Robert Jackson was born in 1948 in Port Edward, a small community near Prince Rupert which has produced several of the major contemporary Northwest Coast artists including Dempsey Bob and Norman Tait. Robert Jackson and Dempsey both attribute their childhood friendship, and the necessity to carve all their own toys, to their future career in the arts. In later years they supported each other to explore their own personal and tribal styles.
Robert was already carving on a consistent basis when he enrolled in the newly established Kitanmax School of Northwest Coast Art and Design in Hazelton, British Columbia. He studied wood carving and later jewellery making and serigraph printing at the school between 1973 and 1976. He opened the Skyclan Art shop in Prince Rupert in 1979 which specialized in Northwest Coast art. The gallery closed in 1984 and Robert returned to Hazelton. He began a six year sabbatical from carving and travelled to Texas, where he met his future wife Hanna.
When Hanna returned to Hazelton with Robert, she was overwhelmed by the art and history of the region. She encouraged him to return to his carving. Robert began an exploration into the Gitxsan portrait mask which reconfirmed his position as a leader innovator and technician in Northwest Coast sculpture and design.