Lindsay Smail is an abstract artist based in Washago, Ontario. She creates art that’s “colourful, joyful, and luminous”. Lindsay “loves the freedom and the challenge of abstract art. The lack of rules is liberating, but it also asks something of the creator and the viewer”.
Learn more about Lindsay Smail and see art from her latest collection below.
Lindsay Smail Ontario Artist
What’s the main inspiration for your art?
Getting into the studio and working is what drives me. I see things happening that excite me. Or I see things that aren’t good enough yet, that need more work. I’m always a little dissatisfied. That’s the engine that propels me forward.
How would you describe your artistic style?
Abstraction with a lyrical line and complex colour built from transparency
What is the biggest goal you try to achieve with your art?
I want to create work that feels alive and true, that touches people, and makes them want to spend time looking at it.
Why abstract art and not other styles?
Painting something that exists already just doesn’t hold my interest. I’ve done a bit of portraiture, a lot of landscapes, and I enjoy them up to a point, but not enough to go deep and develop that work. When I first started painting I often defaulted to the landscape, even in my abstract work. But over time that’s shifted and now I work without any outside reference.
What’s your favourite thing about being an abstract artist?
I love being alone in my studio immersed in the process of creating. I’m constantly learning new things and making discoveries. I’m never bored.
What’s one thing people might not know about you or your art journey so far?
I’m a published poet and a decent pianist. Writing a poem, improvising at the piano—for me the process is the same as creating a painting. A few words or a melodic phrase kicks things off and then I listen for what comes next. That’s pretty much how I paint, except the starting point is usually a charcoal line.
Did you always know you’d be an artist or how has your art journey progressed?
I always thought I was an artist of some kind—but I didn’t talk about it. I had some really discouraging experiences around creativity in high school and university that I let affect me. I wandered around not sure what to do for a long time. I did a Masters in English lit, I tried editorial work, worked as a publicist. Then I found graphic design and I had a flair for it. More importantly, I enjoyed it and was willing to work at it.
I worked as a graphic designer for years, had a good career, started my own business. A few years back I had a hard summer—tough projects, no time off—and needed to recharge creatively. So I painted abstractly as a little holiday, something just for me. I’ve been painting obsessively ever since. I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life and I finally feel like I’m in the right place doing the right thing.
In your opinion, what’s the most important personal characteristic needed to embark on a career as an artist?
A lot of people will tell you an art career is a bad idea (including the voice in your head). You need a kernel of defiance to withstand that and the inevitable criticism that will come your way. A serious work ethic is a great asset too.
What advice would you give up and coming abstract artists?
Work hard. Make a lot of work. Look within and value your own judgement. Protect your creativity and your time. You need outside input too, but choose the source of that input and the timing of it with great care.
Do you have any favourite resources that have contributed to your journey as an artist?
Expressive Drawing a book by Steven Aimone: his exercises helped me immeasurably.
Let Me Do This a book by Robert Szot: his interviews point to a mindset around making art that resonates with me.
The Marginalian a website/newsletter by Maria Popova: a wonderful digest of great writers and thinkers, often on creativity.
What’s your most fulfilling and enjoyable experience as an artist so far?
I did a show in Toronto recently and it was amazing to see my latest work all hanging together. It helped me understand my work better. (In my studio I can’t see them all at once.) And then talking to people who took the time to look and discovering that what I wanted to say and what was coming across were in sync. The whole experience was very affirming and encouraging.
Where do you see yourself and your art in 5 years?
I’d love a crystal ball to see what my work will look like in the future! I want to keep evolving, experimenting and seeking. I hope my audience grows and sticks around to follow my journey. I’m ambitious, but art is a long game and you need patience as well as drive.
Do you have any favourite quotes?