Justin Jackley is a freelance artist and graphic designer living in the Austin area in central Texas. He frequently creates album cover artwork, posters/fliers, t-shirt/sticker design for various bands and musicians on a local and international level. He also serves as an illustrator and journalist for It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine out of Slovenia and creates artwork for Harbinger Magazine as a member of David Bixby’s Harbinger Orchestra.
Madison McLean: Has visual art always been your driving passion?
Justin Jackley: Yeah, pretty much. As a kid drawing Looney Tunes characters and later copying comic book characters and I just kept going from there. I always made art throughout my childhood and adolescence and ended up majoring in art in college. Art was always my main interest.
M: I’ve always been about writing, which is similar-ish, but I heard a lot of things about how I had to find a stable career because writing wasn’t going to be “it” for me – can you relate to that?
J: I think most of the arts are like that. It seems that a lot of artists and musicians have to keep “day jobs”, even when doing relatively well in the arts.
M: I see on your website that you are also a teacher.
J: I’ve been teaching high school art and art history for over 13 years now although I think I’m done with it and it’s time to change gears and change careers. I enjoyed it for most of the time but it has just gotten worse and worse over the years. Every aspect has gotten worse. I’m just not into it anymore and it’s time to go…
M: How did you get started working with Harbinger Magazine? How’d you get in touch with David Bixby?
J: At the time, I had been working for It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine for several years. That started off as an art gig for me where I was making logos, and headers, and the print issue magazine covers. I also did some editing at the time and I remember editing the interview with David Bixby in issue #2 on loner folk and psychedelic folk. I had never heard of David or Ode to Quetzalcoatl so I gave it a listen online and I thought it was really good! I decided to buy a copy on vinyl from his bandcamp and as David was working on putting a tour together, he asked if there was anywhere in Austin that he could potentially play. I don’t have connections like that but I sent some venue names and offered to make a poster if he needed any art services. From there, I started working on a few art/design projects for David and that led to me joining in on Harbinger Magazine. It’s been fun. David is a really interesting guy and he has put together quite a group of artists, musicians, and writers.
M: How did you get started with Psychedelic Baby?
J: Just from reaching out, really. I emailed the founder/editor-in-chief, Klemen Breznikar, and said, “Hey. I do artwork. Can I do some free artwork for you?” So, I did some artwork for the magazine for a few years and eventually figured that maybe I could use this connection to cover music festivals and concerts in Austin. I applied for a press pass to the Austin Psych Fest (currently known as Levitation Festival) and started doing some interviews and illustrations for the magazine and I’ve kept it up over the years.
M: Is music a big part of your life?
J: It is. I have zero musical talent myself but I’m a big fan of listening to music, collecting records, and going to shows. I also have a lot of friends that are musicians and I always try to contribute artwork when I can.
M: What projects attract you typically? Are they music based, independent, local?
J: Yeah, I prefer music based projects – at least at this point in my life. I tend to work for a lot more musicians on an international level rather than local for some reason. I suppose people just like me better in Europe and I’ve made some good friends that way. I’ve made dozens of album covers for a musician friend in Poland named A.J. Kaufmann and at one point he even helped to set up an art show for me in Poznan, Poland and I got to fly over and meet him “in real life”. He’s a great guy and I still work with him and his various projects on a regular basis. A few other bands I work with relatively regularly are the Strawberry Jam in London, the Mushroom Club in Scotland, and Secular Pains in Canada.
M: Do you enjoy traveling?
J: I do! Yeah. My wife and I travel quite a bit. For several years, when we were both high school art teachers, we would take a dozen or so teenagers to Europe each summer. We got to go to a lot of cool places and see some really great art and architecture but it became such a stressful chore, babysitting teenagers in a foreign land, that we got tired of it and stopped doing it. We still travel on our own a lot and I love to document our travels with my scribbly, on-site, ‘travel sketches’. We went to Guatemala and Ireland this year and we have been to something like 15 or 16 countries together over the last 10 years.
M: What are some of your current projects?
J: I work pretty regularly with a record label called Herby Records in Austin, Texas where I do all the design work for them. They keep me pretty busy as I do all the jacket designs, merchandising (shirts, stickers, patches, etc.), and a bit of video editing here and there. It doesn’t pay well or anything but I enjoy continuing to get my artwork “out there” and they put out a lot of cool releases in very small runs of vinyl.
M: Who are some of your creative influences?
J: First and foremost, I’d say the Surrealist artists in general like Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, and Rene Magritte. I also really like the poster artists of the 60s – Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Mouse, Kelley, Jim Franklin…
M: That’s so interesting. I’m not really familiar with that movement, though. Do you think you could tell me anything more about it?
J: Yeah. The basis of Surrealism was rooted in the subconscious mind, dreams, juxtapositions, combining weird things that don’t go together. They were kind of like an art club where they had a written manifesto and they had rules and they would play games and perform and argue and excommunicate other members or whatever for dumb reasons. That was started right before World War II and of course they were all very persecuted and a lot of their work was destroyed by the Nazis during that time. Hitler hated “modern” art.
M: This might be a bit out of the blue, but I’m wondering if you could remember the first time you made something you were proud of and what it was?
J: Well, maybe in first or second grade, I remember I was just copying some drawing out of a book. I think it was Rumpelstiltskin or something weird like that. I remember the teacher saying, “You drew that? What? Wow!” She and the other kids were all impressed. It was just nice to be recognized by people outside of my own family. Maybe that’s why I decided to continue making art.
M: If you could have your dreams come true, Fairy Godmother, what would you be doing?
J: Well, if I won the lottery or something, I would probably open up a sandwich shop/art gallery/bar/record store. Just combining all my interests. Art, music, sandwiches, and alcohol.
M: That’s about the gist of my questions. Is there anything you want to say that feels important to share?
J: Thanks a lot for interviewing me! I’m rarely on the receiving end of interviews. I’m excited to keep working with David and Harbinger Magazine. Lots of new stuff on the horizon!
Learn more about Justin Jackley and/or hire him for commission work through his personal website or social media.
Madison McLean, Journalist – Harbinger Magazine