Russell Smith knows a lot about airplanes, especially those of the WWI era. He knows the rich history, the pilots, the events surrounding their use, and the nuances of their form.No, he’s not a pilot. He is a gifted painter who specializes in aviation art.Smith, 43, has had an affinity for aviation since he was a child. He remembers flying in a plane at a young age and being aware of how the view from above provided a unique perspective of the world. He thought about becoming an aerospace engineer, but once he started taking art classes in college, he knew how he would pursue his love of aviation. Smith has worked in all mediums, but eventually came to work primarily in oils. After graduating from college, he spent 10 years working as a graphic designer. At the end of the workday, he would go home and work on his paintings for hours. “It was a lot of sleep deprivation,” said Smith. His goal was to work as a full-time artist. He created artwork, and built a customer base, but was hesitant to make the leap, always saying “maybe next year.” “It occurred to me that next year will never come. I felt I had enough of a customer base to support me, that it would be OK to try to for a year,” said Smith. That was 11 years ago. Since then, Smith has become one of a handful of painters specializing in World War I aviation art. His work has received acclaim and is collected by customers all over the world. Smith’s technique is modeled after the French Realist style of painting. His paintings look so realistic, the viewer feels drawn in to the scene. Smith’s process is involved. A history buff, he researches the history surrounding the work in his aviation art. After he collects as much information as possible and can imagine how a particular scene might have happened, he conveys it through his work, putting an artistic interpretation to a historical event. “I don’t just need to make it historically accurate. I have to make it evocative and draw the viewer in so they are interested,” said Smith. Smith is in demand for commissioned work from collectors around the world. He also occasionally has paintings available for sale to the public, featured on his website. His work has graced the covers of several aviation magazines and he has done art for books as well. Smith’s work has been in many galleries and he has been the recipient of several awards, including The “James V. Roy” award, the top award given by the American Society of Aviation Artists. He is the first artist in their history to win this award three times. Recognition of his work by curators at the National Air and Space Museum led to his nomination for a Smithsonian artist research fellowship. He submitted a proposal of a series of paintings of WWI aircrafts that are currently shown at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The time it takes for Smith to do a painting varies, with smaller works taking three to four weeks and larger pieces requiring three to four months. In addition, he does aviation art from WWII through the present, as well as landscapes and other artwork featuring a variety of different subjects. In all genres, he does original pieces and fine art reproductions. Prices for his work also varies, according to size and complexity. Smith has a unique website that not only appeals to aviation buffs, but anyone who appreciates artistic talent. He also has a section that explains his creative process from preliminary work to finished product. Smith lives in Matthews, with his wife Susan.
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013
Artist drawn to ‘wild blue yonder’
His focus is military planes of the WWI era
Russell Smith is a gifted painter who specializes in aviation art. COURTESY OF RUSSELL SMITH
Learn more: Check out Russell Smith at www.russellsmithart.com.