Jim Smither grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and began his painting career in 1993 after completing his studies at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. In addition to being an award-winning fine artist, Jim is a practicing landscape architect, urban planner, and urban designer. He teaches illustration and design at the Virginia Commonwealth University. His academic credentials include a master of urban design (University of Melbourne, Australia, 2005), a master of landscape architecture (University of Virginia, 1993) and a master of urban and regional planning (The George Washington University, 1991).
Jim’s academic training informed his painting by sharpening his focus for capturing the spatial and atmospheric qualities of landscapes and exploring the interplay of built and natural forms, including the earth, sky, water, vegetation, buildings, and public spaces. He has chosen the mediums of watercolor and water-based acrylic because of their ability to express the presence of light in places and represent times of day including night, twilight, and midday. People are often included in his work to give a sense of scale. He likes to work the full range of tonality, from light and medium transparent washes and glazes to rich colorful opaque dark colors. To create a sense of unity, he often paints with a limited color palette.
His strong interest in geography has led him across North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Asia. His subjects are based on on-site color, value, and compositional studies. The final work is done in his studio, where he works from memory and reference photographs. An important part of his process is editing the world he sees by adding new elements or by adjusting colors to enhance the pictorial qualities.