BY CHRISTINE FERNANDO
Until he was nearly 30, Jerry Smith had never painted, but he wondered what it would be like to be an artist. “I just felt this need, this desire, to paint without even knowing much,” he says. Still, it wasn’t until his wife, Cindy, bought him a set of oil paints as a Christmas gift in 1971 that he finally picked up a brush.
Even as his talent developed, Smith says he couldn’t imagine himself working as a professional artist. “I never knew someone could do something this fun as a career,” he says. “Just the fact that I’m getting to do this now is my proudest accomplishment.”
In 1976, Smith left his job in human resources at R.R. Donnelly & Sons to focus on his painting. He joined the Brown County Art Guild and opened the Green Street Gallery, his studio in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Now 74, Smith says he presently works in a variety of mediums, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, and mixed media. And his style now is different, too. “Realism was easier for me to start out with,” Smith says. “But over time, I’ve turned toward impressionism. My direction has been to loosen up, simplify, work with bigger shapes.”
A 1975 workshop marked Smith’s introduction to plein air painting, a hallmark of his portfolio. A member of the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association, Smith fell in love with the rugged beauty of the Maine coast and with painting in nature.
“Plein air is just as much about the experience as the results,” he says. “It’s the time I most feel like a painter, like I’m relating to the impressionists and the artists who came before me.”
CHECK OUT OUR PHOTO GALLERY TO SEE SOME OF JERRY SMITH’S WORK. (Click on the photo below to start the slideshow. Use the on-screen arrows or the arrows on your keyboard to navigate forward and backward.)