Performing under pressure isn't anything new for Kate Smith. You don't become one of the top women's golfers in Nebraska history without being able to concentrate and block out spectators and cameras.
Again, we're talking about golf.
"But having a camera 2 inches from you painting intricate letters, and if you move, you'll mess it all up?" Smith said. "That was a new form of pressure."
As she does on the golf course, Smith performed admirably, using her steady hand to paint a beautiful holiday gouache on watercolor.
Nebraska's social media department used video of Smith painting to create a special holiday greeting on behalf of Nebraska Athletics, and to help Huskers everywhere celebrate this wonderful season. The painting itself has been on display in North Stadium.
"I thought it was too good of an offer to turn down," Smith said. "I just thought what a cool way to celebrate the holidays.
"The athletic department has done so much for me, so if I can help them celebrate the holidays, it's the least I can do."
Excited with the idea, Smith began painting different holiday designs to figure out what would work best for a Husker holiday card. She presented four digital mockups and two watercolor mockups before everyone agreed on the final design.
"I love graphic design, but I'm a lot more passionate about working with my hands and different materials," Smith said. "So this was kind of the best of both worlds, where I got to design graphics on the computer and then paint it in my own way in real life."
The painting features the red script Huskers logo over garland with a greeting message underneath.
"I think it was really good," Smith said. "It let the Husker logo shine but also added a little bit of fun for the holidays."
Smith initially thought she would do the work on her own time, but later learned she'd be painting in Richards Hall with cameras and spectators, including her mother, who was an art major in college.
"They asked me for a time frame," she said, "and I said, 'Well, I think I can get it done in 5 hours.' I had done similar paintings for my mom and my dad. Those both took 30 hours each. But this one had a lot of white space, so I thought 5 hours.
"We started at 10," Smith said, "and it was 1:45 when I started to put on the finishing touches. I didn't take any breaks, and I actually hadn't painted in a while. My parents were like, 'I think it's because you have a competitive nature that you have a time frame.' But it was a pretty awesome process to be able to create something just kind of out of the blue."
Were her parents correct?
"I don't really characterize myself as super competitive," Smith said, "but I'm definitely very motivated. If I'm given a task, I'm going to do it to the best of my abilities."
Smith, a senior from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, enters her final semester with a Nebraska record 73.60 career stroke average. She's produced 15 career top 10 finishes and is the most recent Husker to compete in an NCAA Regional.
A graphic design major with a minor in art, and two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Smith comes by her talents in both art and golf naturally. In addition to her mother's art background, Smith's grandmother was a professional painter, and her father is a teaching golf professional who has played professionally.
"I've always had the best of both worlds," Smith said, noting she enjoyed having her mother alongside for the painting, offering input.
Smith enjoyed the experience and didn't have issues or mistakes – or what artists call "happy accidents," she said, laughing.
"I always think I can do better, but I actually didn't mess up," Smith said. "I got through it, and I think my mom and I looked at each other like, 'Wow, that was a miracle. Nothing went wrong.' "