Saturday, December 11, 2010

Royale Study

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sharing a lunch with Steven Smith and his incredible grandmother. As most people know, Steven is the proprietor of The Royale which is a cool tavern located on Kingshighway just a little south of the Arsenal intersection. Over the course of our meal the conversation turned to art and personalities in Saint Louis. We talked of an appreciation for past artists like Thomas Hart Benton and Joe Jones and how they incorporated people and places of their time into their art. While Steven and his grandmother shared a Caramel Nut Crunch milkshake a loose plan was hatched to do some paintings for The Royale in the spirit of those artists.

The first step would be to get a good feel for The Royale, easily accomplished by just hanging out there. I'm no stranger to The Royale but I wouldn't call myself a regular. Being married, having a full-time job, two young kids and an obsessive painting habit leaves me little time for hanging out. I can't tell you how many events and shows I've missed due to the reasons listed in the previous sentence but it's the life I've chosen so it's pointless to complain or rationalize it. The point is, it's tough to get out. Long gone are the days I can look at a listing of events going on and simply choose which one I want to go to. Time away from home or work must be planned out with all bases covered. One way around this is a schedule. My wife has things she does on a regular basis which gets her out of the house and some valuable time away to do the things she enjoys doing. So to hang out at The Royale more I tried to put a schedule together and so far it's worked pretty good. On Sunday nights usually from about 9pm - 11pm I'll go down there and have a few drinks and do some sketching. Nothing extensive so far, just something to get a nice feel for the room. Out of that experience small pieces like the one above have been created. As time moves forward the pieces will get larger and more extensive. For now I'm enjoying my Sunday evenings.

now playing - The Minutemen

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vintage Vinyl Dec 10

On Friday Dec 10 Vintage Vinyl will be hosting an in-store performance by the bands Union Electric and Bunnygrunt. In addition to the performances, Vintage Vinyl has invited me to show paintings that have some connection to those or other local bands. I've done a number of pieces that have been used for covers of CDs or albums either by design or accident. A quick list would include Shed Shot, projects by Eric Hall, The Dirty 30's, Bad Folk, The May Day Orchestra and the bands playing on Friday. The piece above is of Matt Harnish from Bunnygrunt.

Vintage Vinyl
6610 Delmar
Saint Louis, MO 63130
Friday Dec 10

now playing - the Baysayboos

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I've started a few small cityscapes in oil and it's going, um, very slowly. The last time I painted in oil was back in 1997 when I painted this. Back then I lived in northern California and had a huge garage to work in so having mineral spirits and turpentine around wasn't a big deal. Incidentally the Mask piece was painted as a thank you gift to the director of the independent film Trans. Through a close friend I was allowed to hang out while the film was being shot in Fort Meyers, FL. That was probably the greatest creative experience I've ever had and still draw on lessons learned while witnessing an independent film being created.

Anyway, I've been wanting to get back into working in oil and now have finally found the time. I live close to downtown Saint Louis and will take many walks wandering around the city looking at all the buildings. A few weeks ago I shot a number of photos of cluster of buildings and decided to use those as models for the small oils I'd like to start. The images of all these buildings stuck on top of each other has always been appealing. They almost become abstract rectangles, squares and columns all bunched together. So far the result has been a practice in patience. After painting exclusively in acrylic for the last 14 + years I've grown accustom to what works and what doesn't but now all those lessons will have to be learned all over again. Just painting the color blue can be an intoxicating experience. The paint never dries and each stroke creates a new line or texture and then it's gone again and something new appears. I could spend hours just painting a pure color over and over again. I suspect this is going to take some time.

now playing - 3WK

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 Poetry Scores Art Invitational

The annual Poetry Scores Invitational will be going on this year at Mad Art Gallery on Friday Nov 12 from 7pm – 10pm. Poetry Scores invites a number of artists to interpret lines from a poem for a visual medium and then the artwork is auctioned off to help pay for the projects Poetry Scores is producing. Currently Poetry Scores is shooting a film that grew out of the excellent “Go South” CD which was produced 2 years ago. This year’s poem is titled “Jack Ruby’s America” and was written by Missouri’s current Poet Laureate David Clewell. The piece above is my contribution for this show. The words I chose to interpret were “David Clewell”. Below is a list of all the participating artists.

