Ella Jackson

Art is my way of sharing my voice, expressing my emotions and pushing creative boundaries. As an artist, I love to combine technique, art history, performative elements, interactive presentation, text, process, experimentation, sketchbook work, 3D creations, design and my personal passions and experiences.

I transitioned from the comfort of my early arts-based education and its technicality to art influenced by the impact that my struggle with anxiety and treatment as a female in society has had on who I have become. Exploring myself through my art revealed a better understanding of the world around me and how our struggles do not define us, but define our willingness to persevere when society gives us every reason not to. The art included in this portfolio is exemplary of the growing curious artist that I am today.

Art Historical Study of Self in Studio

Art Historical Study of Self in Studio

Mark Making Study with Twigs

Mark Making Study with Twigs

Mark making throughout my life has presented itself in many forms. From the check mark on a "To-do list," to writing math and literature, the power of the mark is that it can be a form of notation, communication, style, or implication. It can be literal, figurative, or communicative, all stemming from its purpose, intention, cause, medium, and color. These marks were created with black ink, utilizing dry sticks to create the outcome.

This study of marks represents my love of details, experimentation, and nature. It provokes ideas of time and location, "which mark was the first?," "What time did the artist make that mark, why that order? Why there?" It introduces the questions: Why is something considered to be "art?"

Live Model Timed Sketches

Live Model Timed Sketches

The human figure, posture, mannerisms, and anatomical geometry  have always been a fascination of mine. Growing up, I loved to draw humans whether it was just a hand, face, or full figure. Once I grew up. live model drawings and sketches were observational experiences that I grew to love. The experience of having a times moment to visually measure and capture the complexity of the pose and the relationship between the figure and space, was a technical practice that fueled my love of capturing directionality, curves, and the "idea" and "accuracy" of a pose. The fact that a one or five minute drawing was the completed piece, but resembled the "sketching stage" of my week-long figure artworks, was an exercise that reinforced the idea that the "process" is just as, if not more, important as the final product. These pieces "aged well" when I began to create art about gender and body image and perception in society.

This observational drawing study relies on respect and celebration of "body" and of all gender identities. It becomes "collaborative," based on the fact that the model was becoming a muse intentionally for my drawing. That intention becomes a partnership between "artist" and "subject," an unspoken narrative between bodies, space, silence, and time,

Observational Drawing Study of Glasses

Observational Drawing Study of Glasses

This piece I began by composing the still life. I laid the different wine glasses out on my old uneven floor, and sat down with my set of graphite pencils. The goal of this drawing was a simplistic study, focusing on the relationship between light and dark, and shading. I saw the lights glasses and light shadows and decided to draw them with just graphite, using my eraser to draw with the negative. I find the result to be delicate and accurate, another addition to my countless observational and technical pieces, but at the same time, it was a new style and approach.

Observational Drawing Study of Objects

Observational Drawing Study of Objects

This piece began with artistic decision making, the element of choice shifted this from an observational drawing to one that introduced what I am interested in and gravitate towards in pieces of technicality. There was an entire table laid with various still life objects, and immediately I felt a connection to the perspective shown.

It touches on life and death, due to the fat that it is a still life which cannot contain any life, but is comprised of human parts. There is an elegant macabre theme too, with the arms and hands being detached and tossed in a bucket. It alludes to the relationship between anatomy and geometry, the inanimate and animate, shadow and light, curved and straight, and the relationship both spatially and metaphorically between the objects themselves.

The hands have always been a subject that I am drawn to. This is because of the power and significance that they hold. They are what we use to handshake in agreement or introduction, what we use to write and create, what we use to fight, to pump air back to the dead with CPR, what we use to wave hello to flip off society, to hold when we are in love, to catch the babies as they gasp for the first time in the world. The changes we wish to make all start in our own hands. Our future is in our hands.

Study of Reflective Objects

Study of Reflective Objects

The duality and juxtaposition between the light and darkness came alive as I set this still life up to photograph and then draw. I realized that the reflective objects were creating their own dialogue, as they reflected off of one another. As I drew with my charcoal, I realized that the dark reflection on the shaker was me taking the picture. Once the artist herself becomes a part of the piece, it shifts the piece to also being a form of self portrait. I had made myself a part o that dialogue and reflections. And because I am living, does that make my reflection negate our ability to call this piece a still life?

