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Arts in Milwaukee

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  • “Ivory Tower”Ivory Tower

    16" x 20" pastels over watercolor

  • “Radiance”Radiance

    20: x 20" pastels over watercolor

  • “Slipstream”Slipstream

    30" x 30" created with pastels over watercolor.

  • “Leafy Infusion”Leafy Infusion

    20"x20" Pastels over watercolor. Exploring the shadows in the waters of the Northwest.

  • “Lavish Light”Lavish Light

    20"x20" Pastel over watercolor. My take on the dappled light beneath New Mexico cottonwoods.

  • “Waterborne #1”Waterborne #1

    This painting is 30"x30" and is created with pastels over watercolor on 4 ply museum board. It is based on photographs taken of a clear spring near Ashland, WI. It was a whole world unto itself.

Colette Odya Smith

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artist bio

A Milwaukee native, Colette always knew she wanted to be an artist, which led her to an art degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. During her years teaching elementary and middle school art and raising two children, she kept that dream alive with various creative pursuits including taking classes at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design where she took up soft pastel painting.

Since then, in her 20 year love affair with pastels, Colette has exhibited widely, won numerous awards and recognitions including Masters Circle (IAPS) International Association of Pastel Societies, signature member (PSA) Pastel Society of America and Distinguished Pastelist (PSNM) Pastel Society of New Mexico. Her awards include placing multiple times in The Artist’s Magazine and in The Pastel Journal “Pastel 100” including placing 1st in the Abstract/Non-objective category and 4th in Landscape this year. She has served as the judge for their Abstract Category, as a juror and as judge for the National Exhibition of the Pastel Society of New Mexico, as well as the National Exhibition of the Pastel Artists of Canada.

She is a contributor to the book “Painting Sunlight and Shadows with Pastels” by Maggie Price and has had her work featured in The Pastel Journal, American Artist, and Pratique des Arts magazines. She will be teaching a workshop in June 2015 at the IAPS convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In November of 2014 Colette was the Guest of Honor of the Societe des Pastellists de France at their exhibition at Parc Caillebotte (the home of Gustave Caillebotte) in Yerres, on the outskirts of Paris. She is represented by the Katie Gingrass Gallery in Milwaukee and Woodwalk Gallery in Door County, Wisconsin. Her website is:

artist statement

You may call my paintings landscapes, yet I intend that they are more. Whether rendered clearly or referenced obliquely, water, rocks and foliage are clearly at the foreground. Growing up in a city, into a large family, I relished all the bits of nature around me; parks, gardens, even puddles and wayward weeds in sidewalk cracks. They gave respite and made me feel attentive and thoughtful.

The longer I paint, the more I have moved from depiction into exploring why I find these subjects so beguiling. My thoughts turn to ideas of sanctuary and the mysteries of shape, reflection and transparency, surface and depth. Why is appearance so transient, changing with the light or with one’s perspective, when the world is constant and enduring? What am I to make of this? What lessons are right there waiting to be learned? My quest is to learn them; to see more deeply and to portray the principles that give form and meaning to these compositions. They seem to be always just below the surface, literally and metaphorically. So the quest continues, chronicled in paint.

I often obscure the customary references of horizon and atmospheric perspective. In this way easy identification of the landscape is downplayed. Context and scale become malleable. This allows a broader range of interpretations and frees me to move beyond the literal. Adding to this ambiguity, I often mix reflected imagery with solid forms, begging the question of what is ‘real’ and what is illusory. These are usually ‘realistic’ images, yet often appear as abstractions.

I love creating passages of paint where one can get lost without concern for naming and words. The surface is available for spontaneous meandering. Free association and personal response is encouraged.

Lastly, I create these paintings with pastels and watercolor and I’m charmed to be using the same elements of dust and water that I am drawn to paint.