Jennifer Geletzke talks layers with us- layers of life, landscape, faith, and artistic media – blending, diverging, calling. If you’ve felt the call to create, even after a pause, Jennifer has inspiring work and words of wisdom to share.
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Jennifer: I have been married to my husband, who is a Marine, for 12 years. We have lived in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and most recently Hawaii. I am a mother of two children, a 6-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. Becoming a mother pushed me back towards creating after I had drifted away for several years. Although it is hard to create with little ones at home, I felt the need to create in a way that was different than it was prior to children. I needed something that was just for me. Now creating feels like a necessity. It has become a constant in my life. No matter how long I go between creating, I know that I will return to it in some form.
MilspoFAN: How did you become a graphite/watercolor artist?
Jennifer: I started out as an art major with the goal to be an elementary art teacher. In one of my first studio classes, a professor recommended that I just go for my BFA in studio art and drop the teaching certification, knowing that I could always get it later if I wanted it. That really changed my direction. As I solidified a studio practice and a body of work that was cohesive, I applied to MFA programs. Becoming an artist through the lens of academia was both an amazing opportunity and at times, it has been something that I had to overcome. Each professor you have pours their truths into you, but an art practice is so personal and I have learned that there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is no straight path. Everyone carves out their own path and what is right for them. Yours will not look like mine.
MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your painting?
Jennifer: My creative work is composed of drawings created with watercolor and graphite. There is a heavy concentration of linework. I am obsessed with paper and materials and this drives a lot of my exploration. I have always leaned towards layers in my work. These layers feel to me like the layers of a person. We all have our external surface, but as we peel away the layers, more and more of who we are is revealed. Everything is deeper than surface level.
MilspoFAN: How does your faith inform your work?
Jennifer: My faith in Jesus has always been a part of my work, but in recent years, I have come to a greater understanding of what that means. Usually, my work has repetitive elements. The making takes me into a time of quiet meditation, which can include prayer, but is definitely a time for me to refocus on the present. I tend to have an anxious brain and this has been a way for me to really ground myself. I view my art as a form of worship to my God and I pray that as it goes forth into the world, that God would speak through it to people. I always hope that it conveys the peace I feel when leaning into Jesus or being in his Creation.
MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Jennifer: My current work is influenced by the landscape of our current location, the mountains of Oahu. I have not always been aware of the way that location has played a part in my work, but this last move really revealed it to me. Every time that we relocate, my work shifts fairly drastically. I thought that this was to my detriment until I realized that it is telling my story, a more overarching concept outside of the more obvious subjects of my work. Now that I am consciously aware of this, I hope to use it to my benefit in the future and lean into the shifts with more awareness.
MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity?
Jennifer: Creativity breeds creativity. By play and exploration, the work grows in new directions. When I feel my creativity running dry, I pull out new mediums, new papers and start playing and exploring. I’m also inspired by just getting outside in nature and seeing the work of our Creator. He made the mountains and sunrises to be so exquisite. There is no greater place to gather inspiration.
MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when you PCS?
Jennifer: When we PCS, I will often start following local galleries and arts organizations in the new area. In that way, I begin to learn about local artists. Instagram makes it so easy to connect with people in ways that I might not have been able to before. This past move, I also began showing at a local gallery. It has grown my practice in so many ways and connected me with fellow artists. This is hard when we move so much, but even the short year that I have shown with them has been worth it.
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Jennifer: We will be PCS’ing this Summer and are currently awaiting orders. I am not sure where we will be going, but I am working on how to transition my business to sustain it during the PCS. This is my first time moving with my business and I am not sure what it will look like, but I hope to maintain my gallery relationship here in Hawaii, while also expanding and growing in the new place.
MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?
- Ask for what you want, even if you don’t feel ready. In my experience, you will never feel ready. Don’t let fear stop you from growth. Don’t let “I don’t know how” hold you back. You are capable of more than you can imagine!
- If you feel like you don’t have time to create, tear down a stack of paper, keep your pencils handy and draw in the 5 minutes you have. Those little tiny slivers of time will add up and over time, you will see your growth and the trajectory of your practice developing.
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