I don’t even remember how I first came across Glenn Smith’s work, it’s been in the periphery of my vision for a long time now and it’s never failed to impress. A prodigious worker to say the least, Smith has been amassing an enormous body of work for years, and even a cursory glance at his Instagram page reveals a constantly evolving style along with an uncanny knack for bizarre psychedelic, rock and punk imagery, transcending simple boundaries or explanation and operating more like a billboard for the soul of the music that it often accompanies. His black and white pen and ink work is some of the absolutely best I’ve ever seen, just check out some of the jaw-dropping portraiture he’s done for proof-positive, and his imagery in second to none. It’s hard to hype folks up enough for such dynamic and innovative work in the graphic illustration and design fields, and normally I really don’t like labeling things as Lowbrow art for a number of reasons, the least of which being that it’s usually not every applicable. Smith’s work on the other hand though I think fits the original and intended meaning of the term pretty spot on. Working in a varied range of mediums and genres, Smith recently talked some shop with me about the insane amount of projects he constantly has up in the air and revealed some sweet details about upcoming stuff. Apparently, he’s working on a collaborative comic with Drew Gates and if the samples of the work he’s been turning in that he has up online are any indication The Oracle, coming from Blackguard Comics, is just going to be amazing! That’s enough outta me about the art though, there’s links so you can check it out for yourself, it will speak volumes more than I ever could. Click the links below and make sure you at least check out some of the amazing stuff Smith’s done and remember to keep It Psychedelic Baby!
- Look at some pretty picture: Instagram @glennoart
- Purchase something beautiful: http://www.glennoart.com/
How old are you and where are you originally from?
I’m forty-three, born in Sydney, grew up in Orange and now am back again.
What was your home like when you were growing up?
Very normal, slightly Baptist and very loving.
Was there a lot of art or music around your house?
Yes, but nothing I liked, with the exception of the War of the World’s soundtrack and the Beach Boys. My Dad is a big jazz fan, which I am not.
Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or artists? Or maybe just extremely interested/involved in the arts?
My mum is quite artistic but doesn’t really have an outlet for it and my dad is handy with a pen in that he has the most complicated signature I have ever witnessed. Dad used to play drums in the early days of rock in Sydney. He once or twice sat in with Johnny O’Keefe.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up?
Nothing in Orange, it all happened in Sydney which I was keen to jump into. The occasional band would play Orange though, I guess.
Did you get very involved in that scene or anything?
I had a high school band or two – Alex Papps and the Smears and S.A.D. (Self Assured Destruction).
Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical or artistic tastes or tendencies?
No, but the scene in Sydney and the radiating alternative scene of Australia certainly informed my burning desire to get involved. I used to travel fortnightly to Waterfront and all the great Sydney record stores and blow my money on records.
Did it play a pivotal role in your interest in the ‘rock art’/‘lowbrow’ art medium?
T-shirt and Record covers were my favourite fetish objects.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
I heard ABBA when my neighbours Susan and Fiona babysat me when I lived in West Pymble; four years old tops… I loved it and still love pop music.
If you were to pick a moment where things seemed to change for you artistically, a moment where you saw an image or something and got really interested for the first time? Was there anyone moment or experience where you maybe saw a drawing or something and thought to yourself, “Yeah, I can do that. In fact, I’m going to do that”?
I was encouraged by my parents and what people said of my art very early on. I liked other art but I rather enjoyed just doing it and not really aspiring to any particular artist. It was an early decision to go to art college when high school was over. I had marks to do much more adult things, but I was single minded and had been set on that course since I was ten.
Who are some of the major influences on your work?
I have a few people I try to draw for – myself, and my wife and lifelong muse, Gina. A purpose and high water mark is important. I hate to mention any artist in particular. I get a kick out of seeing Art Express, the high school exhibition of art. I love seeing the talent of mainly unaffected young artists. I like to read Juxtapoz for its ‘roster’ of international lowbrow and folk artists. I always wanted to do art for bands and Ray Ahn from the Hard-ons was featured heavily on the covers of my school books. I love humour but I also like to be very serious. Each day and each inspiration is different, although I want my next work of art to be better and different from the last one in some way.
