Introducing this month’s featured artist, Stacy A. E. Smith, whose art seamlessly blends realism with enchanting magic and whimsy.
Stacy A. E. Smith | acrylic paint and polymer clay
How would you describe your work?
My art runs the gamut between nature and fantasy. I often paint hyper-realistic nature scenes, particularly seascapes and birds, that are often mistaken for photographs. Sometimes, I trade a lens of reality for one of wonderment. So, obviously, the seascape needs an impossibly bright galaxy of stars, perhaps with an ancient, twisted tree suspended over it like a bridge! And, of course, the raven must have dragon scales. I bring this same approach to my clay work by creating three dimensional scenes, brimming with natural elements like leaves, wood, ferns, roots and mushrooms with everything sculpted and detailed by hand. I use this motif on everything from pendants to thrifted glassware and make it extra magical by embedding genuine stones and crystals.
What influences your art?
The eternal ocean and her many gowns. I am absolutely smitten with the ocean, especially the craggy, moody coasts of Pacific Northwest Oregon and Northern Ireland. I often sit in front of a blank canvas and have a stern word with myself, something along the lines of, “No, you are not going to paint another seascape.” And so I go about setting up a color block for a nice landscape with mountains beyond a prairie and some delicate Queen Anne’s Lace by a wooden post, all under a vivid blue sky. As I begin adding details, the blue sky is suddenly dramatically gray, my prairie becomes churning water and my Queen Anne’s Lace has been swallowed by the tide, much like my heart.
How have you evolved, personally, as an artist?
Working as a visual artist is all rather new to me. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in January of 2019, and it caused issues with my cognition. Although I had been an avid reader all my life, I shied away from reading after my diagnosis because it became difficult to keep track of plots and characters; bad news for a ravenous Stephen King fan!
My mom suggested that I try replacing reading with painting. I didn’t love it at first, but I could smear paint around on paper without having to comprehend it, remember it or keep track of it in any way. It was therapeutic, enjoyable and, after time, my skill increased (my work was even on display at Milton Rhodes for the 2021 AAWS Artist Spotlight Exhibition)!
How do you carve out time to be creative?
I lost my teaching career and am currently on disability due to the uncooperative brouhaha multiple sclerosis has made of my brain. The silver lining of this is that my time is mine. I do have to manage my fatigue and focus, but I am in a place where I can prioritize my art, and I am grateful for that.
Do you have a favorite story behind one of your pieces and why?
My very first landscape is titled “Octopus Tree” because the tree I painted resembles a landlocked octopus and not a very good one. I had seen better landscapes on the art wall at the elementary school I taught at, so I was quite disheartened by my first attempt. Honestly though, I love this painting so much because it shows all the effort I have put into learning how to paint and the growth I have achieved.
What are you working on that excites you right now?
I love the opportunity to work with new materials. I have found some glass oil lamps that I am embellishing with crystals and clay, as well as some very cool commission requests!
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with fellow artists, especially those at the start of their careers?
When people tell you they love your art, believe them.
If you are interested in learning more about this month’s artist, you can find Stacy’s work in her online Etsy shop, Space Peach Studio, as well as follow her on Facebook and Instagram @spacepeachstudio. You can also find her work in Wilmington at the Azalea Festival.