[image c. kathryn mccrary photography]
jenn gietzen is about to become your new insta-bestie faster than you can say “taco tuesday with free sangria.” she’s the founder/artist behind write on! design, a full-service design studio in atlanta that churns out seriously awesome stuff. jenn has a self-proclaimed passion for hugging tightly and laughing loudly, and when she was little, wanted to grow up to be helen hunt in twister. today, with 25k+ devoted instagram fans who are obsessed with her art, i can safely say she’s accomplished way more than her onetime cyclone-chasing goal.
jenn was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her design process, the importance of wine for creative inspiration—ok not a question, it’s a fact—the personal touches she infuses into her instagram captions and the difficulties of adulting on every day that ends in a ‘y’. also, she doesn’t use caps when she writes and because everything this girl touches is obviously deemed cool, neither will i.
reading through your posts, it’s clear you’ve wanted to be an artist from an early age. how has your idea about art and the glamorous life of an artist evolved since childhood?
bills? adulting? haha! i have always wanted to be involved with art somehow but growing up in a sports-oriented family, i didn’t know what that would look like or how to accomplish that. however, my “glamorous” starving artist image i had in my head has definitely not disappointed. pb&j for life.
who or what are your artistic influences?
my artistic influences are always changing. they evolve with what i might be going through at that time, colors i’m drawn to or even music i’m listening to. i have always loved jackson pollock, though. the way he strategically places every paint splatter on his canvas, every color he chooses … they all tell a story. and they push me to also be strategic with my artistic decisions.
i saw shawn johnson, olympic gold medal gymnast, recently posted one of your pieces on her instagram page, which has more than 1.2 million followers. how does it feel to know your work is reaching such a huge audience? do you ever stop and think, “oh my gosh, that’s so cool!” or do you just keep on keepin’ on?
yes, that was so fun! i recognized her name when i got tagged that it was mine in her comments. i actually had to google her though, to remember who she was. whoops! ha! sadly, she didn’t tag me or credit me but my friends are amazing and really rally whenever that happens and always tag me in comments. for things like that, i get the “oh my gosh, so awesome!” when people do credit or tag me. otherwise, it’s a fleeting moment of excitement, then on with my day.
some of the captions written beneath your instagram photos are really personal, in particular the ones about challenges you face as an artist, the hardships of modern romance and the triumphs and tribulations of turning 30. do you think it’s important to share your life with your fans and foster that sense of intimacy and closeness? should artists see fans as extended friends or should they be, like in traditional art galleries, bystanders who will never hear the artist’s voice except through the brushstrokes he or she decides to place on the canvas?
good question! i think as social media becomes such an integral part of our culture it’s a good decision to make in how you want to present yourself. for me, i’m a bit of an over-sharer by nature. whoops. so it’s easy for me to talk about what i’m going through or dealing with. and just as much as i want to allow my brand/presence to be a safe place for people, i also crave that for myself. i want to help them not to feel alone or to form a community.
you collaborate quite often with local businesses in the atlanta area (and beyond). how does that process of collaboration happen? do you find it easy, difficult or even boundary-pushing to work with people who have an aesthetic vision that may differ from your own? how do you ultimately reach common ground?
yes! i find the longer I stay in atlanta, the smaller it gets. it makes it fun to collaborate with your friends or others you admire. and because we all either know each other or know of each other, it makes it easy to reach out and say, “hey, let’s work together!” thankfully when the reach-out is intentional, you already have a vision of how you can work with that other person/company and the common ground is easy to find. but i do love it when i am pushed out of my comfort zone, even if the result of that is funky and not used in the final product.
what do you do on days when you just can’t get your pen/brush/pencil to move across the page? how do you motivate yourself to create when there’s scant motivation to be found?
haha – drink wine? unfortunately those days do happen and they’re a bummer. each one is different and requires a new way to find that creative motivation. but i like to get out of my space, change the scenery and do something different or re-energize myself by hanging with friends. and sometimes, i peruse pinterest, turn up my music as loud as it can go and sketch anything i can think of; sooner or later the juices come back and you can move forward.
your messages are empowering and best of all, they’re real. i have to say, it’s refreshing to see an artist embrace ideas other than the cliche, stale phrases we see splashed over and over again on our instagram feed—i see you, “live, laugh, love.” it seems like the things you create aren’t for the too-perfect instagram star with thousands of followers but for the everyday girl (or guy), who is just trying to figure out why mondays are consistently the worst and what comes between morning coffee and evening wine. is this concept of highlighting the sometimes-embarrassing commonalities between us important to you? do you consciously choose your messages because you know how universal, resonating and real they are?
yes! it’s extremely important to me. going back to my previous answer about my space being a safe place for others, i strive to be relatable and give people permission to be themselves or find a small moment of laughter or joy during their crazy day. i don’t plan out most of my posts; a good amount of them happen in the moment or relate to something i’m going through at that time. while not all of the words are my own, i still want to share something that will touch at least one person and help them through what they’re going through.
for other artists reading this who are on the road to success but still maybe stuck at a questionably clean rest-stop somewhere along an empty, two-lane highway leading to a destination still unknown, any advice you can offer?
stay true to yourself, your beliefs and what makes you happy. commit to finding what is different about you, stick to it and be proud of it. stay in your own lane; it has the longest road but the prettiest drive.
if you had to paint a quintessential write on! design one-liner to sum up this interview, what would it say?
the next cool thing will be being yourself.