MEET A MOM—Shelby K. Smith - New Canaan & Darien Moms

Today’s Meet a Mom is Shelby K. Smith, a mother of two and an artist in Darien. A former beauty executive, Shelby is a self-taught artist who turned her talent—and passion for color—into a new hobby during the pandemic. Shelby’s modern, geometric works will be on display at her debut art exhibition on Friday, October 28 from 6:30pm-8:30pm at Make-Modern in Darien. Discover how Shelby turned her hobby into a new career, and what she loves about living in town.

Tell us about your family—how many kids do you have and what are their ages?
My husband Ian and I have two sons: Owen (17) and Brady (14). Owen is a senior at Darien High School and Brady is a freshman at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan.





When did you move to Darien and what led you to settle in town?
Ian and I moved to Darien in 2007 when Owen was in a stroller and Brady was in my stomach. After fifteen years of living in the city, it was time to make a change. We had one friend in town but mainly choose Darien because of its proximity to the city. Our first home was a rental, thinking that if we hated living in the suburbs, we could always move back. Brady was born in January 2008 and shortly after that we realized that Darien was the kind of place that we wanted to raise our family. It’s such a beautiful town (especially in the summer) and the people here make all the difference.

How did you get into painting? When did your art turn into more than just a hobby?
The art thing started during covid, when I found myself stuck at home and needed a creative outlet. We have a large unfinished basement which I turned into an art studio. At first it was just a hobby. I made art to fill the walls in my own home. Then I started making pieces as gifts for friends. I never wanted to sell my art. It was a pleasure project for me, and I did not want to ruin it by turning it into a business. But I kept getting asked by friends of friends to make them a commission piece. I think there is a real niche in the market for reasonably priced, original art for the purpose of home decoration.

What is your professional background?
My background is in the beauty industry where I spent 30 years developing brands, products, and color stories for companies like Estée Lauder and L’Oreal. My last senior role was as the head of Makeup Marketing for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. Bobbi was a mentor to me and taught me so much about the science and art of using color.

Describe your artwork and how you create each piece of work…
My art falls into the Modern Geometric category, which utilizes elements of color, shape, form and space in order to create an emotional response. It’s equal parts: Math and Art. The beauty of the Geometric style lies in its simplicity. My approach to art is from an aesthetic perspective. The goal with each piece is to create something beautiful. It’s not about making a statement about myself or my views about the world. It’s not that serious. I design art with the purpose of creating a sense of joy or evoking a feeling of aesthetic delight.

My inspiration for a new design comes from many different places. It could be a photograph I have seen or from the lines you see in a piece of furniture or architecture. I start with the initial design on my computer which I then sketch out onto canvas. I like to work in large scale. The best thing about this type of art is that there are no limitations in size. Color is also big part of my work. I have always been drawn to bright, bold and saturated colors. And while I have never been trained as an artist, my 30-year career developing products and shades in the cosmetics industry has certainly helped develop my color theory.





Why do you think this type of art is resonating so well with people at this point in time?
I think part of the reason that this type of art is resonating with people today lies in the fact that it is so simple. Shapes are boiled down to their basic form. It’s not complicated. It’s not controversial. It’s mathematical and precise and exists for the sole purpose of being aesthetically pleasing and for evoking a positive response. It’s designed to make someone feel good or to distract. It’s for those of us that are seeking an opportunity right now to get a break from the clutter in our own heads and to take in something beautiful with no other meaning attached.

What type of medium do you use in your art?
My main medium is acrylic on canvas, but I like to incorporate different textures and finishes into my pieces. I love the look of exposed linen and finish many of my pieces with a high shine resin coating. I have just started working in mixed media.




Tell us about the upcoming art exhibition.
Make-Modern is the perfect place to showcase my work. It’s such a bright, happy, and colorful space that serves as a creative outlet for adults and children in our community. I had no idea how many amazing classes they offer there. Everyone should check it out.

Until now, I have not sold my work through any retail space but the environment at Make-Modern was so perfect that I could not resist. Six of my art pieces are now on display and for sale at their studio location. In addition, the amazing team of Erika, Gwen and Laurie have offered to host my first gallery show at Make-Modern on Friday, October 28 from 6:30-8:30pm. The doors will be open for a wine and cheese reception, and everyone is welcome to attend.





Name your top band, TV show, book…
I love to listen to podcasts (SMARTLESS is my favorite) and audio books too. We took a trip to London this summer and I came home obsessed with British history. I have been tearing through books written by Philippa Gregory, who writes historical fiction novels about the Tudor time period.

Can you share the best advice you’ve ever received from a fellow mom?
Treat yourself like you would treat one of your own children. We moms do so much for everyone around us—our children, our husbands and even our parents. Most times, our needs come last, after everyone else has been taken care of. We need to remember to be kind to ourselves too and to be sure to prioritize our own needs as well as the needs of everyone else in our families.

When you need “me time,” what’s your go-to activity or way to relax?
My “me time” is spent playing tennis. Tennis has been such a positive outlet in my life. I did not play as a kid growing up, but picked up the sport shortly after moving to Darien. Aside from being great for my mental health, tennis is also a place where I have been able to develop strong and supportive friendships. It’s about doing something that has nothing to do with my husband or my kids. It’s a great way to challenge myself both mentally and physically.

We love supporting local businesses! What are your favorite places in town to….
Have Dinner: Rowayton Seafood
Lunch with Friends: Outside at 1020

Best Date Night: Scena 

Favorite Shop: Darien Sport Shop 

Nail Salon: Posh
Best Breakfast: Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich from Michael Joseph’s


Visit Shelby’s website and follow her on INSTAGRAM: @shelbyksmithart


Shelby K. Smith is a contemporary art enthusiast. She is inspired by minimalism and abstract art, which utilize elements of color, form and space in order to create an emotional response. Shelby has always been drawn to the aesthetic and is fascinated by the interplay of bright, bold and saturated colors. She uses geometric shapes and negative space and likes to incorporate different textures and finishes into her pieces. Before pursuing her passion for art, Shelby spent a life-long career in the beauty industry, working in senior roles and as a brand consultant for Estée Lauder, L’Oreal, Bobbi Brown and more. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, Shelby earned a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Florida and an M.A. in Communications from Fordham University. She lives in Darien, CT.

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