From camera to canvas: Local lady brings travels to La Jolla gallery
by Will Bowen
Published - 11/24/10 - 04:06 PM | 6514 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jaci Leigh Smith sits under her painting “Villa Portofino." Photo by Will Bowen
Jaci Leigh Smith sits under her painting “Villa Portofino." Photo by Will Bowen
The Fiore Del Mare (Italian for “Flower of the Sea”) Gallery is a cozy and quaint two-roomed gallery, furnished with colorful paintings and Louis XIV-style furniture. The address is 1295 Prospect Place, Suite 109, but it is actually found on Rosalyn Street — a one-way alley located between The Prospect Rug Store and Tadahashi Sushi Restaurant.

Fiore Del Mare is owned and operated by Jaci (pronounced “Jay—cee”) Leigh Smith, a beautiful, stylish and talented La Jollan who could easily be mistaken for a fashion model. Fiore Del Mar Gallery originally started as Jaci’s personal painting studio, but about two years ago she transformed it into a gallery. She has a show of 19 oil paintings, which she describes as “contemporary Impressionism.” They are romantic and brightly colored landscapes, sunsets, flowers and travel destinations, which invoke a sense of longing and nostalgia.

“I like to exaggerate the color,” she says. “My paintings aren’t blurry like traditional Impressionism, but neither do they have the clarity of a photograph.”

Jaci derives her inspiration from her love of world travel. She takes her camera with her on her trips and looks for beautiful places to photograph. When she gets back home she paints these places with the photographs and her memories as the source point.

Other than Paris, her favorite travel destination is the Amalfi Coast in Italy, especially Portofino and the Isle of Capri, where she someday hopes to buy a villa and live. One of her paintings in the show depicts the village of Capri as seen from her hotel balcony at sunset. Another shows the villa she wants to own. For her next trip abroad she plans to go to Dubai in Saudi Arabia, where she will sandboard through the dunes, towed behind camels. After that, she’ll head to Tanzania for a safari and elephant ride.

Jaci started painting about 14 years ago at the urging of her father, a businessman living in Hawaii, who is an abstract painter in his spare time. For the last 10 years she has been the private student of Concetta Antico, who is associated with the Salon of Art and the Petite Salon in Mission Hills.

Jaci’s favorite painters are Monet and Antico, her teacher. Unlike some artists, Jaci does not have a regular schedule for painting — she paints at any time she feels inspired, day or night. She is always working on four or five paintings at a time, and picks up where she left off depending on her mood.

Jaci was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. She and her two brothers worked in a family grocery business, which was founded by their grandfather in the 1930s. By the age of 16, Jaci was balancing the ledgers of 10 stores from Texas to New Mexico. At 18, she went to college at Pepperdine University, where she graduated with a degree in business.

Jaci describes herself as a “clothes queen.” She has more than 150 pairs of shoes and all her closets are packed full of European fashion. Her favorite place to shop locally for clothes is “Matti’d” in Del Mar, for whom she sometimes models. Her favorite items are European designer jeans, halter tops, showy fun jewelry and handmade Italian sandals.

Jaci has three dogs: a golden doodle she calls “Mini Pony” but is named “Bella” and two shitzus, Oliver and Jasmine.

Jaci’s favorite place in the world to eat is Puny’s Restaurant in Portofino, Italy, where she likes to savor “pasta papa della Portofino,” a type of thick noodle pasta with a mix of red and green sauce, made in accordance with a secret family recipe.

Locally, Jaci likes to go to “Bull and Bear,” located at 8008 Girard Ave. overlooking the Cove, where they have three of her paintings on exhibit. When she is not paining, shopping, dining or walking her dogs, Jaci likes to work on restoring her dream car — a 1953 butter cream-colored Jaguar XK120.

Jaci Smith is a delightful young lady living the ideal La Jolla lifestyle of travel, art, fashion and romance. She adheres to the philosophy — “live every day like it’s your last.”

Fiore Del Mare is open by appointment only, but will soon be open regular hours on weekends. For more information visit or call (858) 551-7559 or (858) 699-4692 or email

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