Gena Brady Allen
Gina Alvarez
Andrea Avery
Jay Babcock
Michael Behle
Kevin Belford
Keith Buchholz
Ron Buechele
Deanna Chafin
Heather Corley
Thom Fletcher
Trent Harris
Paul Hartman
Sue Hartman
Emily Hemeyer
Michael Hoffman
Alexa Hoyer
Claire Medol Hyman
Angela Khan
Alicia La Chance
Robert Longyear
Dianna Lucas
Dawn Majors
Julie Malone
Tim McAvin
John Minkoff
Michael Paradise
Melanie Persch
Hap Phillips
Jeremy Rabus
Tony Renner
Kim Richardson
Martha Rose
Cindy Royal
Stefene Russell
Janiece Senn
Becky Simmons / Lola van Ella
Dana Smith
Robin Street-Morris
Andrew Torch
Nita Turnage
Robert Van Dillen
Amy VanDonsel
Eric Woods / Firecracker Press

Now playing – Le Noise

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ota Benga

On Wednesday Nov 10 The May Day Orchestra will release their new vinyl album with a concert at The Sheldon Concert Hall along with The Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra and Theodore. The painting above is the cover of the new vinyl album painted by me at Tim Rakel's direction. Back in April Tim and I met at the now closed club called The Wedge to discuss his ideas for the record cover. The album is a "Folk Opera" about Ota Benga and the situation between The Congo in Africa and King Leopold II of Belgium. For more details on that story you can go here. Needless to say it's a very sad story about exploitation and the misery caused by those in the pursuit of power and wealth. Tim wanted specific images to be represented on the cover and he gave me loose directions to follow. It was quite a strange painting to do but I enjoyed the process very much. I'm not a graphic designer but welcomed the challenge of trying to make everything fit within the limitations of an album cover. The double vinyl record will be released by the Los Angeles record label Rankoutsider Records.

now playing - Liverpool Sound Collage

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Night Plays

New acrylic paintings by Dana Smith
November 5th - 27th

Hoffman LaChance Contemporary

2713 Sutton Blvd
Saint Louis, MO 63143
Opening Reception Nov 5th 6pm-10pm

Since 2004 I have been using the people and places of Saint Louis as inspiration for my paintings. Particularly musicians and artists who perform in local clubs and spaces around the city. This 6 year effort has accumulated into the show 'One Night Plays'. The paintings for this show were mostly painted this year and have never been shown publicly but I've been working towards something like this for a long time. The images are painted from photographs that I took myself and this is very important to me. I decided who to photograph, when to photograph them, where to photograph them and also how the composition will be in the image. However, none of these images were planned or staged and in many cases the musician didn't even know I was photographing them. For 'One Night Plays' I looked at new photographs but also old photographs and selected the ones that were not only interesting visually but also ones that represented a musician whose contribution to the Saint Louis music scene continues to leave an indelible mark.

{one painting in this show - 'Bunnygrunt at CBGB'- was painted from a photograph taken by Jaime Lees upon request from the band which used the painting for the cover of their latest CD.}

now playing - Magic City

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Galen Gondolfi at Cherokee and Compton

On Friday Nov 5 I'll be having an opening of new acrylic paintings at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary in Maplewood, MO. The show, titled "One Night Plays", will be large and small scale paintings of musicians, most of whom live or perform in St. Louis. The work in progress above is the last painting I'll be doing for this series. It's of Galen Gondolfi playing the drums at an art show I put on back in March at a temporary gallery called Insurance. For as long as I've know him, Galen has always been a burst of energy. He's an artist always creating and always moving forward. The impact he's had on his community is immeasurable. In addition to Galen there will be paintings of Mark Stephens, Tony Renner, Lou Whitney, Darin Gray, Mark Early, Dottie Georges, Tim Rakel and William Morris. Plus a number of works from my small paper series, also of musicians, will all be on view for this show. Many of these works were painted this year and have never been shown publicly.
now playing - The National

Saturday, September 4, 2010

James Weber Jr.

