Tuesday, April 01, 2008

William A. Smith: "A relentless regimen of drawing..."

"I was put through my paces in the old fashioned style." That's how William A. Smith described his early formal art education, which began at age 12.

Theodore J. Keane, who had once been the dean at the Chicago Art Institute School, was the young Bill Smith's first art teacher and mentor back in Toledo, Ohio, where Smith was born.

"That teenage study was not of the glamorous sort," says the article on Smith in the June 1952 issue of American Artist. "At least it would not have been except for the magic of Keane's inspiring influence."

"Indeed it was a relentless regimen of drawing from casts and still lifes for two full years before a living model was thought of."

"But in those years," continues author Ernest W. Watson, "Bill really learned to draw and he learned a lot about those intangibles which activate the more subtle facets of his dramatic career."

My William A. Smith Flickr set.


  1. I'd been aware of Smith in a dim kind of way, & seeing these pieces is very revealing. That first bar scene is masterful -- his sense of light & shade is almost like that of Caravaggio. The rigid academic training really does pay off.

  2. You are so right on the money Neil. The very first thing I noticed about Smith's work in the late 50's and early 60's, was his incredible draftsmanship... every inch of his illustrations are carefully and accurately drawn. His people ring true to reality, and he puts equal care and accuracy into painting the bar stools and bottles of liquor on the shelf. With the ability to draw and paint everything well, It gives the illustrator the rock solid foundation to take their approach and technique any direction they desire. Solid draftsmanship is fundamentally critical, and just can't be faked.

    Tom Watson

  3. That quality of draftsmanship must be the element that has always made me think of Fawcett when I look at Smith's work, Tom. Both artists share that commitment to accuracy and solidity in everything they draw and paint. Nothing is fudged - yet they both manage to stay away from the tedium of photorealism.

  4. Now posting as myself, rather than "anonymous".

    I was lucky growing up as Bill and Ferol Smith's daughter. I went to life-drawing classes when I was 5 and still have many of these drawings! I now work in film, a sort of "moving" illustration. The training paid off! I also inherited many of Dad's teacher, Theodore Keane's, treasures: reference books, an etching press, mannequins...

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