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What goes through the mind of a plein air artist? How do they study the landscape and come up with that one viewpoint that draws them in? Do the habits for success come quickly or do they unfold slowly over time? My guest, Matt Smith is an accomplished plein air artist who has spent much of his developing years in Arizona. In our conversation, Matt opens up about artists who have influenced and mentored him, how he studies the landscape, what it takes for an artist to find their voice, the value in self-criticism, common mistakes made by inexperienced artists, and much more. I can’t wait for you to hear from Matt’s seasoned and helpful perspective!
Celebrate what ignites your passion!
Can you think back to that moment when you first noticed that passion and excitement that awakened your desire to create? What was it that moved you in such a significant way? Did that moment lead you to find your artistic voice? For artist Matt Smith, it all came down to spending time in the desert and paying attention to what that environment awakened within him. He looks back at that period of his life as a turning point that really unlocked a new stream of creativity and direction in his career. What can you learn from Matt’s story? How do you celebrate your passion? Make sure to check out images of Matt’s artwork located at the end of this post!
The value of self-criticism.
Let’s face it, we all hate those artists who give off an air of having “Arrived” in their art career. What’s the solution? How do you fight back the ego and maintaining a healthy dose of humility as you grow as an artist? According to Matt Smith, a great way to stay humble and keep growing as an artist is to practice self-criticism. While this can be a slippery slope and lead some people to be too hard on themselves, it’s value and merits shouldn’t go ignored. What stage are you on in your journey? Do you need to up your game and give yourself some long overdue critiques?
Studying the landscape.
How do pick your next project? As an artist, I’m always fascinated with what captures my peer’s eye as they go about creating their next work of art. I feel like by understanding how others see the world around them, it starts to grow and heighten my awareness too. When I asked Matt what it is in the desert that captures his imagination he said that it generally comes down to contrasts that catch his eye. He was quick to add that it tends to shift from painting to painting but he always tries to circle back to the fundamentals of drawing, value, design, and color. Hearing from Matt’s viewpoint was really eye-opening and hope you get as much value from it as I did!
Slow down, pay attention, and don’t be in such a hurry!
Time and time again when I sit down with experienced artists I keep coming back to this theme of slowing down and paying attention. When I ask my guests like Matt Smith to share some advice they’d have for their younger selves they all end up saying, in one way or another, slow down. Are you slowing down enough in your routine and schedule to notice the scenes around you? What practices or habits have helped you slow down and pay attention? At the end of the day, we all could use a good reminder to stay aware of the beauty and significance that we pass by each day.
Outline of This Episode
- [4:30] I introduce my guest, Matt Smith.
- [6:00] Artists that inspired Matt along the way.
- [7:30] How spending time in Europe impacted Matt.
- [9:20] What is it that moves and inspires Matt to create art?
- [11:30] How did Matt connect with artists he admired?
- [16:30] Transitioning from “Art student” to professional artist.
- [19:00] The value of self-criticism.
- [20:30] How does an artist find their voice?
- [22:30] What is Matt currently obsessed with?
- [26:00] How has Matt’s setup changed over the years?
- [29:30] What catches Matt’s interest for motifs?
- [32:00] Common mistakes made by inexperienced artists.
- [34:30] Does Matt finish his painting outdoors or does he finish in his studio?
- [37:00] Challenges with bringing a larger idea into the studio.
- [40:30] Encouraging and discouraging trends in the art world.
- [43:30] Artwork that Matt would love to own from a living artist.
- [45:30] Slow down, pay attention, and don’t be in such a hurry!
- [50:30] The failures make the success so much more exciting.
- [52:00] What does Matt have coming up on his schedule?
Other artists mentioned on this episode
- Paul Pletka
- Frederic Remington
- Maynard Dixon
- James Reynolds
- N.C. Wyeth
- Clyde Aspevig
- Skip Whitcomb
- Edgar Alwin Payne
- George Carlson
- Christopher Blossom
- Quang Ho
- John Singer Sargent