Welcome to our first Artist Spotlight, featuring Michigan painter Jenna Voelz! Every other month, we'll interview a fellow creative and showcase their work and ideas as well as sketches from their very own Lake Michigan Book Press sketchbook.
What is your background? Did you always know you would become an artist?
Throughout grade school I was always known as one of the "art students", being awarded praise in paintings or votes for "most creative in class". I started taking Saturday painting sessions at a local studio when I was 10 where I learned how to oil paint. Although I haven't practiced oil since then and have had a plethora of medium practice, painting has continued to be my form of release. I started using acrylics in College and have enjoyed their process in my recent abstracted pieces. Art had never been a hobby for me but more of a expressive means of communication.
My professor used to quote Picasso's saying, "good artists copy, great artists steal". I will admit to stealing subject matter from other artists and have always transitioned my work based on who influences me most at the time. However, I choose to focus on making a piece as original as possible so my own style may show through. In college I was influenced by surreal illustrators like Vladimir Kush and Paul Bond where I worked in dry medium like pastel or colored pencil. My interests have recently moved to Instagram where I follow painters of all sorts, while snatching a few color schemes in the mean time.
What was the first piece of art you’ve ever sold?
When I was 17 I was asked by my Aunt to paint several sports symbols on the walls of my cousins bedroom. As it was one of the first pieces I had done for someone else, it was certainly intimidating. Obviously I had been copying from actual symbols, but learning how to scale to size while mixing exact colors was difficult - yet exciting! Since then, I have created and sold everything from realistic pencil drawings, to wood burning, to acrylic painting, as well as other murals.
Many artists have a second source of income so that they may continue creating. What other jobs have you held in addition to being an artist?
Being that my undergrad degree is in Art and Design Education, I am on the prowl for an Art Teaching position (preferably elementary). For now, I am a part-time substitute teacher and nanny for a few families. As important as it is for me to continue creating art for myself, I do enjoy teaching the youngsters about holding paint brushes and mixing colors.
Many of your abstract works appear to be influenced by living in the Midwest. What draws you to this representation of nature?
Abstraction is a newer art form for me in general. My background is in realism and illustration, however, the precision and demanding details always felt like work to me. Growing up in northern Illinois I had flat, corn fields and windy weather to inspire my work. Because I have recently branched out to abstraction I have been able to express the Zen-like qualities I feel the Midwest holds. Although we don't have mountains or oceans we have layers of natural colors and texture that I try to demonstrate in my work.
What other hobbies do you have?
Besides spending free time in the paint section at the store I enjoy traveling and bicycle touring, exploring the latest craft breweries, crocheting, baking, and hiking.
Where have you traveled with your Lake Michigan Book Press sketchbook?
I just came back from a trip to Las Vegas with my sketch book. So far my book has come on my trips to Illinois, Las Vegas and Boston, as well as my local Michigan trips. I love the size and durability of it; it's perfect for jotting down notes or doing a quick sketch on the go.
Jenna currently lives in Portage, Michigan as a part-time nanny, substitute teacher and fine artist. Growing up in a northern, sub-rural neighborhood in Illinois, she has had the natural aesthetics of the mid-west to inspire her. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Art and Design Education. See more of her work at jennavoelz.com or follow her on Instagram @jenna.voelz.artist