Radiant Resin

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A resin mixed media piece, “Mavericks,” by Christie Smith

In recent years, this art form has exploded in popularity, with locals Christie Smith and Mikayla Gierut crafting stunning pieces using the viscous substance.

By Ashley Ryan


Riding the Wave

Ask Christie Smith if she has always been an artist and you’ll get a resounding “no.” In fact, her background is in golf, though she says the two are not as different as you’d think.

Having played organized sports since the age of 8, Smith was offered a college scholarship for basketball and softball but suffered a knee injury in her second year. Taking some time off, she learned to play golf, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration and golf management from Methodist University in North Carolina. Smith became a professional golfer with the Ladies Professional Golf Association the same year she graduated and enjoyed a 20-year career that included competing in LPGA events, teaching at Stanford University and starting a corporate golf business. She retired, took up art and opened her own gallery in Northern California just under a decade ago.

“I was able to use all my experience as a golf professional and business person to help me move forward,” Smith explains. “… I have an organized, creative mind that allows me to be both an artist and also a business owner.”

When first starting out, she tried her hand at acrylic pours, abstract expressionism and figurative art, exploring various mediums and styles for four years. Now, she works mainly in acrylic and resin, though she says her resin art is the most popular at Unleashed Art Gallery, which she relocated to Laguna Beach in 2020.

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Christie Smith

“Working with resin was initially intimidating, because there were not too many artists using resin and there was little information about the process,” she says, having discovered the medium at an art festival she attended. “… Now, resin is so popular that the products are better, safer and less expensive.”

With an inventory of wood panels in a plethora of sizes and every color of pigment imaginable, Smith creates ocean-themed pieces, abstract art and food-safe olive wood cutting boards. She first settles on the composition of the piece and selects the appropriate panel, then sands it, tapes the edges and primes it before mixing the two-part resin and, finally, incorporating the color.

“Resin is a lot like cooking; you have to be precise in measuring the ingredients,” she notes. “… The worst thing that can happen is not having enough, as you are on a timer and cannot mix new resin with the old.” Smith also uses both a blowtorch and a heat gun to manipulate her medium, as well as a special element, using real sand in her ocean pieces.

Each artwork she creates is one-of-a-kind—the perfect touch for an artist that deals in the abstract. “No matter how many times I create with resin, there are always going to be some surprises. You have to really know how to surrender as a resin artist because, no matter how much you prepare, the resin is going to do what the resin wants to do.”

Though the resin sometimes has a mind of its own, Smith also refers to herself as an instinctual artist, adding that she creates based on her emotions as well as her love for nature. “My art represents my internal language of how I interpret my world and surroundings,” she says. “Each color and texture has a different vibration and frequency.”

Smith’s “Secrets of the Sea”

Moving both her gallery and her home to Laguna in the midst of the pandemic was the perfect choice, as she’s now surrounded by like-minded artists, galleries and natural spaces to explore. Living only five minutes from Unleashed, Smith says she has her personal information posted on the door and is often able to meet with clients after hours if necessary. “Our team is very much focused on the guest’s experience,” she notes.

And the town itself provides ample motivation for new pieces. “I can see whales and dolphins from my home,” Smith adds. “I go out [on a boat] as much as I can from Dana Point … to be on the ocean. … There is nothing more inspiring than feeling the salt air and riding the waves for inspiration in my artwork.”

Unleashed Art Gallery

650-776-4653; unleashedartgallery.com


Environmental Energy

Though Mikayla Gierut, founder and designer of her eponymous brand Kaylarae Resin Designs, now crafts mixed media art pieces, grazing boards, coasters and trays using resin, her creativity and subject matter has evolved greatly over the years.

Kayla Rae Resin Branding 2021
Artist Mikayla Gierut, founder of Kaylarae Resin Designs | Photo by Riley Starr Photography/@rileystarrphoto

“Some of my earliest memories of discovering my passion for art actually came from sketching horses,” Gierut recalls. “I started riding when I was … 4 years old, and would sit in the stalls after lessons waiting for my parents to pick me up with my sketchbook and charcoal pencil in hand.”

