Category Archives: Jean Smith paintings


Detail of two ‘sold’ paintings drying in the sun after a layer of gloss medium. I post photographs of the paintings (here and on FaceBook) before the layer of gloss which tends to unify the surface as well as protect it.

Next: package to ship with tracking and insurance ($15 USD / CAD)


detail with gloss and shadow


detail with gloss

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Book: example of dry brush technique

Seems like quite a while ago that I mentioned a book in the works – to be published in the UK – that will use one of my paintings as an example of dry brush technique. Now they’re giving me an opportunity to see the bio they came up with, so I took the opportunity to make some changes.

Singer #4 by Jean Smith
“Singer #4” (11 x 14′ acrylic on canvas panel, 2017)

Hi R____,

Sorry for the delay getting back to you. I’m looking for property to open the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change where all types of artists can come and stay for free while working on projects that intend to change the world. So I need space for the writer’s cabin, a soundproofed rehearsal studio, painting studio, accommodation etc. I’m getting very close now!

Here’s the text with a few changes.

“Jean Smith is a Vancouver-based painter, writer and singer regarded as an inspiration to the 1990s social movement known as Riot Grrrl. Her contemporary portraits, based on photographs, are about complex emotions related to feminism and anti-capitalism. She sells the 11 x 14″ series for $100 USD on Facebook, making her work accessible to other artists, musicians and writers she’s met along the way. Sales above her monthly expenses go towards opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change off the west coast of Canada.”

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Video: $100 USD paintings currently available

Midway through every month I put together a video of all the $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″) available. Music by Mecca Normal with part of a CKUT interview near the end.

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CKUT interview

I made a video for the segment of the CKUT interview (late April) about my paintings using many of my favorites along with some art show set up and Mecca Normal footage… and some details about online dating, narcissism etc.. let’s face it: I like to talk!!

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20 sold to an interior designer

No Hat #608 800

No Hat #600 800

No Hat #600

No Hat #589 800

No Hat #589

The Hat #89 800

The Hat #89

The Hat #84 800

The Hat #84

No Hat #569 800

No Hat #569

no hat #550 800

No Hat #550

No Hat #591 800

No Hat #591

The Hat #93 800

The Hat #93

No Hat #584 800 3 auto

The Hat #584

No Hat #456 800

No Hat #456

No Hat #557 800

No Hat #557

No Hat #567 800

No Hat #567

No Hat #495 800

no hat #542 800

No Hat #542

No Hat #339 800

No Hat #339

No Hat 261 800

No Hat #261

No Hat #470 800

No Hat #470

No Hat 260 800

No Hat #260

No Hat 270 800

No Hat #270

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There’s something about these three together.

The Scarf #12 800
“The Scarf #12″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel). $100 USD plus shipping.

no hat #530 800
“No Hat #530″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel). $100 USD plus shipping.

No Hat #525 800
“No Hat #525″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel). $100 USD plus shipping.


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Video: Introduction

We have the evidence! Political art can change the world!


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The Scream vs Ruff Collar



ruff collar #29 800 a

Ruff Collar #25

I didn’t set out to reference “The Scream” by Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch; in fact, “Ruff Collar #25” went through a lot of very different evolutionary stages before I stopped here. This is often the way it goes and one of the great things about painting (the way I paint).

I suppose that until an artist says if a painting is about something specific, it’s a matter of speculation — granted, some speculation is more informed than assumptions made by general viewers. I figure most artists aren’t terribly stuck on various interpretations of their work.

My painting is an addition to the “Ruff Collar” series I began in 2018, in which there aspects of fashion, history, class, and theatre — and against this backdrop, the ever-present knowledge that I am a feminist. That is to say, I bring along the historical context of my work as a cultural activist of the feminist variety, and that tends to be understood because I primarily exhibit my work here on FB, where you know me (or can get to know me). When I paint a woman it is not a man painting a woman.

As an older person who has been making art since the 70s (the portrait series began in 1973), I’ve found that the intensity of context (production and reaction over time) can’t be neatly summed up in an artist statement. So I tend not to write them. Let the young people wrestle with them. Let the Art World deal with them.

A sense of context is also what I consider to be fundamental in contemporary art which I tend to find a bit contrived and too clever, yet I sometimes surprise myself and enjoy the fact that I’ve created something within an existing genre.

No Hat #560 800

No Hat #560

It seems to me that contemporary portraiture is a combination of historically recognizable styles and techniques within one piece that push forward the recognition of a face in one of those styles because of the other styles. Recognition of the human face (not a specific person) relies on the profusion of faces (RL, paintings and photos) that the brain has previously processed. An example of this would be “No Hat #560” (above) — the painting I did yesterday. The position of the features (eyes, nostrils and mouth) are almost photographic, yet semi-obscured (eyes, nostril) and garishly over-painted (lips), but it’s the weird contrast of four simple strokes for the bangs (and several framing the face) that push the face to a strange realism.

Back to “Ruff Collar #25” and how it relates to “The Scream” which, without going back to look or research further, I interpret as a man screaming and I can’t say as I am too curious what he’s screaming about. Looks like fear. Just my impression.

The face in “Ruff Collar #25” is similar to “No Hat #560” in that the layer obscuring the features hints at a realism because of surrounding style — in this case the ruff collar, which is squeezing the face, giving it the shape of “The Scream” yet the mouth is pressed shut in a way that women are very familiar with. The constrictive nature of the collar — and by association fashion, history, class, and the general oppression of women — brings a sense of realism the the face (the woman) obscured beneath the thin layer of paint which represents make-up or a mask which refers to the way women are expected to behave.

