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Tony Smith.

History & Background.

From my early childhood days I knew I wanted to be an artist. My brother Gerald and I grew up with the smell of linseed oil and turps, watching our father paint for his living at home in Birmingham. Drawing pictures of everything we were interested in was second nature to us.

After graduating from art school with a distinction, my parents, knowing the fickleness of the fine art world, decided that I should have a proper job. I was therefore sent to work in one of Birminghamís biggest advertising agencies for five years, after which I completed a yearís national service as an infantryman. Neither was a happy experience for me and my painting remained my first and foremost love.

I became passionate about motor racing in the mid forties at a time when there was no racing, so all my research was developed from books about the pre-war period of motor sport. The only speed I could personally indulge in was cycling and I became a keen racing cyclist. My first major journey took me from Birmingham to Silverstone for the 1948 Grand Prix, which I enjoyed immensely.

My subjects have ranged from portrait painting & drawing planes, Trains and military scenes, but it is the challenge of capturing speed in motor racing that occupies most of my time.

Another of my passions is building sports cars, something I have done since long before I was even able to obtain my driving licence.

My collaboration with Washington Green and the Halcyon Gallery began in 1987 and since then I have produced many limited edition prints.

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Ideas & Inspirations.

I am surrounded by inspiration. I live in a small village in the Teme Valley in Worcestershire. The views from my home and studio are magnificent, a landscape artists paradise in fact. Unfortunately I do not paint landscapes. Another inspiration is beautiful women. An exhibition of pictures by Pietro Anigoni inspired me many years ago and I embarked on a period of portraiture. It was exciting, stimulating and very nerve wracking. It always worried me that the man paying for the ladies portrait would not be pleased with my painstaking efforts. I decided I was not a born portrait painter and returned to my earlier passion of racing cars.

Given the choice of model in art school, a racing car would always be my first and favourite. Back in the late fifties I drove a Formula 2 Cooper at Brands Hatch on two occasions with the Cooper Training School - they failed, however, to notice my potential as a future world champion! I was also once the passenger in a racing BMW that was hurtled round Brands Hatch by the great Derek Bell. It was both terrifying and inspiring Ė a glimpse into the passionate world of motor racing from the inside.

I love racing cars, their stylish shape, their engineering excellence, the sound of their engines, but most of all to see them driven hard by skilled drivers against other machines, that really inspires me.

Trying to capture the action, speed and even violence of motor racing is a great challenge Ė one Iím still working on.

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From Palette to Picture.

I use four basic mediums to produce pictures. Everything starts with pencil - the most versatile instrument of all. You can obtain effects with pencil, which are impossible to recreate with other mediums. Pastel is also very effective for creating atmosphere, but most of my pictures are produced with oils or acrylics. I started using acrylics years ago when a publisher who wanted Grand Prix race pictures, set me impossibly short deadlines of two weeks for major works. The over-painting of sponsor logos on cars bodies required the medium to dry quickly and with acrylics this only takes a minute or two.

Most pictures I start with a series of pencil sketches to determine content, composition, light and shade etc. Then I research for accurate detail of the cars and background. This can occupy considerable time but itís essential to get things right at this early stage, rather than altering a nearly complete painting later on. Next stage, a small colour study of how I want the final picture to look. This is as much for my benefit as it is to show the customer for their comments and approval. Finally, before paint touches canvas, a full size pencil drawing is produced derived from my small studies and references material gathered. This is then traced down onto the canvas. The most important thing of all is to get the subject matter right.

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A day in the Life of...

When Iíve determined what day of the week it is, I can then decide what work is to be tackled. Will it be the studio or the garden that beckons me? Shall I paint or has Mother Nature the greater call on my labours. And all this before I crawl out of bed for a leisurely start to the day.

Breakfast is taken at a slow pace sitting opposite that lovely lady who married me in 1957 and has stayed loyally with me ever since. Elizabeth and I are very dependent on each other and at breakfast we discuss our moods, needs and wants for the day. Is it to be work, rest, play, or gardening?

Our hill side garden of three quarters of an acre has dozens of trees, shrubs, hedges and much grass, all of which needs year round attention; itís hard work. It doesnít keep you fit, it wears you out, but it is a great joy to have.

If itís raining I know I shall be in the studio and can get on with the serious stuff of painting or researching the next picture. The studio is a cosy place, a retreat from worldly matters. It is full of books and magazines, mostly cars and motor racing. I also have my stereo which is important. The right music can really lift the spirit when things are getting dull. The wrong music gets turned off very quickly.

At the end of the working day it is wonderful to amble to the top of the orchard to admire the view of the Abberley Hills and the Teme Valley and to thank God that I can live in such a peaceful place.

 
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