not the closest thing to my personal taste, but he's skilled and would totally fit.

Colourful, girly and kiddish (meant as a compliment): Muxxi.

And some names I will just randomly drop: Kilian Eng, Cristian Eres, basically anyone that will be mentioned by Pictoplasma, C86/Matt Lyon, Cristian Eres, Matt Miller, Istvan, Cosmic Nuggets, Olivier DZO, Tatiana Plakhova, Eric and Terry Fan, etc.

I'm working on a commissioned painting, a skate design contract, and have just conceptualised an illustration/character design book that should be really fun and beautiful. I'm pretty excited about it, it's one of those precious projects you know both you and other people will thoroughly enjoy. I will complete a part of it and start hunting for publishers. Yummy.

I'm also starting a coaching and consulting in creativity. I have always been good at understanding people without much interaction needed, and I know all the mechanics of creativity from first-hand experience, currently studying techniques that can be used to help other people to unlock it, aiming at mixing borderline psychological and life coach aspects, playful creative games and workshop and more effective business-oriented or other concrete ends into a coherent process. It will be great, because it will be helpful, enjoyable, and enlightening for myself as well. It's like the perfect counterpart to my artistic activity. I can't wait to see how it fares with my guinea pigs!

I'm going to Melbourne before next July to stay for a time period ranging from 3 months to a hundred years. I hesitated with Los Angeles and San Francisco too. I need to go to a more culturally stimulating place, and I love the easy-going personalities, stunning fauna and general atmosphere I found the two little weeks I spent in the country (Brisbane). I still love France, the general quality of life in Bordeaux and my friends here, so if my life there suits me, I will make my best to be able to go back regularly.

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