Jack Russell is a serious artist who doesn’t take life too seriously. Known for his playful depictions of sacred Texas staples and other pop culture icons, Jackdaw Folk Art is completely devoid of pretension. Which means he probably wouldn’t be the first (or second) to mention that he is the featured artist for this year’s ArtsGoggle festival, Fort Worth’s premier celebration of local arts. You can catch Jack lurking around galleries promoting other artists or playing bass in his rock ‘n’ roll band Crooked Bones- you’ll know him when you see him.
Let’s start with something simple, I think. What is folk art?
For me, folk art is art for the people. It’s art for the average Joe or Joanne. And people with other names. I use a lot of pop-culture references that most people recognize, so they’re already familiar with the imagery, and then I can hide the super deep and profound, capital “A” Art messages inside.
I keep my prices cheap, so the art is financially accessible to as many folks as possible. I’ve been told that people are buying their first piece of art ever from me. So, I hope that I’m something of a gateway for more people digging art. ‘Cuz art is fun. You’re welcome, art.
Based on some of your subjects (Pee-wee, Hank Hill, Waffle House Jesus, etc.), you have a sense of humor. How does amusement play into your process?
Humor is definitely a big part of my work. It’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. Regardless of whatever deeper meaning I think is in the piece, the first obvious thing people catch is the joke. It can often elicit a giggle or a smile, and that’s my favorite part of doing shows- seeing someone’s eyes light up looking at my art. I’ve always been a class clown; I can’t help myself.
Word on the street is that you are the featured artist for this year’s ArtsGoggle. How does it feel being in the spotlight of Fort Worth’s premier festival of local arts?
It mostly feels like they wanna stress-test my imposter syndrome! But also, yeah, pretty stoked about it. I’ve been showing art and playing music at the Goggle for years. It’s my fave art fest anywhere, so I can’t wait to see my artwork just all over it. It’s gonna be nuts. I hope it doesn’t rain.
From the perspective of a Texas artist, what makes Fort Worth unique in the arts world?
We have a great art scene here. Obviously, we have some incredible art museums, a good range of galleries, and several big festivals, but then also so many smaller art markets and pop-up events where you can stumble across a lot of great, yet more affordable art. Art in Fort Worth really runs the gamut. You could see anything from a can of soup by Andy Warhol to a can of beans by a local artist. And there’s other stuff too. Also, I think we have the most horse paintings in the world.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My biggest inspiration is probably just the absolute absurdity of human existence. Forcing myself to laugh in the face of desperation and horror and the great gaping, sucking dark abyss. Oh, and Gary Larson’s “The Far Side.” Love “The Far Side.”
Did you choose the block printing life or did the block printing life choose you?
I would say it chose me. I took a printmaking class at Tarrant County College in 2006 just for fun. I wasn’t familiar with any of the processes involved, but when we got around to linoleum-cut block printing, I was hooked. I thought, I’m probably just gonna do this forever now.
You can only draw one thing for the rest of your life. What is it?
Wow. Maybe I could draw every Whataburger in Texas. Does that count? Or maybe I should pick horses. Yeehaw, Cowtown!
When you aren’t creating or playing bass, where in the city are you hanging out?
Well, speaking of art pop-ups and cool places to hang out- I curate a monthly art showcase featuring lots of local artists called “Liberty Lowdown” at Liberty Lounge in Near Southside. Find us on Instagram!
I always love diggin’ the new shows at ArtSpace 111, Bale Creek Allen, Fort Works, Gallery 440, Caracol, and Arts Fort Worth. And whatever ArtTooth’s cookin’ up. I hit up a lot of local music shows at Tulips, Lola’s, The Post, and Cicada. My tummy likes to get down on some fine dining at Guapo Taco, Gusto’s, or Ober Here. Or, you might just find me squirmin’ in the chair getting some new inkwork from John Clark at Outlook Tattoo. To make sure I’m super stylin’ fresh when I’m out and about, I get my drip from Morgan Mercantile or an AHK pop-up, or just old-school Dickie’s.