A lot of the people that I levitate towards seem to draw inspiration from a core group of individuals but then branch off into some more stuff that isn’t so mainstream I haven’t always heard of so I’m curious to hear who some of the major influences on your stuff are?
I’ve never been drawn in any one direction or chosen a thing that people would associate with me alone. I’ve tried every medium and take each as a challenge. I’m an art mercenary, which means I will do anything, anytime, anywhere… I think The Goodies had a similar motto. It’s the only way I’ve been able to be a rent-paying artist with a full belly and a full desk of work. If there was a way to be one of those hip collectable artists at the age of twenty five, I missed the train, but I never really got the art scene. Most art is shit, as is music and human behavior. It’s a short life, so I choose to do my own thing and try to keep the lure to reach for that golden ring out of my daily grind.
I hear the term Lowbrow Art attached to the illustrative and graphic design fields that happen to operate inside the confines of the music industry or display certain types of imagery but I don’t necessarily agree with or appreciate the idea that term can conjure to mind. How do you feel about the term and how would you label or describe the type of art that you make?
I don’t mind it. It’s not mainstream art and it’s not art that’s put on a high pedestal. It’s lowbrow. It is whatever it is. It’s folk art; for folk, not for wankers. It’s for people to have a reaction to which doesn’t need an educated or preconceived illusion. The underground has always been looked on with suspicion from the establishment, until the majority of people proclaim it good over time. Then, a lot of the spirit gets sucked out of it vampire style, and it’s re-jigged into more lofty pursuits like capitalism, advertising and mass-manipulation as it becomes the beast it once tried to slay. Low is a compliment. Expectation is a high-minded trap for cultural pursuits. Really good punk music is original and dangerous. Bad punk music is generic and safe. Low is the way to go.
How did you get into artwork as a profession?
I used to swap cigarettes for band logos that I would draw on my friend’s school bags. I liked that. I’ve tried to work for bosses within many creative vocations, but I usually end up being too fast and efficient and hating the boss. I am the boss I hate now though, and I love it.
When would that have been and what brought about that decision for you, or was it more of just a natural outcropping of a deep seeded love of art and a need to create something of your own and express yourself in that way?
I found myself in a job club, surrounded by mental cripples and depressed to see very cluey* new-Australians who were once surgeons and intelligentsia reduced to re-training and attending these mind-breaking sessions. I had to get out of this, so I worked very hard to get work and establish my own freelancing systems. I was pushed before I jumped.
[*Editor’s note: Cluey (definition): Adjective – Savvy; street-smart; in the know.]
What was your first ‘real professional’ job in the ‘art rock’/’lowbrow’ medium and when would that have been? Was that a fun, pleasurable experience or more a difficult and nerve-racking proposition for you at that point?
I’m not sure. But if you work for bands, you better have a sense of humour, and you may as well get a band together even just for the chance to do your own shirts and posters.
Are you a self-taught artist or do you have any formal background/education in art?
I attended art college at eighteen and met some great folk, formed a band and lived a nice three years with little real responsibility; heaven. But it was a dumb choice though. COFA turned out to be a place where wanking and talking about art meant more than actually going at it, experimenting and producing. It sucked really. I went to TAFE back in my old hometown and with a little direction, did more and learned more in the three years there than I did at art college. You must do. People who talk something up before the action are people to avoid and in good time, humiliate.
What’s the typical creation process like for you? Do you do a lot of preliminary layouts and thumbnails before you work on a piece that you really finish out, or do you like to get a sketch of your idea on paper as quickly as possible and then go back and kind of rework and flesh that out as you go along from there?
