Story by Mark Greenawalt,©2006
Originally published in Contact
Magazine, (May 2006)
Artists have typically strolled down the aisles of art supply shops or the arts and crafts chain stores to stock up on materials and supplies for their creative endeavors. Their raw materials may consist of tubes of paint, sets of brushes and unadulterated canvases. Tad Smith, on the other hand, loads large carts with construction materials at the nearest Home Depot for his unique brand of artwork. He buys drywall and foam insulation boards for his substrate cores. Then, like a kid in a candy store, he seeks out every kind of goop, putty and construction gunk for his experimental texturing processes. “For some pieces, I use a wood putty for the texturing,” he says, “and then I paint them and occasionally add a two-part epoxy for the final gloss finish.”
Miscellaneous debris found at a construction site make up the hidden treasures that get incorporated into Smith’s crafted canvases. Each of his projects is an original painting, and deep within each one resides a one-of-a-kind sculptured canvas. “I don’t do the type of artwork that lends itself to making and selling prints,” he explains. “But there is something special about showcasing each piece as the original work. Some of them have been hard to let go of.” In the past several months he has had to learn to let them go as his sales have increased from the expanded exposure from his website, studeotad.com, and his own gallery, Studeo Tad.
Studeo Tad opened for business in late fall of 2005. There were several factors that led him to venture into opening his own gallery. “One reason was for the ease and convenience of keeping my work up on display,” Smith says. “I’ve had my work included at exhibitions at The Paper Heart, MonOrchid and the now-defunct Untitled, and it was sometimes a hassle to pick up and drop off the work, work out the schedules and search for new galleries to solicit. Now the pieces can stay put.” It was also the urging of Scott Sanders of the Paper Heart Gallery that planted the seed. Sanders encouraged him to join in on the evolving art district that has been flourishing around lower Grand Avenue. He may not have taken the advice to heart if it hadn’t been for the concurrent encouragement from his wife, Heather. A realtor, Heather had been monitoring the housing market in this area and happened upon a wise investment opportunity at 915 W. Filmore Street, which is now christened Studeo Tad.
The gallery became a home for his art, an investment property for his future and, most rewarding, a gallery for his friends and other talented artists to showcase their works. Even his wife has contracted the “bug” to show her photography on the walls of Studeo Tad. In its former incarnation, the building was a small residential home with patchwork room additions and serious termite damage. With great attention to detail, the structure was transformed with the addition of Pergo flooring, modern-design halogen lighting and a fresh coat of paint. Similar improvements were completed with the deletion of the kitchen sink and cabinets and the stripping of the plaster from the principle wall, leaving only the lath strips. It is now a contemporary space with six modest rooms displaying a variety of artwork.
It is no surprise that Tad’s art incorporates the finest elements of design in both shape and color composition. This Iowa native has a Bachelor of Science degree in commercial art from Grand View College in Des Moines and he has been earning a living as a freelance graphic designer for notable publications such as visitors guides for several Valley cities, the Chicago Cubs spring training program and the Arizona Official State Visitors Guide. In 2001 Smith was credited with the graphic design for the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks program booklets. Though his textured sculptures have become his trademark, he is also adept at many traditional art forms. He is represented as an illustrator, by Michael Muratore of Store 44, and he has a section of his gallery dedicated to his latest homage to retro pop art.
Smith had become engrossed in the graphic design field. He was successful and it helped put food on the table for his family of four. But it was during a recent visit to preflood New Orleans that he came to the realization that he had been denying his personal creativity. It angered him, but it also inspired him. With renewed vigor, he jumped back into creating and hasn’t looked back since. His art pieces are reasonably priced between $200 and $2000, and he has been selling several pieces each month, primarily during First Friday events. It hasn’t proven to be enough to replace his graphic design income yet, but in less than one year, he has established himself and his gallery as contenders in the Phoenix art scene.
915 W. Filmore St.
Phoenix AZ 85007
This article can also be found
on-line at http://www.contact-mag.com/issue4/artist.htm
The Studeo Tad official website is http://www.studeotad.com