Artist Profile: Helvi Smith

In my paintings, the red is green.
The purple is green and the white is also green.

How can that be?

Practically all the paint I use is leftover house paint from garage sales, thrift stores, and my local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store store.

I grew up going to garage sales and thrift stores, and second-hand is second nature to me.

I use many different tools when I am painting.
I use antique wood graining combs, bamboo skewers, pencil erasers, paint brushes, squirt bottles, fingers, serrated knives, screwdriversal, spatulas,
old socks, and whatever else is within reach to create shapes and textures on the canvas.

"Industry in Action"

I create templates out of styrofoam and make unique and individual prints.

I paint intuitively with abandon.

Because my paint color choices are whatever someone else did not use up, the fun for me is the challenge of putting my given colors, shapes, and textures together in a pleasing way.

Color has never scared me.


Not ever.

~ Helvi Smith

"Robot Flowers"


Smith’s energetic, Earth-friendly paintings take abstract shape—sometimes a bird, sometimes a deconstructed robot, always unrestrainedly fanciful—in her studio and gallery in Forest Grove, Oregon. Recently she has been painting re-purposed vinyl flooring purchased from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore as abstract floor cloths—functional art!

Smith is also working on an “ARTBLOX” project for the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem, all proceeds from which go to Zeek’s Artists Helping Artists fund for artists in need.

“Mary Lou bought a vintage cigarette machine and is converting it to an art-dispensing machine,” explains Smith. “Patrons will buy a $10 token and put it in the machine, pull a lever and get a one-of-a-kind piece of original art.”

"Three Tree Village"

You can find Smith’s colorful work currently on display in three galleries: Matter! Gallery in Olympia, which only displays recycled/upcycled artwork; Valley Art in Forest Grove, Oregon; and Sixth Street Art and Gifts in Prosser, Washington. You may also recognize her work from her recent showing in Corvallis’ own New Morning Bakery. Follow her journey at and on Facebook at

by Genevieve Weber