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Dessie Jackson: The Artist Drawn to Music.

June 14, 2012

Text by Caroline Newton. Images by Rick Kauffman.

Dessie Jackson sits on her bed cross-legged, running her charcoal-covered hands through her brown hair, and apologizing for the messy makeshift art studio she calls her room.

Jackson started out drawing potato-head people when she was a kid but her talents were refined under the watchful eye of her Japanese babysitter.

“She would push me to draw a lot and she taught me traditional Japanese form,” Jackson recalls. “We
would do ink, focusing on copying anime images and such. That’s where my passion started to grow.”

Now 20, the Tyler School of Art student has a grocery list of accomplishments.

Jackson’s first commissioned piece was featured in the Ephrata-based metalcore band Texas in July’s music video for “1000 lies” in 2011. The song is about finding yourself and as the song progresses, the video shows Jackson crafting an ink on paper portrait.

Equal Vision Records promptly bought the piece, which now hangs in their office.

“There has always been something more interesting about her work,” says Texas in July  bass player Ben Witkowski, a longtime friend of Jackson’s. “I remember back in our high school years when she would just draw on her walls in her bedroom, always working on something, hands always marked up.”

Jackson’s dream isn’t to make art for bands but all of a sudden musicians are calling her up.

“Music is not my audience but fine art and music go hand and hand,” she says.

Not only is Jackson’s art featured in Texas in July’s video, she also designed the band’s guitar picks, which a few lucky fans get to take home at the end of  shows. The picks are caricatures of the band members and the tour manager.

“It’s cool to know that my art is on something that literally makes music,” Jackson admits, her eyes lighting up with excitement.

She started publishing her work on a tumblr page last year and that has drawn attention.

Alongside her work with Texas in July, Jackson’s designs are featured on T-shirts for Philadelphia-based record company, Back to Back Records. One of the designs is a caricature of Joe Hardcore. She’s currently designing the album artwork of a collaborative music project called The Fortress, which includes Brendan Brown of The Receiving End of Sirens. And Jackson was recently chosen to design a T-shirt for The Hundreds, an apparel company that focuses on Southern California’s skateboarding, surf, punk and hip-hop cultures.

She’s so busy, she works at all times of the day.

“I like working at four in the morning,” she confides. “It’s such a weird time to be up. You’re dirty and you’ve had five cups of coffee and after 20 hours of work and living off of 7-Eleven snacks, I can finally step back and be proud.”

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  1. Interview: Why We're Drawn to Dessie Jackson : magazine

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