Jeanette Getrost: All my most honest work is very intuitive

Rare is the artist who can pick up a competitive craft like fashion illustration and totally nail it, and then move on to a more academic medium like oil painting with equal skill and aplomb, but Jeanette Getrost is exactly that kind of artist. From her home in Los Angeles, Getrost has worked with major international brands, from Dior to Ferragamo, and amassed a 100,000-strong Instagram following along the way. Now she has turned her attention to contemplative paintings of nature and icons from art history, as well as taking up filmmaking. What can’t she do?

Here, Getrost talks about travel (and, recently, the lack thereof) and what has done for her practice; how she cultivates her artistic process; and how she is thinking these days about Instagram, the platform that helped deliver her to fame.

You’ve written about how a painting course in Florence, Italy helped you to revitalize your work, and you told me that Fragment comes from your regular trips to New York, where that particular piece has been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a while. What was travel meaning for you before coronavirus, and how have you dealt with the curtailed mobility during the last several months?

Last year was my first visit to Italy. I felt absolutely called to Florence. I can be a pretty stationary person until I have an idea, and then I’m there. I’d had my eye on the Florence Art Academy for a while since I had started oil painting but didn’t have an art school background. I had never been abroad by myself, so it felt like a moment to do something bold and courageous, and it was the best experience of my life. This was coming off reading a book by W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, about finding your place in the world, including geographically. Being surrounded by aesthetic beauty gave me permission to live a beautiful life. It gave me a glimpse into, hopefully, a future abroad, whether short or long term.

What was travel meaning for you before coronavirus, and how have you dealt with the curtailed mobility during the last several months?

I’ve never felt fully at home in L.A., and I’ve always come alive when I’ve traveled. So here we are a year later, and I assumed I’d be abroad, but for obvious reasons it hasn’t worked out that way. But this has been such a time of introspection. As much as I would like to be riding a bicycle in Italy, I’ve been using this time to think about what I do have control over.

Can you give a few examples of how your creative process might work?

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and looking for a through line. I’m definitely led by curiosity, and that has made me jump from one medium to another. All my most honest work is very intuitive, and usually I can get into that feeling. For example, I take walks as early in the morning as possible so there’s the cinematic sunrise moment. I definitely think about my work through a cinematic approach, and there’s often music involved, which helps me to get into a dream state. The works I chose for Absolut Art are very intuitive, and the process was very easy and seamless. I wasn’t overthinking it. When I over-intellectualize, I overwork things and it doesn’t have the same resonance as having been led by impulse.

You’ve only recently taken up oil painting – what are the commonalities and the differences between your fashion illustration and the oil painting?

Oil painting is definitely a big break and a departure. Fashion illustration served me well for a number of years in terms of building an audience, establishing a career, and purely building my skill level. Having a subject matter to draw from helped to develop my eye, and that helped me to pick up almost any medium. As for how I took up oil painting, I’m always searching for what medium will best tell the story I want to tell or articulate the visions I have in my head. Right now it’s oil painting and I think that’s leading to filmmaking, something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s all about finding whatever medium is best to capture a emotion or vision.

At first you used Instagram as a way to build your following to get illustrating gigs, but recently you’ve talked about using it to share your life in a more personal way. How do you deal with the particular challenges and potentials of the platform right now?

That’s been on the front of my mind recently for a number of reasons. The main deterrent is that it’s an app that rewards sameness. I used that in the beginning, but it was the same thing that was deterring me from the fashion industry. I thought, If Instagram didn’t exist, what would I actually be creating? What honest thing would I put out right now? At this moment I’m trusting where I’m in an evolution, and it’s not so much the numbers game, but rather it’s about comfort in sharing what feels honest and letting people be part of that process.

It’s not always time to shine! There are so many other things going on that I couldn’t keep up with having to prove my existence every single day. So I’m trying to not be so neurotic about it and also enjoy it. I share what I want to share and hope that connects with the right people. It’s an incredibly powerful tool if you’re feeling good about what you’re making, but to think you need to update every day is not sustainable, at least not for me.