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: 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
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
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
Dean: I think my customers are
mainly people who like retro stuff. Elvis, The Beatles...
Digger: Are they wrinklies like
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
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
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.
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
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
Digger: So what about the
future, Dean? More of the same? Do you want to exhibit at the
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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