Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer and speaker concerned with issues involving order, creativity, balance, meaning and righteousness. She has been photographing professionally for more than 25 years; taught English and Art as an integrated subject for 5 years; and writes on topics related to C.S. Lewis, spiritual development, and the arts intersecting culture. Lancia hosts the website Cultivating the Good, the True and the Beautiful, where viewers can read about artists living out their faith and creativity.
It has been my blessing to have known Lancia for going on three years now. I have found her to be a kindred spirit as our thoughts and aspirations regarding faith, art, and culture bubble from the same deep well. I recently caught up with her to get her thoughts on inspiration, art, and connection.
Kelly: What/Who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?
Lancia: My constant sources of inspiration, sources that have been steady over the years, are still in books, especially Scripture; music; the garden; and people. Probably not much surprise there really, given that I am a writer, photographer, gardener, and “people tender.” Just past Scripture, I have loved and maintained an abiding interest in the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, and Madeleine L’Engle. When I am weary with certain passages of life or feel that I’ve lost my way, I come home to Middle Earth and am revived. But I maintain a steady diet of Lewis and MacDonald and never seem to tire of either. I have loved the artwork of painters George Hinke, John William Waterhouse, and Edward Robert Hughes; illustrators Adrienne Segur, Sulmuth Wulfing, and Beatrix Potter. Music is more of a strangely mixed bag. I have always loved Vivaldi. For four years in my early adulthood I played the Four Seasons every morning. All of it. Every morning. Pavorotti never ceases to move me – Nessum Dorma in particular reduces me to weeping every time. (And for that reason I don’t listen to it very often anymore!) I have loved the music of Fernando Ortega for years and the music of Josh Groban. Yes, lofty friends – Josh Groban, his earlier albums most of all. Now that I think about it however, most of the music I have really loved and listened to deeply over the years is without words, except for a handful of singers. I love violins, cellos and strings. For the past eighteen years I have found a faithful inspiration and healing in the garden – have designed several, some professionally, and always find solace in the peaceful company of plants and the task of watering them.
But most certainly – even for an inveterate introvert such as myself, I find my deepest inspiration either in the company of God, my husband Peter, or in the gathering of God’s people. Something happens to me when I am in the midst of a merry gathering at the table either with our house church or with Lewis and Tolkien people that makes all the doldrums of life seem worth every second. I find the conferences put on by the C.S. Lewis Foundation especially inspiring because everyone there is overflowing with such similar loves and passions. We all end up finding ourselves among such kindred kind.
K: What current/contemporary artists (musicians, poets, painters, photographers, filmmakers, etc.) are you following/do you recommend?
L: Current and contemporary artists that I follow seem to be an ever growing circle. I am blessed to know and be friends with many highly creative and remarkable people. For music I have a wide and very eclectic taste. Steve Bell, Trace Bundy, Josh Garrels, Kemper Crabb and Brooke Fraser are among my favourite musicians in the world. And as truly unholy as it sounds, I love the music of Two Steps From Hell who write trailer music for movies. Similarly I love several movie soundtrack composers – Han Zimmer and James Newton Howard especially. I listen to a lot of music by Brian Crane – piano music that is soft and helps me focus when I am writing or processing images. And I have been moved by the work of a new artist – Matthew Clark.
Regina Mountjoy (who beautifully is also my eldest daughter) is a constant source of inspiration to me as a photographer and is without a doubt the photographer I most aspire to shoot like. Though our styles are very different, the quality of hers has set nearly every standard I steer by since she started shooting. Malcolm Guite is the poet par excellence in my world of poetry reading and as a speaker he seems to have no equal. For more emerging writers entering the field, Lanier Ivester rules the roost of my heart, bar none. But I am also moved by the superlative writing found over at the great site called The Rabbit Room. Andi Ashworth and Art House America are a constant source of some of the finest essay writing I know. Sarah Clarkson also inspires me with the way she writes but also with the way she lives. Lanier, Andi and Sarah all move me in that way. I am amazed at the voice and work emerging from Brett McCracken who writes some of the best movie reviews anywhere to be found. I love the work of Jason Lethcoe of Wizardtree both as writer and as astonishing illustrator. As someone who was a dancer in my much younger days, I am always moved by the magnificent dance troupe Ad Deum Dance Company based in Houston. I love the work of Devin Brown and Diana Glyer, both Lewis scholars. I am personally inspired by Adam Bradley of Adam Fusion who is a videographer. I am deeply inspired by my daughter Pahtyana and her husband Clinton as they work to raise support so they can go to Kenya as missionaries. This particular inspiration has been hard for me to come to peace with these past two years and costly to me on emotional and spiritual levels. But I am moved and challenged and reassured when I watch their growth. I am less inspired, I have to say, by the fact that of course, they will also be taking their two darling daughters with them instead of leaving them with Peter and me! I would be remiss in not mentioning that my husband Peter and I have loved the Codex Alera series by author Jim Butcher (some irreverent fantasy and action writing at its best!). Some of the very happiest hours of my life have been lying in bed listening to Peter read to me for hours from it. I love Pinterest and it is my treat and resting place for when I complete tasks and goals. And I love practically every Marvel movie out – most especially Thor and the Avengers! They both inspire me because I see so much prophetic truth in them. Really.
I find inspiration in virtually everyone I photograph. People’s faces move me more than I can say and it is my great honour and pleasure to help my subjects see some of the profound beauty I see in them. And, I am indeed, inspired by you Kelly, both in the way you write and in the tender, patient way you nudge voices to emerge that might be just too shy to step into a larger world.
K: How can readers of All Nine get involved in what you’re doing?
L: Thanks for asking! You can best support me in what I am doing by becoming a blog follow on my website (which I would dearly appreciate!) at www.lanciaesmith.com and by praying for the work I am doing in Cultivating the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Recommend the website to others and make comments on the articles. You can also follow me on Facebook.