How a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words with Visual Artist Jean Jullien

Jean Jullien is a French graphic artist who lives in Paris with his wife and their two children. Jean has shown work around the world with museums and galleries in Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, and beyond. His clients include companies and brands such as the New York TimesNew YorkerThe Guardian, Colette, Hermès, or Vogue. He likes to illustrate his vision of the world in cartoons that he shares with his 1.1 million followers on Instagram. Jean Jullien tells us what inspires him, the process behind his creations, and his dream collaboration.

How did you get where you are today?

Jean Jullien: I started by trying to get into illustration and animation but it didn’t really work out. I got denied from every art school that I applied for after high school in France. So, I decided to get a degree in visual communication, which at the time wasn’t an obvious choice but it happened to be a very good decision. I had amazing teachers and made very good friends with whom I am still working today.

Then, I moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins where I first graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and I continued on a Master’s degree at the Royal College Of Art. In parallel with my studies, I was sharing the work I was doing in class on Myspace and on a blog I had with my brother.

I was designing posters and flyers for a friend of mine who was a DJ and who wanted to promote his events. My work got also featured on Many Stuff, a design blog at the time. I was fortunate to be able to start earning some money soon enough, which allowed me a fairly smooth transition from student status to the status I am in today.

Jean Jullien

Do you remember your first art exhibit?

The first exhibit took place at the Kemistry Gallery and was called “Allo?“. It was a series of drawings about how cell phones and computers modified our behaviors and lifestyles. The exhibit went well. It was posted and shared on social media, so it was relatable.

Do you have a favorite quote or a mantra?

One of the quotes I like is “Work hard and be nice to people” by Anthony Burrill. I wish I could do it! [laughs]. I am grateful to be able to work a lot and to love what I do. It is important for me to stay authentic and share my passion with the public through my work.

Where do you find your inspiration?

In everyday life. When I was in London, I was younger and had no kids. I was a bit more “self-obsessed”, and self-derision and my surroundings were my inspiration. Now that I have a family, I live a more balanced life, and I have found things that I love like surfing and painting.

Besides, when I look back, I have now a better understanding of this fast-paced industry, which can be exhausting. Many major newspapers and advertisers find trendy illustrators to work with, until they find the new trend. When I was younger, I used to push myself to get more work and answer those needs.

Of course, you need the paycheck to pay the bills, but it is also important for longevity to stay authentic and passionate about what you are doing. I am lucky to have an audience who likes it when I try new things. If I’m happy with where I am today, it’s largely thanks to that.

How do you start your creative process?

As an artist, I have no obligation in terms of productivity or hours for example. However, I like to maintain a routine where I go to the studio every morning, work all day, and come home at night, like I would do if I was employed. I travel a lot with my wife and our two children. We have always been lucky enough to have some freedom to travel when we want, adjust our routines to be able to work daily.

My work requires a certain reactivity to what is happening in the news or what goes viral on social media. I used to think I had to keep up and didn’t want to “miss out”. However, I find it healthier to post what inspires me when I want now.

When I am working on a project for a company or a brand, they have a specific idea in mind and it is my job to materialize it. This is an exercise that I like, it requires to be creative differently. It works another part of the brain. For instance, I have recently worked on a project where I had to illustrate elderly people explaining to young kids why it is important to stay home during the pandemic. The goal was to describe a clash of generations. It was a very interesting creative process.

I am someone very reactive. If I see something that I find beautiful, I want to paint it right away. Or if I see someone cutting the line at the bakery. It is going to bother me and I will try to express my frustration into a funny cartoon.

Where would you dream to see your art?

I had the chance to show my art in places I love like Japan or Korea. That is always a pleasure to return there. My dream was to exhibit my artwork in New York. We had a show planned this month but it got canceled because of the pandemic. It was postponed to September hopefully. I like to build long-standing relationships with Art galleries and brands. For example, I worked several times with a brand I like called OnlyNY, we are working on a limited edition Tshirt to raise money for charity.

Can you tell us about your virtual show?

Amanda who is the gallery director and I started to think about how we could contribute and help healthcare workers. It is also the opportunity to bring culture to a larger audience. An Art exhibit is very interesting but this is not always accessible to everyone, a social stigma sometimes, also if it’s in Tokyo, the rest of the world can’t go see it. This is why a virtual show is a positive thing. With the help of Julia Studio, my brother who does music and programming, and Amanda, we created this companion show.

Rather than just showing the final result, the goal was to create a show where I’m talking about the process. Surprisingly, this is more accessible and much more personal in the way of presenting the work. We really wanted to offer a full experience and share the story behind the work. We put a lot of love in it. I hope it resonates and that people will have a good time.

Your definition of success?

Happiness! Enjoying what I do every single day and spread some joy to people. That is my definition of success.

If you had to illustrate what are good manners, what would it look like?

Jean Jullien Good Manners
Jean Jullien for Good Manners

What do you usually do in your free time?

I like to go surfing when I am near the beach and spend a lot of time with my family and friends. I’m very social, I like to go out for drinks and meet new people.

Who would you dream to collaborate with?

I have always wanted to work in the cinema. One of my dreams would be to design movie posters for A24, a New York-based production and distribution company. They are really good at what they are doing and I like their work and their consistency. The cover for The New Yorker would be a great accomplishment too! [laughs].

What is the best advice you received?

One of my first teachers suggested me to add color to my work. It changed my life.

What makes you happy?

I love to be around people I love…surfing…drawing, painting, and listening to music. All those kinds of things.

Malibu is where I started to paint. I was with my friend Brian Lotti, a professional skateboarder and talented painter. And when I shared my desire to start painting, we drove to Malibu at 5 am to paint the sunrise. What an experience!

As a world traveler, what is your favorite destination?

California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Japan. I really love Tokyo!

Who shall we interview next?

You should interview my friend Erick The Architect, he is a rapper and a beautiful person.

If you liked Jean Jullien, our editor’s recommendation: Speaking Music and Creativity with Pop Rock Duo AaRON [/mepr-show]


Romain Wawrzyniak is our Editor-in-Chief. His enthusiasm and kindness make his guests feel comfortable creating intimate conversations and priceless insights.

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  1. Theo A. May 10, 2020

    Thank you so much for helping me discover Jean’s work, love it!

    1. Good Manners May 10, 2020

      You will love his virtual show as well! Brillant!


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