This past Wed Euclid Records opened it's second store in New Orleans, LA. For the past 9 months James has been working along with a skeleton crew to bring this new Euclid Records into being. It's quite an accomplishment to say the least, not only did they literally build a record store from the ground up but they also opened a small business in New Orleans, which as we all know, needs as many small businesses as it can get.

I first met James when he fronted his band Julia Sets and I've admired him since.

now playing - Bob Dylan - live at Gaumont Theatre May 1966

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fred Friction

Here's another work in progress for the small paper series. Surfing the net this morning I ran across this interview Fred did last year.

now playing - Dinosaur Jr. - "Bug"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dave Stone

This piece is small, painted on paper. I've completed a number of these of people like Adam Hesed, Jeb Stuart, James Weber and Benjamin West in preparation for a solo show in November at Hoffman Lachance Contemporary. These small paintings will accompany many large canvases for the show titled, One Night Plays. Many of the larger paintings can be viewed on my new website -

now playing - Broken Arrow

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lou Whitney at Off Broadway

I almost feel silly writing anything about Lou Whitney. He’s a giant among men. The first time I became aware of Lou was in 1995 when I was writing for Nightlife newspaper down in Carbondale, IL. The band Drench had sent in a CD for a review and it was good. While reading the production details I noticed the name of the producer and engineer – Lou Whitney. Now, in my defense, in 1995 I was 21 years old, so I was completely unaware of who exactly Lou Whitney was but I really dug the disk he produced and his name stuck with me.

Fast forward to 1999 and I’m living in South St. Louis, hanging out and meeting people involved with music. I slowly begin to learn how important and influential Lou Whitney is not only to St. Louis but the entire Mid-West. In addition to being in two awesome bands (The Morells and The Skeletons) he also runs his own studio in Springfield, MO which has seen the likes of Wilco, Bottle Rockets, Robbie Fulks, Blue Mountain, Exene Cervenka, Dexter Romwebber, Jonathan Richman, The Del-Lords, Eric Ambel, Joe Flood, Jono Manson, Domino Kings, Hadacol, Mary McBride, Syd Straw, Morrells, Skeletons, Redd Volkaert, Brian Capps, the Cowslingers, the Cropdusters, Bel-Airs, Big Smith, to name a few.

And the stories I’ve heard from various people about all the things he’s been a part of is truly astonishing.

So about 4 years ago I heard he was playing bass with a band called The Rugs who had a gig at Off Broadway. I went to the show and snapped some photos. I knew at some point I’d have to paint a picture of Lou.

Once this painting is completed it will be added to my new website. For the last 5 years I’ve been using as a place to keep my artwork online, but all of that will be changing.

The new website, new projects and info on a solo show coming this fall will all be announced soon.

Now playing – Charles Mingus

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tim at The Tap Room

The older I get the more time my conscous thought process takes to make a decision. Once a decision is made then work can proceed (usually quickly) but sometimes the process to decide what to paint can take years. There are many reasons for this - work, family, basically real life getting in the way of art, but I’ve discovered that you can’t rush these decisions because they have a life of their own which must develop at their own pace. There are many images I’d like to commit to canvas but it’s always a struggle to determine which one and at what time to start on a piece.

This particular image is from 3 or 4 years ago from a series of photographs taken of a band that no longer exists. I had always wanted to doing something with the image but real life and other projects kept getting in the way. For a multitude of reasons, now seemed like the right time to pull this image out and finally start a painting of it. Also in the works is another image of another person from 2006. Why are these old photographs hitting me now? I have no idea. I can only blame my thought process which takes forever to decide what I should focus my time on. When the decision is finally made on what to paint, how it’s painted is a completely different process.

