Artist Interview - Dan Smith
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Dan Smith (aka Smithy) and I am a pencil artist. I specialize in realistic drawing which started off using graphite and charcoal pencils but I have now found my own style with coloured pencils.
Why do you do what you do?
I want to inspire people and show them that through consistency and everyday practice of your craft you can achieve whatever you want to do. Drawing and creating art is the only thing that completely calms and relaxes me. I love the process of creating a drawing from a blank piece of paper to showing people the progress, to the finished drawing. I feel like it is my calling in life and it really drives me to develop myself and my skills. Also, I have seen the happiness that my work can bring to people when I have drawn a family member or put two or three photographs together from family who have passed and it makes me very grateful to be able to do what I do.
What inspires your art?
There is no one specific thing that inspires me. My true inspiration comes from wanting to challenge myself. I create a portrait or drawing and on my next drawing, I always want to draw something that will be harder to create or a different technique so that I am constantly developing my skills. Seeing other artists create such beautiful and realistic work is also a huge driver for me as well as realising how helpful and amazing the art community is.
How and when did you get into art?
I started drawing in December 2019. I started drawing when my wife asked me to draw her grandparents and was purely just to give myself a new hobby. I literally started practicing for an hour or two when I was in bed watching the TV before I went to sleep. I posted it on social media and people started loving my drawings so it drove me to keep going and keep improving.
How has your practice changed over time?
I started off with graphite pencils and then went on to start including charcoal in my drawings. I started following some great coloured pencil artists and loved how interesting the process was with the different layers to create the finished product. Since then I have focussed on coloured pencil drawings and trying to improve my skills.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?
My favourite piece of art I have created is the drawing of my daughter's eye. I’d never done an eye drawing before but I just loved the challenge and the detail that went into creating the work. I feel like even when an eye drawing is partially finished it still looks amazing.
What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?
Be patient with yourself and keep practicing every single day. Consistency is a massive thing in improving your skills. There is nothing that compares to practice and there is no shortcut or course that will make you into a great artist overnight. Just keep patient and consistent and you will get to where you want to be. That’s the case in most things, not just art.
What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you find really helpful?
Always start with the darkest values of the drawing first. Once you have done the darkest values you will then be able to find your mid-tones a lot easier, making realism easier to achieve.
Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?
Keep your pencil layers really light as it’s easier to rectify. Always learn from your mistakes and to be honest I just go with my mistakes and use them as part of the work. If you keep your pencil layers light you shouldn’t be able to see your mistake.
What is your favorite Strathmore paper? Why?
I love the Strathmore Bristol Smooth Surface paper as the pencils go down onto the paper so naturally and smoothly. An amazing quality paper like Strathmore really makes a difference to your drawing. I have used other brands but found that the colours go down very chalky onto the paper and I could not get the desired smooth blending effect that I wanted.
What types of colors are you drawn to for your art and why?
I love realistic skin tones but then, on the other hand, I’ve done a few rainbow style portraits which were just as enjoyable so I’m a bit all over the place with my colour choices.
Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Colour, as I feel it’s a lot more free-flowing and you can be a lot more experimental.
Who are your favorite subjects to draw?
I love drawing realistic human portraits but I have just started drawing animals which have been a great new challenge. It was completely different from drawing people and required a lot more patience and time but was really enjoyable.
Who are your biggest influences (or who were when you started doing art)?
My biggest influence is CJ Hendry (@cj_hendry). Her work is just unbelievable and her creativity is on a completely new level. Artists who have really inspired me along my journey so far and who are incredible artists to check out are Chris Fitzpatrick (@chrisfitzart), Samantha Messias (@samantha_messias_art), and Rachel Dickison (@rd.artistry). They are all so approachable and helpful and have given me a lot of great advice along the way.
What’s the most common art-related question you get from your followers?
The main ones are, "How do I blend so smooth?" and also, "How do I get my proportions?" To blend, I throw down all of the colours that I can see in the section I am drawing and I burnish with a light colour in the opposite direction to the pencil strokes which blends everything together smoothly. For my proportions, I use the grid method or freehand. A good tip with the grid method is to use a light pencil (5h or 6h) and do the grid so light you can barely see it. Once you have sketched your outlines, use a mono eraser to go along the lines to erase them. You will not be able to see the grid at all after this.
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