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Style Magazine

Bettie Smith

Aug 04, 2011 07:05AM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana

Some artists can just sit down and paint, while others take some time to reflect on their subjects before they put brush to canvas.

For Bettie Smith, that time of contemplation is a little more strenuous, as she enjoys thinking while she’s running – 100 miles at a time.

The 59-year-old artist says she loves to run, but calls running 100 miles “the stupidest thing I’ve done,” with a laugh. She’s actually done it twice: once in 29 hours and 18 minutes and again in 32 hours and 36 minutes. And that’s without stopping to sleep, though there is a lot of walking involved. “I dropped out at 83 miles last year, but I’m hoping to finish this year,” she says. “It’s pretty awesome to run through the night and to be running when the birds wake up and see the sunrise.” Spending so much time running puts her in a special zone, she says. “Emotionally, it’s great for inspiration,” she adds. “It’s a strong factor in my work. It just puts your mind in a great place.”

Smith uses oil paints and oil sticks to create her work, which she describes as contemporary on an abstract background. Her favorite subjects are animals, specifically horses, and she says she likes to capture an expression on their faces. She adds that she enjoys putting human emotions into animal faces, and having worked in veterinarian offices for years, she’s seen many animals and their expressions. “I think of what they are doing or were doing that caused that expression,” she says.


“I like to paint free-form and worry about the details later and make it work,” admits Smith. This is one reason she chooses to work in oils; she can redo and restart without too much trouble. “Sometimes I’ll sketch it out if I have a clear idea, but sometimes I’ll just start drawing on the canvas, and you can erase it easily,” she says.

Most of her paintings are 36 by 36 inches or 36 by 48 inches. Smith likes to work on larger canvases to give her freedom of expression. “To be able to move my arm freely and let it flow works on a larger canvas,” she says. “I found it constraining when I first started doing smaller pieces.”

She says her inspiration came from some of the San Francisco Bay Area figurative artists, and she is a fan of Jackson Pollock. Her work was previously shown in a few local galleries, but not any longer. “Unfortunately, they both closed due to this wretched economy,” she says, “but one of the owners is still representing me at RAS Galleries in Yountville.”

Living in Cool on five acres, Smith shares her house with her husband, two dogs and a cat.

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