Mixed-Media Artist Jesse Draxler Explores the Dark Side of Collage

Black and white reign supreme in the disturbing work of mixed medium artist, illustrator, and art director Jesse Draxler. Collage, darkly suggestive figures, and almost abusive brushstrokes make up a body of work that speaks to the complex opacity of this West Coast creative’s MO. And it’s one that’s caught the industry’s eye: Jesse has worked on commission with clients including The New York Times Magazine, Pitchfork, and McQ Alexander McQueen.


Jesse grew up in rural Wisconsin with a rocky family upbringing – including episodes of severe accidents and grievious loss – and the subsequent fallout left Jesse feeling “angry and unchecked” as a kid, he tells us.

“I attended catholic school for 9 years until attending a public high school, but I fit in at neither. From then up until the past few years seems like a blur of bad choices and avoidance.”


From here certainly springs, in part, the distinctly tumultuous and psychological bent of Jesse’s work, more of which can be explored on his Instagram. The selection curated here includes a distorted selection of portraiture, with a precision of line and an aesthetic economy that keep its emotional intensity on – but not over – the boil.

THE PLUS: So what brought you to art?
Jesse Draxler:
The only thing I ever really cared about was the arts. I started drawing at a very young age and I never stopped making things in whatever various form. After high school I was basically always flat broke, but I refused to work more than the bare minimum of hours at the restaurants I served at, spending the majority of my time on studio practice regardless of barely being able to get by. I just always held on to the hope that someday, if I kept at it, the art thing would pay off.


TP: You have a unique aesthetic – who, or what sort of thing, do you find inspires you to work on a new piece?
A need for some sort of authentic form of self expression.

TP: What sort of subjects do you like to work with?
Any-bodies. Raw humans. Malleable, vague forms. Gooey people.


TP: What attracts you to working strictly in monochrome?
Being something of a minimalist, I tend to break everything down to its most simple state. At some point I no longer saw the need for colour to express what it is I wanted to express. The secondary part of this answer is that I was born colour-blind (colour-deficient.)

I always struggled with which colour was what, having to ask friends and colleagues what colour a paint or pencil was. This made working with colour in and of itself an unnatural process. Dropping it felt more like getting in sync with my natural rhythm than it felt like losing something.


TP: You use a combination of collage, paint, photographs… do you have a preferred medium?
I’ll do whatever is needed to get the effect I desire. I use it all, anything. I’m really into finger painting.

TP: And the images here, they’re predominantly collage – where do you source the photographs used in them? You’ve said before that you take them from magazines…
Conceptually I like the idea of re-appropriation – aiming to bring out a deeper truth or authenticity from images initially created in the name of capitalism. Adding depth to images I otherwise find empty. While I used to do that much more, in recent times I mostly collaborate with photographers directly, and I have begun taking photos myself as well. 


TP: You’ve returned time and again to distorted human subjects. Why this recurring theme?
Because I am a distorted human subject.

TP: Have you ever tried to hide who you are?
I would never try to hide who I am, as that asserts some sort of fear or shame- but I appreciate a certain amount of anonymity. I share what is important through my work, and I have come to find that keeping my ego out of how I present my work allows the viewer to connect with it on their own terms.