My name is Bree Smith and I’m from Dallas, Texas. Even though I can hardly say the words “I’m an artist” out loud, I’ve been creating art since preschool. My earliest memory creating art was making crayon drawings of Ninja Turtles that would cause my peers to gather around me shouting all at once which one they wanted me to draw for them next. Donatello! Michelangelo! Raphael! I was hooked.
As a child, creating art was the one thing I felt was unique to who I was. In my adolescent years, my feelings toward art changed as I realized it made me “different” during an age when all you want to do is fit in. I pushed art away, and it wasn’t until high school, where I enrolled in advanced placement art, that I began to accept myself as an artist. I learned about different forms of art and completely new creative processes. Another important realization that occurred during these years is that I didn’t have to create exact representations in photorealism for my work to be considered art. Art held deep meaning for the viewer and artist.
Following high school and heading into college, I found myself yet again pushing art away because I was convinced I just needed to get a “real” job. At the end of my first semester, I missed creating art every day so much I changed my major to art.
I knew changing my major was the right decision for me, but I still didn’t believe I’d be able to pay the bills with my art. A few short years later, BFA in hand, I started working at a pet hospital while working towards my teaching certificate.
I taught art to kindergarten through fifth graders for a few years in a suburb of Austin, and then moved to Dallas. Due to a massive education budget cut at the time I spent months dusting off my graphic design skills and was given a chance to join the world of marketing and graphic design. Since then I’ve evolved my career to focus on digital design, and now work as a UX/UI Designer during the day, and pursue my art consistently in my free time.
A Peek Into My Creative Process
In art school I had the opportunity to try out and practice in many different art mediums from dark room photography to ceramics to painting. During my years as an elementary art teacher I also worked with many types of 2D and 3D art (toilet paper mache, anyone?). I also recently began an art residency program where I spend my evenings and weekends at a shared studio. This time has been an incredible opportunity to explore different ideas and techniques.
I enjoy most mediums to some degree, but these days I typically work in watercolor, acrylic, or mixed media paintings where I may use different kinds of paint, oil pastels, colored pencils, marker, and pen all together in one big happy art family.
For these mixed media adventures, a piece typically starts out with a fluid paint base of either watercolor, diluted ink or high flow acrylics. I decide on a color palette, which sometimes comes from a little bit of Pinspiration or may even be as vague as deciding on a warm color palette. I’m particularly fascinated with the natural forms that water mixed with paint naturally flow into, and since it’s an organic substance, it’s easy to spot forms in this base layer that resemble trees and clouds.
At this point in the process, I’ll step back and see what forms I can spot and decide on an environment I’d like to reimagine within this fluid layer. Once I’ve got a vision, I start defining some of the shapes a little more, working them up while adding in some details with Posca pens and water soluble oil pastels. This can be a stressful way to work, but I enjoy the challenge of not having a plan and being able to problem-solve my way into a finished, cohesive piece.
My 100 Day Project
I recently participated in the 100 Day Project where I set out to paint 100 portraits of people with Snapchat filters on their faces. During this project, I resolved to abandon my typical pencil sketch that usually precedes any kind of representational work I do. I enjoyed this project because it brought together aspects of the digital and physical world and helped me refine my portrait illustrations. I started out using strictly watercolor, but as the project progressed, I found myself grabbing for my oil pastels and ink pens in order to create the look I was after.
One of the fun surprises of this project was that not only friends and family were sending me their Snapchat selfies to paint, but also complete strangers! I really enjoyed the variety and getting to meet new people. I created each Snapchat portrait on a 3” x 3” artist tile, which made it less threatening and also kept the time commitment reasonable.
In my daily work one of the main battles that I’m constantly fighting is my obsession with the outcome. Sometimes, I can’t even bring myself to work in my sketchbook because it’s too “permanent.” What if it’s bad? It will be in my sketchbook forever! These little tiles are completely nonthreatening – if whatever I draw or paint stinks, who cares? I probably needed to get whatever it was out of my system. And now, I can just throw that little square into the recycling bin, where it can go live a better life being made into decomposable coffee cups.
I will leave you all with one piece of advice: if something inside of you says “you should create art” don’t ignore that voice. Find a way, regardless of how busy you are, to sit down and scribble out something in a sketchbook you’ve had lying around for years, or on a piece of printer paper. Try to scribble something every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be good!
I believe that everyone is creative and can make art, but it’s a muscle that has to be worked out often or it gets weak. Don’t be like me and obsess over the outcome. The good stuff happens in the process, and in the daily act of creating. If you stay consistent, a year from now, you’ll look back and be stunned by your progress.
If you’d like to follow along with my journey or want to collaborate, visit me at the links below! Depending on my schedule, I occasionally take commissions, sell current work, or prints. A portion of all of my art profits are donated to The Hope Haven of East Texas.