Gary Ernest Smith: Visual Journal

Visual Journal: Gary Ernest Smith

Published online courtesy of Western Art Collector, February, 2014

Gary Ernest Smith paints picturesque vistas brimming with color and majesty. But at the edge of many of his works are weeds, dead branches or tangles of thick vegetation - nature's detritus. "My subject matter is something that other artists overlook. They're ordinary things, like a mass of weeds on a side of the road, but at certain times of day, during certain kinds of light, they attract me," Smith, of Highland, Utah, says. "People often say that they never see the beauty in that until they really look at it. Wild growth in nature, anything from trees to cattails in swamps to blazing yellow-orange trees to orchards, even to wild growth like weeds—or what we call weeds—but there is beauty in all of it." This theme can be seen in many of his pieces, including Orchard Irrigation, with its reflective fingers of water reaching out into a field surrounded by wildflowers and grass, or in Corn Field Against Blue Mountains, with its harvest perched atop a hill of weeds like a crown. In Tree of Life, a magnificent tree seems to spring right from the yellow grass.

"I found that tree and I loved the contrast between the green and red," says Smith. "That's a mostly symmetrical painting and, for me at least, it can be a challenge to paint something so symmetrical." Smith is no novice when it comes to exhibiting his work; he's had a show every year, and sometimes more than one, since 1984. This year's show at Overland Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, will include a new feature: Smith is showing a comprehensive collection of journals, sketchbooks and other materials with the paintings. "I'm quite an avid record keeper with journals and sketchbooks, and lots of visual materials. This year I've been combining the journals and sketchbooks with written commentary of the images I've painted that will be on display as a visual journal," Smith comments. "All of it together reveals the impressions I was getting as I was preparing to paint the subjects. And, my records are extensive. I have 40 years of journals and sketchbooks. Sounds more like a crazy obsession than anything else, but it's paid off because lots of interesting things have come out of it."

Trudy Hays, director of Overland Gallery, says, “Gary’s personal response to the landscapes he paints draws deeply on his core wish to revere the environment and to preserve it. This year Gary shares with us his artistic journal filled with sketches, thoughts and images of his paintings, all presented in a collectible catalog.”