ShockBoxx Gallery

A destination for art, art enthusiasts, art collectors and special events.

Preston Smith

We love you, Preston. You had us at hello. How did you get into the Los Angeles art stuff….were you doing it when you were in the band, or did it all come later?

I have been drawing and creating art since I was very small. However, I had dreams of being an actor, artist, professional basketball player, lead singer, writer, stand-up comedian and super hero. Most of these I tried my hand at (super hero will come later) and even had a good run with, before focusing in on my fine art.  I was basically a double major in school and studied both Fine Art and Theatre Arts. I was lucky enough to be awarded the Kreielsheimer Assistantship upon graduation (which they only give to one art student per year) where I got a chance to work, paint and assistant teach with my mentor Robert Gilmore for a year after school.  He really taught me what it was to be an artist and to take the whole craft seriously.  It was also my first experience with actually having my own studio and stretching canvas, getting supplies, and developing my own ideas and concepts. This solidified my pursuit of artist as a career.  Though I still did have ambitions for doing both art and acting in Los Angeles.  I will never forget that Gilmore took me out to dinner before I made the big Los Angeles jump and told me after a dramatic pause and in his thick Boston accent, "you are going to be an artist."  When I tried to tell him yes and I would be trying to do both, he responded, "no, you are going to be an artist..." Seventeen years later, I am happy to say that he was absolutely right.

You have a totally distinct style with the abstract colors, but then we have shows where you bring in figure paintings and drawings that have a seductive darkness to them. Are the two themes related in any way?

It is funny that you mention this as I am right in the middle of working on a large Heisenberg/Breaking Bad painting that is a complete combination of realist black and white surrealism and my colorful, textured abstract style. To answer your question, I would say that they are both a side of my personality.  I like to say that I "paint the light and dark that is within us all", but it is also accurate to say that my work has been a transition of darkness into light.  As my life has gotten better and happier, my work has become more abstract, colorful and joyful. My dark work in the past was very cathartic as I was working through some personal demons, and I wouldn't trade that period for anything as it made me the person and artist I am today.  I tend to focus now more on my textured and vibrant abstract paintings as they speak to me more strongly, but as you can see with this figurative "Heisenberg" piece, I still like to go to the dark side from time to time.

 What were you like in high school?

High school, wow...  I was actually a complete mixture of extremes. I was the captain of the basketball team by day and an artist by night. I was an honor roll student and also had a flare for partying from time to time.  I didn't really fit into a clique and actually liked to think of myself as someone who could bounce from group to group and get along with everyone.  I hated bullying and still do. In the beginning, I went through a very serious and dark gansta rap phase, then swung to the other extreme of punk and ska music. An embarrassingly fun fact is that I won Mr. Wood River my senior year, which is a school fundraiser and mock male beauty pageant and talent contest, by prancing around in a swimming suit and dancing and performing "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson.

Where did creativity start for you? What’s the very first thing you held up and said: “This is me…I did this. look”

I did a lot of drawings and school art projects as a kid, but I think the first thing I did creatively that I was really proud of was a collection of home movies that my childhood best friend Ryan O'Malley and I made almost every day. We wrote, directed, acted in, did make-up for and edited (as much as you could in those days) about 7 full video tapes worth of footage. These ranged from wacky skits, to horror films and even to our "Bearded Guy" thriller series. We used a lot of trick angles/cinematography and editing shenanigans to pull off some pretty funny and creative stuff.  Not to mention some dumb and risky stunts that we did ourselves. I am still proud of those, as embarrassing as some are!

We see lot’s of artists come through the gallery and some seem to struggle with something that comes so naturally to you…you show up, mingle, support other artists and do such a great job of promoting your work. Where does that come from?

I wasn't always good at it and is a skill like anything else that needs to be developed. When I first started showing my work publicly back in the day, I used to have to get drunk before/during the exhibition in order to talk to people, ha ha.  I thought this was a good solution at the time, but not so sure looking back... I have worked in the service industry for years, which forces you to get better at speaking with strangers and more comfortable with self-promotion (that dirty word).  It is part of this business of art and I take it seriously now. This is all true, however, I think the secret for me more than anything else was getting comfortable with myself.  I just try to be as present and genuine to my experience as possible when I speak with people.  Many times, this translates into talking about other subjects that are not art related.  This is fine, because I believe that people respond to authenticity.  If you are having a good, realistic conversation that is enjoyable at an exhibition, the conversation will come back around to art organically, if it doesn't start that way. As far as supporting other artists, I believe in the saying "a rising tide lifts all boats". I want other artists to succeed.  Their success is my success, or at least shows me that success is possible.  I think that I finally started enjoying some success as an artist when I stopped looking at other artists as competition and started embracing their successes and being genuinely happy for them. There is more than enough success and abundance to go around for all of us artists and no two artists are alike anyway. Besides, jealousy of other artists and people is a miserable feeling to carry around with you, so let's all stop that s?#t...

You do really well with your online presence. What do you think about the role that instagram, social media, and online sites play in the art world? 

Exposure, plain and simple.  If you are not getting your art out into the world, nobody is going to do it for you, at least not to start.  When I embraced social media and online marketplaces and started to work each individual platform, not only did I see a major jump in exposure, but it translated to more sales as well.  This was a major turning point in me being able to make a living and support myself as an artist. These are the platforms where all the eyeballs and consumer traffic are right now, so you have to take them seriously.  We live in a fast paced, ever-changing online world these days, so professional artists need to be able to adapt quickly, as well as wear many different hats in order to be successful.  Adopting a more entrepreneurial spirit will work wonders for you as an artist.  Still take the normal tried and true steps as an artist, but adding a strong social media and online game might just take you to the next level. Stay true to yourself as an artist and play to your strengths and people will respond!

ShockBoxx Gallery // 636 Cypress Ave // Hermosa Beach, CA 90254