Shelly Reeves Smith began her career in 1988 when she and a friend co-founded a greeting card company, Among Friends. Twenty years later, her illustrations of home and garden can be found on cards, stationery, books, gifts and home decor.
Smith lives in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri with her husband and son where her surroundings provide plenty of inspiration for her work. When she is not painting or spending time with her family, Smith dedicates her time to her bluegrass band, Lonesome Road.
Take a look at the Shelly Reeves Smith calendar line at Calendars.com.
Tell us about your musical talents and your band Lonesome Road.
I grew up in a musical family. My father, mother and brother all sing and play. During my high school and college years, I was fortunate to get a job performing at a country music show in my hometown in Missouri. I also met my husband through those music connections.
The Lonesome Road bluegrass band started in 1997 as a group of friends who enjoy playing together. We all have full-time jobs, but we get together about once a month to perform at local and regional bluegrass events in the Midwest. After 15 years we’re still going strong and having fun.
How does it inspire you?
As artists know, paintings need to have a place in them where the eye can “rest”. As a visual person, I guess I need that in my surroundings, too. Our little community in the country is the perfect place for that. We live in a farmhouse built in 1915. It’s surrounded by springs and creeks, fields and woods. My parents were both raised on farms, so I guess I’m naturally drawn to farmhouses and everything about them. Everyday things like tables and chairs, porches and windows, kitchen and garden tools can be so expressive. They, and the signs of our use on them, tell stories all by themselves.
What else provides inspiration for your art?
I’m inspired by my family, especially my son, Ison, who is now 2 ½. I also find endless inspiration when I study the Bible and when I read the work of talented people like Kerry Boone.
How long does it take you to complete a typical painting that appears in your calendars?
It takes me a couple weeks from start to finish…from concept, to pairing the idea with the verse, the rough sketch marked up for color, the final sketch, the finished watercolor painting, plus the verse and border art that accompanies it. Of course, that is if all goes as planned!
What makes watercolor your preferred medium?
I started out with colored pencil, but I like watercolor because it can be either soft or bold and it allows the painter to build up to brighter colors gradually. It also provides opportunity for “happy accidents” – like the unintentional splash of color that ends up looking purposeful. Unlike most other mediums, watercolor allows one to see through to the sketch beneath. That glimpse of the graphite sketch behind the color is charming to me.
Are they real places, or do they spring from your imagination?
I sure hope they are inviting. That is my goal. They are sort of an amalgam of real and imagined places, from either my current surrounding or from memories.
Do you begin a painting with a Bible verse in mind?
Yes, it is a big part of the equation. I have a little book that I keep with my Bible where I record verses that are meaningful. When making decisions about the calendars images, I usually look first to that book for inspiration.
Tell us how you work with Kerry Boone, who writes the sweet, secular verses that complement your art so perfectly.
Kerry is one of the kindest and most talented people I know. Because we are friends, we appreciate the same kinds of things – the simple life and the value of close relationships –so working with her is like working with a sister. She is a prolific writer with a large body of work from which to choose. We often select verses for the calendars from her existing work. At other times I’ll send her a sketch of calendar ideas for a certain year and ask her to either pull a line from work she has (that I haven’t seen yet) or write something specifically for those images. She always comes through with some little thought or phrase that takes my breath away.
Is your home as comfortable as the interiors we see in your artwork?
I want my home to be comfortable and enjoyable. It’s often easier to create that in a painting than in real life, but it’s always the goal. For variety, I try to paint interiors in various decorating styles, but I always end up coming back to the traditional American style. I guess we’re drawn to what speaks to our hearts.
Are you a good cook?
I’m clumsy in the kitchen, so I’m not a natural cook. But I love to cook and I really enjoy painting images that involved good food and gatherings like in the cookbooks I designed with Roxie Kelley. While working in her restaurant and bakery while in college, I personally served and prepared most of the dishes in those first two books, so they were like old friends. I also learned a lot about baking and gracious entertaining from her. The most important part of meal preparation, however, I learned from my mother…simply love the people you’re serving. That’s something we all can do well!