Jules Julien is an illustrator and designer whose unique perspective has led to commissions from Cartier, Diesel Japan, Lancôme as well as exhibition work around the world. He lives in Amsterdam.
You started your career in advertising. What was the moment that made you decide to follow your true passion?
After some years as art director, I decided to make a break from advertising. I wanted to be the author of my own work by creating pieces without commercial finalities. I loved working in advertising - the energy, exploring the universe of each client, their identity, the challenges. But at one point I realised something was missing that made me feel dissatisfied. I needed a new story. So over a few months I created one drawing a day, posted them on a blog under of the name of Jules Julien.
Do you experiment with ideas before you decide on a final approach?
First, I start work looking for a concept, a story. So at the beginning I am not drawing, but reading, looking for pictures, making collages and sketches. I think it’s a good way to avoid doing the same thing every time and to move one’s universe in many directions. Next, I try to find a strong composition, something clear, universal and very readable with as few elements as possible to keep only the idea dramatized. Then I start to draw.
What are the most enjoyable and most demanding parts of the job?
I guess I love the process of finding an amazing boy and then working on transforming him into a model. Most of the guys I scout are just regular guys and the next thing you know they are gracing front covers. A shy guy who blossoms into a star is especially amazing. The most demanding is the lifestyle of what we do, which is literally 24/7.
What influences you most?
I am very attracted by singular and creative universes. They can be a lot of things. I love to be amazed looking at new work. But what I really love is when I get in the mind of the person who has made the work. I prefer stories more than the ideas. It’s always about people taking risks. Some of them I came across recently, from many disciplines: the fashion photography of Pierre Debusschere, the Heidi Slimane Diary, the artist Tadanori Yokoo’s long and creative career, Jonathan Zawada’s variety of works, and the great Mark Jenkins’ people installations.
What are your most challenging projects?
Usually my exhibitions. Each one is an exciting challenge. I started as an illustrator for editorial, so my first solo show at Diesel Art Gallery in Tokyo was a kind of bet for me. I was used to magazine work but an exhibition is not the same approach. I wanted to make something very different with a new medium. After this first exhibition, the idea was to find something different each time but still very personal and at the same time very connected to people. Some commissioned work can be a great challenge too. You can’t work on Louis Vuitton as you would for PlayStation, it’s like a role-playing game.
Do you strive for the perfect image?
I am a perfectionist and we now have the tools to achieve this. We can take the time to realize the perfect picture. It is something rare and against the tide of our era. I can take three days or a week to make a picture if needed. Also, I try to make my drawing invisible, I mean, so you don’t feel that it was my hand drawing the piece. This absence gives the images an independence and something pure.
When are you at your happiest?
I love working on my stuff. This excites me a lot and captures my mind. Working at my studio is where I do my best. I love not knowing what will be the end result of a days work. There is a mystery in this. It’s like having secret rooms in your own home. Doors hiding new spaces, new territories. I think the unknown keeps me awake and alive. I need it.