It isn't every day that an emerging artist opens her own gallery in the heart of the La Jolla Village. To Jaci Leigh Smith, it seemed like the perfect location.
Smith, who paints in oils, opened Fiore Del Mare Gallery in July.
She had been using a small studio space with a Prospect address when the tenant renting the adjoining space moved. After Smith's friends encouraged her to open her own gallery, she jumped at the chance to rent the vacant space and opened up an archway between the two rooms to expand her studio into a working gallery.
Visitors to the gallery can now stop by to watch Smith, who seems at ease about having an audience when she paints.
The gallery opening was the first time Smith formally exposed her art to the public. Having painted for the last 10 years, she had a huge body of work to display, so her work easily covered all the walls of her gallery.
Nature and her extensive travels serve as the main inspirations for Smith's works that include seascapes and landscapes. She has lived in Paris and Germany and has visited Italy, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.
"While traveling I take pictures of things that I think are beautiful and paint from those," she said.
Sunsets are just some of the beautiful scenes that she photographs, and for that reason, her Sedona, Arizona home remains a constant inspiration for her work.
"Our house is surrounded by red rocks, and they have some great sunsets there," she said. "I'm working on three pieces of Sedona right now - when I need to get away and paint, I love being there."
Smith also loves painting flowers, and one floral design in particular captivated her so much that she painted what she considers her signature work, "Burning Love." While living near the luxurious George V Hotel in Paris, Smith frequently visited its lobby to enjoy the lavish floral designs of Jeff Leatham, the artistic director of that Four Seasons hotel.
Impressed with the complexity and intensity of one of his colorful designs, Smith felt that the design matched her own passion for a challenge, so she endeavored to depict the softness of its rose petals, the intensity of its colors and shadows and the movement of its candles. Her 30-by-20-inch painting may be viewed at her Web site
Smith, who earned a business degree from Pepperdine University, first picked up a paintbrush 10 years ago in Hawaii. It was raining at the time, and her father, who paints abstracts, encouraged her to start painting too.
"I didn't know what I was doing as I looked out the window of his office and started painting the ocean and the cliff," Smith said. "I still have that painting to remind me of the first painting I did because my second and third paintings are amazing compared to my first."
Smith went on to study with Concetta Antico for three years at her Mission Hills studio.
"I spent four to five days a week training with her and she taught me a lot," Smith said.
Smith paints almost every day and prefers working on several paintings at the same time.
"I've got about 10 different paintings I'm working on right now, including a close up of grapes and grape leaves, a hibiscus flower and three of Sedona," she said.
Inspired by the local scenery, Smith also enjoys painting the view right off the balcony of her La Jolla home. One day she painted the cliffs, rocks and waves of the cove, and then she focused her artistic skills on depicting a beautiful tree in her neighbor's yard.
While the master impressionist, Claude Monet, is her favorite artist, Smith also admires the colorful impressionist style of contemporary painter Kent Wallace.
Smith's artistic goal is to become more involved in plein air painting.
"I've done two or three paintings on site in that way," she said. "It's looser, so I want to improve myself in that manner."
At this time, Fiore Del Mare Gallery is devoted solely to Smith's work, but she hopes to start rotating in the work of other artists soon.