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Jesse Draxler: Untitled

Work / Art

Artist Jesse Draxler on finding clarity through greyscale

“When I began working exclusively in greyscale is when everything seemed to start to make sense,” says artist and illustrator Jesse Draxler of his dark, brooding style that combines collaged photography and painting, manifesting in large-scale paintings or commissioned illustrations. “It’s as if by freeing my mind from having to think about colour I had gained a greater clarity for everything else, like when someone loses a sense their other senses heighten to compensate.” Jesse suspects that his preference for a black and white palette is informed by the fact he’s colour blind, or “colour deficient” as he calls it. “Though I don’t put too much weight behind just that.”

One recent commission involved creating artwork for MCQ Alexander McQueen’s Swallow collection, which saw Jesse distort and overlap the models’ bodies to form abstract, creature-like beings. “Presenting the clothes was the last thing I considered,” he says. Jesse’s expressive style has also been popular with editorial clients. His piece to accompany Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ==The First White President essay in The Atlantic shows thick white brushstrokes obscuring Trump’s face, whereas his portrait of Kendrick Lamar for The New York Times Magazine uses the same technique with a very different outcome. “I was loosely inspired by Milton Glaser’s Bob Dylan illustration,” Jesse explains. “The goal was to portray Kendrick as iconic and still, yet evoking a brilliant mind in action.” 

Whether working in collage or painting, Jesse’s process is often iterative and experimental. “I don’t keep a mental picture of what anything is ‘supposed’ to look like, but once I hit on something that resonates with me then I start to pull on that thread and so on,” he tells It’s Nice That. Often he’ll get a feel for what medium will work best for an idea but this can change throughout the process. “Regardless of how strong that intuition may be I will usually work through a number of mediums anyway just to see what happens.”

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Jesse Draxler: Kendrick Lamar for The New York Times Magazine

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Jesse Draxler: Kendrick Lamar for The New York Times Magazine

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Jesse Draxler

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Jesse Draxler: For Ignite Modelling

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Jesse Draxler: Trump for The Atlantic

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Jesse Draxler: MCQ Alexander McQueen Swallow campaign

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Jesse Draxler: MCQ Alexander McQueen Swallow campaign

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Jesse Draxler: Radiohead’s Climbing Up The Walls for Pitchfork

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Jesse Draxler: Dissolution

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Jesse Draxler: TMJ

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Jesse Draxler: New York Times Review cover