Artist Jackson Tupper talks Burton, fat Americans and never lubricating your lug nuts

Artist Jackson Tupper talks Burton, fat Americans and never lubricating your lug nuts

CultureJuly 16, 2018 By Samantha Keller

Hometown:
Kennebunk, Maine/Burlington, Vermont

Current state:
A little hungry, a little sneezy.

Got any tattoos?
Not my thing.

Who is your biggest fan?
My roommate’s cat. We have a special bond.

Best life advice: 
Never lubricate your lug nuts.

Some stranger helped my friend and I change a tire and dropped that knowledge on us. He didn’t seem to understand the humor of how that sounded to us, he was pretty serious about it. I still don’t know if that’s actually good advice, but I share it often. Thanks stranger.

One thing we will never catch you doing:
Feeling 'jazzed.'

First and most repetitive artist question: How did you get your start?
If you mean how I got into art as a kid, I’d have to credit Pappy Drewitt. He was like the Bob Ross for young children when I was growing up. He was an artist dressed like a hillbilly who lived in an imaginary world called Pappyland. He would draw pictures of things he saw while coaching his young viewers through his techniques. I recently revisited an episode just to get a dose of nostalgia — it’s pretty trippy, but strangely comforting.

You’re a designer at Burton. Tell us a little about what you do.
Yeah I’ve been at Burton for two and a half years now as one of two in-house graphic designers who work specifically on snowboard graphics and bindings. Working on bindings involves mostly color palettes, wordmarks, material finishes, and occasionally patterns and illustrated graphics. For snowboards graphics, we either create the artwork ourselves or work with other artists to create a design.

One really cool aspect of my job is that it allows me to play around with other styles and mediums outside of my signature illustration style — whether it’s building collages from stock imagery, manipulating art with Xerox machines, hand-painting typography, or trying my hand at illustrating in different vector styles.

Additionally, I’ve had the unique opportunity of collaborating with artists I really admire and discovering new artists and makers. It’s given me the challenge of being an art director, too, which is a whole new world for me. I’ll usually approach an artist with an idea of how we’d like to design the graphic and then let them execute their artwork to fit our vision.

What’s your favorite design so far?
It’s hard to say. I’m usually excited on most graphics when I first make them, and then two seasons later when they actually hit stores and we see them on the slopes, I’m kinda over them and more excited about the current projects we’re working on. (Oh yeah, we work two years in advance which is crazy).

But some of the coolest boards I’ve had the privilege to design have been the ones where we work with some really culturally influential artists. My first season at Burton, I was given a stack of sketchbook doodles by Mark Gonzalez to design a graphic with. It was insane to get such an intimate view into the mind of an artist and skateboarder as legendary as Gonz. 

Likewise, over the past couple months we’ve been designing two boards for the 2020 season using Keith Haring’s artwork. Again, being such a hugely influential icon in both the art world and youth culture, having the privilege to dig through his archive of work and use it in our designs is a really crazy experience for me.

On your Ello, you say your ‘night job’ is Iskra Print. What is that collective and how is it different from your day job?
Yes! Iskra is the best. Iskra Print Collective is a super cool nonprofit screen printing studio in Burlington, Vermont. It used to operate as a part of JDK Design, but is now run independently by about 10 of us who volunteer our time. It’s not actually a job, but more of a commitment we’ve all made outside of our day jobs to keep this amazing studio space in operation. We teach two 4-month classes a year, provide studio memberships, take on commercial screen printing jobs (primarily gig posters), host community workshops, print and distribute our own zines, and organize art shows of member and student work. I fell in love with screen printing when I first learned it in college, so I’m psyched to not only have access to a studio where I can keep making prints, but also to help run it with a handful of talented friends.

Where do you like posting your art the most and do you see the future of this changing soon?
Oof. I have to admit I’m pretty lame when it comes to social media. Instagram is really the only platform I regularly share my work on, and even there my level of participation wavers. I do like it as platform for sharing work because it does serve as a useful business and networking tool for low-level or no-name artists to gain recognition. In this way, it’s pushed me to continue to make work just for the sake of building up a portfolio and a following. But on the downside, it has certainly made me feel like a slave to the 'likes' which is just so superficial.

Can you explain the inspiration behind 'The Lady of Liberty' and will we be seeing more of her? 
The Ladies of Liberty were specifically born out of satire as a commentary on the stereotype of American pride and patriotism. The original piece features two chubby women donned in patriotic swimsuits, provocatively wielding shotguns, protecting an oversized 99¢ Big Gulp. The goal was to elude to obesity, gun addiction, and the sexualizing of women as symbols of American identity. The 'Ladies of Liberty Safety Pins' shortly followed and were satirically marketed towards these morons today who pretend to fear that their human rights will be violated by the mere idea of gun control. As long as these American values hold true, I’m sure The Ladies of Liberty will continue to make appearances every now and again.

Not only are you an artist but you’re a businessman as well. What’s the business side of that like?
Oof again. Similar to keeping up with social media accounts and my website, the business aspect of being an artist is where I struggle the most because I’m not so good at being a businessman. I love being able to sell my work and share my art with people, but the shipping, the marketing, the management — it’s not my thing. I could use an agent. 

Tell us a little bit about the art scene in Vermont/Burlington.
Burlington’s art and design community is super strong and there are a lot of people and local businesses who help support. It’s a youthful city, I think a lot of artists and designers either came to Burlington to study at UVM or Champlain College and ended up sticking around, or were pulled here by really good jobs in graphic design. We’re situated between New York and Montreal which might have something to do with that.

You recently had a show called M O O D S. Was it your first show? Will we be seeing more?
Yeah, M O O D S is my latest series of large-scale paintings that are all about sensuality. Not my first show, but my second solo gallery show in Burlington. I definitely intend to keep doing shows so long as I can land them. I love it. Besides a show in Denver in 2014, I haven’t had a gallery show outside of Burlington. That’s my next goal.

Do you have any advice for other artists working their day jobs and creating at night?
Make time for family + friends. And never lubricate your lug nuts.

Shameless plugs:

Site: JacksonTupper.com
Insta: @jackson.tupper
ello: @jacksontupper

[all images courtesy Jackson Tupper]