By BRUCE DENNILL
Gallery owner and artist Christie Smith uses her newfound love of creating art to foster human connection and inspire inner expression. The only art gallery in Half Moon Bay, California, Unleashed Art Gallery offers a chance for visitors to see her work in person. Since she is unable to have visitors in the store she has started virtual viewings with an engaged online community. She also recently donated several pieces of her work to frontline healthcare workers.
What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training, in terms of learning first principles and refining techniques?
I am a retired LPGA golf professional. I have been an artist for seven years. My previous career demanded a high level of discipline and continued learning. I’ve always had an intensely focused approach. I pay attention to what works, and I adjust quickly to improve my execution. This has instilled in me the ability to learn art in a non-traditional way. I consider myself to be self-taught. I’ve spent many hours researching techniques and materials, experimenting with different products for the best results. Every piece I create teaches me about the potential to enhance and improve my techniques. My motto is “experience and adjust”. I control the things I can with the prepping process and my material choices. I am not a visual artist; I am more of an emotional artist. I choose colours based on my emotions. When I start an artwork, the resin magically chooses its direction and flow.This is the most exciting aspect as each painting becomes a unique one-of-a-kind expression of art.
What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?
Resin has become my principal medium. Using resin has pushed me through my process of evolution the most. I love the challenge of it being a time-sensitive material that doesn’t allow hesitation as in traditional painting. So what I do has an element of movement, freedom and pressure. I am also drawn to the depth of colour and dimension of the artwork, based on the various types of pigments that I use. And I love the versatility of resin as it can also be used in 3D artwork.
Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?
I use three techniques. I create Ocean Resin Paintings, Abstract Expressionism and Illumination paintings. I use canvases as small as 4”x 4” and as large as 6’x 4’or 5’x 5’ for the Ocean and Abstract artwork. The Illumination series is a metal framed acrylic panel that is LED backlit and the light shows through openings created on the acrylic panel. Illumination is remote-controlled to change the colours at a chosen speed. Each one requires a lot of concentration to be focused on the colour combinations and composition with the added element of time pressure because resin cures in 30 minutes. If I am painting a 5’x 5’ I have to have someone help with the mixing as it will take me three hours without stopping to complete the painting. I have to use a ladder to be able to see the composition. Timing becomes the biggest challenge with larger artworks. My fearless mindset and focus on every detail of each painting drives me to achieve the best result I can create. Before the creative process begins, there is a process of prepping that is very important. Before anything takes place I choose the panel and use a hand sander to smooth the wood surface. The next step is to tape off the edges of the canvas to prevent the resin from flowing down the sides. I like to stain the wood panel edges to frame the painting by letting the natural wood show. Even the tape I use is important. The next step is to either stain the panel letting some of the natural wood show through or completely prime the surface so the resin has a smooth surface. Each step is important, from the correct prepping to the mixing of resin, temperature control, level surfaces and a creative mindset.
What technological tools do you use in your work?
The scope of my art goes beyond the traditional canvas. I create on clear acrylic panels utilising resin, which are then backlit with LED lighting and custom-framed with stainless steel for a more modern feel. These pieces are dynamic and exciting, as the look of the artwork changes with the colours so you can create any ambiance you desire. You can control the colours with a remote to adjust the speed at which they change.
Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why?
Hugo Rivera is an Abstract Figurative artist in Laguna Beach, California. I like his freedom of brush strokes and colours. He does a lot of live painting and this creates a free form of no hesitation that captures the moment and what he is experiencing.
Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career?
I’ve recently leveraged social media successfully to create a demand for my artwork. In our current situation, I offer virtual viewings of my artwork in my home and gallery. FaceTime has been helpful as the client can see real time and choose which artwork they like most. This has been rewarding to me as my connection to my collector is more personal. When selling larger artworks, collector referrals have been important because of the interaction with me, the process and their satisfaction with their artwork. Those have led to commissioned art. When I am commissioned for artwork, I video the whole process for the client so they can enjoy the journey with me.
Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?
I create for the adventure and journey of the unknown. I learn something new with each artwork, which then inspires a new idea and the process begins again. Something deep inside of me wants to express an inner language of expression. I feel the need to create, to create for the sole purpose of connection – to myself and to others. Ultimately, I want my artwork to bring happiness and a feeling of joy to the collector of my artwork. My artwork is a moment in time that is captured and will never happen again, giving them a unique piece of me and their artwork of choice. From start to finish, I want the collector to know how much attention and intention goes into every artwork.