“Tripped Out Lowbrow Surrealism”
Justin Jackley is an artist from Austin, Texas. He’s a great friend of our magazine and also our official illustrator. He made all the headlines and logos for us and his artwork can be seen on the cover of our first paper issue of the magazine.
How old are you and where are you originally from?
I am 31 years old and I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.
What was your home like when you were growing up? Was there a lot of art or music around your house? Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or artists? Or maybe just extremely interested/involved in the arts?
I grew up in a pretty “normal” suburban home in the 1980s and 1990s with a police officer father and a nurse for a mother. My parents didn’t seem to be too much into art or music. They mainly only listened to music when driving and it was always country pop stuff that they would listen to. I didn’t like it then and it really gave me a bad impression of country music until much later when I discovered the older stuff - the “outlaw” country musicians that actually had something to say. I remember my father having a decent collection of 8-track cassettes and records of 1970s rock bands but I rarely remember him ever playing them. Both of my Grandmothers were artistic and painted as a hobby. Mostly landscapes and still life - the usual grandma stuff. The more I think about it, my family was so not into art, music, or literature that it made me have a strong interest in those fields.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical or artistic development?
When I got older and realized there was much more music out there other than what I had been hearing from my parents’ radio, it was exciting and a bit of a relief. Aside from the vast majority of people in Texas that listen to bad country and/or tejano music, there was a strong presence of punk and metal with the younger people. I never realized how metal-oriented San Antonio was until I moved a couple hours north to Austin where the music scene was much more laid back. However, San Antonio was punk and metal. I’ve always been a bit of a recluse or a loner for some reason and didn’t make it out much. I had a few friends that played in bands and I’d go to shows occasionally but I wasn’t involved in the scene at all. It wasn’t until after college and I moved to Austin that I began to get involved with the music scene which was much more welcoming. At that point I got really into making fliers, posters, and album covers for friend’s bands or people I’d meet around town. That led to me setting up art tables at shows and doing live painting performances while bands would play. I love music but have no musical ability at all. I was happy to use my art to get in and make some sort of contribution in that way.
What do you consider to be your first exposure to music? How about art?
Like most kids growing up in the pre-internet days, we were pretty limited to only hearing the mainstream music of the time. I wasn’t interested in my parent’s music and there were no music stores nearby to help me out. I was limited to the one rock station in San Antonio and, of course, the ubiquitous Mtv. So, I’d have to say it was really Mtv that first opened my eyes to the world of music in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At that time, it was mostly alternative/grunge stuff I was into. Although, I’d say that Primus probably had the most profound effect on me. It was great to hear something funky and weird that didn’t sound too much like all the other bands of the time. Primus’ Sailing the Seas of Cheese was the first CD I ever bought (I won’t go into detail on my cassette collection). I still have that CD - although, it is scratched to hell. Luckily, I bought the vinyl re-release last year and it is still an amazing album if not even better and more meaningful than it was to me back then.
Art is another thing I wasn’t really exposed to as a child. We had grandma paintings on the wall but that didn’t really do it for me. The closest thing I had to art exposure were cartoons - which I loved and watched and drew over and over again. I think becoming a cartoonist was the first legitimate idea I had for a future career. I still regret not being in the animation world but it’s certainly not too late.
What are some of the major influences?
First seeing the otherworldly paintings of Hieronymus Bosch had a big influence on me as a teenager. His large landscapes filled with bizarre creatures and tormented figures are fascinating. It’s even more amazing that he may have actually seen these sort of things on a daily basis due to ergot poisoning that causes severe hallucinations (among other less desirable effects) and was widespread in Europe during his lifetime. As I began to look deeper into art history, I found myself drawn to the surrealists of the early 20th century - Max Ernst, Andre Masson, and Rene Magritte to name a few.
What’s your opinion regarding 1960s poster making artists?
