NAME: Dustin Smith
LOCATION: Denver, CO
Sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why.
That’s more difficult to do than it sounds. Controlled Anarchy. I’ve always been drawn towards photorealism in my painting. As I grew as an artist and learned about who I am, I began to break certain rules while maintaining my photorealism. The boundaries of the canvas became an inconvenience for my imagination, an unnecessary nuisance really. I have since broken the rules of boundaries and expanded in the X, Y, and Z dimensions. I’ve also spread a single painting across multiple canvases. I love not containing my art to a 2 dimensional, rectangular platform.
Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?
Absolutely. I was a typical 80’s and 90’s kid. I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Truth be told, I still am. I remember watching a television special about their creation with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. They showed some of the original concept sketches and I was in awe. I wanted to do that, so I drew turtle after turtle after turtle. I think I was in the 3rd or 4th grade and remember selling my sketches on the playground to other Ninja Turtle fans my age for a quarter a piece.
I eventually got into painting and evolved into what I’m known for now. However, I still spend time sketching in a comic book fashion for my own satisfaction. I’ve always been into comic books and I love going back to my roots.
What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?
Oils. I always end up wanting to go back over something and rework it a bit. The slow drying of oils allows me to do that. I spent some time with acrylics and always got too frustrated when they are dry and I can’t manipulate them.
Is there any particular experience, person, place or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.
Oh my. I’ve been inspired by so many things, places, and people. This is a good one. My friend is really into airplanes and photography. He was setting up a booth for himself at an airshow and invited me to share his space with my paintings. I browsed his photos and chose one to paint live. Near the end of the day, the plane that I had just painted showed up. I excitedly went up to introduce myself to the elderly pilot and showed him the painting. He proceeded to tell me about how he had only recently taken ownership of the plane. It had belonged to a life-long friend who had recently passed away. It touched my heart and I gave him the painting. When I did, he lit up. He spent maybe half an hour telling me about his friend’s war stories and adventures.
I feel that was the first time my art truly meant something and touched somebody.
What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?
It’s an equal mixture of exciting and terrifying. It’s kind of like dating, in a way. You share so much about yourself, and you are terrified of how it’s received. At first, I hated it. The praise was obviously well received, but negative criticism hit hard. Experience helps with that though. Art is subjective and not everyone is going to like what I do. That’s fine. The people that my art touches far outweigh the negatives.
What did winning the Award for Excellence mean to you?
I’ve always lived life for myself. If I’m happy, I’ll do it. Winning the Award for Excellence made me realize that others appreciate what makes me happy and where I put my effort. There were so many amazing artists there that night, many of which I spent time getting to know. When I heard my name called and realized that those 3 judges chose me, I was overwhelmed. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
What advice do you have for other artists who may be looking to get their work exhibited?
I can’t take credit for this, but I would love to pass it on. An artist for Top Cow Comics said, “Find your style and scream with it. Eventually, somebody will hear you.” There is so much truth in that. Don’t create something because somebody tells you that you should, or because it’s marketable. Be yourself. It’s a hard path, but the rewards at the end are worth the journey.