Dreaming in Color: An Interview with Artist Peggy Smith

One of our favorite things here at GelWriter is connecting with artists and colorists who love gel pens as much as we do! Artist Peggy Smith creates beautiful, dreamlike pieces, using only gel pens and her imagination. We first met Peggy when she shared some of her incredible artwork with us on our Facebook page, and we are so happy that she agreed to let us interview her for this week’s blog.

Take a peek inside her world, from tips and techniques to what inspires her artwork. You’ll find that it’s a very colorful world, indeed!

GW: Where do you live? Tell us a little bit about your family.

PFS: I live in a lovely arts community on Vashon Island in Washington. I moved here 5 years ago due to declining health and wanted to live close to my daughter, Trevi. I have two other daughters, Tanya, who lives in California and Sarah, who lives in Texas.

GW: When and how did you learn to draw?

PFS: I first started drawing when I was about 5.  I had terrible eye sight and was profoundly deaf.  I used a shadow box for eye treatments and was asked to copy what I was able to see.  In high school and college, I took commercial lettering and art classes and started my own business.  I always enjoyed doing crafts with my 3 girls.  We’d do tole painting, plaster figurine painting and always look for creative ways to have fun. I’d often bring home a roll of butcher paper and all 4 of us would spending time drawing together.

For the last 10 years, I’ve had a series of health problems that caused me to lose some mobility.  About 3 years ago, I found that I was watching television a lot as I was not able to get out of the house as much.  Trevi bought me a set of GelWriter Pens from Costco and I was hooked.  I had a blast making my creations and started spending about 40 hours a week drawing.  I enjoy mixing colors and patterns to push myself to try something different.

GW: What do you enjoy most about creating art?

PFS: Art is a way to connect my feelings in a way that I can’t express directly.  I find satisfaction in creating something new.  Exploring colors and patterns and letting the pictures organically take shape.  I rarely have a final picture in mind when I start a piece.

GW: What inspires your artwork? Where do you get your ideas? Do you have an idea ahead of time about what you want to draw, or do you improvise?

I’ve had a few dreams where pieces appear before me and it does inspire me to put pen to paper. I often ask my friends and family members for inspiration and they provide the colors they’d like to see.  It challenges me to be creative and think outside of the box.  I love crazy color combinations that most people would never put together.

I find that I go through different phases with my technique, color choices and themes (birds, ribbons, abstract, hatching, finger painting).  My art fits my mood and I don’t try to do something that doesn’t come naturally.  If I start a piece and it doesn’t feel right, or if I make a mistake like a smear, I improvise and just keep working at it until something more beautiful appears.

Ultimately, people’s response to my art motivates me the most.  It is a way of connecting with others.  I love working with kids to explore their creativity.

GW: Do you sketch your drawings in pencil first?
PFS: I don’t use pencils to draw first.  When I was a child, I would watch Tom Hatten’s The Popeye Show.  Tom would show “how to” segments.  My favorite was when he’d draw a squiggle and guests would create drawings incorporating the squiggles without crossing lines.  I often use this technique to get me inspired.

GW: What do you like about using gel pens? What other mediums or materials do you like to use?

PFS: I love the colors and dimensions that gel pens provide.  You can grab a handful and immediately have your inspiration whether you’re at home or in the car.  I love the vibrancy and spectrum of colors available. They are an affordable medium that anyone can pick up and start quickly.

I have used pencils for sketching and a dipping pen with Indian ink as other mediums, but I prefer my GelWriter pens.

GW: Do you have any specific techniques or tips for using gel pens that you could share with us?
PFS: Some of my favorite techniques include hatching, finger painting and holding the pens at different angles for effects.  I use hatching when I want to create shadowing or shading effects.  It involves closely spacing parallel lines.  Combining colors with hatching creates a fabulous effect

I’ve recently started exploring finger painting.  I start with drawing a small line and then drag the paint with my finger to create a shadow effect.  My drawing with the black, grey and red flowers was entirely done using this method.   I’ve heard that some people use a spatula to move paints around.  I’ve started experimenting with this recently, but find that the finger painting approach works equally as well.

GW: Where can we see more of your artwork?
PFS: I have a Facebook site called Art of my Dreams where I have most of my portfolio available online.  I love being able to connect with other artists and get feedback on what people like.

I’ve also done a gallery showing on Vashon at Lapis and Luxe.  My goal is to do another this year.

GW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

PFS: Choose a good quality acid free smooth surface paper specifically designed for gel pens.  I’ve learned this the hard way in watching some of my favorite pieces fade over the years.  I’d also recommend matting and framing your artwork as it is so satisfying to see your creations come to life.  Thank you for the opportunity to share and connect with your fans!