Observational Drawing Study of Societally Gendered Objects

Observational Drawing Study of Societally Gendered Objects

This is the result of an experiment to push outside my comfort zone Like I love to do, playing with movement as I often do, but with pastel and vibrant color. I set up a still life that was inspired by learning how female leaders are treated and disrespected in society. If someone were asked to imagine what items a business person returning home from work would shed, what would they picture? A tie, loafers watch and wallet? If they did, they would most likely be thinking only of men's apparel and accessories. And so, if I titled this piece "A CEO's End of Day," would they be surprised? Would they think this was a secretary who went home with the CEO? This still life was a study that kept pushing the question, why is society so gendered?

Study of a Bed

Study of a Bed

This photograph was taken on color film. It encompasses the themes of location, temporary things, routine, remnants, light and shadow, and new beginnings. I was in a hotel room with my mom and photographed her bed after she woke up. It became a still life, an observational photograph that Tatcher Cook, my photography teacher, loved. Seeing his reaction to it, made me study and question and critique it until I realized the significance that such a momentary and uniquely lit photograph could hold. Thatcher Cook taught me how to do large multi-foot long prints. We printed this large scale and showed it in the PDS art gallery. This documentational photograph became one of my favorite film shots, even in its simplicity.

Loud Thoughts

Loud Thoughts

This oil painting is a self expression, one I created, once "I made it out on the other side," as they say. But I prefer not to use that phrase when speaking about anxiety, because it is a journey, a lifelong challenge. The perfectionist within seems to take over, the chemicals seem to take full control, and sometimes the anxious dialogue in your own head is far too loud. I painted this self portrait to myself screaming, and myself covering my ears, to portray the battle with my thoughts. I fought through my bad anxiety, putting that struggle and paint into my artwork. I wanted the paints to scream, I wanted the paper to feel loud. It was a time where I grew stronger life never before. I am proud of my challenges. I show my fight in my art; it expresses my reality and it aims to connect to those viewers who are able to relate.

Pick Your Poison

Pick Your Poison

This is a portrait of my sister whom I photographed for this piece. I love to draw, paint, and photograph those who have been by my side the most, because I believe they are the most true reflection of the person I have become. I drew this with Prismacolors, layering and blending to bring her to life. As I drew, I brainstormed with my sister about what she and I both experience in society as two young, ambitious, and vocal women. I then chose to add the hands, which I drew from observation of my own hands, because all these things that we struggle with are a result of societal expectations assumptions, misconceptions, sexism, gender bias, and beauty standards. Society asks us, women, to pick our poison. "Want to be confident? You should be! But we will say you are vain. Want to be ambitious? Now you are such a try-hard!" You know what society? I will pick all those poisons. I want to stay ambitious, girlie, a leader, and confident, no matter what you think.

Observational, Surrealist, and Stylistic Apple Triptych

Observational, Surrealist, and Stylistic Apple Triptych

These are three observational depictions of the same apple. I placed the apple in front of me, and using three different approaches, three different styles, created this triptych. The bottom one is observational with charcoal, oil, and acrylic that focuses on the directionality of the patterned apple skin. The middle is an observational oil painting, with surrealist inspiration. The top is a personalized style, an apple with a depiction of my sister inside. I wanted her to look dark and sunken like the dark core, wrapped by the apple skin. The configuration of the drawings was meant to push creative boundaries. While most would place them horizontally, adjacent to one another, I realized that as a vertical sequence they formed a version of a deconstructed body. This tied in themes that figures add to art like identity,  body, and human capabilities, but here those are depicted in an inanimate object drawn three ways,

Self in Society

Self in Society

"Self in Society" came to fruition in the pages of my sketchbook. I began by journaling about my experiences as a young woman in our world today. I then began to use collage as a form of journaling and notation. As I was tearing, ripping, gluing, and writing, I realized that the dialogue between my inner thoughts and my page and the words was strong and powerful. I then decided to use that brainstorming as inspiration to start a day-long observational drawing study of myself in the mirror.

It was not just a drawing of shadows and light, it was also a study of myself and my gender. I saw the tired eyes vacantly staring back, the same eyes that held back tears when the bullies yelled at her nerdy self growing up; the same eyes that said "watch me" when the boys said I couldn't win the push-up competition in eighth grade. The same eyes that said "don't underestimate a girl" when I promptly won. My eyes glared back at me, as I realized the pristine shading that I use was not right for this piece. I began to move my graphite more freely, letting movement and emotion combine into the observational dance of my pencil. As the day carried on, my breath, natural shifts, and snack breaks allowed me to depict the most "real" self portrait I have done. A depiction that felt like a study, an experiential process, a visual notation of my inner dialogue and story.

