Wess Smith, Digital Artist
I was educated at the Maryland Institute College of Art, MICA, where I received both a Bachelors and Master of Fine Arts Degree in painting and printmaking. I also have a second Master of Arts degree from San Diego State University in television production, specifically video as an art form.
In my early career I worked as a painter and university teacher, shifting gears in mid-career to work in the video production industry, producing documentaries and managing a large corporate video production and post production facility.
Originally as a painter I worked with traditional media but about eight years ago I taught myself Photoshop and other digital paint software. I have always worked a lot from my photos, at first using them as source, later applying photos directly to the canvas via photo silk screens, and now using digital photos as the painting medium. The completed images are computer files that are printed as Giclée images on archival paper or canvas.
While my paintings are composed of hundreds of photographic elements and can sometimes, at first viewing, be mistaken for a single photograph, they are not. The final images are of nothing that exists intact in the real world. My style and technique is consistent but the subject matter is varied. I explore everything from created mythology to confrontation, from landscapes to images loosely based on the work of past painters I admire. Lately I’ve been investigating a theme I refer to as forbidden journeys, a reality metaphor where the landscapes at first appear inviting but then become clear that you may not advance through the visual space without risk.
As I paint I am often curious how my own creative decisions get made along the way, only to discover that after the fact they seem wonderfully rational. Justifying creative decisions are much easier when the work is complete. Relying on serendipity helps a lot.
Photography is inextricably tied to memory and I explore the effect of imposing my memory on the viewer’s so that the two meld, especially in those works that seem to be telling a story. I find my reward in the unexpected pleasure of a surprising and mysterious result.
The digital manipulation of images is still a relatively new medium, but one that I have grown comfortable with yet continually challenged by as the medium evolves. However, in the end, as with any art medium, it’s not about the tools, it’s about the content, it’s about what looks back at you.