A Life In Art

By the age of six, I knew I wanted to be an artist like my father and his friends. In one of the rooms of our NYC apartment, my father, Sid,  had an easel, paints, brushes, and a drawing table where he did his work. I had an area on the floor next to him where I did my work.

In addition to being a fine artist, Sidney Smith, was an art director in a large NY advertising agency, and an excellent calligrapher. It was not unusual to see him at his drawing board in the hours before dawn working on an ad campaign, or sketching out preliminary drawings for future paintings.   

I have a clear memory of making my way through the smoky darkness of our apartment early one winter morning. Both of my parents were heavy smokers, and there was always a cloud of dense, acrid smoke, drifting languidly, hanging in the air.  I crept into my father's studio, drawn to the humming glow of fluorescence filling the space above his drawing table. The dramatic contrast of this man and his work, lit up inside the smoke and darkness of the room was nothing short of magical, made all the more entrancing by the ease and finesse with which my father could make marvelous somethings appear on gleaming white paper, where there had previously been nothing. Witnessing the process of his imagination being transformed into narrative images and words made a profound and indelible impression on me. It was on one of those dark, smoke-filled winter mornings that I knew I wanted to be an artist.

During those early years my father nurtured my creative spirit. He taught me to draw, paint and to write beautifully. We would make frequent trips to the great museums and galleries of New York. The cutting edge paintings of abstract expressionist artists,  Rothko, de Kooning, Kline, Pollock and Motherwell were familiar to me,  and I could differentiate one artist's work from another, very early on. 

At the age of twelve or thirteen I was enrolled at the Art Students League of N.Y. where I studied figure drawing. By the age of sixteen I was admitted to Pratt Institute where in the course of four years I had three significant teachers. The first two were German-expressionist Jochen Seidel, whose roots went straight back to the Bauhaus, and Ed Dugmore, who was a well known American abstract expressionist, often associated with Clyfford Still.  Robert Natkin was the spiritual descendent of Paul Klee and Pierre Bonnard. Seidel, Dugmore and Natkin instilled a deep appreciation for the traditions and history of art and its painters as well as providing an introduction to the sensuality and complexity of color, line and composition. Most importantly, they illuminated the path of the artist's way, one that is infused with passion, tenacity and uncertainty.  After earning a B.F.A. from Pratt, I studied with Phillip Pearlstein, who also had a long-lasting influence on my life and art. 

Beginning in 1967, I began exhibiting my work in NYC.

In 1979, I relocated to rural Sonoma County, in northern California, where I have maintained a studio, and have been fortunate to have collaborated with some stellar and noted musicians, dancers and poets in the last few decades. 

The art work I create mirrors my inner life, serving as an ongoing journal without words.  For me, painting is a means to access and process feelings, sensations, and information buried in the unconscious. It is also a way to reflect the beauty, depth and richness inherent in nature and humanity. 

I spend a lot of time outdoors, both in and outside of cities…. walking, observing. There is an organic, unselfconscious harmony created from chaos and seemingly random occurrences, fully charged with a sense of mystery rooted in the unknown that inspires me, and continually renews my reverence for life. In appreciating the beauty, fragility, wildness, mystery and transient quality in all life, it brings me to living/creating in the same spirit, and asks that I move through this world with greater stillness, awareness, and compassion.