I like to get an idea, set it up and go for it. Most of my art isn’t premeditated, so even I can be a little surprised and interested by the result and process. I have to amuse and entertain myself to some extent. I don’t mind doing custom stuff for bands, some even have good ideas, but the majority of the stuff I do is fairly derivative, because it’s someone else’s lame idea that may be borrowed or shit. I have to do a lot of soul-salvaging and find silver linings in some jobs.
How long does it usually take to move from an initial sketch to a finished full-color piece on average? If there is one, actually… I know that time can vary a lot from piece to piece but didn’t know if there was any kind of usual timeframe that you usually operated within?
Sure I do a sketch or two. Each job is different. I spend about ten hours a day working, seven days a week. Always have, even when I was doing it for no money at all.
Are there any special tricks that you use for conjuring the images that you draw from your mind and translating them onto paper at all?
Not really, I prefer to be free of worry and have something good to watch or listen too. I have plenty of tricks I use to make the images though.
I think a lot of people take this next question wrong, but I swear I don’t mean this in any insulting or demeaning manor. People have been tapping into the altered states that drugs and alcohol produce for thousands of years for the purposes of creating art and I’m always curious about their usage and application when it comes to the art that I personally ‘consume’. Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the artistic creation or drawing process for you at all?
Not really, but I like to get loose some nights at the end of a big day and just sit and doodle. Some of these free drawings turn into great big art thingos. Ideas are the commodity I’ve always dealt in. They come at the weirdest times, so you better recognize them and write them down somewhere you can get to when you need one.
Do you have any preferred mediums when it comes to creating your artwork? Are you a old school pencil and ink kind of guy? Or do you have any other mediums that you like working with instead like linocuts or screen printing?
I’m doing linocuts at the moment as well as my usually pen and ink stuff… Screen printing was last year. I’d love to be able to make more prints but that takes time and money. I have little of both but my days are spent chasing and managing it.
How involved is the computer in creating your work? A lot of people like to do their preliminary layout by hand and then ink on the computer or vice versa and I’m always curious about that aspect of things.
I use an old antiquated program called CorelDRAW. My focus is on the initial illustration. The digital colouring is something I can do quite simply and I prefer the look. I sometimes feel I should push the digital side more but I haven’t got the time. I like tangible creation, murals, painting, printing, construction, more than digital realms. Maybe I’ll say something different down the track.
Do you accept commission work at all? If you do, what’s the best way for interested parties to get a hold of you about that kind of thing?
Shit yes! firstname.lastname@example.org. I love doing art for bands, but recently I’ve been loving the more sentimental stuff; family portraits, cats, dogs… I hear that these works induce tears and positive emotional responses in people… And that makes me happy.
I know you usually keep extremely busy with your art; at least it appears that way when looking at your Instagram posts. What if anything do you have in the fire, so to speak, that you’re working on you can share with us here? I absolutely love your stuff and I’m excited to hear what you’ve got planned for 2015 so far!
Cheers. I’m doing a hundred and thirty page comic based on my mate Drew Gate’s story that will be done over the next five years. I always have ten work related things on the boil on average. I plan to sell lino prints and try to be involved in more group shows and maybe even do a solo show. I love to Instagram my stuff and I’ve met some really great artists and inspirational folk by showing my stuff on that platform.
We’ve talked a lot about your work, your process and your history but what is the best way for people to keep up with your artwork? I know the website and the Facebook page are both extremely time consuming so you don’t post to there a lot these past few years. Where’s the best place for people to keep up with your output?
Instagram - #glennoart.
Is there anywhere people can purchase your work from you at? I always like to try and provide our readers with an opportunity to spruce up their homes with some of the mind-blowing art we get to showcase here on Psychedelic Baby!
Instagram will show you stuff… If people want to by any of the prints or originals I show, they just have to email me. Repressed Records of King St. Newtown always has the odd thing or two representing my recent stuff.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. It was awesome to get an insight into how you work and talk a little bit about your process! I don’t have anything else to toss at you at this point but as you were so generous with your time I’d like to open the floor up to you at this point. Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you might just want to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
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