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Meet Jackson Ellis of Jellistrations

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackson Ellis.

Jackson, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in rural Henderson, North Carolina, later moving to all the more rural Creedmoor, and finally settled in Durham. There wasn’t much to do with my time outside of the usual: hang out with friends, going to special events and entertaining family members. Yet, some of my earliest and fondest memories were of drawing. I’ve always loved to doodle and create. I credit my discovered passion for art back to when I learned to pick up a crayon at the young age of something-something. I found the most white wall in my house and began the fundamentals of an innocent mural drawn lovingly with no care for color contrast, line-weight, or correct perspective. Over the years leading through much grade schooling, I would develop these skills and introduce new ones by joining more art-related activities. In high school, I worked with a team of other kids to design backgrounds and props for small plays. Being able to paint the poppy field in our rendition of The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite projects. I also competed in local art competitions during this time by submitting my drawings to our State Fair and designing posters for small events like “Last Friday” in downtown Hillsborough.

At 17, I began my search for colleges and learned of the Savannah College of Art and Design. I pursued a degree in Illustration in 2016 despite the usual “starving artist” narrative pushed onto me in hopes I’d look elsewhere for a career. My passion and dedication to the career of being an artist outweighed the concern and I knew it was worth taking the risk. At SCAD, I found new ways to create outside of my usual artistic tools of pencils and acrylic paint. I experimented with sculpture, gouache, watercolor paints, different inks, mixed media collage, and photography. It wasn’t until I learned more of digital art, like painting and drawing in Adobe Photoshop, did I really find my tool of choice. In 2019 I earned my BFA in Illustration with cum laude, but am slowly easing my way into illustration-heavy work. Currently, I work as a UI/UX designer for a California startup in their Raleigh office and freelance on the side with my illustration and fine art gig. One of my lifelong goals is to produce art for Magic the Gathering, or anything related to video games (a huge hobby of mine).

Has it been a smooth road?
I still struggle with determining how I want to represent myself as an illustrator and artist. What is my brand? Who do I want to create for? What is my “style”? All of my fellow colleagues have struggled with this and I understand why. It’s incredibly hard to think of yourself as a business, which is what you have to do if you want to pursue this career. I’ve found graphic design work to be a comfortable spot outside of illustration to challenge myself since it is something different than what I studied at SCAD. Unsurprisingly, I’ve also had an amazing experience with creating art of the things that I love to look at. Antique looking portraits, creepy creatures, macabre scenes….they all form the brand of “Jackson Ellis” I believe. Which is really how you explain your brand. Simply put, what you love to do combined with how you want to do it.

My boyfriend’s grandpa would always tell him: “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. I try and remember this saying from time to time and recall why I do what I do. I love to create from all corners of my imagination and will always want to continue expressing myself.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I love to paint and draw portraits! I’m an admirer of the antique styles of fine art, such as the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rocco period. I try to emulate the antiquity those paintings possessed during that time period, and interpret it into my own work. That might mean using a more earthy color palette that looks to be made from more natural pigments, or canvas and varnish textures to overlay my paintings. Primarily I use digital programs to create my art since finding out how convenient it is to hit undo! I like to be a bit messy during the beginning stages of a piece of artwork trying to work out the main ideas of pose, composition, or overall mood. Being able to conveniently cut up shapes, change colors in a matter of seconds, and copy and paste to conceptualize different things is a wonderful part of my creative process.

I create illustrations for film posters, book covers, key art for games, packaging, and magazines, as well as UI/UX design for web, mobile, and print. I love to widen my approach to how my art can be applied to projects, whether it is something I’m very familiar with or know nothing about; it’s all about exploring and opening myself to new ways to create.

One of the things I’m most proud of in my work is my attention to detail. I love how in portraits, so much can be established just from posture, eye glance and even the tilt of the head. These nuances are something that I can work over and over again until I’m completely satisfied with their appearance. Sometimes it can borderline perfectionism, but I believe it is because I care a lot and want to attribute my full attention and skillset to each thing I create.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Well, my business is primarily located in Durham, North Carolina, which is actually amazing for small businesses related to the creative market. Many store owners and startup founders are on the lookout to team up with talented people to find new and interesting ways to represent their brand through skillful design. I got my start out of college working in graphic design and motion illustration, which were two things I felt I was the weakest in. They were things I studied outside of my classes that I wanted to help supplement the illustrations I was creating. I was able to develop my portfolio to be stronger in different creative markets and show diversity in new skillsets through the companies I had the fortune to work with. I would recommend anyone who wants to grow as a creative to work with clients in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill in North Carolina because you will find such a rich environment of talent to collaborate with and unique work to contribute your abilities towards.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All images were created and are owned by © Jackson Ellis

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