The impressionist: Nedra Smith

After a 20-year career as an art director in the D.C. area, Rappahannock County artist Nedra Smith returned some 13 years ago to her first loves — plein air and studio painting, as well as the Virginia Piedmont where she spent many years as a child — and quickly earned a name for herself with the American Impressionist Society and her many patrons.

Luke Christopher | Rappahannock News

Smith is profiled in the third of six “Artists of Rappahannock” video, part of a series exploring the symbiotic relationship of art and nature in Rappahannock. (There’s more about the videos in the box on this page).

“For years I did not pursue painting,” says Smith. “I’d always promised myself that I would be able to paint when I didn’t have to make a living at it. . . . It’s been a dream for me.”

Roger Piantadosi | Rappahannock News

Though she and husband Hugh Smith, a retired financial industry executive, still look after their large post-retirement project — a 40,000-square-foot antiques emporium in Florida — Smith credits the development of her remarkable talent to being able to make so many field trips — from just down the unpaved road from home near Battle Run, to the Grand Canyon, Europe and (most recently, with Hugh) the African bush. She also credits the workshops she’s taken over the last decade with some of the country’s best artists (including Kevin Macpherson, Scott Christensen, William Schneider, Carolyn Anderson, Roger Dale Brown and William Woodward).

In the video, Smith talks about how plein air painting — which involves you and your paints and easel being out in the elements for hours — informs all types of painting: “Aside from plein air painting just being wonderful, being out in nature,” she says, “it’s what it brings to your studio paintings, and your understanding of light and depth, that’s just vital.”

Roger Piantadosi | Rappahannock News

Whether it’s plein air or the other genres she enjoys, including portraiture, figural and still life, Smith says: “To me there’s just a lot of incredible pleasure in painting . . . and it’s because you’re taken into the world of your painting . . . into the world of your subject. And . . . then, hopefully at the end, if the painting turns out decent, it’s like a Christmas present!”

This video series was underwritten by the Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund of the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community — which, by the way, holds its annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio and Gallery Tour, to be held this year on Nov. 4-5. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the artists profiled in this series, and get a first-hand look at their works.

Nedra Smith: The Video

The video on Washington impressionistic oil painter Nedra Smith, the third in a series of short videos on the Artists of Rappahannock made possible with a grant from the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community’s Claudia Mitchell Fund, can also be found online at Synergist Media’s YouTube channel, along with four others in the series. In all, six videos will be completed by the end of October.

The videos are produced by Rappahannock News Contributing Editor Roger Piantadosi, with photographer/videographer Luke Christopher. More online at

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 545 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.