Meg Smith paints Alaska
by Alisha McDarris
Sharp edges and fine lines, saturated jewel tones, graphic prints, and colorful acrylics: Meg Smith’s work is otherworldly. Art is life. A whale swimming beneath the surface of the ocean comes alive. The deep shadows of mountains and the muted hues of peaks in the distance create not just a sense of endless space, but time.
Puffins soar and dive in scenes that divide horizons. Three skiers celebrate finding clean lines in soft powder.
Indeed, Smith’s art is more than just a pretty picture: in the geometric lines, the crisp detail, the bold colors, there is an indescribable sense of adventure in each mountain vista and dancing depiction of northern lights. Each piece represents the landscape the artist fell in love with when she moved to Girdwood 10 years ago, as well as the feeling of overwhelming vastness, and the sense of awe that can only be found in Alaska’s expansive natural beauty.
It’s that feeling that compelled her to stay after visiting the area from Pennsylvania on a whim for a ski trip in 2012. “I came up here and fell in love with it. I knew this is it; this is home,” Smith remembers. The mountains, the ocean, were mesmerizing. But because putting that sense of wonder into words seems always just out of reach, she puts it on canvas.
She always has, though not necessarily in the same way she does now. “I was happiest when creating in any medium,” she says, remembering fondly days of painting seashells as a child. “I’ve been creating as long as I can remember. There was never a time I can remember not drawing,” she says. It dictated her career pursuits, and she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in graphic design, a degree that is alive and clearly present in much of her work.
While graphic design didn’t fulfill her, she strove to be the best she could be as she built her business, and traveled and worked at ski resorts and as a whitewater rafting safety kayaker. But it wasn’t until she took a break from graphic design, secured a job on a commercial fishing vessel, and started sketching for pure enjoyment again that her art had the space and light to bloom once more, reminding her of her true passion.
“Commercial fishing gave me the opportunity to just create for myself,” Smith recalls. She could see then that art was what she was meant to do. So, on little more than a whim, she showcased her work in an art show in Alaska and sold every piece. Over the last few years, she has transitioned into full-time artist and adventurer, as well as pilot, a pursuit that goes hand-in-hand with her artwork, offering access to places and viewpoints many never see.
“It’s soul fulfilling, just like my art,” Smith says. It’s more than a passion; it also serves a functional purpose: she uses her bush plane to deliver her artwork around Alaska to galleries and remote lodges like the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, something she’d always dreamed of doing.
You can feel that enthusiasm and dedication in every piece; indeed, Smith’s mission is to capture the soul of a place, the feeling of summiting a peak and seeing thousands of puffins swooping into the ocean below, of flying over snow-covered passes, of watching bears fish for salmon in remote rivers. She strives to capture the magic and life of the setting itself.
“It’s about sharing my authentic experience of a place and showing how magical those places are.” Smith explains. “It’s more of a tribute to those places instead of trying to recreate it.
You can hear the smile in her voice as she talks about it. “Alaska is so beautiful and intense and overwhelming, and you get this sense of awe,” Smith says. To be certain, she’ll never run out of inspiration.
Find Meg Smith’s work online at megsmithdesign.com.