I ripped and tore magazines, finding words that had diction and connotation that connected to my experiences as a young woman in society. Then I assembled them, paying with the concepts of gender bias and the power, assumptions, and expectations that drench gender norms. My stomach twisted as I placed the words down, feeling the sting of the insults and sexism that I had experienced all over again.

Instance

Instance

"Instance" is a photograph that I took on my digital camera as my sister walked out of our home. This photograph portrays my artistic instinct and eye, showing the composition that I observed and froze in the frame in a split second. The door can be perceived as opening or closing. I saw the out of focus hand, the glance my sister was making behind her in my direction, and the way that the light fell. The lines of the door met in the middle with the lines of the fence, creating a focal point that strengthened the face that my sister was slightly off center. This made for a stronger composition and showcases my increased understanding of compositional technique.

Multi-Media Study with Observational Drawing and Collage

Multi-Media Study with Observational Drawing and Collage

This piece was an experimentation with multi-media. It began with direct observational drawing of my bed covers. But as I carried on, I decided to use the work I had done so far to create a collage and bring in a second medium of choice. I tore pieces of newspaper and glued them in, planning the design and form before gluing them. When I stepped back, I fell in love. The design was such a different outcome than the basic observational piece I was initially creating. I trusted the process, trusted my creative instinct, and took a creative risk.

Brush-Making with Collaborative and Performative Abstract Mark Making

Brush-Making with Collaborative and Performative Abstract Mark Making

One of my closest friends and I, after learning how to make different paint brushes, decided to collaborate to create our own innovative paintbrush to make an abstract mark making piece together. We chose the dried plant stalks and twine that we wanted to use, keeping the process natural and sustainable. We created a way to fasten the twine best and the tested and experimented to see the ways in which the brush could move. The minute we each picked up a handle of the brush, and dipped it into the ink, the piece became performative. We spun the twine like a jump rope and as it hit the paper the ink created the most beautiful and elegantly ferocious mark and splatter. We experimented with motion and mark marking, as we hit the paper like a whip, and scratched it with the twine taut as we moved it back and forth like a two-man saw. We worked through collaboration, movement, experimentation, innovation, tool making and design, performance, and the power of our friendship.

Girlie

Girlie

This photograph that I took of my sister and her friends holds a narrative about women in society, beauty standards and expectations. It became more than their desired inspiration of the girl power in Mean Girls, it became a study of femininity and what we perceive as feminine. The theme some would say is "girlie," where I would respond, "yes, it is girlie, it is about female empowerment." There is this negative connotation and stigma that comes with the world "girlie," but I wanted to create an image that owned that, in a deeper and positive way.

Self in City

Self in City

This shot was taken as I watched over the city of New York, feeling both invisible and powerful at this height, as well as tiny amongst such a bustling world of skyscrapers. I noticed my reflection staring back at me. I realized the impact that it had, for it looked as though I were standing in the streets, becoming a part of the usual noisy routine of the city below. It provokes themes of location, self reflection, and the idea of "man amongst nature." At the time, I began to think about transcendentalism, and the art that was made through its ideals. I felt as though this were a modern version, it was not nature with man in it, it was the modern man-made world with man in it. And what then am I in this place?

Where Dreams Begin

Where Dreams Begin

This process-heavy piece began when I decided to photograph a still life of my pillow, the place that held my head when my thoughts were too heavy to be out of bed, the place that provided comfort as I dreamed, the place that supported me all my life when I layed awake imagining art pieces. I then drew the photograph through observation, using charcoal and charcoal pencils to investigate the distinctly crinkled pillow. When that piece was completed, I edited the photograph of the pillow to be a silhouette of the wrinkled pillow fabric. I then created a repeating layout of the pattern and sent it to a manufacturer to create fabric using that as the print. When my fabric arrived, I chose a dress pattern that I thought would highlight and showcase the print. I first began be sewing the dress in muslin, since I wanted the final product to be perfect. Once I finished and made sure that it fit me, I began to cut out my fabric. I wanted to design the dress in a way that the silhouette pattern appeared to grow from a flattering geometrical design element. I bought matching fabric to the black notes in my print, and designed the measurements that I wanted this element to have. I had to work with proportions, mathematics, artistic taste decision making, and creative risk.

Where Dreams Begin Part 2

Where Dreams Begin

The result was just what I had hoped for and more—it had the stiff clean fit that I desired. The dress had the crinkle that I wanted as it moved, just like the old wrinkled pillow. The design felt wearable, but the fabric made it have the editorial effect that I wanted. I put the dress on. set up the dramatic lighting that I wanted, and choreographed and modeled poses that I felt fit the garment. The piece was all about process, utilizing photography, observational drawing from a photograph, design, technology, manufacturing, sewing, taking creative risks, performing, studio lighting, photographic composition and processing, and personal and artistic identity. All my leftover scraps and fabric I will be using for masks.

