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Artist Profiles
Written by Lydia Hagen

Artist Clara Smith

“Old Red”: digital drawing of Clara Smith’s aunt’s horse, Ringer.

Artist Clara Smith Adds Fresh Style to Western and Equine Themes

Clara Smith is an artist of many talents, including: graphic design, drawing, painting and digital art. Though, the variety of mediums do not take away from Smith’s intention to portray the western and cowboy lifestyle in a new way.

“Old Red”: digital drawing of Clara Smith’s aunt’s horse, Ringer.
“Old Red”: Digital drawing of Clara Smith’s aunt’s horse, Ringer.

Equine Influence

Raised in Portland, Smith visited Bend during summers growing up and observed the artistic endeavors of her late aunt, Western artist Joelle Smith. Young Clara learned the anatomy of horses while sitting with her aunt in the art studio after returning from a ride. The studio where Joelle Smith worked had large windows purposefully overlooking the pasture outside. “The love for the horses came first,” Smith said. “And the art kind of stemmed from there.” 

In high school, Smith used that knowledge and was encouraged to pursue art by a teacher. “I always drew as a kid, and I was the kid that doodled on her homework all the time,” she said. Her decision to pursue the craft led to her first sale: a print of an original scratchboard piece of her horse.

Today, Smith works out of Joelle Smith’s former studio which Clara Smith said has pretty much remained the same way it was when it was used by her aunt. “There’s a lot of her presence in it, which is comforting and inspiring,” she said. Beyond the large windows are her three horses, Teddi, Kedda and Carradine—her favorite subjects.

Artist Clara Smith and horse Teddi
Clara Smith and her horse, Teddi. Photo by Melissa Atillo.

Accuracy Across All Mediums

Accuracy is a priority to Smith when it comes to depicting the cowboy lifestyle across all mediums of her work including drawing, painting and digital art. Because of this, much of her art illustrates people Smith knows and who currently live the Western lifestyle. “The point is to portray a moment in time,” she said. When it comes to authenticity in her art, Smith also noted the importance of getting the gear and clothing correct. 

Smith’s range of creativity is highlighted in her portfolio, revealing a mix of the modern and traditional with realistic depictions of the Western style. She started with a love for classic fine art painting and drawing, then shifted gears slightly after studying graphic design at Oregon State University, where she began leaning into modern artistic ideas. She then progressed to marrying fine art and graphic styles, which became popular. “It’s like bringing new light to an old idea,” she said. “Classic, fine Western art isn’t for everybody. Doing the graphics kind of reawakened [the] vintage style—Old West style.”

She said when she was younger, she had a hard time parting with art pieces because she spent so much time devoted to them. Though that feeling has shifted as she’s advanced in her field, one piece she will never let go of is that original scratchboard of her horse that jump started her career. 

See clarasmithart.com.

Read more about Central Oregon artists here.

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