Screaming is frowned upon.

“Ruff Collar” series

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Notes on Four Paintings

No Hat #373 800“No Hat #373″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

This was probably around the time I started considering each eye as a distinct way to convey different emotions simultaneously. I think prior to this I thought of the eyes as matching. Having said that, I don’t set out to convey specific emotions. They emerge, evolve and eventually stabilize based on how they jive with other elements in the painting — including color and composition. There are a few other things going on here — likely because I was thinking about the eyes differently. The mouth and nose are from a straight on perspective while the eyes are more from a semi-profile. There’s a weird pop art realism about the mouth that doesn’t carry over into the other feature, but it affects how everything else is seen. I think I’d been adding highlight for a while, but in this one it’s quite prevalent — especially how it’s used beside the nostrils to give the nose its length.

2 800
“She’s No Picnic #2″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

I did the first “No Picnic” around 2003 as a self-portrait. It was something someone said to me (you’re no picnic either) during an argument in the late 1990s and I think we both laughed and likely stopped arguing. The somewhat charming nature of the comment stuck with me and when I did the original painting I was angry about something specific (interpersonal dynamics) and the old-timey expression brought up both the long history of oppression and how idioms surface in a pinch to squelch rogue female outbursts.

Patriarchal conditionings strongly encourage women to look certain ways’ (pretty, sexy, calm, loving, approachable, passive, interested) and when episodes of injustice occur we might always be somewhat mindful that we are not supposed to look angry.

The kind of anger in this painting, is when you feel you’ve been unfairly dealt within a protected system that supports injustice to ensure that some other group benefits. This anger is hinged to understanding, but not accepting that you are unable to correct the misconceptions that other person apparently holds and really, showing them a display of anger like this might actually work against you, but since it’s all hopeless anyway, you go for it. That kind of anger.

Rarely would I delve back into the emotional landscape of a specific event to dredge up an emotion, but this is isolated within both the painting and my history, and yet highly transferable to anyone who cares to relate to the intensity.

Also, as far as titles (and other text) go, I don’t usually include language-based information. Obviously, as a writer, I could — and it seems popular to weight art with a titles as an informative element — but within the parameters of my online project I feel that because of the depth of my art-making history, working without overarching conceptualism is part of what I’m doing. This has to do with trusting me and trust is an important part of the project.

No Hat #501 800

“No Hat #501″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

I’d say this is mostly about the various amounts of specific colours and how they work together within the composition. The photo I’m working from is lit with a gold light on the left and a blue light on the right. With the face being mostly a yellow (to which purple is the complementary colour) I adjust the amount of the cooler colours (blue and purple) to push the yellow / the face adequately into the featured position. This is also accomplished by the use of the splayed / distressed brush I use for the hair — I suspect all those little parallel lines are interpreted as a singular plane of representation — a solid thing. And, considering how we regard hair culturally as a a unified shape rather than individual strands, i have that working in my favour as well.

It feels like a great luxury for me to have the bangs resonate with the ribbing of the turtleneck. One of the handful of things my mom taught me was that if you’re going to have something running off the top, you need to have something running off the bottom. Same with sides. Sometimes when I paint the top of the head and obviously the neck runs off the bottom, I consider other ways to achieve a compositional ‘running off the top’ whether it’s in the colour or texture of the background — or almost the reverse of the rule: neck and shoulders so pronounced, so overtly weighted on the bottom, that the sense of it being a human subject overwhelms the compositional rule. It also helps that blue recedes, pushing the face forward.


No Hat #368 800

“No Hat #368″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD plus shipping

The interruption in panel of reddish brown on the left (aka the hair) would have been done with the side of my hand sweeping left for whatever reason. One quick swipe on the edge of my little finger and down the hand. Obviously I knew the paint was still wet enough to move, and I would have been aware of what was beneath it, knowing it would be revealed — that is to say, I knew the background was dry. Why was I swiping away paint? There may have been a build up of paint, a bead of raised pigment that I avoid and remove as necessary. Some soft and or long brushes, depending on how much paint they’re loaded with, create a line on both traveling edges as opposed the their travelling breadth. It’s like a snow shovel that pushes snow to the outside as it scrapes along the sidewalk — and let’s face it, sometimes brushes are moving paint more than applying paint. So let’s get that out of the way (pardon the pun).

Anyway, I swiped and I guess there was a surplus of wet paint above the swipe. It looks like I held the painting upright to get that surplus to trickle across the newly exposed surface. I wasn’t essentially trying to achieve what was achieved, but since it’s there, let’s talk about it. I very frequently create a strong line on the right side where the hair meets the background, then, on the left side, I create a less strong line. In fact, I almost always do this since I watched a YouTube video of a convicted art forger who was demonstrating some of John Singer Sargent’s tricks. The right side, being a crisper line, pushes forward, while the blurrier line on the left recedes. It would be like taking a photo with a short depth of field (the are in focus), so that even a line set back by mere inches would be blurrier than the where the lens was focused. Doing this in a painting serves to inform our brain that we’re looking at something convincingly realistic. I like creating this in the brain to then work with looser features that are fortified by a touch of realism in various ways. So there is almost always some place on the surface of my paintings that works this way — in conflict or colluding with realism, foisting it forward to disagree with it in abstract nuances — all within the face and hair, a heightened arena of emotional revelations.

So, the hyperrealism of the drips (without any help from me… I did not articulate drips of paint; they arrived as themselves) pop out at us thus creating a good deal of space between them and where the reddish brown hair was wiped away, which is now even farther back than the farthest point on the painting (thanks to Sargent).

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