Wildcat Tracks: Hannah Grace Smith ’16
For some people, having to quarantine during this past year turned out to be a blessing in disguise. This was certainly the case for local artist Hannah Grace Smith ’16. “After painting on commission for several years, I started to become curious about doing some illustration work. I then had this opportunity come about right in the middle of quarantine and it felt like the perfect time to try it out!” she says. “The two women who own Hannah Bloom Books (the authors I worked with) had originally presented a different book to me. We began sketching through some ideas until they had this idea for A Day To Stay Home.” The children’s book was released this past November and tells the story of a little girl and her family discovering the adventure of staying home together. “The timing felt right with everything going on in our world, so we rushed to get it completed in time for Christmas. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work to figure out all of the ins and outs of illustrating and publishing.”
Although Hannah Grace had an early talent for painting, her passion for art was strengthened during high school and motivated by two special teachers.
I loved my time at Westminster and feel very grateful for the friends and education I received there.
“I would say watercolor painting with Mr. Sarra and Art History with Mrs. Dierking had the biggest impact on me,” Hannah Grace says. “I grew up painting but had slightly lost my passion for it throughout middle school and the start of high school, so I was a bit out of practice. I did not feel very motivated to jump back in. However, I signed up for AP Art History after hearing it was highly recommended. Mrs. Dierking truly made the subject come to life, and it’s impossible to leave her class not feeling passionate about the subject no matter your background in art. Her class rekindled my passion for art and I learned so much through her teaching that has stuck with me until this day. After leaving her class, I signed up for watercolor painting with Mr. Sarra. In his class, I definitely fell back in love with painting. Through his instruction, I feel I really made great strides in skill over the course of the semester and I haven’t stopped painting since!”
Hannah Grace is currently the K–6th grade art teacher at Covenant Christian School. “Teaching has been a huge learning curve! Going into the job, I had no teaching experience or training as a teacher. My mom has been a Kindergarten teacher for almost 15 years so I have seen her in her classroom, but on my first day I had never been in front of a class before. It has been a challenge to figure out as I go, but incredibly rewarding. It’s always fun to see the students responding well to projects and getting excited about the artist we’re learning about. It’s definitely a job that keeps me on my toes and changes every day!” Despite her busy schedule, Hannah Grace finds time to create beautiful pieces of art and is presently working on illustrating two more books on the side. She specializes in portraits and says she loves experimenting with mediums from oils to acrylics. “When asked to choose, I have to say oil portraits are my favorite to paint. However, I love switching between different mediums and subjects! Taking on new commissions always keeps me on my toes switching back and forth between different mediums, which I love. I don’t think I could just stick with one for the rest of my life — I like the new challenge each medium provides.”
Hannah Grace has some advice for aspiring artists: “I feel as though I’m learning as I go, but my best advice would be to not turn down any job or commission when first starting out. Each new job is a great learning experience! Everyone has to begin somewhere and especially with painting and drawing, the only way to grow as an artist is to continue painting. It can be intimidating to paint for other people, but I believe that it helps you grow immensely as an artist.”