Painting is just a series of decisions that can be made quickly or slowly. When painting I’ve found making those decisions quickly usually gives the best results. I don’t plan out paintings or sketch scenes or do preliminary drawings. I do all of that stuff while I’m actually painting and it all ends up as part of the finished piece. I do paint quickly and try to make a conscious effort to work unconsciously. The decisions I make while painting are my own but in most cases I’m not aware of them. Only when I’m unaware do I make the right decisions. I paint quickly cause life is short and there are always more paintings waiting to be painted.

now playing – exile on main street

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


A familiar scene for anyone who's driven on Vandeventer.

now playing - The May Day Orchestra

Monday, April 12, 2010

Record Store Day at Vintage Vinyl

Vintage Vinyl is releasing a pink vinyl LP of tunes by their employees for Record Store Day and they've invited a number of artists to hand paint and draw pictures for the cover. Here's my contribution, I did 16 of these. You can find them at Vintage Vinyl on Saturday Apr 17, 2010.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Torque Fest

So, I have this old friend who I know as Tony. The first time I met Tony we ended up causing some trouble in a small Southeast Missouri town. Since then we’ve been through a lot together, including playing in a band. But now we’re both older and wiser and we have our own families. I live in St. Louis MO and he lives in Davenport, IA and we rarely see each other. He does a lot of traveling for his job and I very seldom leave the city limits. However he invited me to participate in his latest endeavor called Torque Fest. I’m completely out of the loop when it comes to classic cars and things like that but Tony is all hip to them and travels to many shows. He also produces his own videos of shows from around the world called Vintage Torque. He’s pulling all of this together for a vintage car festival that I hope becomes a yearly thing in Iowa called Torque Fest.

What is Torque Fest? Well, I believe it’s going to be a cool thing where you can bring your vintage hot rod and show people what the vehicle can do on a dirt track. Apparently a lot of vintage car shows don’t have demonstrations, you just basically see the car sitting there or driving slowly, but at Torque Fest they’ll be, well, Torquing it up! In addition to the car show there will also be a slew of bands performing and an art show which is where I come in. Tony has selected a variety of artists (including skateboard legend Steve Caballero) to participate in the art show. He has sent all the artists a Malibu Surfer Hat (hard plastic replica of a World War I helmet) to paint on. These helmets will be displayed and auctioned off at the event. The photo above is the helmet I’m working on.

The point of all this? Very Important. To raise money for this little girl.

now playing - The Doors

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mark Stephens at The Firebird

More and more I’m getting interested in effects caused by taking bad photographs. Over-exposures, blurry streaks, too much light, too little light, etc. It’s getting to the point where I’m more interested in recreating these effects than painting the subject of the photo.

That’s not to say the subject of this piece is unworthy of painting. Mark Stephens is someone who needs to be immortalized and by someone with more skill than me. I first saw him perform at Frederick’s Music Lounge. At the time he was in a band called The Highway Matrons. I was aware of this band but had not heard them yet. This particular night he was there alone sitting at the bar. There was an open mic thing going on and the MC was calling people up on stage. After a bit of small talk with him, his name was called and he went up. This was in Dec of 2000 and the open mic had an X-Mas theme. Mark got up and plowed through “We Three Kings”. I was floored. He did the most ragged, frayed and beautiful version of any X-Mas song I had ever heard. Since then I’ve always been in Awe of him.

About a year later I wandered into Frederick’s and Mark’s band Fred’s Variety Group was playing on stage. Mark’s surf tinged garage solos caused me to hallucinate and see a vast desert behind him. The wind was blowing sand everywhere and his guitar was the only sound you could hear. Back when I was in some bands I was lucky enough to play some gigs with him and got to know him fairly well but I still carried that Awe for him. Later I found out about his band from the 90s, The Boorays who opened for the likes of Big Star and other notables. Early days I completely missed out on.

I rarely see Mark now. The last band I saw him perform in was The Deserters about 2 or 3 years ago. Which was an awesome group but I don’t think they’re together anymore. The photo I’m working from for this piece is when he was performing with The Deserters at The Firebird. I was using my digital camera and had a few too many drinks. The photos turned out blurry but still interesting.

now playing – The Highway Matrons