You are in the Special Features section - Dean Smith Art









Dean Smith Art 




Digger talked to Dean Smith. Based in Billericay, Essex, Dean paints his favourite icons from our wealth of pop culture. Elvis, Paul Weller, Hendrix, George Best, Michael Caine, The Beatles.

Dean also runs art courses for those looking for a creative and relaxing remedy to the stresses of modern life.







Digger: Hello Dean.

Dean: Hello David.

Digger: Please let us a bit about your background.

Dean: I've always drawn and painted since I was quite young. I remember the first Bobby Moore I ever did was when I was about five years old at school. Even in school a lot of my reports always said "Dean seems to really enjoy painting and drawing" so it was always there. And then when I left school I got a job in an engineering company and after a couple of years realised that I was incredibly bored and it just wasn't for me. I had the chance to take voluntary redundancy, which I did and then I went back to college.

Digger: Well done you. At a good time too.

Dean: Yes, at quite an early age - nineteen. My mum was supportive, just wanting me to do whatever it was I wanted to do and try different things out.

Digger: So what are your inspirations? Because it's quite a broad brush on your website, if you'll pardon the pun.

Dean: I've always enjoyed portraits and I've always enjoyed doing portraits of the things that I'm interested in,

Digger: That must help. It always does in anything you do.

Dean: And because I've always enjoyed music, it tended to be as a child and as a young adult my portraits would be pictures of Elvis, pictures of The Beatles, of Jimi Hendrix...

Digger: What is your generation Dean?

Dean: I'm seventies and eighties but really my musical history is a bit odd. In the seventies I wasn't really into any of the music around and I really got into Elvis and the whole fifties rock and roll era. So when I was sixteen, everybody else was doing the Mod revival thing and I was walking about it a drape jacket with a 'D.A.' So I was always twenty years behind everybody else.

Digger: Or twenty years ahead of your time, depending on which way you look at it?

Dean: Yes. I was doing that sort of thing and into Elvis and I was painting him and Billy Fury and Eddie Cochran.

Digger: People who a lot of your contemporaries wouldn't have heard of, I suppose?

Dean: That's right. Then after I had gone through that phase and come through the other side, when I got into my twenties I started getting into The Beatles. Their first album, Please Please Me was a real crossover between the old fifties rock and roll and early sixties stuff and Beat music. I got into that and that led me to other music of the sixties and then other icons of the sixties and then it just snowballed from there. I would see a Michael Caine film and think "Oh, he's really cool." So then I'd want to do a picture of him. And so it was all based on painting my icons.

Digger: Do you always use the same sorts of materials or do you go from watercolour to pastels to charcoal to oils?

Dean: I do experiment quite a lot with different materials. I run art classes here and most people want to start with watercolours because they think they are the easiest but they're really the hardest.

Digger: Isn't that strange?

Dean: It's all about controlling what is effectively thin paint and water whereas with acrylics and oils you often work almost direct from the tube and if you make a mistake that's fine - you can paint over it. With watercolours a lot of the time you make a mistake and that's it, you're stuck with it.

Digger: How are you with the Grand Masters?  Can you recognise them all and their techniques and styles when you see pieces of their work?

Dean: When I was at college and university we had to do a fair amount of the history of art so you do get to know all about different artists and their styles of work. Part of your own development is looking at what they were doing at the time and I suppose how they changed art in their day. Going back to the Renaissance, for example.





Digger: Somebody observed that a painting can say more about a moment than a photo and I suppose that's why they sent war artists out? 

Dean: Yes, but even in peaceful times it could be dangerous, the first artwork that used perspective for example. The guy who did it had to be really careful because it was at an age where if it looked too 3D and realistic they would have burned him at the stake!

Digger: Witchcraft? That's amazing.

Dean: Yes, some of the early artists had to really tread carefully on what they were putting into paintings and what they could and couldn't do.

Digger: They used to put hidden messages and imagery into their work.

Dean: That's it, yes.

Digger: Who are your customers, where are they coming from and what tends to be the most popular offerings?

Dean: I think my customers are mainly people who like retro stuff. Elvis, The Beatles...

Digger: Are they wrinklies like me?

Dean: No, just as many youngsters as older people. You speak to a lot of young people and they may not be aware of The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix although they sort of know some of the songs but equally there are a lot of youngsters that do like all that stuff and are into it.

Digger: What do you think of the music today Dean? Are you inspired by it?

Dean: Not particularly. I like some of it. Oasis obviously have just recently split up and Paul Weller is still really quite big but there just doesn't seem to be anybody big coming through who will be as iconic as the stars from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

Digger: Who will we be looking back on in twenty years' time?

Dean: No, when you think of the likes of David Bowie and Elton John who have been big stars for a long, long time. They became famous in the late sixties and ten years on they were they were still making really great records. They had gone beyond famous and had already reached that iconic status. When you look around at people who are there at the moment - Coldplay have been going ten years but you wouldn't look at them and say they are a really iconic band.

