From his album covers to his personal artwork, Justin Jackley displays a distinct sense of balance that appeals to the lovers of modern art and to those who continue to appreciate the art of days that are now far behind us.
His style shows respect to ‘60s subculture, inspired by the mind-bending essence of psychedelia. And yet, his surreal art is surprisingly structured. An art teacher who doesn’t shy away from the abstract nor the sensible, Justin is able to impress us with his depth of artistic vision and his personal perspective.
The Justin Jackley Interview
Hi, Justin! We’d love to know more about you.
I am originally from San Antonio, Tx and have lived my whole life between there and Austin. I attended college at Texas State University in San Marcos where I received a BFA in painting. I later realized the futility of trying to survive on art alone and the relative uselessness of holding such a degree and its inability to help me get a “job”. I later decided to get certified to teach art. There was something appealing about steady pay and health insurance.
Now that you’re an art teacher, what do you love most about teaching?
My favorite part about teaching is the weekends… and holidays… and summer! I’m partially joking with that! I do enjoy spending time with the students (some of them) and inspiring them with my own work. It’s fun to see them grow up and mature, artistically and as people, over four years or more.
Do you ever find it especially difficult to teach new (or young) artists to break their personal creative barriers?
I currently teach High School age students. By then, they are either terrified of art and embarrassed by their lack of skill or are stuck in their ways, for better or worse, and not really open to change. Very few students are open and willing enough to take constructive criticism and grow as artists. The few that actually do break those creative barriers seem to find it rather rewarding.
Listening to the music of artists you’ve created album art for, I have to know how you’re able to connect the art to the music so flawlessly. Are you visualizing images based on the lyrics or instruments?
When available, I definitely prefer to work from the written lyrics. One of my favorite album covers I made is for Secular Pains. The lyrics read something like “my brain is a toad – I have mushrooms growing in my veins” and some references to pine trees and the moon. That made it pretty easy for me to work with. If an album is instrumental (or I don’t know the lyrics) I can try to capture the mood through the music alone. It helps to work with bands and musicians in genres that I like and I feel fit well with my artwork.
Does your work have underlying political or spiritual messages?
I rarely, if ever, create artwork with overt political or spiritual messages. Sometimes while working, I may start to develop ideas and meaning behind the images and this may border on having political or spiritual tendencies but it is never my intention. I leave that to the viewer to interpret as they may.
I’m sure you hear this a lot but your work is so psychedelic! How do you get in the zone to create?
That it is! Most of my work is strongly rooted in the subconscious mind and Surrealist techniques of automatism. I usually begin with scribbly sketches and think about them as little as possible while I am drawing and letting the weird faces and characters come out on their own. Often times I don’t really know what I am drawing until near the end. Then I usually enlarge these sketches into full-size canvas paintings.
Capitalistic freelance artist. Really dig that description! Why do you define yourself as a capitalistic artist?
While I do often draw and paint for my own amusement – everything is for sale! I don’t really get attached to my artwork and would sell every piece on my wall if I actually could. That would clear up some wall space so I could keep working. I only recently added “capitalistic” to my website to express that I am available to hire for almost any project that my style may fit with. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of work I do for free. Positive vibes and good karma are nice but they don’t pay my mortgage.
The modern craze of psychedelic computer art … your thoughts on it?
I have pretty mixed feelings on that front. Computers can make it way too easy to accomplish something that shouldn’t be easy. With computer aid, people can make very complicated mandalas that are perfect in their radial symmetry, but I’d rather see one made by hand that contains flaws. A Buddhist sand mandala is, in my opinion, infinitely more interesting and important than even the best of the best computer generated graphics. I remember when the “Deep Dream Generator” got popular a few years back I thought, “Great. Now there are going to be a ton of album covers with this stuff on them.”
I think it is a cool program and it has amazingly psychedelic effects but I don’t think someone feeding a photo into this program should consider themselves an artist. I’ve actually never used that program before but find myself at this very moment feeding some of my own drawings and paintings into this program. The results are pretty interesting, but I won’t actually use them for anything.
Are you especially inspired by the 1960’s era? Any specific artists?
I am definitely heavily influenced by the art and artists of the ‘60s! Especially the poster art and comics of Rick Griffin, the paintings and illustrations of Ralph Steadman, and the barbaric fantasy work of Frank Frazetta.
You have some very detailed travel sketches! Are they inspired by places you’ve been or places you want to go?
They are all from places I have been. Mostly quick sketches I made on site and some are from photos I took at the location. As an art teacher, my wife (also a high school art teacher) and I sometimes take students to Europe as part of an educational tour. We have traveled with students to England, France, Italy, and will be visiting Greece this summer. The rest are places my wife and I have visited on our own – Sweden, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. We are avid travelers and I really enjoy being able to apply my loose style of art to landscape and architecture. My dream job would be to somehow get paid to travel the world and draw things.
Tell us a bit about your art shows.
I do solo and group shows/exhibitions fairly often, mostly between the San Antonio and Austin area. I have been part of a group show in Hawaii and had a solo exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden a few years back. My goal is to have a couple more solo shows in Europe sometime. Scotland and Poland are on my radar for that – I have some friends in each of those places that would be willing to help out.
How should someone looking to collaborate get in touch with you?
I am, of course, available for hire for most any project. I suppose I specialize in album covers, posters/fliers, t-shirt/sticker design, logos, and book covers although I am open to almost any commission. As long as nobody wants me to paint a portrait of their grandmother – that would not be flattering! I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and more artwork can be seen at my website: www.justinjackley.com.