Eye on KELOLAND: Art on the country side


SPRINGFIELD, S.D. (KELO) – In August, we introduced you to a South Dakotan artist who brightened up 41st Street in Sioux Falls with a mural on the side of Bella Vous Lingerie.

Robbie Jelsma may have a mural displayed along one of the busiest streets in Sioux Falls, but most of his work is done in the open country outside of Springfield, South Dakota.

“I think it’s different out here than it is in a shop in a city. You know, certain people want that city shop, that loud bustling environment, but that’s not how I work best,” artist Robbie Jelsma said.

Inside his country home, Jelsma creates art on skin, not walls.

“With tattooing, it’s a painful process, so the more calm you can have people and the more relaxed you can have them, the better the environment you can have them in, I think the tattoo turns out better and I work better and they feel better. It’s kind of a destination,” Jelsma said.

Jelsma grew up in Springfield and though he was surrounded by creativity with his mom and sister, his path wasn’t always focused on art.

“I was more sports when I was younger, around here. Art was just always a thing I did as an escape, you know, from other things or like your time alone or in your free-time. It’s just what I was magnetically attracted to,” Jelsma said.

After graduating from SDSU, he moved to Chicago to work for an engineering firm while only tattooing part-time.

“I moved around the country as a consultant for, it was electrical engineering, so I was a project manager managing projects for big electric companies,” Jelsma said.

Eventually his heart called him home.

“In life, you know, you get some signs sometimes of things that change. Your mind changes and you evolve as a person and all that. So, my interest just started to shift more and more. I got my experience is what I needed and I’m grateful for it, you know, moving around and doing things like that. But sometimes you just have a shift in life and I felt like I needed to come back home, you know, around family and find a little more quiet,” Jelsma said.

Long-time friend and client Wes Kloucek is glad Jelsma came back to South Dakota.

“He always told me to come out and visit him and he’d tattoo for free if I just made the trip out there, but I never made it happen. It was kind of awesome when I heard he was moving back home because I knew it’d be able to give me time to get things in my mind and what I wanted,” Kloucek said.

Kloucek’s sleeve of tattoos, as well as a backpiece, was done by Jelsma.

“I knew he was always a good artist and he actually designed, or drew, my first tattoo when were were in high school. I just had another guy do it,” Kloucek said.

Jelsma has clients that hail from outside of his home state too.

“I have clients from Chicago or Virginia or California, Minnesota, they all come here. It’s kind of cool, out to the farm, you know, if you build it, they will come, type of thing. Obviously, that’s a motivator to keep getting better at my art and give people what they expect,” Jelsma.

And besides one apprenticeship in Sioux Falls, his talent is self-taught.

“I look on YouTube if I don’t know how to do something, I guess, you can learn anything off the internet, really, anymore. But it’s more a patience thing. Sitting down and just doing it,” Jelsma said.

Patience is what he would advise younger artists to have too.

“You got to have perspective, you got to know where you’re at and keep trudging ahead anyway and have the patience to keep moving. You’ll be talked out of a lot of things by even family and friends and all that, but if your mind really pulls you back to it over and over again, that’s something you should probably pay attention to and look at,” Jelsma said.

Besides tattooing, Jelsma also enjoys oil painting. He’s created murals in Sioux Falls, Brookings and Redfield. His art business is called Portfolio 51.

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