Digger: True.

Dean: Also when you look at this decade we're in, the last five or six years there have been no real anthems that have come out. Every decade has had those big anthems that get played all the time but that seems to have gone.

Digger: Yes.

Dean: They're the records of the decade, if you like and we haven't had those big songs. Music is definitely changing.

Digger: I suppose the ladies have had their moment, with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Duffy and now Adele.

Dean: Yes, Adele's really turning into a major player but if you look at Amy Winehouse and as talented as she was I wouldn't say she is iconic. Whether dying as young as she did will make a difference only time will tell, Look at Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison they are still quite highly regarded whereas if they hadn't died young maybe that would not be the case.

Digger: So, you do art classes as well. Do you like teaching?

Dean: I've been teaching for about thirteen years and I do enjoy it. The classes we run here there's quite a big social element to it as well.

Digger: "All down the pub afterwards." (Both laugh)

Dean: It's not that big a social element! People think of art classes and they think of ten or fifteen people around a table trying to do a picture of a mountain scene and it's not really like that. Everybody works on their own projects and works in a medium that they're most comfortable with.

Digger: And completely different styles too, I suppose?





Dean: Yes, that's right, because everybody has different interests. If you say to somebody "Right, we're going to do this today" you might get one or two that are interested and the rest thinking "Oh, I don't really want to do this." So they won't put so much of themselves into their artwork because it has no interest. But if they're working on a picture of a boat because they like boats or flowers because they like painting flowers then they're going to put a lot more into it and get a lot more out of it.

Digger: The only prize I ever won at school was a painting competition and it was because I had painted something different from what all the others were doing. It was at the time of the space race in the sixties. They all painted a rocket on the launch pad and I painted outer space with satellites and planets and so on. I got first prize and was well pleased with that.

Dean: It's not too late David.

Digger: No, but I think with art you really need to be able to invest a lot of time and yourself into it, don't you?

Dean: For somebody like me then yes, it is a passion and I enjoy painting and being creative. For some people it's something that, if they've got a stressful job, they can come along an do a couple of hours of art knowing that they're going to completely tune out of all the other stressful things going on in their lives. And for other people it's something that they just want to do sitting at home and as and when they feel like it. The main thing is that they're being creative and people like to be creative in all different ways. Fortunately a lot of them want to come to the classes and be creative here.

Digger: I suppose a lot of jobs don't lend themselves to being creative, especially as we're now a service industry society.

Dean: Yes that's right, children naturally want to paint and draw and I think by the time they get into their teenage years a lot of them lose that. It's a bit like the old days and going out and playing rather than sitting at home on the Xbox. Sometimes they forget about painting and drawing because they want to play computer games. It's nice that there are people who want to put paint to paper.

Digger: So what about the future, Dean? More of the same? Do you want to exhibit at the Royal Academy?

Dean:  I haven't really got that many ambitions. The business is ticking over quite comfortably. We have about 140 people coming in a week doing art classes. And then we have children's classes on top of that.

Digger: That's great. Are they from all over Essex?

Dean: Yes, probably the furthest anybody comes for an art class is a lady who come in from LA.

Digger: What?!

Dean: She comes over about four times a year to see her parents, tends to stay for about a month or two and she does art classes and she'll do two or three a week and that keeps her busy whiles she's over here. Then she'll go back and occasionally she'll come back and bring some specialist supplies with her which we sell in the shop. We have people from Romford, Hornchurch, Southend, Braintree.

Digger: All my old haunts Dean.

Dean: Yes. We've had people from all over.

Digger: It looks to me like you've found the winning formula Dean. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Dean: Thanks David.







Dean Smith Art - more than just an art studio



Our Studio is based upon the belief that creativity is the key to communication. Our team is committed to meeting those needs. As a result, a high percentage of our business is from teaching and our program of community outreach initiatives.
Creativity can often be hidden, unintentional and suppressed, through activating our imagination, intuition, and creative energy our aim is to explore new paths of artistic discovery and personal expression.
As practising artists, we are continually trying to explore our own creative development, alongside teaching and encouraging others to do the same with the development of their own creative practice, a means of exploring and communicating through self expression the world around them.
As well as providing a platform for self expression, this will also provide an important linkage to learning with a variety of mediums, taking a journey through their own creative process, which in turn can hopefully influence their own development and communication skills and can achieve a lasting benefit to them.



Studio 41, Barleylands Craft Village,
Billericay, Essex CM11 2UD,
Tel 01268 522973
Mob 07730 611994
(Please leave a voicemail message if you want a reply)








This page layout and content  is the intellectual property of and cannot be reproduced without express permission. 

We are not responsible for the content of external websites.

If we have inadvertently used any image on this web site which is in copyright and for which we, or our retailers on our behalf, do not have permission for use, please contact us so that we can rectify the situation immediately. Images in this article are, to the best of our knowledge, either in the public domain or copyrighted where indicated. 

Home Page | About | Contact | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy