Local printmaker breathes new life into a centuries-old art form
Chelsea Smith is a young, contemporary artist raised with new technology at her fingertips, yet her method of creating art is decidedly old-school.
The 26-year-old is a printmaker who specializes in Renaissance-era copper plate etching. That means Chelsea uses the same techniques and types of tools as Rembrandt, the renowned Dutch artist who lived during the 1600s.
“Rembrandt is one of my artistic heroes,” says Chelsea, who lives in Casselberry. “It’s a cool thing to be able to show people the same method he used, but in the 21st century and with my own twist.”
Before she ever tried her hand at printmaking, Chelsea was already an accomplished artist. At age 12, she garnered media attention for her photo-realistic pencil drawings of pets, which she sold to raise money for local animal shelters. She also drew pet portraits for celebrities including musicians, actors, artist Peter Max, and even President Barack Obama.
Chelsea wasn’t exposed to the art of printmaking until college, and she was immediately hooked.
“Printmaking takes what I love about drawing – the fine lines and detail work – and makes it even more exciting for me,” says the Lake Howell High and UCF graduate, who uses X-Acto knives and other tools to etch her original compositions.
A self-described perfectionist, Chelsea can spend hundreds of hours producing a drawing that will eventually become an image to print. The time-consuming process of printmaking involves etching the image onto the copper plate, inking the plate, and pressing the paper onto the plate, which transfers the image to the paper.
“You can totally change your piece to whatever you want by using different ink colors and papers,” says Chelsea, who experiments with everything from sepia tones to bright Pop Art colors. “You can make the same image look traditional or contemporary.”
Much of her artistic inspiration comes from animals, nature, fantasy, and mythology. Chelsea, who is of English and Irish descent, often explores those subjects, as well as her own heritage, in her artwork. Her meticulously-rendered images include fanciful unicorns, majestic stags, and beautiful female faces.
The award-winning artist exhibits and sells her work at fine-art festivals, Renaissance fairs, and fandom conventions. She also regularly exhibits at local events, markets, and bazaars, including Casselberry’s Art & Music in the Park.
Her outdoor shows this spring will include the Uptown Art Expo in Altamonte Springs and the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts in Sanford. In January, she exhibited at the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games in Winter Springs, where her Celtic-inspired work is collected by young girls and burly men alike. Last year, Chelsea began branching out beyond the outdoor art show circuit. Her first-ever solo exhibit, Magical Realism... Etching Myths and Legends, ran for three months at the Orlando Public Library.
A member of the Seminole County Printmakers and the National Association of Women Artists, Chelsea hopes to add more gallery shows to her résumé this year. Her artwork is currently featured at the localARTicles Boutique at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
In February, Chelsea had the honor of giving a copper plate etching presentation at a Rembrandt art exhibit at Stetson University in DeLand. It was a dream come true for the Rembrandt devotee.
“I’m continuing a 500-year-old medium that is dying out because of technology,” Chelsea says. “I’m helping keep the tradition alive.”
To learn more about Chelsea’s work, visit ArtByChelsea.com or Instagram.com/ArtByChelseaSmith.
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