Creative Living: Interview with Justina Smith

Justina Smith

One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

I first saw Justina's paintings at a pop-up art market here in Edmonton, and I've been drooling over them ever since. I love the way she combines paint and collaged papers, and her unique perspective of the world, and it's a lot of fun seeing her photos on Instagram turn into paintings.

What sort of creative work do you do?

Drawing and painting and writing are the main things I spend my time doing. I also really love knitting.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?

Not really. I kind of figured everyone had some kind of thing that they were into: music, dancing, drawing, decorating, cooking, gardening, etc. Family members were always working on little projects of some sort after work and on weekends. I assumed everyone else's family did too.

Justina Smith

How did you get started?

I was drawing all the time in school, and got interested in painting in watercolor in grade 10 art class, but mostly just to make Christmas cards for family and friends. I was more into theatre than art. I loved performing. Musical theatre was my favourite, but I figured acting jobs would be too competitive so I took technical theatre in college. I could draw really well and got roped into painting sets. My instructor showed me how to create neat faux finishes, making surfaces look like old wood, marble or rough stone. After college a friend suggested I try painting on canvas, so I did, and my first painting got a sale inquiry after 2 weeks of hanging in the cafe where I worked. I didn't sell that painting for 9 years, but I kept painting and pieces kept selling.

What’s your process like?

It's almost an assembly line, as of late. I usually have 3-7 pieces on the go, in various states of completion. I work from photographs that I've taken, or have been provided by a client if I'm painting a commission. I draw an outline in black paint on a red toned canvas, decide where the first layer of paper is going for added texture and detail, block in the color, sometimes I draw in the wet paint, let those layers dry, maybe add another paper later to different parts of the canvas, let that later dry, add finishing details by drawing on the canvas with acrylic ink, sign it and put it to the side so it can dry, be photographed, get picture wire put on the back and determine where it's going to live for a bit. While I'm waiting for a layer to dry on one piece, I go to work on another piece so it can dry while I move around the room, working on various pieces until they are finished.

Justina Smith

What or who inspires you?

The list is shorter of what doesn't inspire me. I love taking photos on walks or trips that I go in. I read a lot. I visit a lot of galleries and museums. I have a lot of creative friends who like to share what they work on. Instagram has a lot of inspiration. Working at the cafe gives me a lot of inspiration. I'm surrounded by inspiration all the time.

What’s your biggest creative struggle?

Having too many ideas and loving naps.

Justina Smith

What’s your # 1 tip about everyday creativity?

Spend ANY amount of time doing what it is, painting, drawing, gardening, playing music, designing stuff, everyday. Even if it's just jotting down an idea or sitting in your studio space or whatever is available to you, and organizing stuff.

What are you working on next?

Commissions right up until Christmas dinner.

Where can we find you online?, and @justlittleart on Twitter and Instagram

Justina Smith