AOM: Adrian Smith

Not everyone follows the traditional path to becoming an artist

AOM: Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith is a stern, athletic, motorcycle-riding teenage boy. He is enjoying life as a second semester senior by participating in activities such as varsity tennis and weekend trips to Tahoe. It may come as a surprise that he is an extremely talented artist.

Not fitting the mold, however, does not stop Smith from pursuing his hobby of painting and drawing. Friends who are aware of his artistic side did not initially realize how serious he was about art and were impressed when they saw his work for the first time.

“I knew he doodled, [but] I didn’t know it was this advanced,” Will Leighton, a friend of Smith’s, said as he held one of his most recent pieces.

Since Smith’s art was not something he used to focus on as intently as he does now, he has not shown his friends much of his work, “I’ve never really shown off any of my art before because I haven’t really been drawing so it’s pretty much just an absence of time, I guess,” Smith said. “I’d want to publicize but [need to] wait until I get a more substantial portfolio.”

Throughout the year, Smith has started opening up to his friends about his passion for art, showing them his most recent sketches and projects from class. As a result, Smith’s friends have begun to realize that art is not just a casual interest to him but rather an acquired skill, and are often impressed and proud to see this new side of him.

One of Smith’s most recent and talked-about projects is a portrait of his friend Nathan Zeidwerg. The portrait originated from a photograph of Zeidwerg, which Smith has transformed into an incredibly realistic drawing over the past few weeks.

When Leighton first saw the drawing of Zeidwerg, he was immediately impressed.

“Did you trace Nathan’s face for that?” Leighton asked, to which Smith responded that he did not. “You freehanded that?!” Leighton then asked, surprised at how realistic it looked. “It looks like a picture or like he traced it; I immediately knew it was Nathan,” Leighton said, still in shock.  

“I really took my time, starting with the eyes and went to the nose and mouth. Once I had all those parts of his face, I could make the shadows darker with the pencil which brought the whole drawing to life, because the darker the shadows, the more protruding it looks out of the paper. After I realized that it started to look good, I decided to spend more time than I usually would to perfect his face as a whole.”

While Smith’s art has recently taken off, he has been sketching since a young age.

“As a kid I used to have pokémon cards and I’d tell my mom to draw them for me and that’s when I first realized that I could draw them too,” Smith said, remembering his early years of drawing.

Both of his parents draw and his father even uses this skill in his work as an entrepreneur. He draws up his ideas for product designs so he has a convenient guideline for when he makes the prototype.

“My parents supported me a lot. They liked how I developed a hobby of drawing as a kid and they even bought me a sketchbook,” Smith said.

Inspired by the World Cup, the first drawing Smith created in his sketchbook was a picture of Italian soccer player, Francesco Totti. Since then, many of his drawings have been of people he knows or pictures he has seen.

“I like how you can take something from a photo or your imagination and you can draw it on flat paper. You can make it look 3D and look alive,” Smith said, noting his favorite part of being an artist.

Whether bored in class or stressed about school, drawing always helps Smith relax. He enjoys doodling, but he also uses his time as an opportunity to practice new skills he has been working on, such as shading and proportions.

Although he loved to draw as a kid, Smith had little art training or experience until recently when he took his first art class in seventh grade at Jordan. After that he took a second art class at the Palo Alto Art Center and is currently enrolled in his third, the Painting and Drawing course at Palo Alto High School (Paly). He originally enrolled in Painting and Drawing, not because he was interested in improving his art skills, but because he simply needed to fill a class slot, not realizing how much he would grow to love the class. In Painting and Drawing, he is working on furthering his technique and learning some of the foundational skills. To his Paly art teacher, Kate McKenzie, and his peers in art class, Smith is an artist.

“He’s really committed when he comes in and he works pretty hard and he really listens and follows directions, he really gives it his best,” McKenzie said. “I don’t have to give him much direction, I don’t have to give him much help because he absorbs [information] very quickly and he applies what he learns and he’s doing a really good job.”

Smith has completed three official projects for McKenzie’s class and is currently working on a fourth, as well as many more on his own time.

“His art is pretty refined, that means it’s really nicely crafted, and neat and even and really well done,” McKenzie said.

Although he is just beginning to further his art and learn new skills, Smith has already established many strengths as an artist. McKenzie praises his hard work and dedication to refining his raw talent into even better skills, “…he’s a perfectionist so that means that he’s always trying to get everything to be as neat and clean and crisp and developed as possible and that’s also really important as an artist. And he’s a good thinker, too.”

Art has become a large part of Adrian’s life, however, many of the people close to him still do not know how dedicated he is to his projects and are often surprised at how he breaks the mold. Even though he has only recently begun taking the time to pursue his passion, he has grown very fond of drawing and realizes how it has become a big part of his everyday life, “I think art puts me in a state of mind that I enjoy and… it keeps my mind active and on edge and it helps me see things differently,” Smith said.

Smith has shown others that one does not have to fit the mold in order to do something they love. It is very possible to have multiple passions and continue to discover new and diverse ones every day. Despite lacking a solid background in art, Smith has ventured out of his comfort zone and discovered something that he is not only extremely passionate about, but also talented at.