Once her parents recognized her interest in drawing, they signed her up for classes—followed by lessons in pottery, oil painting, sculpting and even resin art. But her formal education, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, was in an entirely different field: environmental science.

“I owe it to my degree for pointing me towards art,” Gierut says. “It drove me to focus on the beauty of our surroundings. … I found that my studies allowed me to form a newfound appreciation for [the world’s] complexities and mysteries.”

Looking to combine her passions into one career, she decided to pull inspiration from nature, specifically geologic formations and hydrologic processes. “I especially love to study the movement of water. … Some of my [other] favorite features to emulate include the unique layering and carving found in sandstone, an ancient rock that is extremely common along Laguna’s coastline … [and] the natural flow of watersheds as they carved their way through our canyons hundreds of thousands of years [ago].”

IMG_4937 Canyon Gierut_Riley Starr Photography/@rileystarrphoto
A quadriptych called “Canyon,” created by Gierut | Photo by Riley Starr Photography/@rileystarrphoto

After seeking out sustainably harvested wood on which to create, Gierut mixes museum-grade epoxy resin—as well as acrylic paint, inks and spray paint to produce the proper pigmentation and effect—and pours it over her canvas. “I then use a blowtorch to move and stretch the resin across the surface to create a chemical reaction that unveils unparalleled details between the contrasting pigments.” She repeats the process for several days to add new layers, which allows her to produce a multidimensional effect. Her larger artworks take anywhere from five to eight weeks to complete.

Resin, Gierut says, is “highly viscous, making it an incredibly difficult medium. … Each time I poured, I would come back 24 hours later and it would be a completely different piece from what I had originally intended. Though this was a little frustrating at first, I learned that there is beauty in the process of letting go of expectations.”

This challenge, she says, is what made her fall in love with the medium in the first place. “I liked that mystery, and loved it even more when I discovered how closely I could emulate geologic formations and coastline attributes.”

Even with the difficulties, which also include safety and health concerns, Gierut says that the process and the finished product are worth all of the effort. “I think what makes resin so exceptionally compelling to collectors is … its glass-like, reflective surface. … When a glossy resin artwork is styled on a wall, it reflects so much light into the space, creating the same brightening and room-enlarging effects that are commonly seen from a mirror.”

Riptide_Riley Starr Photography/@rileystarrphoto
“Riptide,” one of Gierut’s resin works | Photo by Riley Starr Photography/@rileystarrphoto

Currently, the Laguna resident’s work can be found on her website as well as at 7 Roots clothing store and French Buckets floral shop here in town, though she says she hopes to eventually partner with a local gallery for an exclusive collection.

“I love how Laguna is such a melting pot of creatives,” she adds. “No matter which part of town you are in, there is always a little corner dedicated toward its mission in preserving its humble beginnings as a creative hub for traveling artists.”

Kaylarae Resin Designs

949-264-2260; kaylaraeresin.com

Ripple Effect_Timothy Robert Smith
Timothy Robert Smith’s “Ripple Effect” | Photo by Timothy Robert Smith

Magical Mural

A new mural installed in recent months at Glenneyre and Mermaid streets was commissioned by Community Art Project, or CAP. “Ripple Effect” is 113 feet long and 13 feet tall, constructed on polytab, a nonwoven fabric thinner than a canvas that takes on the structure of whatever it’s applied to. With the help of students from Laguna College of Art & Design, artist and LCAD faculty member Timothy Robert Smith used acrylic paint to complete the piece. “It is a mural that focuses on a perspective shift for the viewer, where the floor literally twists beneath their feet,” Smith says. “It is about how our perception of reality changes our experience of it. It’s an invitation to consider everything that exists outside of our limited points of view.” Smith has previously created other murals in town, including “Upside Downtown Laguna Beach” and “Glimpse,” both near LCAD. (Community Art Project: caplaguna.org) (Timothy Robert Smith: timothyrobertsmith.com) Ashley Ryan


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Art Star Awards trophies | Photo by Jeff Rovner

