The Change Up: Herb Smith
There are few individuals who can make a total systematic change to their art and approach and still remain at the top while doing so. Such an adaptation in technique takes an immense amount of skill and vision, and for some, it may take years to make the full conversion. However, when it comes to Herb Smith, he makes it look easy. Not just easy, but seamless and natural, even. It is the confidence in both himself and his craft that facilitated his switch up and ultimately benefited his career for the better.
When I first met Herb, his art took on a different tune. Known as Veng (pronounced like "vengeance") from the graffiti/street art crew, Robots Will Kill (RWK), his work was well known throughout the five boroughs and beyond. As a Street Artist, he helped solidify the movement in NYC, having been a constant participant in the conversation on the streets for well over a decade. Along with his partner, Chris RWK, the duo formed a mighty alliance, bringing their graphic characters to the streets and livening up the urban environment for all the enjoy. The two possessed a magnetic union that complimented and juxtaposed each other in a fantastic way. Together, they grew to become one of the most recognized crews in all of the city. To this day, RWK still remains a staple of NYC street culture, due in large thanks to the consistency and dedication of both Herb and Chris.
However, with his graffiti and street art career firmly in the rear view, Herb has changed up his entire approach to art. Taking his work from the concrete canvas to small scale oak panels, he has reinvented himself through his passion for oil painting and his love for the Northern Renaissance Dutch masters. He is driven by emulating the stylistic approach of these painters, creating a muted background and an intensively detailed foreground with a similar traditional color palette. Through his use of small brushes, he is able to invoke elements that breathe life into his subjects, almost as if the viewer is simply looking through a window into another world as opposed to a painted image within a frame.
Herbs work often times revolves around that of his other passion, birdwatching. He is an avid enthusiast when it comes to the bird species of his native New York and he is constantly exploring the region, hoping to find any number of the diverse local species or rare migrating birds that are pausing at local ponds and lakes before continuing their journey North or South to nesting and feeding grounds. This excitement allows him the seize the moment and capture his subjects in their natural environment, photographing them before reinterpreting their image on panel. This obsession with birding is a driving force behind much of his artwork, as he embodies the essence of a modern day explorer, discovering new and rare fauna, throughout much of the Northeast.
Herb Smith is both a trendsetter and pioneer, proving that one can work within wildly different areas of the art world while still radiating a true artistic integrity. Through his heavy involvement in Street Art to his outright excitement for traditional oil painting, he is not afraid to blaze his own path and change things up in order to move his career forward. For some, the pursuit of passion may be a difficult task, however Herb thrives in his fields of art and is constantly putting 100% into each of his ventures. It's exciting to see where he will go in his next.