Photo courtesy of Ella Jackson-Drexler
Ella Jackson-Drexler expresses herself through art
When everything I previously thought about the world was flipped on its head,” Ella Jackson-Drexler (’23) said, “it was so hard to place myself and look into myself.”
These emotions and challenges are the basis for Jackson-Drexler’s art, in which the anime characters she creates mirror aspects of her personality that come together to create a story.
Growing up in Camden, one of London’s most vibrant art scenes, Jackson-Drexler said she has been surrounded by art ever since she was a child.
“We have had my dad’s paintings in the house, all the books on the shelves are art books and I have come quite close to the alternate culture in Camden,” she said. “It is kind of everywhere.”
Back when her father worked at ASL, she said she remembers working in his studio with oil pastels, looking up to the older students and admiring their level of expertise.
Today, she said they still paint together in their flat, and she attends London Fine Arts Studios where she practices her skills.
She said she thanks her father for the ways in which he has helped shape her development as an artist.
Jackson-Drexler said she also likes to express her artistic nature in her clothing and makeup, giving it her “own personal spin.” However, she said people tend to stare because she uses her style to “embellish” herself.
“There are days where I walk down the street and people will turn and stare because my [style] is not very seen in St. John’s Wood particularly,” she said. “If people wouldn’t stare at me, I would love it so much more.”
There are days where I walk down the street and people will turn and stare because my style is not very seen in St. John’s Wood particularly. If people wouldn’t stare at me, I would love it so much more.”
— Ella Jackson-Drexler ('23)
Jackson-Drexler said she would describe herself as creative, ambitious and private, and said her detailed images reflect those characteristics.
She said the private part of her demeanor translates to both her art and in-person interactions.
“I always observe the dynamics of what I am going to enter into and then figure out how best to go into a situation,” she said.
In addition, she said her anime characters, Guy, Vinnie and Mo, were “birthed” from different situations in her life, connecting to her creative nature.
“If something bad happens, I would turn to make a character about it,” she said. “You can kind of examine yourself and where you stand through your art.”
Jackson-Drexler said her favorite thing about art is creating those original anime characters who represent certain facets of her identity. Nonetheless, she said that there is a big misconception that her art has a deeper meaning to it.
“Some things individually have a deeper thought process put into them, but at the same time, sometimes you have to take things at face value,” she said.
Some things individually have a deeper thought process put into them, but at the same time, sometimes you have to take things at face value.”
— Ella Jackson-Drexler ('23)
The process Jackson-Drexler said she goes through every weekend to paint in her studio is to first and foremost set up and then think about all that she hopes to get done during the time she has.
“Before I paint, I have to make a list of what I want to accomplish because for a lot of oil paintings, there is a very structured formula to go through,” she said. “I am like, ‘What phase am I on and what do I want to get done by the end of today?’”
Once settled, she said she puts on her music playlist — a mix of rock, goth rock and post punk — to focus and said it “keeps my attention and drowns out outside noises.”
Because of her experience, Jackson-Drexler said she skipped years of art at school and was given a position in advanced studio art at the beginning of Grade 10, a class that is traditionally reserved for students in Grades 11 and 12. She said her proudest piece of work was an oil painting she was asked to do over the 2019-20 summer in order to be accepted into the class.
“I created this one oil piece which I am really proud of because it was one of my first ever actual finished oil paintings,” she said. “It was a challenge because it had to fit the criteria of the project, but it was quite fun in the end.”
Jackson-Drexler describes the feeling of painting as an “intellectual battle” because “you are just correcting yourself constantly.” Hence, she said art teaches people self-discipline and instills persistence.
“You have to keep doing and redoing things,” she said. “The determination to tell yourself that you put a line down wrong and you have to go back and fix it and maybe change everything requires a lot of self-discipline.”
Because art takes time and voluntary effort, Jackson-Drexler said though she recommends painting, she does not think it is something that should be mandatory for all students.
“That kind of creative side should be by choice exercised,” she said. “If it is not the skill set you are looking for, it should not be forced, but if you are curious about it then I definitely recommend trying it out.”
Jackson-Drexler said one of her goals in the future is to work on the online graphic novel Webcomic to create a physical representation of her stories and characters.
In addition, she said she would like her artwork to be an inspiration for children and would like to be remembered as an artist who prospered in the face of adversity.
“I’d want to be recognized for my artwork and have it help children like it helped me through self-therapy,” she said. “I want to be remembered as someone who worked their way up.”