Artful Awards

Laguna Beach Arts Alliance’s Art Star Awards made its return at seven-degrees on April 24 after a lengthy hiatus due to COVID-19, honoring the 2019 winners that never received their awards due to the 2020 cancellation. Allyson Allen, creator of the quilted “Piece-ful Protest” exhibit, was awarded the Honarkar Family Grant while the city of Laguna Beach’s temporary public art installations were deemed Best Arts Program. Other winners included Carla and Jeff Meberg for Individual Arts Patron of the Year, Ellen Richard and Ann E. Wareham of Laguna Playhouse for Arts Leadership, Lojo Simon for Artist of the Year, workshops hosted by LOCA Arts Education and the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association for Outstanding Arts Collaboration, Bree Burgess Rosen (performing arts) for Lifetime Achievement, and more. Journalist Marrie Stone served as guest speaker. (lagunabeacharts.org) A.R.

Gallery Events

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An untitled painting by Michael Callas | Photo by JoAnne Artman Gallery

Artist Eye Gallery

Celebrate Al and Stella Gerk throughout the month of June, as the pair’s photography is highlighted. New images are on display from Utah’s Arches, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks as well as Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska, aiming to showcase thoughts of solitude and the vastness of the world. (949-497-5898; artisteyegallerylaguna.com)

1953 poster by Dixie Hall
A 1953 poster by Dixie Hall, part of “Festival of Arts 90th Anniversary Exhibit” | Photo by Festival of Arts


Before or after stopping by the festival’s juried show this summer, visit the “Festival of Arts 90th Anniversary Exhibit” at its off-site gallery within Active Culture through Oct. 15. Displays showcase the history of the beloved event, using previous posters and photos from the festival over the years. (949-497-6582; foapom.com)

JoAnne Artman Gallery

Get in the spirit of the season with “Summer Lovin,’ ” a group show dedicated to carefree days spent in the summer sun. Through Aug. 15, view pieces depicting swimmers submerged in water by Greg Miller and Anja Van Herle’s playful feminine figures in addition to artwork by Michael Callas, Anna Kincaide and Mary Finlayson. (949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)

Laguna Beach City Hall

The Artists Fund at the Festival of Arts is in the midst of hosting its annual Art-To-Go exhibit at Laguna Beach City Hall, this year titled “What the World Needs Now.” A preview of more than 45 original pieces by festival exhibitors will be on display through June 28, then from July 2 to Aug. 28, they will be available to view or purchase at the festival grounds. All artwork was donated to support the organization’s Hardship Grant, given to local artists in need. (949-612-1949; theartistsfund-foa.org)

Las Laguna Art Gallery

“Golden—50 or Older,” a group exhibition on the perspective that comes with age, is winding to a close June 30, and will be followed up with “Women in Art,” a virtual showcase running from July 7-30 that celebrates female artists. An artist reception will take place at the gallery on opening night during First Thursdays Art Walk. (949-505-0950; laslagunaartgallery.com)

Crystal cove 9 x 12 Jesse Powell
“Crystal Cove” by Jesse Powell | Photo by Vanessa Rothe Fine Art

LCAD Gallery

A special Master of Fine Arts exhibit titled “Outlook/Insight: The LCAD Effect” is currently on display, with a sampling of artwork from the program’s recent graduate students. With pieces by Peter Clarke, Jill Maytorena, Kelley Mogilka and more, the artists hope that visitors can feel the artwork through observation and reflection. (949-376-6000; lcad.edu)

LPAPA Gallery

The annual “Less is More” exhibit launches July 7, this year in the new gallery space, and will run through Aug. 1 with a special awards reception on opening night. Explore this collection of little paintings with big impact online even sooner, as the virtual version kicks off July 4. (949-376-3635; lpapa.org)

Vanessa Rothe Fine Art

Through August, view “Midsummer Nights,” a curated collection of pieces celebrating the sunny days and warm nights of the season. The downtown gallery space will showcase a wide range of artwork, from seascapes by John Cosby and Ray Roberts to Parisian scenes by Jesse Powell. (949-280-1555; vanessarothefineart.com)

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