Frans is a perfect example of what happens when you combine hard work with determination. Of course, he has an abundance of talent, however his application and dedication to his work is inspirational for any aspiring artists out there. In this interview he shares some insight into his approach to his work and a glimpse into the life of a full-time artist…
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY LISTENING TO?
I’m quite bad when it comes to music. I will usually work listening to other people in the studio’s music, or have the radio on. I quite like working to classical music from time to time.
DOES MUSIC INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
I find that having some vibey tunes going while working does make the work easier, but I also like to just have quiet. One does go into a kind of meditative state while working.
DESCRIBE THE AVERAGE WORK DAY OF THE ARTIST FRANS SMIT.
I will usually get to the studio around 9am, then I will check my mails and do some admin. I will work in intervals of about 20 -30 min, depending on how long the concentration holds. I will have a couple of tea breaks, (we will take turns in the studio to make tea), about 10 – 15 min at a time. I never take a lunch break. I will eat something and start working straight away. Sometimes I will have a break lying on the couch. I will leave the studio around 5 – 5:30. So it’s basically a full working day. I’m very self disciplined, I sometimes even come into work on weekends, especially if there is a exhibition coming up.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN A PROFESSIONAL/FULL-TIME ARTIST?
No, I’ve only been doing it full-time for the last 5 years. Before that I was waitering, for about 8-9 years. Working at night and painting in the day. I needed to support myself financially, so it’s been a long, challenging road to get where I’m today.
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST EXHIBITION?
Yes, it was a kind of a art festival. Hosted by a gallery I can’t remember the name of now. So long ago. It was at the Joesphine’s Mill in Newlands.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU FELT EXHIBITING FOR THE FIRST TIME?
I was very nervous, and excited of course. I almost didn’t go, and it wasn’t even a solo.
AND NOW, AFTER MANY EXHIBITIONS, ALL OVER THE WORLD, DO YOU STILL HAVE THE SAME LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT?
Yes definitely, I’m selective about what shows abroad I attend, because it can get rather expensive. But next year I have two solo exhibitions confirmed, Antwerp in May and Denmark in October. I will definitely attend these shows. Looking forward to it!
EXPLAIN, TO THOSE OF US WHO DON’T KNOW, YOUR PROCESS OF PREPARING FOR AN EXHIBITION.
It can take months to prepare for an exhibition. A normal size solo will consist of about 15 – 20 pieces. One has to decide on a theme for the show, and start doing research and getting subject matter and reference materials ready. Then you will start, and the work will progress as you go along. Usually it’s best to do more pieces than necessary so you can select the best.
BESIDES HAVING A LOT OF TALENT, BEING A PROFESSIONAL/FULL-TIME MUST TAKE A LOT OF COMMITMENT AND DEDICATION. TELL US ABOUT YOUR APPROACH TO STAYING INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED.
Sometimes one can go through a period of “drought”. Or “creative block” as it’s called. I try not to beat myself up when it happens. It is normal. If it happens I will watch a art movie or a documentary about artists that inspire me, that helps. Also working on more than one piece at a time helps to keep things fresh. For me it is a career. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I love it!
YOU ARE A MISTRESS TO PHOTOGRAPHY AND PAINTING AND PRODUCE A HIGH LEVEL OF WORK IN BOTH THESE DISCIPLINES. DO THESE TWO DISCIPLINES HAVE AN EFFECT ON THE WORK YOU PRODUCE FOR EITHER OR ARE THEY SEPARATE CHANNELS OF EXPRESSION FOR YOU?
Yes, I practice both and I love both. I used to do commercial photography, but that started being a burden for me, so only do fine art photography now. I think there is definitely a connection. I work from photographs as references, so being able to do my own helps me a lot. Also both mediums are influenced by light, understanding that is priceless!
YOU SHARE THE EASTSIDE STUDIOS IN WOODSTOCK SOME TALENTED ARTISTS. FOR BRAGGING RIGHTS, CAN YOU “NAME DROP” THESE ARTISTS?
The studio has changed a bit over the last couple of years. But when we started out I shared with Liza Grobler, Kilmany-Jo Liversage, Elize Vossgatter, Swain Hoogervorst , Marna Hattingh. Vanessa Berlein and Catherine Ocholla are still part of the studio. Claude Chandler and Frances White also joined recently.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BENEFITS OF WORKING IN A STUDIO ENVIRONMENT, AS OPPOSE TO WORKING IN ISOLATION?
I think both has it’s benefits. Working in a shared studio helps though in the sense that you can bounce ideas around, and also ask for advice at any time.
YOUR CURRENT WORK HAS A STREET ART INFLUENCE AS WELL AS AN ABSTRACT APPROACH TO PORTRAITURE PAINTING. DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS IS A NATURAL PROGRESSION OF YOUR WORK?
Yes, as with anything, it gets better with age. It was a long personal process I think. One learns to listen to your core. I also try not to look at other artists work too much, as I don’t want to be influenced. We are bombarded with imagery all day every day. Subconsciously it does affect one I think.
ARE YOU A FOLLOWER OF THE STREET ART SCENE, EITHER LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY?
Actually not really, although the one curator I work with Curator 19.90 works almost exclusively with street artists.
ANY STREET ARTISTS THAT STAND OUT FOR YOU? STREET ARTISTS WHOS’ WORK YOU ADMIRE?
I love RETNA. I think his work is so clever. Simple but clever.
AS AN ARTIST, WHO AND WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE GIVEN TO YOU?
I asked Lucian Freud once about using photographs as reference, because it is a big debate. Anyway, his response to me was that “it’s the end result that matters” and that is true. Each one for himself.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS?
Never give up, you never know what is waiting around the corner!