Fiona Smith in her studio. Photo by Jordan Wheatley
Fiona Smith's art is for the birds—and we mean that in the best way possible.
Featured Artist Fiona Smith is an Australian artist whose love for birds inspires her to create breathtaking paintings.
Fiona's work showcases her unique ability to bring birds to life by depicting them in elaborately-patterned interior settings that make them feel like they're part of the family.
But, her paintings aren't just about the birds; they are also a celebration of the relationships between humans and other species.
In her creative process, Fiona draws inspiration from the birds living in her own backyard, collecting objects and creatures that catch her eye (much like a satin bowerbird collects trinkets).
Her goal is to create works of beauty that pay homage to the feathered creatures that share our world, inspiring viewers to connect with and appreciate the natural world in their own way.
Artwork Archive got the chance to chat with Fiona Smith about her creative process, success as an artist, and why birds are her subject of choice:
You can see more of her work on Discovery and learn more about her art practice below.
Fiona Smith in her studio alongside her painting entitled 'Tree of Life, Black Swan', 90 x 60 cm, photo courtesy of the artist
Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?
My work has transformed over a few years as I have followed my instincts.
I started off trying to embed my memories by painting people and places I loved. It was a way of keeping those things close. As I started interacting with buyers and followers on social media, I found myself responding to the things we had in common—leading me to concentrate on painting birds in nostalgic, highly patterned settings.
These works have become a portal for me to connect with others and one of my great pleasures is to hear how the paintings stimulate emotional responses.
It's fascinating how people associate certain birds with specific people they have loved and lost or pivotal times in their lives.
Can you walk us through your artistic process, from initial inspiration to finished painting?
It starts with a desire to challenge myself.
The subject may be a metallic object, a stack of towels, or a beautiful piece of furniture. I scour auction sites and museums for antique wallpaper and textile designs to incorporate into the background.
As for the avian subjects, I take my own photos and also pay for a stock photo agency to find shapes I like and to examine the feather construction.
I use Procreate to design the painting before I start—playing around with colors and arrangements. I create one painting at a time—rather than having multiple on the go at once. I usually do non-painting work in the mornings and then stand at the easel for eight to ten hours straight after lunch. Fortunately, my children are now grown and my husband likes to cook!
You like to present creatures and objects together to highlight the extraordinary relationships that can form between humans and other species. What do you want viewers to take away from your paintings in terms of that relationship?
I don’t believe that people buy my paintings because they think they are pretty or like the color scheme (even though both may be true).
Instead, I get feedback that people buy them because the birds and objects in the paintings go straight to their hearts. The works remind them of parents, aunts, and grandparents who loved the birds that shared their neighborhoods. The antique and vintage objects also stir fond memories.
For some reason, birds have always had an association with messages "from beyond." Flight is still a miracle for us, and deep in our bones, it is a primitive suspicion that a creature who can spy upon us from the sky must be wise, all-knowing, and somewhat mystical.
We dream of flapping our arms and taking to the sky.
Fiona Smith in her studio alongside her dog, Archie, photo courtesy of the artist
How do you capture the personalities and unique qualities of each bird you paint?
That is not something I consciously do—although I come to know the personalities of the birds that visit me on my balcony every day.
When I look for an image of a bird to paint, I am looking for a pose where the bird is engaging with the viewer and is not looking too fierce.
When a bird looks you directly in the eyes, unblinking, it can be intense … although, most of the time, it's probably just trying to communicate that it's ready for breakfast.
Fiona Smith, 'The Dressmaker', 51 x 41 x 4 cm, 'Maggie With Pom Poms for Sally Robins Lange', 70 x 60 x 4 cm and 'Kosciuszko Magpie', 120 x 90 x 4 cm
What does success as an artist mean to you?
This is something I regularly reassess to make sure I keep on track.
Because I started my professional art practice after a career as a journalist, my needs are not the same as someone straight out of education or with young children.
My big goal is to create work that is valued by others in an emotional sense—so much so that it is kept and appreciated through generations of a family.
I want to keep building and improving my skills, so I am always moving forward. I also want to make a decent living.
I think it's important that art is a sustainable career path and that it rewards people for their skills, creativity, and hard work.
Fiona Smith in her studio pictured with various works including 'Lost Flamingo', 90 x 60 x 4 cm, photo by Jordan Wheatley
Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory/manage your artwork?
Once my work started selling, I realized I needed a way to keep track of where everything was. I sell my art through various galleries and need to keep my business brain switched on so that I can respond to queries quickly and then get back to the easel.
The administration aspect of being an artist is essential to building a successful career, but it can take time away from the really valuable work of creating.
How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?
Whenever I complete an artwork, I photograph it and load it into Artwork Archive.
I use Artwork Archive to create Certificates of Authenticity when a painting is sold and to keep track of sales of limited edition prints. I keep my bio and artist statements in the My Docs feature, so I don’t need to hunt them down.
When I deliver works to a gallery, I provide them with an Inventory Report—so there is no confusion about the details of each work.
If I agree to do a private commission, I create a virtual gallery for the client to look at while we agree on a concept.
Fiona Smith, 'Glaukopis the Barn Owl', 60 x 50 x 0 cm
What advice would you give an emerging artist during this time?
An economic slowdown can be frightening when you work in an industry that depends on discretionary spending and where most people’s income is “marginal".
However, I would encourage young people to understand that it's easier now than ever to build a career as an artist. We can now use the internet and social media to sell directly to the public and, if you use your Gen Z skills to do that successfully, galleries will come knocking.
It remains to be seen what AI does to the sector. But, again, Is would advise people not to be frightened of it. That “horse has bolted” and I think it will reach into every industry—just as the internet did in the 1990s.
Artists must keep working on what makes their human-generated creativity special, to differentiate themselves from robots.
Fiona Smith in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist
Fiona Smith uses Artwork Archive to track her artwork, prepare professional reports for clients, and manage the admin side of her art business.
You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business.