If you troll around Deviant Art as much as I do, and have over the last half a year or so, you probably recognize this piece.
It was a daily deviation all those times ago, and being a DBZ fan, I was impressed by this playful take on Goku’s interactions with the mighty dragon. Fast forward to Animazement 2014, and what should I see on an artist alley table? You guessed it, Good Morning Shenron! What are the chances that the artist responsible for that, and as it turns out, so many other beautiful pieces would be in my backyard? On this edition of the Artist Spotlight, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Zach Smithson, artist extraordinaire and all round cool dude.
Zach is a North Carolina, USA native with a degree in Illustration from East Carolina University. Till now I have always assumed that a formal education setting was not helpful in developing artists (a narrow minded view in retrospect), but Zach has very fond memories of his education in the university, and set me straight.
“It is all about the environment you learn in. If the environment promotes expanding your views towards art, and you have professors that tell you what you are doing wrong, and you have peers you can work with, then it can be great. I know I definitely would not have improved as much without my college experience.”
According to Zach, one should not write off a formal educational setting as harmful to developing as an artist. A good program can be invaluable. I guess I should start giving art schools more credit.
Art has been in Zach’s blood for as long as he can remember. From an early age, he seemed to take any opportunity to practice. From posing and drawing his action figures, to doodling on napkins at restaurants, and copying the images off Pokemon cards, his mind has always been set on a future as an illustrator. In every one of his works, you can see evidence of this dedication. When asked from where he draws inspiration, Zach points to the importance of studying other artists while trying to maintain originality.
“I can see some amazing painter ……. and it makes me want to be as good or better than they are. Of course with a lot of painters that won't happen, but it is a drive to keep pushing and getting better, and to come up with better ideas and concepts. I always want to improve. And inspiration can come from anywhere really. Most of the time its just an idea that pops into my head from something completely random, and then I just work from there.”
One cannot help but also admire his humility in pointing out how difficult it is to emulate another artist. The best you can hope for is to improve on yourself. That said, just like with anything else, you have to be serious.
“Well it takes dedication. If you like it as a hobby, then it needs to stay as a hobby. To do it professionally, you really have to have a drive for it. But part of it is mental, I am not as good as I want to be. I look at stuff I did a week ago and I'm already not happy with it. You just have to keep going, keep pushing to improve. Find new artists, find new styles and influences. You can always get better and know more.”
I’ll say that is some sage advice for anyone considering art as a career path.
Zach is of course and anime fan of the Toonami generation. A huge Dragonball fan. Other favorites include Outlaw Star, Attack on Titan, and Cowboy Bebop. Animazement 2014 was his first experience as an artist in Artist Alley table, but he thoroughly enjoyed it, and hopes to be back next year. I personally look forward to see his table.
We invite you to keep track of Zach either on Behance (https://www.behance.net/zachsmithson) or on his Deviant Art page (http://zachsmithson.deviantart.com/). It was a pleasure talking with this young talented artist, and wish him and all the other artists out there the best and all the encouragement in the world.