March 2018 Artist’s Palette 10

How Two Artists Discovered the Art Within

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  

For Joe Smith and Claudia Altshuler, it wasn’t just an image they liberated, but the artist within. They discovered their artistic gift in the second chapter of their lives, revealing it’s never too late to carve a new path. And their art is an inspiring expression of this journey.

Joe Smith: Shedding the Suit and Tie for a Blacksmith’s Apron

After retiring as an accountant, Joe Smith, consulted with faith-based life coach, David Jewitt and his Your One Degree program to discover his next pursuit. Eight months later, he freed the artist within. “The Lord was directing me,” Smith shares. Now, he’s created a niche business making ironwork art and furniture.

Although predominately self taught, he now seeks short-term “apprenticeships” from master blacksmiths. He’s passionate about honing his craft. Perhaps this pursuit for precision reflects a trait that first led him to accounting. But now, he’s marrying exacting standards with subjective artistry to create art with high-quality craftsmanship and innovation. (He has been featured in national media arts publications.) “You grow in your craft. I’ve mastered different techniques and created things that two years ago, I wouldn’t have tried.”

His Collection:

He makes customized furniture from handcrafted coffee tables with grapes and grapevine motifs, executive office desks made from refurbished cargo wood, fireplace screens with cattail designs, to smaller decor items from vases with metal roses and hummingbirds, advent wreaths and candelabras (popular Christmas gifts), and campsite tools.

Strike While It’s Hot!

His studio is a workshop on his property. Here, he uses a gas forge he made himself and a coal forge that heats up to 2000 degrees for larger pieces of steel. Orange heat, dangerous sparks and sharp banging are common, but these harsh elements allow him to work with his hands and tap into the creativity within. And in this second chapter of his life, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Find Smith’s work:

The Market at Walnut Creek and 
RiverCity Trading Post.

On Facebook:

At Etsy:

Claudia Altshuler: A Storyteller Without Words

“Art as a reflection of ourselves.” Claudia Altshuler

Claudia Altshuler: A Storyteller Without Words

Nothing is more intuitive than the unspoken language of art. For Claudia Altshuler, she found creative expression through different non-verbal mediums. First as a child pianist. But when performance anxiety hit, she stopped peforming in public.

Then in her mid-thirties, she discovered another artist within. Her discovery occurred when she was newly married to her second husband– both a writer and ceramic hobbyist. After enrolling their children in courses at the Edmond Fine Arts Institute, she took a few herself. She discovered her gift after painting a portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci.

“Art makes me happy because I’m able to communicate without words. The canvas becomes my voice.”

Predominately self-taught, Altshuler also studied under master painters and still attends workshops to continually grow as an artist. But it’s French  Expressionism painter, Georges Rouault, who inspires her work. “In actuality, Rouault is in the thread of all my learning and continues to be.” She connects to his mastery of expressing the emotional and spiritual journey in his art. “I don’t paint to capture ‘what is.’ I’m an emotional and experiential painter. I paint as a storyteller, hoping the piece evokes a memory, feeling or simply contemplation.”

Her creativity extends to her method. While painting, she finds it helpful to reflect her piece in a mirror or paint a subject upside down to take her outside of what is. Her style is loose, bold and fearless. “I’m not worried about criticism or reception. I’m simply expressing.”


Steps to Nothing [Abstracts] and Portraits: Autobiographical, capturing Altshuler’s inner transformation; yet, expansive, so people connect with their story.

Florals: A seasonal, social collection, inspired by the emergence of life in the spring and summer.

Landscapes: Capture her emotional and spiritual experiences, inspired by different moments in nature.

Holiday: Her two separate series, Trees and Madonna, capture the beauty of Christmas—family, joy, connection and evaluation.

The Madonna series, “A Mother’s Prayer” and its sequel, “Answered Prayer”, express the bond of family and spiritual experiences.


“The whole reason why I paint is connection. When someone does connect, it’s the most beautiful feeling.”  As another avenue of connection, Altshuler writes a letter to clients purchasing an original piece, sharing the story behind the work they bought. She also enjoys meeting clients in person and hearing how her work resonates with their story.

“The beauty of painting is it creates a conversation among the painter, the canvas and the viewer. As people approach anything, each comes from a different place, so the conversations are varied. I paint because it is communication without limitations.”

Find Claudia:


Studio: By appointment 918-899-5959

In person: The Market at Walnut Creek

Come meet Claudia at The Market for its “Pop Up Open House” featuring local artists on March 9th & 10th from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.