Speaking to your spirit

Published 6:00 am Friday, November 6, 2020

Marjorie “Margy” King Smith has made a remarkable impact in the area both as an artist and as a teacher of art, and she continues her work to this day.

Painting is one of Smith’s most prominent mediums, but her experience is hardly limited to that one.

“I’ve done them all, and I’ve had classes in my basement at home for years, about 20 years, I think,” she said. “And I taught art at the Calvary Christian School (in Buckingham) for 19 years, I think it was.”

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Among the different kinds of artwork she taught were watercolors, pastels, acrylic, and she and her students did crafts.

“We did the works,” she said.

Every summer, her Calvary Christian students would take their artwork to a competition at a school up north, and some did quite well, moving on to the next level.

“I had some that went up to the (state) level,” she said. “I had some very good art students.”

Smith was born out of state and later became a longtime resident of Buckingham County, but most recently she has lived in Farmville at The Woodland. And she is far from done with art.

“Oh, I’m teaching art here at (The Woodland),” she said. “I have a room, and I’ve been teaching art since the day I came.”

She said that day was about 15 years ago.

She has some students inside The Woodland and some that come from outside the facility. The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the outside students from coming for a time, but instruction will eventually continue.

Smith grew up farther south on the east coast than Virginia, and it is from there where she draws inspiration for some of her artwork.

“I was born and reared on a cotton and peanut farm in North Carolina,” she said. “My daddy was a farmer.”

Though some are guided by other people to pursue artistic endeavors, she doesn’t recall anyone prompting her to take up art.

“I sort of picked it up on my own,” she said.

She keeps some of her earliest artwork with her at The Woodland.

“I’ve got a portfolio right here in this room that I did when I was about 8 years old,” she said.

Among the pieces of artwork is an impressive caricatured drawing of a man wearing a bow tie and smoking a pipe.

“I wonder where in the world I got my ideas,” she said. “Very interesting.”

Her high school did not have an art teacher.

“But they recognized children that had artistic ability, and they promoted it,” she said, noting they would order things, like kits for oil painting, and give them to students like herself. “They didn’t have an art class, but they individually tried to give us a chance to (create art).”

The quality of her artwork continually garnered attention during her time as a student.

“When I graduated from school, I got a medal for being the most original art student,” she said.

She also established, fairly early on, an ability to produce art that earns blue ribbons.

“The first show I ever was in, it was there at school, and I got a blue ribbon,” she said. “And for three years in a row at the Five County Fair, I got the most blue ribbons of anybody that was there.”

Asked if she knew how many blue ribbons she has earned in total at the Farmville-based Five County Fair, she chuckled and said, “No.”

“I’ve got a dress that I wear at special occasions here for fun or whatever,” she said. “The dress has long sleeves, and it’s down to the floor, and it’s completely covered with blue ribbons — back and front.”

And the inspiration that has driven Smith’s award-winning creativity is something of which she is quite aware.

“I’ve been painting pictures of my past,” she said. “My daddy, he grew cotton. I had to pick cotton. I’ve got a picture over my couch of me in a cotton patch with a barn in the back.”

She’s painted a picture of her home she grew up in and some of its surroundings.

She has also created artwork focused on certain people. She said she once did a picture of what she thought Jesus might look like.

Smith was a widow who eventually remarried.

Unfortunately, her second husband, James Smith, also later passed away. With the artistic abilities she had developed by that point in her life, she decided to create a piece of artwork honoring him.

“I did a painting of an empty chair and a light that shone up to heaven, because that’s where he is,” she said. “The picture, it kind of speaks to your spirit.”