Painter/musician Holly Smith plays her harp at the recent Okanagan Artists of Canada fall art show held at Paddlewheel Park Hall. Smith is about to open her first solo exhibition at the Vernon Community Arts Centre.

Painter/musician Holly Smith plays her harp at the recent Okanagan Artists of Canada fall art show held at Paddlewheel Park Hall. Smith is about to open her first solo exhibition at the Vernon Community Arts Centre.

Artist takes viewers on a Walkabout

Coldstream artist Holly Smith is holding her first solo exhibition of watercolours and acrylics at the Vernon Community Arts Centre.

It’s a rite of passage, a spiritual journey embarked on by young male Australian Aborigines to retrace their ancestors’ path through the outback.

And now a local artist is about to show the results from her own “walkabout.”

Coldstream artist Holly Smith is holding her first solo exhibition of watercolours and acrylics in the Centre Gallery at the Vernon Community Arts Centre.

The show, entitled Walkabout – A Six-Year Journey with a Paintbrush, is a retrospective of the work Smith has been producing since she started painting in 2008.

“The exhibition’s title came from the realization that most of the images I have painted are directly related to walks and hikes I have taken with dogs, family, and friends here in the North Okanagan and elsewhere,” said Smith.

“Travelling is still an adventure for me and I  have found joy in trying to capture places that have touched my heart. Like any traveller, I have welcomed the advice of others who have been on similar journeys. They say ‘when you are ready, the teacher will appear,’ and that has certainly been my experience.”

Not only a visual artist, Smith is also a musician and is known to travel with her harp to perform at local events and play her peaceful music as a volunteer at the Hospice House in Vernon.

“I love going to hospice every week,” she said. “The harp is such a forgiving instrument as it’s not painful for your family to hear it when you are learning. I love it.”

Smith started playing the  instrument approximately 12 years ago after she and her best friend Mary Stebbins attended a concert by Okanagan harp trio AnamCara at the Vernon Community  Music School’s Carriage House Loft.

“The women came up the stairs in these red velvet dresses and started playing. I was mesmerized,” said Smith. “Mary said ‘I want to learn how to play one of those,’ and she said I should too.”

Smith signed up for lessons with AnamCara founder and VCMS harp instructor Caroline Mackay, and has been playing the harp ever since.

A former music and grade school teacher herself, Smith taught at Kidston and Coldstream elementary schools before retiring. Painting has since become a preoccupation.

Smith is now a member of both the North Okanagan chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists as well as the Okanagan Artists of Canada and has shown her work in numerous group exhibitions.

Smith’s  Walkabout, A Six-Year Journey with a Paintbrush opens at the Vernon Community Arts Centre (located at the east entrance to Polson Park beside the Okanagan Science Centre) on Friday, Jan. 9 from 2 to 5 p.m.

“I am happy to talk to anyone interested in getting started on their own artistic journey,” said Smith, adding visitors can also expect a harp tune or two.

The show at the VCAC runs until the end of January.