Sunday, August 12, 2007

Makin T-shirts, Makin Art. How C. Kirk Smith Will Make You Smile

C. Kirk Smith is a thin, bald, white guy that seamlessly blends in with a crowd, until you notice the purely one-of-a-kind t-shirt he happens to be wearing any given day. He made it himself. That’s not all he’s made. He’s one badass prolific artist, and we sure are lucky to have him here in Dallas. That…and he’s a nice guy.
C. Kirk’s become one of my favorite people as of late, not just because I love his t-shirts, but when you’re talking to him, he gives you his undivided attention. It’s hard to say that about most people these days.
Here’s a look at a fella worth getting to know:

SR: Tell us about how you got started as an artist.

CKS: I became interested in art when I was just a little boy. I was so young that I don’t even remember our [Kirk and his mother] sittings together. She just told me about it once. I used to make my mother draw pictures of the Incredible Hulk for me. One day she said I complained about drawing, and she explained that was the best she could do. Afterward she told me to do it myself.

SR: Where have you shown, and what shows have you been a part of?

CKS: For the most part, I’m self-taught, but I’m okay with that. George Washington & Abe Lincoln were also self-educated men. So I had a rough start. I didn’t know anyone in the business or any other artists for that matter. My first exhibit was at Starbucks at Preston & Royal. After a while I heard about the Texas Visual art association and joined for a year. Since then I’ve shown at Half Price Books on NW HWY, Medical City off Forest Lane, the Contemporary, C.L. Studios, El Centro College, The DCCCD Regional Service Center, City Gallery, 500X, a Few times with Kettle Art, monthly with Second Saturday At South Side On Lamar, and I’m booked for a while into the future. I’m so very pleased.

SR: Who are some of your favorite local artists?

CKS: Some of my favorite local artists, that’s a good question. I love R. Thies work. A talented artist with, knowledge of vocabulary and a goofy sense of humor like my own. I also like Richard Ross, for sure. I love his characters and scenes, not to mention his generosity. I also think Johnothan Kimbrell has really found his area of expertise. I also really like Walter Johnson Jr. He makes these great Africanized relief sculptures from tape, sand, and paint. They’re so cool.

SR: Tell us about the process you use to create your pieces.

CKS: There’s not much to tell there. I usually don’t give them much forethought. I don’t do preliminaries, but some of them, mostly my print work (T-shirts & Paintings), start with just a mental concept. My sculpture however, becomes what it becomes. I usually talk to my higher power before & during the work. My wife hears me muttering, and she probably thinks I’m talking to myself, but I’m not…I’m speaking to my own concept of God. It amazes me the work that can manifest when I’m in my element, doing what I love, and believing in something far greater than myself.

SR: How do you enjoy spending your free time?

CKS: I love to learn new things, read, and watch movies to just veg out. I’m a workaholic though, so I don’t usually have much free time. When I just lay around, my wife thinks I’m sick because it’s so uncommon.

SR: What are your plans for the future of your art career?

CKS: My plans for the future are of course, to show as much as possible, 3 or 4 times a month sounds like a good number, but more if I’m able.
Also, I’m taking baby steps toward starting a nonprofit organization called Feed An Artist Inc. that will share experience, skills, and commission-free space with other artists asking for nothing in return. It’s already begun to materialize online, and I have a great mentor I’m modeling myself after. He told me once, “If you want to get somewhere in life…help others get there first.” I love that idea. There’s a kind of simple beauty in it.

SR: What do you like about the Denton/Ft. Worth/ Dallas area?

CKS: Well, I love that Dallas is trying to grow its art scene. I like Deep Ellum and hated to see the tunnel go. As far as the weather, I can’t get into it. For anyone who complains they hate Dallas, I say to them, “I’ve seen better & I’ve seen worse…much worse.”

SR: How do you feel about the Deep Ellum area and it's artistic community?

CKS: I love Deep Ellum & ride through [it] almost everyday. I like most of the folks and the sense of community there. I hope we can all pull together so people will come back and visit us. My wife Erika and I were in Plano the other day on business, and she just loved it. Erika went on about how clean and nice it was and compared it to where we live in South Dallas. It was nice. It was clean, but there was no local flavor, and none of the businesses had any individuality or personality, that I saw anyway. Everything looked the same. Women. Just kidding. I love my wife Erika. She’s a great, she’s supportive, and she’s a fabulous artist as well.

SR: Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise?

CKS: Mayonnaise definitely, but only on chicken sandwiches and food were bacon is in the receipt.

If you’d like to see more of C. Kirk’s artwork just visit his myspace page at

-written by Alison Marie Welsh
-photos courtesy C. Kirk's myspace page

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