Artist Zak Smith says he can easily spend all of his waking hours at the drawing table. To anyone who knows his work, that should come as no surprise. Ten years ago, he created a drawing for every last page of Thomas Pynchon’s labyrinthine novel “Gravity’s Rainbow” — a project that was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and was later gathered into a book .
I’m in the LA Times talking about Celtic Frost—click the link
Big fan. Your work is brilliant. I'm basically wanting biographical information out of curiosity. Maybe you've stated elsewhere, but how did you start out selling art? Did you go to school for it? Did you take portfolios around to galleries? Just curious. Keep up the awesome work.
I went to school. I got lucky—of the professors that did not want to kick me out, one put me in a show at a gallery. I’ve been with them ever since.
In this business you basically have to find out a way to hang around other artists until one with more power than you likes you and decides to help. School is the easiest way to do that, but it requires taking out a loan.
If you’re scared to get a loan, there are alternate ways of meeting other artists, like sleeping with them or giving them drugs. It’s a pretty dumb system.
Would you ever consider flying someone out again to be a painting?
I’ve done it. Depends on whether I have an idea for a specific person and if they’re likely to end up in LA anyway anytime soon and whether they’re known to be reliable and what else is going on that month etc etc.
“So maybe rockets on cats are a terrible idea. But any war idea is a good war idea in inverse proportion to how terrible it is as a regular idea. If I was like “Hey should we, by cunning and shrewd treachery, explode all the guys that are over there?” you’d be like “No.” But if I was like “Hey but war” you’d be like “Oh yeah, right on.””—
Yo. Mainly I just want to say your work has been an inspiration for a few years now, on and off always finding myself coming back to admire. But here's a question . . . obviously terminology and splitting hairs is bullshit, but did you ever see yourself going the 'Picasso' route - strict gallery artist? Maybe it's a kinds fake and snobbish position these days, but there is that weird aura about artists like that who never did much illustration and always expressed their singular view instead.
I basically am a “strictly gallery artist”. Pretty much all my money comes from selling original art through fine art galleries.
I have done exactly 2 commissions in my life: one picture for Newsweek when they did an article on Thomas Pynchon and one page for China Mieville’s “Dial E For Evil” for the final issue where they had a different artist on every page—basically as a favor for China because he’s a friend and a fan.
I am not, in principle, opposed to doing commissions—and I like the idea of books or other projects where normal working people can afford the final product—but it’s hard to find people who want something interesting done.
I really enjoy your work and had a question about works like Skin Diamond, Mandy Morbid, on our couch. Do you start with a photographic reference or are your pieces freehand?
They are all done “freehand” in the sense that I do not trace or use projectors or anything. However: sometimes I look at photos I took when I draw and sometimes I look at what’s in front of me in real life. Whatever’s convenient.
And if it’s a like a turtle with planets for eyes then, obviously, I made that up.