AN AMERICAN ARTIST IN PARIS : meet Donny Smutz
Hello everyone . I recently spent sometime with Donny In Paris, he is just getting his footing there and i found him very inspiring. I hope his interview does the same for you. Look him up on Facebook, friend him, and watch his progress there! I was able to buy some sketches from him that way.
Donny Smutz (pronounced "Sm-oo-ts") is an American-born visual artist based in Paris, France.
Donny is best known for his bold and imaginative spin on surrealism within his paintings and drawings. His painterly skills are commonly attributed to the likes of Magritte, Bosch, Dali, and Ernst. His expansive artistic repertoire includes photography, film, acting, and music.
KP- Donny, most importantly, if someone is curious about owning a piece of your work after reading about you, how can they accomplish this?
DS ~ Instant Message (IM) me for inquiries, concerning purchases or commissions, through:
KP ~ Do you have a weakness or a handicap of sorts, which you believe helped form you as the artist you are today?
DS ~ My weakness or handicap is my stubbornness and zeal to be the best at whatever I'm doing. Fighting back fear.
Do these "weaknesses or handicaps" help form me as an artist?
Possibly. The reality is you can't be the best at everything, let alone one or two things. But, I think in a backhanded sort of way, it kills me to know people have more talent, skill, and ability, to do amazing things, but fear keeps them seated.
Fear sits at the communion table and prays that we partake. You'd be shocked and inspired at what is possible, if you knew it was possible!
Relating this to my art career, moving to Nashville was one the hardest and scariest things I'd ever done. Once I did that, and was living downtown, working and creating in a city I loved, around new friends I loved, the world got smaller and my confidence as an artist, and person, exploded. It showed through the body of work I created, and the buzz that followed.
From growing up in Kansas, to moving to Nashville, Chicago, and now Paris, there have been minefields of fear and doubt buried throughout this journey. You have to accept it's part of the landscape, even embrace it. The scars, broken bones, and bloody lips that occurred fighting to get here, had to happen.
KP~ In your adult life, do you have a "biggest watershed moment" you would like to share with us?
DS ~ When I was 27, I received a phone call from my little sister.
She said she was at the hospital, and I needed to get there as soon as I could. I asked why, but she skirted the question. I asked if she was hurt. She wasn't. I asked if her kids were hurt? They were fine.
After talking in circles trying to make sense of why I needed to drive 40 minutes back home, to a hospital, for nothing, it all quickly and furiously became...everything.
In almost a whisper, my sister confessed, "Mom and dad got in a car wreck...and,...dad is ok.".
With that, I stopped asking questions. I stopped talking. I dropped my phone on the cold, cracked, concrete, and cried.
Earlier that morning, my mother and father had packed up their powder blue Ford Taurus with a suitcase, flowers, a few wrapped gifts, and handwritten posters. They're destination was a few hours away to Fort Riley, Kansas, where they were to surprise my younger brother who just landed, returning on leave from the war in Afghanistan.
My mother and father were sideswiped by an SUV, as they were pulling out onto the highway. The driver of the SUV didn't stop at a red light, hitting my mother's door at 65 miles an hour. My mother, Janice, was 47.
KP ~ Aside from obvious differences such as the language barrier, in terms of being an artist, what is the single biggest difference between living in Paris, and living in the USA, for you?
DS ~ The single biggest difference between living in Paris and living in the United States, for me (while we're on the subject) is the pride, acknowledgment, value, respect, and appreciation for all things art.
Sure, I've lived or been to New York, L.A., Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, and they all have their own special place in my heart, with numerous things that make each one it's own, but the absolute heartbeat, pulse, persona and personality of Paris was, is, and always will be about the art.
The deeply woven thread that runs between the look, feel, sounds, and smells of Paris, and the artists who cut, carved, painted, sculpted, designed, baked and cooked, throughout this mesmerizing city, is why you, me, and millions around the world love, envy, and for some, hate, this corner of the world.
You come to Paris for the art. The art of food. The art of fashion. The art of architecture and design. The art of language. The art of fine wine. The art of love.
It's expensive. Seriously. This is one reason why you should invest in an artist.
KP ~ Do you have a favorite working routine these days? how is it different from your work routine as a younger artist?
DS ~ My routine now, is not much different than my routine while I was creating in Nashville. Chicago, on the other hand, was a whole other monster, as creating in the advertisement world took most of my time and focus, leaving very little personal time to paint and draw. That is partly why I moved to Paris.
