While petite in stature, Rae Smith is a giant in the art world, particularly in the genre of pastel painting.
Smith is also among the instructors Brigantine's Community Education and Recreation Department employs to teach a diversity of classes during its winter programming schedule.
Smith tutors a group of about 10 women on Wednesday afternoons through February on the finer points of pastel painting, walking among the pupils in the Community Center art room and offering advice on technique, application and color schemes.
Among her key points of advice is to not skimp on the tools and supplies needed to create one's own personal masterpiece.
“You're only as good as the equipment you're using,” she said during her Jan. 22 class. “It will be reflected in the art you create.”
Smith's artwork has been displayed worldwide, including galleries in Japan, China, France, Italy, Russia, Taiwan and Canada. Locally, she does shows at the Noyes Galleries at Kramer Hall in Hammonton and other places.
“She is a past president of the Pastel Society of America, and has won numerous awards,” student Vicky Helsabeck said. “A few of us went to see one of her shows one time. It's really wonderful that we have someone of her stature in the art world as an instructor.
“Who would think, right here in Brigantine?”
A graduate of the Franklin School of Art in New York, Smith earned distinction as a master pastelist by the Pastel Society of America in 1997. As well as being the society's past president, she was also its 2014 Hall of Fame inductee. Specializing in landscape pastel painting, Smith is listed in the Who's Who in American Art directory and the Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers.
“She's very accomplished and well-known in the art world,” student Maria Matthews said. “I thought taking a class with her would be a wonderful opportunity, like so many that our CER offers. I wasn't going to pass it up.
“She's a wonderful teacher, and we're a close-knit group,” Matthews added. “We encourage each other and give each other support.”
Helen Troxell is new to pastel painting, but was invited to observe the curriculum during a prior class before joining the group.
“I came last week to check it out, and saw how well everybody got along and helped each other,” Troxell said. “I liked the group and the teacher, so I thought I'd join.
“I told Rae I've never done this before, but she encouraged me to walk around and observe, and the others told me what I needed to get, so I figured I'd try it.”
Smith recommends that each student bring in a photograph to be replicated during each two-hour class. The photo is clipped to the bottom corner of the easel, and each artist receives pointers from Smith as they progress.
On her website, Smith describes her approach to her art this way: “My painting is all about emotion, mood and atmosphere. I am always looking for the 'out of the ordinary' feeling in a composition.
“At times my paintings have been described as spiritual, and I would hope I am able to express myself so that one who views my work is touched.”
Visit her website at RaeSmithArt.com to learn more.