Talented Trooper

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Trooper Jessie Tilson recently used his talents to brighten up the Virginia State Police headquarters in Galax

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter



Trooper Jessie Tilson has drawn a new duty at the Virginia State Police headquarters in Galax, when he’s not patrolling Grayson County roads.
The 11-year veteran trooper usually keeps his hobby separate from his job, but his fellow officers recently got a tip about him that they had to follow up on.
Workers at the Galax headquarters have been adding character to the offices, changing them from an institutional white throughout, First Sgt. Mike Musser explained. That has meant different paint colors in different rooms, plus valances, wallpaper borders and personal touches in the offices, pursued without expense to the taxpayer.
(For Musser, also a volunteer firefighter, the personal touches include an axe and a fire helmet as decoration, for example.)
When it came to adding art to the troopers’ workroom — a painting of a trooper’s badge along with a cardinal (the state bird) and dogwood blossoms (the state flower) — one of his fellow officers made a confession about Tilson.
“One of the troopers dimed him out [informed on him],” Musser said. “He said, ‘You should get Jessie to do it because he’s an artist and he was going to go to art school.’”
“A lot of people don’t know that I do it because I keep it quiet,” Tilson said.
The exception is having a few paintings up in Valley Diner in Elk Creek, which his in-laws own.
“I don’t like to brag about my stuff,” Tilson said. “I guess I don’t see it the way other people do — I don’t like some of my stuff... It’s not that I don’t like them, I feel I could have done better.”
He credits his talent to spending five years in Jane Blevins’ art class when he attended Grayson County High School.
Many of his drawings involve wildlife or animals. One of his favorites is a bright mixed media painting of a poison dart tree frog.
On Monday, Tilson continued his estimated 15 hours of painting so far, using a tiny brush to apply a dark blue high gloss enamel.
When he’s on the road, he’s completely focused on his law enforcement assignment. “You’ve got to keep your head in the game, because you never know what may happen.”
But off-duty, Tilson finds painting relaxing.
About making the choice between art school and the police academy, Tilson said he had to make a realistic choice in order to make a living in Grayson County.
After two years in Fredricksburg, he got transferred back to the Twin Counties.
“I know as far as staying around here, you’re not going to survive without a real job,” Tilson said.
To have one of their own troopers provide artwork for the office makes it more special than going out and buying something to hang on the wall, Musser said. The workers are pleased with Tilson’s painting and feel certain they can come up with another assignment for him soon.