Professions and Passions: Jennifer, Executive Assistant and Abstract Artist

April 06, 2021

Jennifer Schlesinger works as an executive assistant for three partners in our San Francisco office. During the evenings and weekends you’ll most likely find her working on abstract, multi-media art. Jennifer explains how she discovered her biggest passion…

Jennifer, we heard from some of our colleagues that you have an interesting way of spending your free time. Can you fill our readers in on the details? How long have you been painting?

I created my first painting in 2011 when I was going through a break-up. I had a lot feelings and emotions and I knew I needed to utilize that. So I, who had never painted anything in her life, went to the art store one day and bought about a dozen canvases and paint and various tools. I came home, put some music on and just went for it. That was ten years ago, but I’m so glad I did that. Later I started to experiment with including some of my photographs into my paintings as well, creating an abstract, multi-media artwork. I don’t use any paint brushes, I don’t use any precision tools, and everything is done with knives, fingers, sponges. I move the photo into the canvas and then just add layers and layers of acrylic paint, let it dry, walk away, come back and maybe add more.

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How would you describe your painting style?

My number one influence is Jean-Michel Basquiat. He is by far is my favorite painter in the world. I’ve seen some of his work in the San Francisco MoMA and when I’m standing in front of a Basquiat painting I can just stare at it for hours. I would love to go to a full-scale Basquiat show that would be a dream for me. I would definitely describe it as multi-media, abstract painting. Some of it can be a bit darker, some of it can be friendly, but I also have done some paintings that touch much deeper subject matters like religion, or politics. I could never do anything naturalistic. That’s not my style. I move quick and fast. I like the feeling of thick paint on my hands and moving around. I like not knowing what’s going to come out. When you do a thing that is precise and you plan it ahead of time, you already have a picture in your mind of what the art piece is going to look like. I prefer to not know and just see what happens organically.

You said you had a few art exhibits, how did this come about?

I’ve probably done maybe about five or six exhibits over the course of the last ten years. Most of it though was in the last five years actually, so fun fact, for the first five years I painted I just kept them all here in my house. I never showed my work to anybody, maybe a few friends or family members. And one day I had a friend come by and she looked at all my paintings and she said “These need to come out of your house. You should display them, you should have a show”. I had my first show around 2015 and all of my shows have been at local spots in San Francisco; at local bars, restaurants, and art fairs.

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How do you manage to balance your hobby with your challenging job?

The time I spend painting varies widely. I can go months without painting anything and then other months I might do one piece a week. One painting can take anywhere from three to four days to completely finish. It changes all the time, there is no direct pattern and it really depends how I’m feeling and if I feel like I need to paint. In short, on the one hand, it is not difficult to reduce my painting time when my working life is especially demanding. On the other hand, painting really balances me out. Just like exercise, yoga, eating well or anything we do to take care of ourselves. Creating art gives me that same feeling, it’s my way of taking care of myself where I need to get something out of my system and later I have space inside of me for other things. I don’t feel quite as overloaded anymore.

Do you have any advice for your colleagues who might want to try their hand at painting?

Don’t overthink it, just go buy the supplies and dedicate the time to do it. See what happens and explore, try everything. Don’t follow the rules.

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