Brian Smith is a rather unlikely story in the art world. After losing interest in art early on in his life for an entire decade, around the age of 30 he came back in full force after being inspired by some fellow artists and changing conditions in the art world. Six or seven years later after his big restart Brian has amassed a striking collection of mysterious, deep and often dark paintings. After I invited him to join us over a year ago Brian is excited to finally join up and offer his first artwork release through our channels. I took some time to talk with Brian and unveil a bit more of the backstory behind his intense and provocative creations.
Peter Westermann: How would you describe your own style? If you were to explain what your work was all about to someone who has never seen it before, what would you tell them?
Brian Smith: I would tell them that it's kinda dark, kinda weird. . kinda futuristic. Psychedelic. A little abstract. It's best to just show them pics on a smart phone, haha.
Peter: When you were young would you have guessed that you would someday be creating kinda weird and dark art? What were your interests as a kid?
Brian: Yes. These were the things I drew as a kid and I've always wanted to make art. It just took years to get around to making it a full-time kind of thing. I did the same things any kid does. Or used to, anyway. I rode dirtbikes, bmx bikes, skateboards, played some sports, played ancient video games, went to arcades, watched what little TV we had back then. I used to look through a lot of art books and draw weird things. I grew up in the '70s-'80s so things were very different back then.
Peter: I read somewhere that you took about 10 years off from making art. What were you doing during that time, and why did you stop?
Brian: The main reason was that back then I had absolutely no idea how to make any money selling art. In those days before the internet, it was 10,000 times more difficult to get your work out there. You basically HAD to try to get into galleries, and even if you did, that was no guarantee that your work would sell. I tried for a while, but eventually ran out of time and had to find a job. 10 years later I'd had enough and wanted to do my own thing. It was an easy decision to make. I wanted to get back into making art, and knew the internet opened up a whole new world of possibilities for artists, so I gave it a shot.
Peter: The psychedelic component that you mentioned is one of the main connective aspects for the artists in this collective, and a big influence in the artwork revival we are seeing all over the world. What does psychedelic mean to you?
Brian: I think it has to do with the secrets and mysteries of the universe. Giant, infinite things that are impossible to describe. Things like great art and music seem to have a way of scratching that surface.
Peter: You often visit some of the darker aspects of these impossibilities, although you also have work on the other end of the spectrum. What kind of thoughts do you have about your work in relation to darkness and light? What would you tell someone who wanted to understand a bit more about the darker side of art?
Brian: I think dark art has been around forever. It doesn't have to be a skull or something with sharp teeth, it could be a painting of an ocean, or something you can see in the eyes of a kid, or in the lighting of a great landscape. It's all about the mystery, and the mood or vibe of the piece. I think all great works of art almost have to have a darker element or undertone. Great things can be found in dark places. I think that’s where we face our fears and find out who we are, overcome adversity. . things like that. So it’s important that they find their way to the surface of a painting, or song, or any kind of art.
Peter: That's an easy way to think about it. Since you've gone into these dark and mysterious places, a lot of your characters seem to display states of conflict or self-reflection. Has creating art with these qualities helped you better understand and deal with any of your own conflicts?
Brian: It’s possible, but I don’t think it’s helped me to resolve any kinds of specific conflicts or issues or anything like that. It’s helped in plenty of other ways. It’s definitely given me a purpose and a hell of a lot more freedom than I ever had before. I paint all day every day, which is exactly what I want to be doing with my time. That’s kind of a priceless thing, and a world away from what I knew before.
Peter: When you create character pieces do you have specific thoughts or stories behind them before you start, or do they sort of come to life as you paint them? Are any of them influenced by actual people in your life?
Brian: No actual people or specific thoughts, only very vague ones. Most pieces take a few weeks, so that gives me plenty of time to let each one develop on its own. By the time they're done, it's usually much different than anything I could've imagined.
Peter: Now that you've made it this far and have this wild collection of images, what are some of the more surprising things for you about going deep into the world of art? And any thoughts on what you'd like to see happen in the future?
Brian: I'm surprised at some of the good art I've seen out there lately. Maybe I'm just starting to notice it, or maybe there's just more of it online, . . I'm not sure. But I hope it just keeps getting better and better. That goes for all of it, . . . movies, music, etc.
Peter: What are some of the most memorable things people have told you about your work?
Brian: I really can't think of anything offhand, but I get a pretty good response to my work. Someone recently told me how "heartbreaking" it is. . and I liked that. Sometimes people don't know what to say, and that can be good too, haha.