Hi everyone! I am so delighted to share today's artist interview with Jamie Smith. Not only is Jamie a talented fine artist, but she is also the founder of the THRIVE artist network, and thereby one of my personal heroes! Enjoy:
Where in the world are you located? What is it like being an artist there?
I am located in Vancouver on the West Coast of Canada. Vancouver is such a beautiful city, there is so much nature around to be inspired by and a small but vibrant art scene to contribute to.
I think for a lot of artists, there's a tension between feeling called to be an artist and the pull to have a "sensible" career. Have you always known that you're an artist? How has your art career evolved?
I most certainly did not know! I have always been in this space of tension between the “practical” and “the dream.” I grew up being creative but we did not buy original art growing up and I didn’t really know people that did! I took an art class in my senior year of high school just because I had room in my schedule. It was actually my art teacher that suggested I get a portfolio together and apply to art school. He helped me do this and I was accepted. But of course, hanging onto my practical side I went to a university with an art department so that if I decided to go into a more suitable degree path I could. I did, in the end, complete my BFA and a minor in business (oh so practical). I learned a lot about how to think about art and about famous artists but nothing about how to create an art career for myself. I deeply felt like I would love to take the path of an artist but I had no idea how to do this. So I enrolled in a teaching program because that seemed to be a mix of the dream side and practical side of me. I taught high school art for a few years and during that time I got my own art studio outside of my house and I fell in love!! I decided then and there that I was going to figure out this “art thing” and realized I was actually running a small business so I studied up on the business of art as well. I spend years hustling and juggling teaching and selling my art any way I could. I was very inspired and excited but I was also extremely lonely and unsure of myself. I slowly started meeting other artists and I would go for coffee with them monthly (I fondly called these coffees "lady dates"). I really struggled with the lack of mentorship and community in the arts. As artists, we spend so much time on our own creating in our studios so it is hard to get out into the world. So a few years ago I started THRIVE to support female, non-binary and gender-fluid artists and to create a community that looks out for one another. This has been a huge shift for me in my practice as I feel like I have a team around me! Now being an artist doesn’t seem like a scary impractical path, it seems like a normal choice as I have surrounded myself with “my people.” I am so grateful for this.
Can you talk a bit about your process? How has your work evolved over time? What are you working on right now? What's new or different about it?
My work has evolved a lot over the years. When I started, I was painting large abstract work and had a studio that had space for this and a big sink. Then I moved into a much smaller studio and started doing image transfer work on smaller panels. Now I have very limited time with everything going on with THRIVE so I create work one week a month and paint on paper sitting at a desk. I find this very relaxing and a great way to unwind. I am working on a series of florals at the moment and I am loving using bright colors, they make me happy!
Are there certain themes that show up in your work over and over again?
My work seems to always be focused on memories and the passage of time. I find layering images, collage, and tools like Photoshop allow me to take one image and fuse it together with something else to convey the many stories I am working to express. I always seem to have the idea of “place” in my work and some kind of organic forms. I think this comes from travelling and seeing so many different images, places and people all at once, I think I am still trying to make sense of it all.
What is your studio practice like? Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into the creative zone? Do you ever get creative blocks? How do you get unstuck?
My studio practice is very scheduled and disciplined, gone are the days where inspiration can hit and I am painting till 3am! I have 4 days every month to create and I try to get some weekends in as well but that doesn’t always happen. I find throughout the month I am mentally collecting ideas and making plans for those 4 days because I want to jump right in when my studio time starts. Sometimes I find this schedule hard but I do think it makes me more productive as I cherish my studio time and have to just show up and do the work! I listen to audiobooks when I paint and I love getting into a book and I end up painting way longer as I am so into the story and process. I also drink a lot of tea while I work!
In addition to being a fine artist, you’re also the founder of the THRIVE Art Studio. Can you tell us about your inspiration for starting this group and how it’s evolved?
As I mentioned above I started THRIVE because it was something I needed, I gathered 6 female artists that I had been meeting monthly. I brought the group together and it was such a special night, everyone shared so openly and gave such great advice. It was magic! We decided to meet as a group for 6 months and I created a schedule and questions we would chat about each meeting. I then started getting emails from other artists to join and started more groups. The program has evolved a lot since then but the values and even the questions we answer at every meeting are the same still today! We now have over 175 members and an online program so we have members all over the world (like the wonderful Jessica Molnar!). I am so excited about where THRIVE is today and we have some big plans for the future!
If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Relax- each win, disappoint, failure and person all lead you down a pretty darn beautiful path. I think my current self could use to remember this more often as well.
Do you have any questions or comment for Jamie? Add them to the comments below!