Roslyne Smith has been painting since age five. With a lifelong passion and talent for art, it was the only natural career choice she ever considered. A South African native, Smith first came to America in 2001 when her husband received a job transfer.
In her first week, she fell rollerblading and broke both wrists. While assimilating to a new country, caring for two young children, and trying to recover from her accident, the attacks of September 11 happened. Smith found herself feeling depressed both at the state of the world and at her own predicament, wondering if she would ever be able to paint again.
After undergoing extensive therapy, she regained the use of her hands, relearned how to write, and turned to her art as a kind of sanctuary.
“The art became my therapy emotionally and mentally,” says Smith.
She describes her work during this time as more soulful and realistic, with an emotional yet darker feel, a direct reflection of her emotions at the time.
It wasn’t until she began redecorating her home in 2018 that her work became the bright and vibrant abstracts she is known for today. When the process began, Smith’s interior designer asked her to paint more colorful pieces with pinks that would pop to match her house.
Smith’s home is now a reflection of herself: filled with radiant colors, brilliant pops of pink, and mixes of different textures and patterns with sophisticated African antique vases and baskets incorporated throughout her modern farmhouse. And while she’s happy to create custom-commissioned paintings in more muted colors, in her own home, and in her own art, there’s not a trace of subdued pigments or dark browns and greys.
“I create my own kind of bright, cheerful, happy place,” says Smith.
She uses a variety of mediums to create her abstract paintings. By using a mix of graphite pencils, acrylic paints, acrylic inks, oil pigment sticks, and oil paints she produces very textured canvases blending both warm and cool colors. Smith’s paintings are so textured and fluid, they make you want to reach out and touch them.
The rich textures are built from mixing her mediums and the assistance of textural gel paste—she’s even pasted beads onto canvases before to add to the visual panorama. Smith loves working in layers and is also fond of a technique called impasto, where she applies the paints very thickly, often straight out of the tubes. She insists that photographs don’t do the work full justice, you can’t see the valleys of paint and the way the lighting hits the different angles.
Smith’s paintings are all original. She doesn’t copy other works, nor does she work from photographs or still lifes.
“I let the paint guide me—it’s very expressionistic and it’s all really driven by my feelings,” she explains. “It’s like a meditation. When I’m painting, I feel very connected to my inner and higher self.”
She often draws inspiration from beautiful and bright places. Some of her past inspiration has come from the warm South African summers of her youth, visits to her parents in Australia, and tropical Hawaiian vacations.
Some of Smith’s most personally satisfying works come from an art series she began as a way to honor her late father.
Most recently, Smith’s work was selected and accepted to be featured in a group show at the AIR Gallery this past spring. Not only were three of her paintings showcased, but one of her pieces was chosen to advertise the group exhibition featured in print and online.
Today, Smith’s works can be purchased on her website, as well as at The Guild in Lakeview, which has exclusively commissioned works. A collection of Smith’s paintings are also hung in and sold at an adult learning center in Deerfield, L’Chaim Center, where 18 percent of the profits are donated to the center. Here, Smith’s colorful abstract works filled with vibrant pops of color really bring a sense of joy and cheerfulness to an otherwise mostly grey space.
When art is shared with people, it can help make them feel something outside of themselves. And that is what she loves most, that she can share her art and help people in the process.
Smith’s art is not only her passion but it is a transformative experience. She loves the exhilarating act of taking separate pieces and mediums and going through the layers to then create something totally new with a life of its own. Each painting is a unique alchemy of colors, textures, and can evoke all kinds of reactions. Smith’s sense of fulfillment comes when seeing her beautiful kaleidoscopic paintings finished and seeing them inspire joy in others.
Roslyne Smith’s artwork can be purchased at The Guild at 3726 North Southport in Chicago; L’Chaim Center at 405 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe; and at roslynesmith.com. Follow her on Facebook at Roslyne Smith Art and on Instagram @roslynesmithart.