Matt Smith’s early influences included living as a child in France and Switzerland and painting in Germany, Austria, and Italy. But it is Arizona, where he has lived most of his adult life that has given him a deep attachment to ad respect for the Sonoran Desert.Smith graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in painting. Somewhat disappointed with the school’s abstract-oriented art program, he spent significant personal time studying the classic traditional styles of such landscape masters as Maynard Dixon, William Herbert Dunton, and Edgar Payne.
He also studied and worked with acclaimed contemporary painters such as Michael Lynch, James Reynolds, and Clyde Aspevig.Most of the time, Smith can be found painting plein air from southern Arizona to the Canadian Rockies or from the California coast to the mountains of Colorado. He says, “I like the tradition behind classic landscape painting, and I’m particularly inspired by pristine locations. I like to work in areas where one can travel for miles without seeing the influence of man. When I paint, I believe I’ve hit the mark when I’ve captured a balance between mood, look and feel. You know you’ve succeeded when viewers sense the desert heat, or the chill of a mountain snowfall, or the mist hanging over a lake. No one can improve on nature’s landscapes.”A profile on Smith in Southwest Art noted, “From his studio window, Smith looks out on a patch of desert, a giant saguaro cactus, and huge boulders. But the landscape often draws him out of his studio. ‘What I feel outdoors in important to me’, he says. ‘My paintings are more than just a re-creation of a particular view. I try to imbue them with the feel of the wind, the sounds of wildlife, and the smell of the fresh air,’ The result is painting that depicts not only a scene, but also time and mood, an accomplishment rarely achieved in a studio working from photographs,” Smith says.In return for all the guidance given to him in earlier years by the contemporary landscape masters, Smith devotes several weeks each year to teaching.
He conducts seminars in Taos, Jackson Hole, and other locations, and often leads a Scottsdale Artists School to his favorite secluded desert sites to paint.“After learning so much from artists I deeply admire, I feel a responsibility to pass what I’ve learned on to others. I hope in some way this contributes to keeping traditions alive. Also, teaching helps me convey my personal ideas and values about art.”