Last night, I dreamt I got in a fender bender. After we had exchanged our info, I tried to drive away and ended up accidentally crunching into their bumper again. This happened three more times until I woke up gasping. I don’t need a dream analysis to tell me that I’m more than a little stressed out, and I don’t think I’m the only one. It has been hard to look away from this increasingly turbulent trainwreck of an election, hard to tune out the frantic and triggering buzz of all-consuming social media coverage, hard to stomach such blatant hostility towards women, hard to remember to put down your phone and close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As a nation, our collective nerves are shot. There has been too much hatred and heated defensiveness, too many platforms that allow ignorance and anger to grow like mold, and not nearly enough lightheartedness, love, or hope for the future.
Enter KT Smail. The Scottish-born, Brooklyn-based illustrator churns out delightfully dreamy female portraits with equally enchanting floral patterned backdrops. Her work is delicate yet bold: broad brushstrokes of bright color mingling with purposefully sketched lines. The feeling in each stroke is palpable, slow dancing between wildness and restraint.
Much of her Instagram is dedicated to illustrating high fashion couture shows, treating looks from Rodarte, Gucci, and Vetements to her unique, evocative blend of strict structure and freewheeling color, resulting in a larger-than-life love story between fashion and art. Her gorgeous florals are unabashedly feminine, flushed with color and swallowing us whole with their vibrancy and depth.
Smail’s portraits have an undeniable calming energy: detailed sketches drenched in color and movement, the unparalleled beauty of females and flowers. The remind me of the simple, bright, beautiful things in this world, the flowers that bloom every year in the springtime, the things that say so much using so little, that ask us to feel instead of think. They remind me of that Matisse quote: “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”
During these times, when it feels like anxiety has crept around every corner, it is important to remember the existence of sweet, small things: colors and flowers and the way a seemingly simple sketch can stop you short, can twist you up with emotion. Smail’s illustrations are a much-needed breath of fresh air and a much-appreciated reminder of beauty, both of which inspire a hopefulness for the future that we can all hold on to.