Meet the Artist: Yael Rachel Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Yael Rachel Smith

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Yael Rachel Smith, and I am a true combination of my parents. My father is a retired systems engineer and my mother is a musician. I’ve always been drawn both to the arts and sciences, and especially interested in how things work in our world. I grew up in Long Island, NY and my art education began early, with art lessons in elementary school followed by AP Studio Art in high school. I began my college career as a double major-Art and Biology. Although I loved the art classes and professors, I decided to drop the Art major thinking that it was not all that productive. My friends were pursuing “real” professions and I felt pressured into that mindset. I ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and went to graduate school and became a Physician Assistant.

The following years were busy, pursuing my medical career and raising a family, and so, my painting fell to the wayside. As life challenges set in, including experiencing medical issues which made it more difficult for me to work in a clinical setting, I realized that I needed to refocus on art. I began working with the NJ Yachad special needs community where I created art projects and conducted classes. I was inspired by how profoundly art affected that population by allowing them to express themselves and communicate in a non-verbal way. At home, I resumed painting on canvases which quickly accumulated in our house. My family and visitors who admired the work encouraged me to follow my passion and to seriously pursue painting. And, so, I am finally focusing on the development and sales of my art.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I can’t say that one specific experience inspired me to become an artist. I’ve always been naturally inspired by the arts and by my creative mind. Artists who feel that inborn inspiration need courage to pursue the alternative path of creativity to become a developed artist. The question is whether artists will allow themselves to feel and follow that creative inspiration or choose to suppress it, to follow a more traditional path. Ultimately, the artistic inspiration becomes so strong that it becomes hard not to let it take over. Creating is as important to an artist as air is living.

What is your speciality?

I am currently enjoying exploring acrylic painting on canvas and wood panel, playing with textures, metallics and light. I experiment with techniques that combine abstraction with representational art to facilitate the viewer’s freedom to see what they want to see while guiding them to see the image that I want to portray. I plan to use oil paints and watercolors as well.

Where do you take your inspiration from? Are you pursuing any themes?

I am inspired by my environment and the emotions they conjure. Ever since I’ve been focusing on painting again, I’ve been training myself to “see” more. If we simply look around in our physical world, we will notice marvellous colors, forms and shapes within our environment. And if we pay attention to our rich Jewish culture and heritage, we will find such beauty, love and emotion, all of which I hope I capture in my paintings. My paintings currently portray Jewish or Israeli themes, but I also like to work with universal themes.

Do you take on commissions and create bespoke designs?

Yes, I do take on commission work. I recently created a modern design painting to match a room in a client’s house. It’s exciting to work on different types of paintings to express variation and versatility.

Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?

I can’t choose one specific project that I’ve enjoyed working on the most so far since each painting is a new project that brings me joy. They each require specific vision and moments of contemplation in order to achieve the transmission of the message I’m intending. Exploration is the key to enjoyment in your artwork. For example, in a recent painting that I call “The Burning Bush”, I explored a more abstract and modern style of painting compared to my other paintings which were more traditional in style. This gave me a new, freer kind of joy. I enjoy each project, with all of its specified intricacies and challenges; that’s why I’m painting!

What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?

My goal is to transmit emotion through my work. I want the viewer to feel what I’m trying to portray using my colors, lights and forms, yet I want them to have the freedom to use their own imagination to feel and see whatever it is that they want to feel and see. Although it’s important that art that hangs on a wall in your home be pretty and match your decor, I believe that it needs to fill a bigger purpose. Art is viewed constantly, and it is imprinted into your memory. Hopefully you draw pleasure, strength, and inspiration from that art while it gets internalized and becomes part of the foundation of your family unit and part of your own personal pleasant memories. I want to create artistic vehicles that inspire people to become closer to God, that bring joy and meaning into people’s lives and that create lasting memories.

Where can we find your work?

You can now find my work on Instagram at Yaelrachelart, and I can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by cell at 973.573.2724. Website to follow.

Photos: Courtesy of Yael Rachel Smith

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