As part of the BC Culture Days Ambassador Program, I got to select and work with a mentor with over 25 years of experience, Natasha Smith. I found Natasha online and her paintings were so rich and interesting to look at! After Natasha agreed to be my mentor, we started meeting on a weekly basis over Zoom. In addition, we communicated by emails and texts.
During our first meetings, we worked on setting goals and preparing for my BC Culture Days online workshop. I’ve never made an online video before and Natasha showed me the equipment that she uses, how to edit and add sounds to my video.
One of my goals during the mentorship was to make a body of work in mixed media paintings and submit to juried exhibitions. At first, I didn’t know what kind of painting I want to make for my body of work. We looked at my past paintings and paintings of other artists that I admire to figure out what kind of art I want to make. She encouraged me to do research, find a topic that I am passionate about, and practice the techniques so when I decided on what to do, I know HOW to do it. Natasha showed me many new techniques that I can incorporate into my paintings. Talking with her every week helped me work out my thoughts. It’s like brainstorming with an expert and I often got more ideas from our conversations.
We also started working on my application to an Artists in the Classroom grant. Natasha was so organized and she’s very good at keeping me on track. She would encourage me to just jot down my ideas to start with and suggested me to take some small steps every week. Those things add up incrementally. Writing a grant is a daunting task. I have to confess that without her help, I probably would have put this project on hold. I don’t know the result of the grant yet but I have many school interested in my project and one of them agreed to pay for the project themselves.
Natasha gave me encouragement to work on my strength, practice my skills and we talked about why I make art and worked on my artist statements. She shared with me many resources and tools on being creative, time management and how to overcome creator’s blocks.
One of the challenges that I had was feeling the pressure to perform, that I have to make good paintings the first time I try and if I don’t think I have a good idea, I just procrastinate. We talked about the importance of experiment and play. She shared her experience that sometimes you start with a good idea and sometimes, good ideas come out of practice. It’s important to practice my skills and when I have a good idea, I will have the skills to express them intuitively because of practice. She inspired me to schedule time for play and for improving my skills without thinking about outcome.
What I found extremely helpful with the mentorship was talking to someone with a lot of experience like Natasha. It was lonely making paintings on my own without much feedback. During one of our very first meetings, Natasha pointed out what she saw in my paintings and what my strengths are. I couldn’t really see my style until she articulated that I like to use painterly colours with bold graphic elements which I do subconsciously. Then she showed me new techniques based on my preferences to add to my artistic arsenals.
Not only did I learn a lot from my mentor Natasha, she also gave me a lot of encouragement and that helped me see my strength in my art and gave me the confidence to go out and try more things. The weekly meeting is a great way to keep me accountable and make sure that I do the work.
Natasha Smith is an excellent mentor with a lot of experience in many aspects of being an artist. I’ve achieved all my goals set out at the beginning of our mentorship. Not only did Natasha showed me many new mixed media techniques, her holistic approach helped me pinpoint my style and clarify my artist statement; we worked on my mindset to overcome obstacles, she kept me on track and showed me tools to manage my art career. More importantly, her encouragement gave me the confidence to experiment with new things and make more art. I highly recommend Natasha Smith for anyone who wants to find their unique creative path.
You can find Natasha Smith on her website: https://natashasmithart.com/
More info on her mentorship program here: https://natashasmithart.com/creativefettle