Jesse Draxler Debuts Hand-Painted T-Shirt Line

Visual artist Jesse Draxler’s no stranger to the fashion world. His darkly beautiful, hand-cut collage work and illustrations have been commissioned by everything from the New York Times, Target and clothing line Oak NYC to innovative, high-design publications like Dansk Magazine, Vulture Magazine, Creem and Nicotine Magazine. His work is also featured in the recently released book The Age of Collage, cataloguing the work of 81 of the top contemporary collage artists from around the world.

This month, he debuted a new line of hand-painted and -dyed t-shirts, commissioned by new L.A. skateboarding company SOVRN, available later this summer along with a couple of skateboard deck designs, though Draxler now has additional t-shirts available on a made-to-order, customizable basis via Big Cartel. Available in unisex sizes small to XXL, the hand-painted, stained and dyed shirts are all one-of-a-kind. (And at $45, a total steal.)

Last December the artist added “curator” to his resume with an art exhibit at the Gallery at Fox Tax entitled “SPACE” that explored the connections between fine art and design, his own work presented alongside artists including the internationally-renowned Michael Cina. On July 24, Draxler will head to L.A. for a pop-up shop event for his collaborative line with BLXCKLIST Clothing.

I met up with Draxler at his new studio and gallery space at the California Building in Northeast Minneapolis to learn more about his process of creating the new t-shirt line.

Artist Jesse Draxler wearing one of his own designs. Photo: Jesse Draxler

So starting at the beginning–what goes into making each shirt?

I do a couple processes. Since i’m doing a 100 shirt order, I’ve been doing a bunch of random things to them. Sometimes I dip the whole shirt and get it wet first, sometimes there’s ink in the buckets, sometimes there’s not. It depends. Sometimes I start with the spray paint. It’s kind of random, when I’m working hours on end, it’s just like, whatever, sometimes I’ll splatter some spray paint, sometimes I’ll dip the whole thing ink. This hundred order is a little nuts–they all get too much attention for how much I’m getting paid, but that’s fine. I’ll just show you. (He takes out a shirt and puts a piece of cardboard between the front and the back.) I do this so it doesn’t go through the back of the whole thing. Sometimes I want it to go through the back, sometimes not. When people order them from me individually, I tend to spend more time on them. It varies from a lot. Some only take one process, others two or three.

So each one turns out a little differently?

Yeah, and it depends on if I dip it or not, like this one was dipped so the whole thing doesn’t have any white. Some get spray paint marks first. I’m going to make that an option on my bigcartel site, so there are like five options for each one.

How did SOVRN find out about you?

They must have followed me on Instagram, I don’t have any idea. They wrote me up after seeing one shirt, and I’m like, I don’t even know what I’m doing yet, but yes, give me all your money and I’ll do some shirts.

A stack of 100 completed hand-painted shirts by Jesse Draxler. Photo: Jesse Draxler

How is it similar to making paintings?

Not a lot, at least the way I paint. When I was doing rice paper paintings I’d crinkle up the rice paper, get it wet, drop ink on it, swish it around with my hands–I’m always very hands-on. There’s really not much difference. That’s the style of painting I do, so for me, it’s the same. I don’t ever use brushes or anything really, except when I do the ink drawings, but I don’t really consider that painting.

How did you make that initial design? Were you originally doing it just for yourself to wear?

Yeah–I always liked tie-dye but hate wearing color. You’ve seen the rice paper work I’ve been doing–it’s the same exact process I was doing on rice paper, and I always wanted that rice paper to be fabric or something, like make it into a textile, because it looks so cool. And then finally I’m like, I’m just going to try doing it on cotton and see what happens, and it turned out cool so I tried doing it on a shirt.

Draxler’s studio. Photo: Jahna Peloquin

Draxler’s studio. Photo: Jahna Peloquin

An image from Draxler’s recent editorial for Dansk Magazine

Purchase one of Draxler’s t-shirts at, visit his website at and follow him on Tumblr at