Success Stories | Matt Smith

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

When Matt Smith was working on his degree in painting at Arizona State University, he was discouraged by the school’s focus on abstract art. He soon found himself studying the painting styles of classic American landscape artists such as Maynard Dixon, William Herbert Dunton, and Edgar Payne. Today, all the hard work and study has paid off. The Arizona-based painter is regularly invited to participate in top juried shows across the country. Indeed, Smith enjoys setting up his easel in pristine landscapes along the California coast and in the deserts of Arizona. Like many landscape painters, his goal is to convey his experience in nature to others. “You know you’ve succeeded when viewers sense the desert heat or the chill of a mountain snowfall,” he is fond of saying.

Has your style or approach to your art changed since you first appeared in Southwest Art? I still like to paint from direct observation, but I’m continually refining my craft. I’m trying for a more finished look, and to get a better grasp on how to fling the paint.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far? That I’ve been able to make a living with my art.
What advice do you give to artists just starting out in their careers? Follow your own path. I think too many artists want instant stardom, and they tend to be overly influenced by one artist—so what you see are imitations.
What motto do you live by? Keep your eye on the horizon and stay focused. See the bigger picture; don’t get bogged down in what’s going on in the moment.
What artists have influenced you? Wilhelm Kuhnert, Ogden Pleissner, William Herbert Dunton, Maynard Dixon, and many others.
What are you working on now? I’m working on a show for Trailside Galleries in February and painting fall color from a recent trip to the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. And it’s finally cooling down enough in the Sonoran Desert, so I can go paint there.
What’s your next big goal? I don’t necessarily set goals. I just try to keep the momentum going and focus on becoming a better painter.

Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY, and Scottsdale, AZ; Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; The Grapevine Gallery, Oklahoma City, OK; Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ; Simpson Gallagher Gallery, Cody, WY; Granite Mesa Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Collectors Covey, Dallas, TX; Gallery 1261, Denver, CO;

Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, Denver, CO, January 9-24.
Solo show, Trailside Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, February 2010.
Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA, February 6-March 7, 2010.

First appearance in Southwest Art: Profile, February 1998
Awards won since then: Red Smith Award (Artists’ Choice), 1997, Western Visions, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, WY; Robert Lougheed Award, 2000, Prix de West, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK; Best of Show, 2000 and 2009, plus six merit awards, Northwest Rendezvous, Helena, MT.
Show participation since then: Prix de West, Masters of the American West, Plein Air Painters of America show, and Northwest Rendezvous.
Price change since then: My prices have increased about 150 percent.

Featured in “Success Stories” in December 2009