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By Ryan Bowman/The Hesperian-Beacon—
AUSTIN – Larry Smitherman, Texas native, and now internationally recognized artist recalls some of his earliest memories of being a young boy in grade school with a love for drawing. After a childhood spent on the Texas Plains and graduating from Floydada High School in 1958, Smitherman left for the Colorado Institute of Art where he began his studies. Over the next several years Smitherman established himself as a successful and accomplished graphic artist, and a valuable designer for one of the country’s leading publications.
Smitherman says the subjects in his art are often people he knows and such is the case with South Plains 1957, an acrylic painting that was originally a freelance piece and a cover for True West magazine. The man seen in the foreground of the piece is a friend of Smitherman’s, with his hometown of South Plains in the background.
Though Smitherman doesn’t claim his inspiration comes specifically from his hometown, his love for Southwestern tradition and the unique and diverse people of the Texas plains is evidenced in his work. “People,” said Smitherman, when asked about what inspires his work. “Most of my models are people I know, and that often provides a trip down memory lane. But mostly it is just something you feel would make a good painting.”
In the late 80’s as graphic arts began to move in a more digital direction, Smitherman made the decision to leave the commercial art industry and dedicate himself entirely to painting and focus on his own expressions. Being a fine artist was never the primary goal for Smitherman but recalling one of his favorite poems by Robert Frost he notes that “The road less traveled has worked for me.”
An abstract/experimental piece by Smitherman titled Spirit Dancer was recently featured in International Artists Magazine and Smitherman was the only artist recognized from the state of Texas. Though Spirit Dancer would appear much different in terms of style than Smitherman’s other pieces, he explains it isn’t uncommon for his paintings to include small abstract elements in the background. Smitherman shared that his inspiration for Spirit Dancer was drawn from a small abstract section on the skirt of one of his larger pieces.
Now settled in Austin, Texas, Smitherman remains focused on his passion for unique and traditional representations of Southwestern culture. Formerly galleried across Colorado and Santa Fe, Smitherman is now showcased at a company operated by his wife, Marlene Smitherman called CriticalConnection in Austin, Texas. One of his early pieces, High Plains Elixir is also part of the permanent collection at the Bayer Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock, Texas.
“I just paint,” said Smitherman. “I do it because I like it, and if other people like it that makes me very, very happy. I don’t set out to change anyone’s ideas or move them, I hope the art does that.”