Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Artist of the Week

Geoffrey Todd Smith

Life is filled with details, and each detail no matter how small takes time. As details and time builds the entirety of a project or a life is amassed. You don't always realize that you move in a particular pattern or that you travel in a similar route each day, but there comes a day when you turn around and reflect on what these details have created. To view the mass of your life can be overwhelming or it can be beautiful, you may feel dizzy or you may feel satisfied. I imagine it depends on the choices you make, the lines you draw, the friends you chose. This is how I view the work of Chicago artist Geoffrey Todd Smith.

Working with gel pens, Geoffrey creates intricate patterns and designs. The details that he collects and goes over and repeats are numerous, and as they build colors begin to blend and shift. There is certain amount of history and change and movement contained in these pieces. Every angle is a different story, a different set of details in the collective work of Geoffrey Todd Smith.

Recently, Geoffrey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Geoffrey Todd Smith (GTS): They’re beautiful, elaborate and hand made representations of my visual experiences. Everything that has ever caught my eye has been filtered through me and released back into these images. I don’t try to make them look like anything specific. I look at them closely during their creation and afterward to recall their influences. They are intense. It’s exciting and challenging to make them.

OA: How much planning goes into creating one of your pieces? Are they sketched first?
GTS: They are never really planned. I think about a mood or energy I want for a drawing and I imagine what I want the image to look like. As the work develops I respond to choices I’ve made in the process and this always begins to transform the original thoughts. I am very flexible and pretty willing to take chances. No sketches.

OA: Using gel pens as opposed to paint does that limit your choice of colors? What are some ways you work around a limited palette (i.e. light/dark or pale/bold)?
GTS: It is important for me to set up limitations while making these drawings. The gel pens are just part of that. I also use gouache but I never mix my paint. The only mixing is an optical blending of the colors by the viewer. It is all based on the relationship between several colors. Their value, color and whether or not they are shiny or matte is ultimately what creates the vibration.
OA: Your work seems like it would very time intensive, how long does a typical piece take and when do you know it is complete?
GTS: The longest it has taken me is about 240 hours on one image. That one was kinda big. The small ones are usually between 20 and 60 hours. It really depends on how elaborate I want to make them and how much I drank the night before. Even the mildest hangovers make for painful days. I also have to take a lot of breaks. If I don’t I have a hard time driving when I leave the studio. My depth perception gets all fucked up with some of the color combinations.

OA: What are your thoughts on the art scene here in Chicago? (opportunities, individuals, organizations, etc)
GTS: I just read this interview with Scott Anderson on the Fecal Face website. I thought it was really generous and thoughtful. He made a comment at the end of it that suggested young artists think about their commitment before they embark on this difficult lifestyle of being an artist. People got so pissed off. I thought it was really appropriate in relation to your Chicago question. It is really fucking hard to be an artist and Chicago has a pretty limited number of galleries. It takes a lot of time to develop your work and establish relationships. Chicago can be a great place to do that if you are patient. I was really lucky to get to show my work at Western Exhibitions and I am grateful that the gallerist, Scott Speh is so dedicated and professional. I have had some other experiences that were anything but professional. Western Exhibitions is one of my favorite galleries and it was awesome to be invited to be a part of it.

OA: What's next for Geoffrey Todd Smith?
GTS: I have a couple group shows at the end of the summer. One is in Las Vegas at a new place called Main Gallery and another is in San Francisco. The one in San Francisco is at Fecal Face’s gallery and is curated by Ryan Christian. It features myself, Scott Anderson, Frank Magnotta, Michael “Tuffy” Rea, Neil Whitacre and a couple more.

In the fall I have a solo show at Main Gallery (same as above) titled, You Looked Me Up To Look Me Up & Down. The gallery director, Andreana, befriended me on Myspace a few months ago. I suggested that since we are now friends I should probably have a show at her gallery. She agreed.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
GTS: Yep. I like coffee. I am not too picky. Sorry that couldn’t be a bit more interesting.

OA: Do you listen to music while you create? Who are a few of your current favorites?
GTS: Today I listened to Xiu Xiu, Animal Collective, Panda Bear, Brightblack Morning Light, Lightning Bolt, Jens Lekman and the Microphones. I listen to cd’s from start to finish. I don’t have an Ipod.

For more information and more pieces by Geoffrey Todd Smith visit Western Exhibitions.

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