The Man with Magic Hands: Den Smith


Who are you and what do you do?

Dennis (Den) Smith , I create art, that is my intention.

Why do you do what you do?

From an early age 5-6,  I felt a sense of accomplishment from creating and it grew.

How do you work?

I rely a lot on my past , my experience, my schooling it gives me the confidence to develop new work, I work from sketches or jumping off of another piece I have finished. 

What’s your background?


From an early age I created , continued until in my late twenties after a decision to complete a formal education I jumped into a concentrated effort to study art. Over the next 6 years with a wife and two babies I completed a BFA from SIUE and a MFA from Washington University. Since then I have been creating as a living. Having almost ten years working as an artist before I completed my studies, I was able to step into a variety of disciplines from Illustration, painting and sculpture.

What’s integral to your work as an artist/designer?

Learning from myself. 

What role does any artist have in society?

Creating inspiration or sharing creations


What has been a monumental artistic experience?

Experiencing the reaction to people as they view my work.

How has your practice change over time?

The more one does the more confidence one has to continue, things come easier and more frequent , I experience that all the time.


What art do you most identify with?

As an inspiration I have a great appreciation with folk artist, the simplicity of their message is what interests me. Abstraction and minimalism has always been a big visual exciter for me , I have very little experience in creating it so it is a mystery and a love.

What work do you most enjoying doing?

All of it, though I do have to change my pace a bit. I have a different energy when working at a table illustrating or moving through a workshop interacting with tools. I can usually move from one to the other, some times are easier than others.


What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

As an artist I guess when I was 8 yrs old I sold a work of art, a pastel, “the giant shoes” at the Scholastic Arts. 

What themes do you pursue?

My themes can be a curiosity, words, autobiographical, a story or a story I develop in a piece. I like to deconstruct and reconstruct both literally through manipulation of the medium, taking apart, sawing, sanding, reconstructing into something new and deconstructing the idea I am working with then constructing the idea with new symbolism. Analogy is a vehicle in which I use to make complex thoughts easier to understand for myself and my viewer. 


What’s your scariest experience? 

I hope I never have it.

What’s your favorite art work/design?

At some point in my early career as a young painter I admired Edouard Manet his brush work was my interest Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass are among my favorites.

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Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

The birth of my twins 

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Writing about myself. 

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?


Why art/design?

It’s a hard way to make a living, but no pain no gain.

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What is an artistic outlook on life?

Being surprised by the smallest things. 

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Watching someone get absorbed in one of my pieces, some times it is a “moth draw to a flame” and other times a look that says they relate. 

What food, drink, song inspires you?

I love the Grateful Dead and anyone associated with. 

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I need lone time to create, carving that time out in a day can be difficult with other parts of the day going on but I have always found a way to create, sometimes alone or in chaos.

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What do you dislike about the art world?

Very little my world is small.

What do you dislike about your work?

I have learned to love it. 

What do you like about your work?

Coming up with a new idea that makes me smile or cry. 

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Should art be funded? What makes you angry?

I would love to see more funded programs 

What research to you do?

A little reading, a little nature, conversation, observation 

What superpower would you have and why?

Spreading happiness without discrepancy. Why not if you could?  

Name something you love, and why.

My family 

Name something you don’t love, and why.

Anybody who messes with my family. 

What is your dream project?

Knowing I will be busy for the next 20 years

Name three artists/designers you’d like to be compared to.

There are to many artist out there, present and past, who deserve my respect . I look at their devotion as my inspiration and I have met too many with too much information to pick. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t stop making art, keep going if you want to, but don’t stop. 

Professionally, what’s your goal?

Create my next masterpiece. 

What wouldn’t you do without?

The love of my family.