I have been a fan of Dylan Garrett Smith ever since I saw his work in “The Bees Knees” show at Alexi Era Gallery in St. Louis, his use of minimal color, haunting imagery and precision line work combine to be extremely powerful.
I recently got the chance to ask Dylan a few questions, found out a lot about his technique, got a great story about Paul Romano and was really surprised by his extensive viewing of Italian Soap Operas.
1. Can you tell me the first drawing / painting you remember that you were really proud of, or that other people seemed blown away by?
Yes! I actually came across a print of it by accident the other day in this black, faux leather portfolio I’ve had for over ten years. It was a self-portrait I painted in acrylic when I was 15 or so. At the time, I was really proud of how it came out and entered it into a local art show. Now I’m astounded by the fact that I was ever impressed with myself over it… But I guess that’s progress, ha!
2. You went to Pratt. Can you tell me what the work was like you submitted to them, and the story of when you got the letter saying you were accepted?
This is all pretty fresh in my mind, as I just came across that old portfolio. I had a large drawing pad filled with pencil and charcoal still-life drawings, self-portraits, and a lot of hands. (I’ve always enjoyed drawing hands.) There were a couple of designs I made for bands, a few paintings and pieces in progress, and out of focus photos of this really awful ceramic vase I had made. I went to some sort of open house event where they were looking over portfolios and my evaluation/critique went well. A couple of weeks later, I called admissions to see the status of my application and they told me that I would be accepted if I actually applied. Oops. I filled out the paperwork, sent it in, and within a couple of days, I received my letter of acceptance.
3. Your coming off of a bunch of shows in 2014 and getting ready for what is probably your biggest show to date at Rivet Gallery in February. So, how’s life? Enjoying the success, stressed, too busy to notice?
I treat every show equally; no matter how big or small it is, I feel the same amount of excitement and anxiety. Over the last couple of years, Arch Enemy Arts in Philly and Gristle Gallery in Brooklyn (as well as everyone associated with them) have been particularly supportive, and now I’m very much looking forward to working with Rivet Gallery. I’m enjoying where I am now compared to just a couple of years ago and it’s incredibly thrilling every time I see that I’m showing alongside one of my favorite artists. And while I always have this internal voice saying, “You’re not doing enough! You’re not making enough art! Get back in your studio and work harder!”, the success of being invited to show in more exhibitions and the positive response my work has received is motivating and inspiring.
4. Can you tell me about your technique, how you paint now and how it has changed / evolved over your life as an artist?
For years, my work was primarily made using printmaking techniques like screen printing, woodcuts, etc. or watercolor paintings with softer, more delicate colors. From there, my work shifted to a darker, more minimal palette. My current work is made using ashes, chalk-lead, and ink on black paper. I make the ashes from a specific type of paper that produces a light grey ash and I tone the paper with it or begin drawing the midtones. I then begin to push objects closer or further away by layering ink and ashes, using the white chalk-lead to highlight specific objects or textures.
5. Have you ever had an encounter with another artist that you found especially enlightening or inspiring (can you tell us the story).
I’m always surrounded by interesting, talented, and inspiring artists, so I’ve had many great conversations and enlightening moments, but I think one person, in particular, who is always inspiring to me is Paul Romano. Paul has been one of my favorite artists for a long time and we have become friends over the years. Whenever we are able to get together, I leave with a million ideas and can’t wait to get to my studio.
In October of 2012, I had a solo exhibition at Grindcore House in Philly and while Paul’s art was a huge inspiration to me, we had never met and I had no idea he was familiar with my work. That exhibition was different from any other I had previously participated in because I had created a new body of work, I was experimenting with new methods of conceptualizing my images, and my art had shifted in a new direction aesthetically. Paul came to the opening and while we were talking he asked if I had seen any pieces from the show he had just a couple of weeks before. After I said no, he showed me a photo of an image he had made with similar conceptual elements as a piece I had made for this exhibition and we both laughed at the similarities. Neither of us had seen what the other was producing, and as we joked about it, I felt a sense of camaraderie.
6. Let’s have some fun, a few lighthearted, short answer questions:
a. What music (if any) do you play while you paint?
There are a few albums I frequently listen to while I work- “Torn Beyond Reason” by Woods of Desolation “Burning for the Ancient” by Addaura “Long Division” by Low “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull” by Earth “The Collapse of Time” by Burrow “Times of Grace” by Neurosis
Other than that, I’ll work in silence or put on a documentary. I really enjoy listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson while I draw.
b. Have you ever watched a soap opera (if so, which ones)?
When I was in Italy, my television only had a few channels and one of them played nonstop Italian soap operas. I don’t remember the name of it, but I watched it and tried picking up on some of the language.
c. Jack or Lock (from Lost)?
I’m more of a Smoke Monster kinda guy! I really enjoyed how confused people were when it first appeared.
7. Any other projects you are working on right now or putting together for later this year / 2016?
I’m currently preparing for a solo exhibition at Howl Gallery in Fort Myers, FL on October 3rd of this year. I’m very excited to be showing a new body of work and I can’t wait to see it all together! Other than working on the pieces for that exhibition, I’ll be working on design commissions and finishing up recording a project I have with my friend, Dave Fylstra, that will most likely be released on the summer solstice of this year.