Young Bozeman artist receives recognition for painting her passion
By Julia Barton EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BOZEMAN – Montana-raised artist Averi Iris Smith takes inspiration from natural surroundings, turning local landscapes and wildlife into colorful paintings. Initially from Missoula, Smith is a sophomore at Gallatin High School in Bozeman, finding time between her studies and three sports to paint the things she loves.
Smith took to art from a young age, drawing at first with her grandfather, and moving to paints at the age of 10. Now 16, the young artist fell in love with acrylic, painting realistic portraiture of animals that her mother, Jill Smith, would show off to her friends. This led to a series of pet commissions and, most notably, a large bison painting that requested the use of colorful paints. Upon finishing, Smith couldn’t stay away from the brightly colored paints she had utilized in the piece, and began incorporating them into her work ever since.
To allow herself maximum creative freedom, especially as a high school student, Smith no longer does commissions, Jill explained. Rather, she paints what she is passionate about, and at her own pace—many of her paintings take multiple days to finish.
Inspiration for Smith’s artwork comes from all over Montana.
“I like to paint the closer places, the ones that feel like home,” Smith said, reflecting on landscape pieces she has done, featuring Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks as well as the Bridger Range. Even the colors she uses are often inspired by Montana sunsets and vistas, Smith says.
The painter finds influence in both subject and technique through the works of other Montana-based artists including Julie T. Chapman, Colt Idol and Rachel Pohl. After finding her start in acrylic paints, Smith saw a gallery showing of oil paintings and began experimenting with the medium in more abstract pieces. Now, a combination of acrylic and oil paintings make up Smith’s body of work.
For a piece she is working on for the Whitefish Art Show, Smith is exploring integrating gold leaf, a thin gold paper, into a painting of a bison.
“It’s amazing, I’m so glad that I get to do this as my job,” said Smith.
Despite balancing her time between the soccer field, basketball and tennis courts, and the classroom, Smith always makes time to create art that can be seen all over the state. Smith won the 2020 Sweet Pea Festival poster contest, has work displayed in the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and is Sage Lodge’s featured artist.
This summer, you can find her art as Whitefish Arts Festival, the Big Sky Art Auction and SLAM fest. She also sells art and houses her portfolio on her website, averiirisart.com.