Jean André, Artist & Art Director
Words by Nikolaj Hansson. Illustration by Sine Jensen.
Jean André is confident in what he does, whether that's taking over the art direction of Ed Banger Records after So-Me, making nude illustrations with Emoji's on or going from drawing small works to making larger oil paintings. Describing his work as "gentleman art", Jean André depicts women, popular culture and everything in between. We met with the skilled Parisian for a discussion about punch lines, discipline and women who rule the world.
It seems that erotica and the female body is a large part of your art. What’s so enticing about those topics?
Woman, feelings of love, body structures etc. are the widest topics to work on. The more you grow up, the more you learn to love and enjoy them. I’ve had this sort of crush on girls almost since forever. They are fascinating, they rule the world and we, the guys who love them, are disarmed, weak and powerless. That charming situation is a endless subject of creation and I feel very good with it.
Were you nervous, taking over the art direction of Ed Banger after So-Me?
Not at all. I didn’t see it like a relay actually. Pedro and I felt it was a time for a rebirth rather than a continuation. SO-ME’s work has always engraved itself into people’s minds. I just try to inject my feelings as graphic designer and artist into each piece of artwork for Ed Banger. It’s a beautiful family. The entertainment and work they’ve created going on 12 years is a great inspiration and they've welcomed me in the greatest way possible. I want to do my best to keep them on the top.
Do you draw everyday?
Yes. I have a daily routine, including drawing each morning to get at least 2 images to share a day. I work from home, so I need discipline to be effective. Morning is drawings, afternoon is classic graphic designer work and night is for painting, when clients are asleep.
You recently ventured into doing oil paintings. Have you had any trouble moving into another medium?
Besides it just being another medium, I also tried to vary in size, going from making small 20cm drawings to doing 80cm oil paintings. Movements are different and I have to paint standing. The oil never dries, my sink is a mess, my studio smells terribly but I think I’m going pretty good for a total newbie. Subjects are the same, so I feel good about it.
You paint a lot of women. Who are they?
They are every woman; girls from Instagram, the Internet, American girls, married women, friends, almost every girl who wants me to draw them. Sometimes it’s to keep a graphic trace of their body, sometimes it’s out of pure curiosity.
Do you like creating work that can be made in about an hour or two or things that take longer time?
I like flash drawings, like love at first sight. When an idea comes to my mind, I need to do it quick before it goes bad. With ink and small pieces of paper, it’s easy to do! I’m currently working on oil paintings. They’re supposed to be made over the course of a few weeks. I’m still incredibly impatient and want it to be done in a day. I guess I need to learn to focus on things for more than an hour.
Why does Pikachu have to be in a drawing of a naked woman?
We worked on that drawing with Clara, thinking about what to draw. We talked about a regular selfie in the mirror, some boob close-ups or a back view. Then she came up with that idea of a close-up of her private parts. I want to keep my work kind of safe for work, so we decided to censure the more controversial part, hiding it behind Pikachu, which is her favorite character. A good example of teamwork with muses that I draw.
Should art always have a certain extent of provocation to it?
I don’t think so. I always remember something that a teacher of mine told me once: “A graphic designer answer questions, an artist ask questions” and I believe that’s a good way of approaching art. The same is valid for other creative people whether that being writers, directors or photographers. The subject can be chill, the way of exploring it can be rough or very politically correct. It’s up to each individual.
Would you go mad, if you couldn’t draw everyday?
I guess I would need to find another activity.
Does youth culture bear any importance to your work?
I don’t know. I do the stuff that goes into my head without thinking too much about where it came from. I like the freshness of our youth. I like rap music and street culture but I’m also interested in renaissance paintings and middle age things. Perhaps I’m just going to move slowly into doing canvas tapestry of lions and knights.
Harmony Korine is quoted for saying: “I wanted to make perfect nonsense. I wanted to tell jokes, but I didn't give a fuck about the punch line.” Can you relate to this?
In a way, yes. I like humour and I want to stay light. I love nonsense even though I at times can feel that I’m too young to control it in the way that I want. I love surrealism which is the flow I try to work into more and more. I do give a fuck about the punch line though! People getting the point is my visual entry. A good punch line is a good and strong idea. If I want to be efficient, I need a good punch line.