Latin Quarter Tapas by Steven G. Smith. Credit: Courtesy / Steven G. Smith

Making marks on paper since he was a child, artist Steven G. Smith was sent to the front of his fourth-grade classroom because he spent too much time drawing in the back. At a young age, Smith fed his desire to draw while visiting his grandparents on their farm in the summer since there was not much else to do after sundown.

Throughout his career in marketing in Ohio, he would continue to pursue a weekend career as a fine artist, always feeding his passion to capture people and places in an improvisational way of letting paint play upon canvas much like a jazz musician composing on the fly.

Retiring from his day job about 10 years ago allowed Smith to spend more time on his artistic endeavors, and moving to San Antonio afforded him opportunities to show his work at venues such as the Gallery 20/20, the San Antonio Art League & Museum, Inspire Fine Arts Center, Freight Gallery, and the Carver Community Cultural Center.

The result: In 2018, the San Antonio Art League honored Smith as its Artist of the Year. 

Smith’s subject matters include people, places, and musicians; oftentimes the motion of the brush captures the emotion of the player to the point where viewers can almost hear the notes play off the canvas.

And perhaps there’s good reason for that. Smith usually listens to blues or jazz music while creating his visual compositions. As musicians may improvise, so might Smith on the canvas using the emotions of the music to inspire the motion of his brushstrokes.

One can see this lyrical influence in paintings such as Bop, where the music appears to stream out of the horn player’s instrument. Or in The Court of King Oliver, viewers may feel like they hear the notes emanating from the bass when they look at the player’s expression.

Bop by Steven G. Smith. Credit: Courtesy / Steven G. Smith

As a way to capture quick studies, Smith relies on photography, “always seeing a painting in a photo,” he said, but using photos more so as an inspiration for a painting and not the representational translation from photo to painting.

“The painting transcends the photo to become my interpretation of the moment … my representational documentation of it,” Smith explained.

Travel is another big influence on Smith’s subject matter, and he’ll bring sketchbooks along or rely on photos to capture studies for canvas back at his studio. His Latin Quarter Tapas has a strong cubistic influence that puts you smack dab in the quarter with geometrics shaping up the surroundings.

So, what’s so extraordinary about this ordinary guy? That’s a question viewers can answer for themselves when the San Antonio Art League celebrates Smith as its Artist of the Year beginning with an opening reception for a retrospective of his works on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 130 King William St.

For more about Smith and his artistic endeavors, click here.

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Peter Szarmach

Peter Szarmach is a part-time marketer and photographer. His site, offers some of the beauty around us we sometimes miss or take for granted. He's also a board member at large with...