I Feel

I Feel

The muslin dress that I made for "Where Dreams Begin" was like a wearable sketchbook. This is because it was the draft and sketch of that piece, and all my sketches and brainstorming that I do, are done in my sketchbook. I began to play with text, choosing the words "I feel." These two words connected to my struggle with anxiety, and also, once on the fabric, became a take on the saying "she wears her heart on her sleeve." After I had tested fonts and stamped each letter on, writing the words over and over again in the fabric paint. I put the dress on. I kept thinking why must I remind society how I feel? I set up my studio lighting with dramatic contrast and created performative photographs with poses, postures, and mannerisms that represented the anxiety and pain that the next conveys. As I had stared at the words for so long, I had a moment where I realized the power that those four letters hold, and if rearranged, the new words that they could create (lie, life). Those words connected to the piece, and so I began to work in my sketchbook, playing with the power and significance of those four letters. They were marks that we know as letters, that have their specific diction, personal significance, and order, and in context, those marks can hold a world of meaning. They create language, communication, record history or can simply be, a mark,

The Pledge

The Pledge

"The Pledge" is a sculptural piece that I made of a wire hand. It all began when I was thinking the power when passion, commitment, and your word, such as a promise of pledge, combine in a few individuals. This piece was inspired by a particularly moving school assembly, during which someone said that in order to start movement, a passionate individual whom everyone else thinks is crazy, steps forward to take the lead. What struck me was that when a second person joins, the movement is started. The more who join, the more unstoppable they become. I wanted to create an artwork that required a little courage from each participating viewer, as well as caused them to get their hands dirty and state their commitment.

The hand is something that I had studied in my art for years, but in my conception of the piece there was also something endearing about the unwaivering loyalty and fear of repercussion that our childhood selves had built up about any "pinky promise" that we have ever made.

The hand was mounted on a white wall, with blue and green ink pads on the table beside it. The instructions said to write down an issue in our world that you cared about and pledged to take action on. Then I instructed that the audience place their hand in either ink of choice, and shake the sculptural hand to solidify their commitment. The interactive presentation of this piece in the PDS exhibition became a collaborative and communicative experience that I will never forget. Beside the ink lay hand wipes and a trash bin, but as I walked around the halls of the school the rest of the day, a smile crept up on my face with hope and pride as I saw the tints of green and blue ink on students' hands.

A Purpose

A Purpose

The photograph, "A Purpose," was taken as the sun rose on a rainy morning in a quiet part of Santorini, Greece. As my family drove along the small road in our tiny car, we slowed down along a bend. I was lucky enough to notice this split second where the sun aligned behind the cross with the rain and dewdrops contorting the light and creating colorful prismatic effects. I focused the lens quickly and snapped the shot. I had captured one of the simplest things to have ever taken my breath away. The whole town was asleep on such a rainy morning, the silent lull was piercingly loud except for the occasional whir of our car. The photograph captures all of these feelings. It embodies the idea of some greater purpose. Whether it my be a religion, or sign of some sort, the ethereal and captivating moment captured here always reminds me of the power of lighting, of carrying a camera of sketchbook with you everywhere you go to capture fleeting moments.

The Map

The Map

Throughout my whole life, art has been my everything. No matter where I was in the world, I had to be creating and researching art for my sanity. I could live anywhere in the world and feel at home as long as I am learning and making art. This piece is full of artistic risk, innovation, and research. This mapmaking piece began when I chose and studied the location of the "Grand Prismatic Springs." I decided to delve in and highlight the highest and lowest points of this location, and the layers of varying heights in between. I took tracing paper and deconstructed the map into sheets of each height of the area. I painted the lowest level of that location with acrylics on a piece of poster board adding depth with Gesso. I then took a second piece and with an X-acto knife cut out the desired shape on the second level of raised land. Next, I took a third piece and cut out the highest level of raised land there, creating three sheets that if piled on one another would make a 3D map. I decided to go with my artistic instinct and experimentation, and highlight the process in the piece. An idea came to mind, and I went to the industrial design studio and began rummaging through the discarded wood piles. I found a scrap of wood that I loved and painted it black. I wanted to utilize it in a way to showcase the idea of a "deconstructed map." I wanted to use geometry and choose the placement of the recycled wood in a way that I had never seen and that pushed creative boundaries. I created this 3D protruding multi-media mapmaking piece that was showcased as a solo piece in the front entrance of my school. It remains there today.