So fascinated by the drama of the ocean, Jeanne Rosier Smith has been painting it for 10 years. “The ocean changes constantly,” she says. “I see a clash of opposites—motion and stillness, wet and dry, warm and cool—and also a place of light, life and turning tides.”
Smith is well-known for her pastel paintings of the sea and waves. “For me, the ocean’s moods reflect the human spirit. You can read every emotion in its constant movements,” she says. “I’m not surprised to find that collectors who are psychologists put them in their offices and couples put them in their bedrooms.”
She lives in Sudbury, MA but often visits family and favorite beaches on the Cape and Nantucket. Even with the drama the ocean reveals, being at the ocean feels like meditation. “I relate to the changes in the tides, like breathing, and it’s instantaneous relaxation,” Smith says.
Indeed, some of the energy of the ocean seems to be absorbed by Smith. She’s a busy and prolific artist: teaching, blogging, painting, giving demonstrations and talks, consulting, exhibiting nationally and internationally, winning awards, and creating a DVD instructional series. She’s able to keep focused on her growth by talking with other artists. “We give each other inspiration and encouragement,” she explains.
Smith grew up painting and studied art at Georgetown University and later at the DuCret School of Art in New Jersey. After earning a Ph.D. in English, she taught college English for 10 years. She first discovered pastel when her uncle sent her a box of Nupastels over 20 years ago. “You might enjoy these,” he told her. That changed her life. She had found her medium. Gradually she made the switch to painting full-time and began teaching workshops from her home.
Smith loves the velvety feel of the “rich, pure pigments that allow vibrations of color and visual mixing impossible to capture in any other medium.” She says that as she paints, “My pastel stick in my hand becomes the tip of a paintbrush; depending on how I hold it, how it touches the paper, and the amount of pressure I use, I can create large, bold strokes or the tiniest, delicate detail. I feel the sun and the sea spray while I’m painting the ocean, and remember summer hours spent in the waves.”
Beyond painting waves, Smith also enjoys painting vibrant flowers and food. Currently she’s interested in exploring “the abstract underlying designs beneath the realistic images I paint.”
Smith says that the tragic loss of her mother, who died at a young age, gives her “a visceral sense of appreciating every day and the little things in life. As an artist, your eyes have to be open all the time to see things in a fresh way,” she says. “Being an artist helps me to hold on to that appreciation of everything.”