My most prolific time creating up until now, was while I was living in Nashville.
I'd wake up around 11am. Take a walk or run through West End, usually circling Centennial Park, then back to my place just inside 440. Take a shower. Head to a coffee shop or two, meet up with a few artists or musicians, and, if any of my friends were playing a gig somewhere, head to the venue. I'd find more inspiration sitting in coffee shops, music venues, or digging through records at Grimey's, than actually sitting in my studio.
After the evening's social scene was over, I'd head into my studio located in Green Hills. On the average, I'd turn on the lights between 6-9pm, shut the door, turn on Radiohead, and sit in front of a freshly primed canvas. Like a old sponge, I'd squeeze out all the ideas I absorbed during the last few days, and throw them onto a canvas. The night world turn into the morning when the birds starting chirping, then I'd go home, or crash on the sofa in the corner.
The process, or routine, hasn't changed too much even though I'm creating in Paris. Sure the landscape, language, and the culture here is it's own, but after a while you realize that people are people, and places are places.
I still get up around 11, walk to my local café here in Montmartre, then maybe pick a new area of the neighborhood to walk through, hoping to find an old book store or specialty shop, then go back to my studio and paint. If I'm in the mood to draw, I usually perch myself up in corner of a local café later in the afternoon, and sit for hours over my pencils, pens, paper, and bad coffee.
KP ~ What would you tell someone who was thinking of following a similar path as you, something that would help them in their career trajectory?
If someone was thinking of following a similar path as me, career wise, and wanted some helpful insight into this world I live and create in, I'd break their heart. I'd crush it.
First, there is no path. And no map. Sometimes, there's not even a match to light.
In faith, you are swallowing knives every day, believing your talent and skills will sustain you. When in reality, one unsold painting or a bad month of uninspiring work will be the first of many internal lacerations that could eventually kill you. Every day is an opportunity to either bleed to death, or birth another inspiring piece of art that pays your bills and puts food on the table for another month. This concept applies to any career path, so pack your emergency kit.
I have sacrificed amazing relationships, job opportunities, living conditions, valuable time with family and friends, and three meals a day, for what I believe was my calling since I was 5-- to be an artist. You have to be desperate. A fool. Blind and deaf to the realities of what is knocking at your door every day. If you have a backup plan, you've already failed.
So, if you are a serious, desperate, passionate fool, with a true talent, then go for broke. Sell the second car to pay for the guitar and voice lessons. Donate your television. Get rid of the codependent boyfriend and sign up for pottery classes. Focus on one skill, and master it. You don't have time to waist checking your "likes", or streaming yet another episode of Walking Dead.
But do keep in mind, even after all this, realize some of the greatest, most astounding artists and historic figures, died broke, sad, alone, homeless, or without much recognition. Do what ever you do the best you possibly can, because you absolutely love it. The money, fame, fortune, and clout is not in your hands.
Finally, let's be honest, you better actually have talent, when your deciding to jump all in. I mean real talent. Not the blue-ribbon-county-fair-talent. Or your mom-and-dad-says-you're-the-best-talent. I'm talking talent that makes people that don't know you, stop, turn around, and pull out their checkbook, talent. Talent that makes talented people say, "Wow!".
I've got talent. I know this. I'm beyond blessed on where it's taken me. I've also worked at my craft for, not hours, not days, but years. And yet, I struggle at times.
I'm completely stressed most of the time. I don't sleep much (it's 5:32am right now). Some days I'm not inspired to create at all, but, that is time and money lost, and I can't afford that. It's tiring and scary, but I know I have a God-given talent, a wicked stubbornness, and a mother who sacrificed so much for be to be here.
> the last time you visited your hometown Summer of 2015 (Visited my mother's grave before moving to Paris)
> introvert or extrovert What time of day is it? And who's at the party?
> travel or stay-cation Travel. By train, if possible. By bus, if need be. By plane, if I just sold a painting.
> twitter or instagram Instagram. I'm a visual person.
> fishing or football to relax Fishing. Bass. Catfish. Pretty girls.
>how old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist 5 years old. Sitting in a parent-teachers conference, my mother sat at a table where my teacher showed numerous examples of all the other student's art assignment. Then, he pulled out my art assignment, which, from my mother's face and the teacher's response, both agreed that I "had something" and to keep supporting him. "It will take him places." he said, as I remember my mother telling me years later.
To contact Kim please email her at: Kimparentmusic@gmail.com