Surrealist Photomontage Extraordinaire: Richard Smith

| September 8, 2014
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Be The Butterfly || Source: Richard Smith

Words by Michelle Cha

RICHARD Smith is a self taught artist who creates the divinely freaky and macabre surrealist photomontages which will send you back to the time of The Blair Witch Project. The layering of different motifs, landscapes, and photo manipulation sends you in a dark spiral of which you want to keep going down in. A self taught artist, Richard has more than 20 years experience in graphic design work and his career is going from strength to strength. His images are internationally recognised and stands strong amongst the heavy load of photo manipulation artworks out there. He was more than happy to answer some of my burning questions.

MM: What have you been up to in the last month in terms of new artwork?

I’ve been making more of a conscious effort to go out and collect new photos for source material. Usually this takes place organically, but lately I’ve had good results when forcing myself to go out and make it happen. Sometimes, that’s just what you have to do to keep the creative process moving forward. I’ve also done more sketching for future projects and having fun with that, particularly on Instagram.

With over 20 years of experience as a graphic artist, what has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

The biggest challenge is the same as it has always been: staying motivated and putting forth the effort to continue growing in new ways. For me, discovering new apps, experimenting with themes in photomontage, and appreciating the work of others helps tremendously on this front.

The mind bending realities you create with photo manipulation is mesmerising and sometimes unsettling what causes you to take your work in this direction?

It happens quite naturally, really. I’ve always had a fascination with macabre or gothic-type imagery, and that comes out in my art. I often don’t intend a dark motif, although I can see how others have that interpretation.

What kind of photographic techniques do you employ the most? Are there any that you wish to explore further in your work?

I make extensive use of masking various layers and parts of images in creating my photomontages. It’s at the heart of what I create. I’ve dabbled in working with human forms, through some commissioned model shots, and that might be the next realm I would like to explore.

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Richard Smith || Source: Richard Smith

I was overjoyed to hear you are too a fan of Dali and Man Ray (personal favourites of mine) and I see the influences of these artists in your work. Could you explain your growth as an artist?

It all goes back to one central place of creativity. I’ve been a musician, writer, and visual artist, and the three are always blending. For example, as a musician I would be the one in the band who would create the flyers, exploring the visual element there. That’s how I got into graphic design. Now, most of my day job involves writing, but I have the photomontage medium as a visual outlet for my personal projects. I’ve also created plenty of photomontage work professionally, using elements in advertising campaigns, ads, and so on. So for me, growing as an artist is basically continuing to be inspired and continuing to express that, learning in many areas all along the way.

Photomontage plays a big role in your art. Do you stick to a particular process or experiment with different techniques?

I have a vocabulary of techniques that I regularly employee, the main one being masking via layers. I also experiment with negative reversals, vignetting, the occasional border, and a few other arcane techniques. My hero and ultimate inspiration, Jerry Uelsmann , has a similar take on this, stating there are things he does that are like trying to explain to someone how to tie a shoe without actually showing them. That’s about the best way to describe it I’ve ever heard.

Are there places you absolutely love to keep going back to capture images for your next piece?

Not so much places, but motifs seem to reappear like a cast of characters in my images. It’s quite unintentional, but I just find certain elements fascinating: clouds, eyes, hands, trees, etc. Those all sound so plain and simple, but they really are evocative to me. I particularly like taking these basic elements and incorporating their everyday sensibility as a crazy juxtaposition to something unexpected for a metaphoric surrealistic effect.

Do you have any big plans for future in terms of your art?

I have an idea for an app that will foster more interaction with my finished works, as well as give subscribers a glimpse into the process and a look at what is forthcoming. Until then, my website, is the main area of expansion for my art.

If you could have three famous people (dead or alive) over dinner, who would it be?

If you ask me tomorrow, I will have a different answer, but today I would have to say Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, and David Lynch. Not only do I respect them as artists and identify with their creative drive, but I am sure they would have endless, fascinating stories.

What would you cook for them?

Spaghetti. No doubt. It’s a family-type meal that everybody likes, and, importantly, one I can actually cook.

Has there ever been a time when you questioned being an artist?

Professionally, sure. But I keep it in perspective — I’m blessed to have found professional bill-paying outlets for something that comes naturally to me, and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

What’s the worst decision you ever made?

I’m still alive, so it’s probably yet to come.

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In Spatium || Source: Richard Smith

Could you describe your happiest moment?

I’m fortunate enough to say I can’t pick just one, really. I like to believe it’s yet to come as well.

For more on Richard’s super freaky and mind warping images visit his website.

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