Sheila Smith was born and raised in Patterson, Arkansas. Her large, vibrant canvases are filled with swirling patterns of circles, rings, and abstract shapes, built up in layers with flowing acrylic paint.
The artist explains: “When I make art it is an expression of what I am going through. It helps me focus on good things in my life. It is never too late to try again. Sometimes it is hard to focus, and I feel overwhelmed. But color excites me so much, and I want others to feel that way when they see my paintings. God is giving me direction and ideas. I can put down my thoughts and feelings in an organized expression with my designs, whereas sometimes I can’t put the ideas into words. And then I see the beauty of color and shapes and the way I put them together, and I want to share that with others and hope it inspires hope in them. I want my paintings to give the feeling of love, comfort, and happiness. It is self-empowering to inspire these things in other people, because in turn I want to create more work. Also it is very empowering for a person with mental illness to show the world I can create something beautiful and organized that makes sense to me and others. I want to brighten people’s lives. I want to give people hope and encouragement to give them courage to keep moving forward with their lives no matter the struggles they live with. I am accomplishing my dream! I have a place to make art with people who understand me and see the potential in me.”
Sheila joined Project Onward in 2014 and currently lives in Bronzeville.