Paul Anthony Smith is a New York-based artist (who’s originally from Jamaica and lived in Kansas City). He is known for his photo collages as well as the series of paintings depicting airport workers on the tarmac in his native Jamaica. In these paintings, these initial ambassadors to incoming tourists are engaged in casual, dignified conversation even while wearing their absurd Day-Glo vests.
I asked him to share some images from inside his notebooks and answer a few questions about his working process.
PLUMB: What do you use notebooks for?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: I generally use them for taking notes and sketching out ideas for projects, but more so miscellaneous things. Recently I haven’t had a need for them since much of the work produced are photo-based. My notebooks are used as a note-taking device to delineate which images I prefer to use.
PLUMB: What do you do with them when you’re done? Do you look at them?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: I’ve looked at them in the past and it’s nice regurgitating previous ideas for projects I’ve x’ed out. I usually place them in a box afterward as an archive and if needed to, I’ll take a second look.
PLUMB: Have you lost one? Did it matter?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: Not completely sure If I’ve lost one as of yet but it’s usually devastating to lose such books with numerous info, drawings, and shared experiences. Since using them, I’ve gravitated toward brighter-colored notebooks, such as lime green, hot pink, yellow and orange, which are easier to find when misplaced.
PLUMB: What’s the difference between how you use a sketchbook and how you approach making something freestanding. like a painting?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: For me it’s not much different than changing ideas; it’s all growth. Drawings are usually the basis for making a painting. It’s also good for changing pace and scale of translating forms to a larger surface.
PLUMB: What are your ideal work conditions for drawing?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: I don’t believe I have any ideal work conditions. Drawing should be a bit free-spirited, creative, and may be achieved at anytime, but I’m probably best at drawing in the late morning or at night.
PLUMB: Whose notebooks or sketchbooks would you like to look at?
PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: It’s kind of far from me, but I would like to see the sketchbooks of two of the world’s greatest photographers: Irving Penn and Hiroshi Sugimoto. I think there’s something magical about their photos. As simple as Sugimoto’s photos may appear, I’d like to know more about him and the “Seascape” horizon lines which he’s photographed. Same with Irving Penn. I recall seeing “Spilled Cream” on a job, one of his most famous photos. When looking at it up close, it’s as if I can feel the magic of him creating such a print without knowing the process. I do know that it’s a platinum-palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminum.