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Analog Living: Jess Ackerman

Analog Living: Jess Ackerman

At Schoolhouse, we view the term "analog living" as a road back to connecting with ourselves, our home, and the important people in our lives. We believe in creating future nostalgia through objects, and think that part of crafting a meaningful life full of joy and intention is working to balance analog ways of doing things with our digital world.

As part of this ongoing series focused on community, creativity, and the things that inspire us we met up with local Portland artist Jess Ackerman in their bright and colorful studio to chat current inspiration, what their creative process looks like, and how the analog ways of doing things show up throughout their life. 


Person sitting in chair inside artist studio.

Person sitting in chair painting in art studio.

Your paintings are so playful and bright, which is something that we all really admire about your work! What initially led you to pursue painting, and what do you love most about it?

Oh man, I don't know if it was a pursuit as much as it was a twisted cocktail of my workaholism muddled ever-so-tenderly with my herbaceous commitment to "the bit." I was such a heady shy kid, I've always been fooling around with some kind of creative outlet. And for better, or worse, I live with an inherently optimistic-nihilist view of "nothing matters, do whatever :)" which has let me keep painting for this long. I think the practice itself is very meditative for me, and I'm thankful people are into it. I really love painting because it's honestly just me getting to run rampant in my own little world. 


Up close image of a blue and green painting in progress.


"I really love painting because it's honestly just me getting to run rampant in my own little world." 


Reflection of person painting in mirror.

We would love to hear a little bit about what's currently inspiring you! 

I've been working on a big solo show with Chefas Projects (opening June 2nd in Portland from 4p.m. to 7p.m.) and have been really diving into my favorite media for that extra boost. Fashion and textiles actually influence a lot of my work. Patch-working, quilting, and pattern clashing often turn into layered upon layered block coloring.

Some albums Ive been loving while I work:

"Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard" by Issam Hajali

"Aestheticadelica" by Bloodbath64

"Brown Rice" by Don Cherry

"Romantiq" by Oval

"Transa" by Caetano Veloso

"Love in the Time of Lexapro" by Oneohtrix Point Never

"Anne" by Joseph Shabason

"Black Metal" by Dean Blunt

"DestinyXL" by They Are Gutting A Body of Water


Up close shot of multiple paintings on a wall in a paint studio.


In the last three years I've started reading every night, and a few recent faves are:

Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller

SarahLand by Sam Cohen

Tender is The Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

What Painting Is by James Elkins


Up close image of a sticker roll.

Up close image of paint and brushes.

If you had to choose three words to describe what you love most about painting, what would they be?

Meditation, solitude, noise-cancelling.

Can you walk us through what your creative process looks like?

OOOF here I go, going to do my best to articulate this. 

The dumbest small thing can really spark my interest (an outfit, plants on a walk, a sick meme, fast food) and I'll need to write it down or sketch it out. I have so many scraps of paper that I save and go through to remember what I was doing. Somehow my brain can know and remember what I was thinking. I don't do full layout sketches of paintings unless its requested by a client. I like to layer and block out my colors and work through ideas on the canvas with the paint. I'm usually working on up to as many as 20 paintings at once, and carousel through them. I get bored easily, and can get frustrated if I toil on one painting for too long, so this method works really well for me!

Every project is different but it all comes down to weight flow and form. Colors come easily but the final touches always trip me out. It's hard to say when something is finally done, but it usually arrives like a room lighting up, "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh there she is."


Person sitting at an easel painting.

A collection of ceramic objects sitting on a shelf.

Lastly, painting is often a very analog process, so we'd love to hear more about what the word "analog" means to you? How does it show up throughout the rest of your life?

I obviously love a lil' digital art as a treat, but the larger parts of my life and practice are very analog focused. I gotta say, getting in some dirt and doing some manual labor is huge for me. I am very much "Daddy" of my house, but also unfortunately, I need to be constantly working on something and having a project. I have no chill, but it can almost feel like turning off the front facing stressed out/overstimulated version of myself and going full meditated lizard-brain mode (I don't know if that's balance or what?). Fixing stuff, building things, tinkering around, earthing it up in the yard, yoga, it all coincides with the physical of the art; the pottery, the drawing, the painting, stretching the canvas, the blending, the layering - "loves it." 


Artist standing in their studio.

Artist working on a painting in colorful and vibrant art studio.


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