Drawn to Jaune Quick-To-See Smith

Celebrating the renowned artist with a comic about her life and work

An illustrated cover of a comic. A girl is holding a horse's face in her hands. The artist's name is in the top left corner.
The cover of "Jaune Quick-To-Smith: Becoming an Artist." All illustrations by Maddy Williams-Solberg.

Jaune Quick-To-See Smith (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) was born on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana in 1940. As a child, she escaped hardships through books and the drawings her father made for her. The comic, “Jaune Quick-To-Smith: Becoming an Artist” explores how throughout her long and distinguished career she has used her art to powerfully express her support for Native American communities.

The cover of the comic welcomes me right off the bat: it features a close-up of Jaune embracing a horse. But it feels more like a tete-a tete, a meeting of minds. Horses play an important role in her art and her life, as Jaune’s father was a horse trader. Horses will continue to appear in the comic, sometimes prancing outside of the margin. As we learn more about the artist’s life, we find that she too had to wander from prescribed lines in order to find fulfillment and success. “My father would draw little pictures of animals that I would carry in my pockets,” she says, “Along with reading books, it took me into a place that didn’t have violence in it, didn’t have hunger. It was just the most wonderful place to be.”

The comic continues to tell the story of Jaune’s early decision to become an artist and the strength and persistence that this required. Moments both tender and powerful mark this period in her life. As a teenager she was taken to the movies to see a film about French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and then started dressing like him in an effort to will herself to become an artist. Despite her obvious talents she was told by one teacher that she would never make it because she was a woman. Nevertheless, she painted, persisted, and persevered.

 I wanted to include as much of Jaune’s colorful spirit as I could into my narrative. The biggest challenge was finding the right palette to use across my work. After a lot of trial and error, I ended up with a luscious array of earthy colors that can be seen soaked into leather and other tan-toned surfaces. They’re bold and warm, and I think they reflect Quick-to-See Smith’s determined and inviting personality wonderfully.

— Maddy Williams-Solberg

Illustrator Maddy Williams-Solberg, a student at the Ringling College of Art and Design, has taken all the details of Quick-To-See Smith’s story and created a magical comic filled with wonderful moments, amazing horses, and maps of the United States. Maps are one of the signature elements inQuick-To-See Smith’s works, celebrating her Indigenous identity while at the same time acknowledging injustices that befall Native Americans.

Jaune Quick-To-See Smith Comic - Page 4 showing Jaune Quick-To-See Smith looking over a map of the United States

Maddy’s palette and deft drawings are worthy companions to Quick-To-See Smith’s works. She captures the feel and texture of the landscape that inspired the artist’s creativity. Her horses are endearing and both a presence and a spirit.

Learn more about Jaune Quick-To-See Smith in her own words in our “Meet the Artist” video series.

This comic is part of a series Drawn to Art: Tales of Inspiring Women Artists that illuminates the stories of women artists in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inspired by graphic novels, these short takes on artists’ lives were each drawn by a student-illustrator from the Ringling College of Art and Design.

We invite you to read the comic and share with your friends and young people in your life.

Categories