Featured Artist: KT Smail

Featured Artist: KT Smail

About the Artist

KT was born under the purple skies of Scotland and graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a First Class Honors degree in Illustration. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York where she works as an illustrator, painter and art director. She likes to work surrounded by plants, flowers and her little cat, always covered in paint.

The Artful Review caught up with KT for a tour of her Brooklyn studio (we're obsessed!) as well as her Scottish upbringing, favorite gardens and the women who have inspired her. 

Q&A With KT

ARTFUL REVIEW: How does your Scottish upbringing influence your work?

KATY SMAIL: I grew up in the countryside, playing in the rivers and woodlands, overgrown fields and purple hills. Now that I live in a big city, I feel especially nostalgic for all of that time spent in nature. I think that the floral paintings are my way to reconnect to that wild feeling. I love to go back home and be amongst the scruffy trees and overgrown wildflowers; it rains so much that there is growth and life everywhere. It is so lovely and scruffy and moody.

AR: Where are your favorite gardens in the US and abroad? Do you typically paint flowers that you see in front of you, or do you use your imagination to create your arrangements?

KS: I'm lucky to live near the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens which are always nice. Wave Hill here in New York is also gorgeous. Huntington Gardens in California I adore. In Scotland I would recommend Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh and Dawyck Botanic Garden. When I paint, I love to use flowers in front of me as a starting point, and then my imagination often takes over. I also use photographs if I find an image that I love.

AR: We read that you love painting complicated women with many emotions. Can you tell us about a few women who inspire you the most?

KS: I am inspired by the women in my life: my mother, my friends. I am surrounded by so many interesting, complicated women. I like to paint ladies with classic female decorations; beautiful clothes, flowers, feminine colors, but give them something a little more behind the eyes than just "pretty". It feels more authentic to me when there is some mix of melancholy, wildness, longing, passion, frustration to counter the surface beauty. For example, the girl in the pink dress with the tulips does not feel like a fairy princess. She might feel a little moody and pissed off, her hair is slicked back in a masculine manner and all of that attitude is part of the whole picture. It makes her more interesting to me. I'm drawn to imperfect visions of beauty.

AR: Where do you like to travel for inspiration? Can you share any must-see's with our readers?

KS: I like to travel to California; the colors and landscape are so different to those on the East Coast or the UK. I find Big Sur and Joshua Tree to be very inspiring. I also love to go back to Europe; wildflower meadows in the UK, the water and sky in the South of France, the light and colors in Italy. One of my favorite places I have visited was Sardinia; so wild and rugged and warm. Gorgeous.

KT's Brooklyn Studio

Shop KT Smail's Art