The big poster artists of the 1960s, of course, also had a major influence on my work. I really admire Mouse, Kelley, Wilson, and Moscoso - but in my mind, Rick Griffin will always be the rightful king of poster art.... I admire those artists for bridging the gap between fine art and advertisement. I realize that they were not the first artists to do this - Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha being early pioneers in the poster world, but there is something to be said about those 1960s artists being in the right place at the right time with the perfect balance between progress and rebellion that had a lasting effect on the world. Those artists are still massively important today. Honestly, it’s hard for me not to see the influence and borderline copying of Rick Griffin’s posters - especially his iconic text style. I’m definitely guilty myself of lifting things from the masters but I try not to take it so far as to get lost in all the imitators and lose my own identity as an artist - but there is nothing wrong with a nod to our predecessors.
Are you a self-taught artist or do you have formal background/education in art?
I’ve always taken art classes throughout my public education and later on studied art in college. I have a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in painting from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. I really miss college classes sometimes and wish I had the time and money to go back to school. Not so much for the degree but to continue pushing myself and growing as an artist.
What’s the typical creation process like? Do you work on various of stuff or do you focus on just one particular project?
It depends on whether I am working on personal artwork or a project for a customer. In my personal artwork, I usually begin by just scribbling nonsense until it begins to look like something cool. If it still looks cool the next day, i may enlarge the whole thing or a section of it onto a canvas and go full color and more detailed. Although, sometimes I just go straight for the canvas. If it’s awful - I can always just paint over it again. Working for a customer takes much more prep work. When trying to satisfy a paying customer, that usually takes more research, reference images, and preliminary drawings.
I tend to take on more projects than I probably should all at once. At any given time I am usually working on a few album covers and/or posters as well as some personal projects and whatever else may pop up. I have a hard time telling people “no” and sometimes really stress myself out with too much to do. But I’d rather have too many things to do than sit here with nothing to do.
Do you have any preferred mediums?
My favorite medium is probably ink and watercolor. I love the looseness and unpredictability of the watercolor and the permanence of the ink. I do like the way charcoal drawings look but I hate the way they are so fragile and want to smudge. With charcoal or pencil drawings I might as well take a photo and trash the original - it will last longer.
Do you accept commission work? If you do, what’s the best way for interested parties to get a hold of you?
I certainly do accept commissions and welcome them! I would love to continue working with musicians and creating album covers and posters for them. I am a big fan of music of various genres but have zero musical talent myself. I enjoy being a part of the music scene through my art. As an artist, I am really glad that we are having this vinyl renaissance going on and that I occasionally get the opportunity to design record sleeves. That is the way album covers were meant to be seen - large! Not a tiny square on an ipod. Any bands or otherwise that think my style may work for their particular project can email me at CROM1513@hotmail.com or find me through facebook if you must...
What are some projects you’re most proud of?
One of my favorite posters was in fact rejected and never used! A few months back, I was asked to make a poster for some friends in Scotland in a band called the Mushroom Club. I had worked with them for quite a while already doing album covers, posters, and t-shirt designs. They had a show coming up opening for Dead Meadow (interview here and here) and the Cosmic Dead (interview/review).
I was really excited because I love all those bands and worked really hard to make what I thought (and still think) was an excellent poster. I even made amendments adding and changing the information per the venue’s request. Then, at the last minute, the venue says “No, we are not going to use your poster.” I wouldn’t have minded at all if the poster they had used was super bad ass and just blatantly better than mine. But the poster they used was a generic “psychedelic mirrored pattern” that someone got off of google images (I know this because I have the same image in my reference files) and added the information below it in very plain text. I’m talking Times New Roman or some other default font. I contacted all of the bands and they seemed to all really like my poster but it wasn’t their call. The venue chose that poster that someone made in 10 minutes for whatever political reasons that were out of my control. It still kind of burns my ass how much time and effort i put into that poster and it never made it beyond facebook. But that’s alright - hopefully, I can work with those bands again and make something bigger and better.
I am currently anticipating the release of an album by a psychedelic band called the Strawberry Jam from London. That will be coming out in October and be released on vinyl - which is always an honor for me to see my artwork on nice big record sleeves.
I’d like to thank the fans of It’s Psychedelic Baby for supporting this project and reading all the excellent articles. Thank you to all the writers, bands, musicians, and artists that make it all possible and keep their positive creativity going and sharing it with the world.
- Klemen Breznikar