Art

James Jean: ‘NFTs Elevate Digital Art to the Same Status as Paintings’

BY Jolene Creighton

February 18, 2022

James Jean is a multitalented visual artist with a whimsical, surreal style that’s instantly recognizable. The Taiwanese-American illustrator and painter is most widely known for the cover art he created for DC and Marvel Comics, which earned him seven Eisner awards (the comics industry’s equivalent of the Academy Awards). He also made the movie posters for several feature films. Most notably, he did the artwork for The Shape of Water, Blade Runner 2049, and Mother!. He also created animated films and wallpaper prints for Prada, and has had his paintings and drawings featured in exhibitions worldwide.

However, Jean recently started to explore a new artistic medium: NFTs.

Jean’s first NFT, “Slingshot,” was released on March 4, 2021. Shortly after, in September of the same year, he released “Crayon Eater.” Both auctions were a remarkable success, selling for roughly 158 ETH ($444k) and 18 ETH ($54K), respectively.

However, these two pieces were only the beginning of Jean’s journey of exploration and discovery with NFTs. Today, he is unveiling “Woodcutter Awakening” on SuperRare, an Ethereum-based digital art market. The auction is set to end on Feb. 18, 2022, at 6 pm PST. The winner of the auction will receive the 8K MOV file and exclusive access to future drops.

Uncovering the Woodcutter Awakening NFT

The piece is a digitally-rendered animation that Jean created in collaboration with Zachary Corzine, a 3D director known for his experimental, hyper-real animations. Nosaj Thing, a record producer who created the haunting accompaniment, also collaborated on the project. In an interview with nft now, Jane commented on the success of his work with Corzine and Thing, noting that the duo enabled him to “translate what’s in my mind’s eye into a complete visual and auditory experience.”

The animation is just over a minute long and shows a young boy who, like a phoenix, is transformed and reborn through immolation. As the fire passes over the boy’s gray and stony flesh, his skin is metamorphosed into a bright and vibrant array of colors. However, these vivid colors last only a moment, as the boy’s skin is quickly covered in moss and, from there, transforms back into stone.

Jane outlined the meaning of the work in a statement, noting that the boy’s skin was hardened into stone “through diligence and labor,” which is then burned away to reveal his true colors. Jane notes that moss signifies a cycle of renewal, as “the mycelium and moss regrow the Woodcutter, only to become fuel again for a ceremony of combustion.”

Ultimately, the woodcutter project began nearly 15 years ago, in 2007, with Jean’s “Kindling” etching. It shows a hunched older man carrying sticks through a dense forest. Jane stated that he decided to turn to animation in this piece because he wanted to explore a dimension beyond his physical work. “The Woodcutter Awakening can be seen as a moving painting, engaging the dimension of time and allowing me to express the narrative of the Woodcutter in a new way,” he said.

Jane clarified that he decided to use NFTs because of the way in which they “elevate digital art to the same status as physical paintings and sculpture” and unite individuals together. “NFTs complete the conceptual ecosystem of the patron, collector, and artist. At the end of the day, an artwork exists only in the mind and the memory, and the blockchain allows this activity of patronage and collecting to be codified in new and exciting ways, allowing for previously impossible creative projects to exist,” he said.

Learn

Guides & Explainers