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Artist Spotlight: Paul D Smith

1) Please tell us a little something about yourself.
Just some guy. Born in Montreal, grew up on Toronto, Ottawa, and Calgary, but also in the States I lived in St. Paul, LaCrosse, Charleston, Waukegan, and now Bremerton. Joined Uncle Sam`s Canoe club (US Navy) and proudly served for 20 years and retired out of the JAG corp. What I do now has nothing to do with my previous career but is still closely linked to the Navy.

2) What experiences influenced your artwork? Where do you get your ideas for your artwork?
Hmmm... two fold question. Influences. I grew up watching the first run (re-runs) of Star Trek on a tube TV with rabbit ears. I watched pretty much what my parents watched which was all things Scifi. Star Trek, Starlost, Space 1999, Battlestar Galactica, and a few imports from Europe that seems only Canada received that the US wouldn`t play. And damn are they now little gems of interest on the internet.
Idea for my work? I like the idea of the Navy in space. Star Trek does not have a monopoly on the concept. In fact a lot of it is pretty bad and way off. In my stories I try to bring my years of Navy experience to the table to ‘keep it real`. But also base things on current events and subject I feel are ones I enjoy. Write what you know. Add images to it and make it work. That`s my goal and philosophy.

3) Can you tell us a little about your creative process? How do you create your artwork? Do you sketch an idea first or do you keep the design in your head until you`re finished?
Since most of my work is graphic novels I`ll explain things from that perspective. I write everything out in Word. It`s a story. I write a core group of people. And write the story only with words. Then transfer that to powerpoint in blocks much like a comic book or graphic novel and lay things out so it makes some idea of sense. As for the poses and all. That`s in my head

4) When or how did you decide to get into digital artwork? Did you start with traditional media first or did you jump right into the digital world?
While stationed at Great lakes Naval Training Center, I was given Bryce, Poser and truSpace. The first had an interface that was blocky, terrible and didn`t fit my style and needs. It lasted two days. truSpace did meet what I liked. Google the layouts and you will understand. I started making some basic images with Nerbs and simple objects. It was easy to grasp and understand. Uncle Sam said I was need at Sea, and my computer needs couldn`t travel. for 10 years my digital experiences went dry. I`ve wondered where I would be today if there wasn`t a gap. Much like what if human history didn`t have a DarkAges, where would it be? So when I retired, my kids and wife said. Get a hobby. I picked up Poser. Nope still not my thing. What the hell is this other program? I saw this article on Chris Creek and followed up. So I tried it, and like truSpace I found the interface to be what I enjoyed.

4a) What tools do you use to create your artwork?
Two systems . an i7 3.8Ghz 16Gb with two 4Gb Nvidia 960`s and 2 4Tb drives. And a laptop I use for Travel and i7 Asus g74 given to me as a gift (I should point out due to minor damage on one corner there is no sound, no dvd, no blueray, no internet, no usb3) Perfect for 3D! Photoshop, Studio, Google Sketchup and Zbrush.

5) What made you decide to submit your artwork to sites like DeviantArt?
I don`t know. I`d switch to someplace else, but I`m not into the number of viewers or likes or comments. If one person likes an image. Then my goal is met. If one person likes a graphic novel, same thing. And if one person likes the stories I write, again same thing. But hey, more than one word feed back does help. How does one get better?

6) What piece of artwork are you most proud of?
Why? Tie. I think if would be I am Serena Hayslett. That graphic novel was to the point and showed some real growth in my abilities compared to the first one. The figures were relatable and more human feeling. The other is my written Star Wars book Lies with the Force. I`m a trekkie at heart and to step into the Star Wars universe and make this story pushed things for me in many ways.

7) What keeps you motivated when things don`t seem to be going your way? What are some challenges you`ve faced in your career?
Keeps me motivated? Just stop and walk away. Take a break. Life has challenges. I don`t work on 3D while anything but relaxed. Being an emotional wreck leads to be some bad stuff, same with writing the stories. I have an axe and piles of wood I can go chop. It`s also good exercise. And at some point, what`s nagging me will seem small and no longer an issue.
“Don`t think outside the box. Throw the box away.”

8) Do you accept commissions from people who enjoy your artwork?
I`ve read too many horror stories of commissions that went wrong. Too much open ended things left to chance and left to go wrong. I tend to avoid them.

9) How do you handle criticism of your artwork?
Well it`s an option, I spend 20 years defending and understanding the rights to express opinions. But keep it to the image.
The second the criticism is an attack on me. You had better be ready. I`m about to come along side and open all guns. In the court room character assassination is not acceptable, but you just overstepped yourself and entered my courtroom.

10) What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists who want to improve their artwork?
Listen, read, observe, and apply. Each image should stand on its own. A single flaw, do it over. So what if the image took 2 hours. Do it over. It`s your name at the end of the day that goes with that image.

11) Some people claim that digital art isn`t "real art" mainly because it`s made with software programs. How would you respond to this?
In the 70`s the same was said about Photoshop. Now not one photographer lives without it. In fact we`re seeing abuse of it. Take the picture and we`ll clean it up later. No skill with the camera. The people who claim what I do isn`t art. So what? It`s an opinion. I don`t have time for them. They whine, they complain not enough people see their images. in 80% of those cases I says this... Get a job, a productive one! And see the real world.
John Byrne a very successful comic book artist. If you look at his images, he uses Poser for his comics.
Lets use another example: If you look at the comic book Star Wars. Not the one we know but the 8 book series. That series that looked so cool and original. Every set in the background, was from Renderosity or DAZ! They just digitally penciled or penned over the lines and coloured/shaded over everything.

Then there is the last argument. Because I didn`t draw or paint it, it`s not art. Really? Give me a brush and I`ll start making self-expressionistic abstract rage in demur pastels. Mandatory college classes on Art appreciation have proven me all ages of human history have shown resistance to change the concept and belief in what defines art. Time will tell. Not the naysayers (go get a job!)

12) What are some of your more notable achievements? Have you been published in a magazine or exhibited your artwork at an art festival or gallery?
I have 17 or is it 18 graphic novels and comic strips, two published books. Two novels on DA (sorry no pictures you have to read for once). Notable achievements would be working with Roy Knight, we concocted a star trek pin for the mirror universe and as it turns out it`s sort of now a standard of the Star Trek lore. It's on the cover of issues #15 and #16 of the new Star Trek magazine.

13) Any other comments or anything else you`d like to say?
Smile when you make your images. Watch what kind of effect it has on your images.

You can see more of Paul's artwork on his DeviantArt page (link opens in a new window).


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