Tom Smith / Dr. Sizzle Interview

Tom Smith, aka Dr. Sizzle recently met up with us to discuss his artwork, which includes an impressive collection of pin-ups and other painted portraits.
MD: What is your background? How did you get involved with art?

Dr. Sizzle: I always drew on stuff as a kid… copied the Sunday paper funnies and my Saturday morning cartoon favorites. Then by the 2nd grade I got into breakdancing which was married with graffiti art (somewhere around ’82 think). Through Graffiti I quickly developed my cartooning skills and progressed into more realistic styles of drawing. I was always fascinated with drawing the human form: faces, hands, and dynamic poses. I guess I was born with an artistic passion in my soul. Lots of people tell me true artists are left handed because they use the right side of the brain which is the side that is most creative or some shit. I guess that makes sense. After taking high school art majors I realized art was something I was good at and could probably make a living doing, so I signed my good name to a student loan at the Art Institute of Philadelphia where I received my degree in Visual Communications / Graphic Design.

MD: How would you describe your work?

Dr. Sizzle: Well my current body of work would probably be described best as exaggerated realism. I don’t know if that makes sense or not but it’s kind of a distorted life-like caricature using Pin-Ups as my foundation. Instead of distorting distinctive facial features, I exaggerate the anatomy in whole, enhancing heads, hands, and other bodily forms in inflated proportions.

MD: Have you studied art in school? What did you like best about the school you attended? What advice would you give to anyone considering going to school vs. doing it on their own?

Dr. Sizzle: As mentioned previously, I attended AI where I thought I was being taught to be a better artist. The drawing and painting classes were minimal and they geared us towards computers and graphic design. In the long run it helped with getting a job. But I guess I was expecting to be more of an Illustrator. It was like pulling teeth to get info out of some of the teachers. Others taught me more than I can understand and still to this day am just realizing what they meant. As far as advice- choose your school wisely. Education is expensive and if you are serious about it choose a serious school and program. When it all comes down to it, you either have it or you don’t. School doesn’t give you talent – it just helps you sharpen your skills.

MD: How have you been influenced by the art community? Who/ what inspires you?

Dr. Sizzle: To be honest I try not to keep up with the art community. It sickens me to open an art publication and see new artists being featured and it all looks the same to me. Art has become trendy and it’s really another person’s rendition of a style that already has been done. There are a bunch of artists out there that are setting these trends and I enjoy their works but I see others copying them to the point where they can’t even enjoy their own creativity. So I really don’t get influenced by the art community other than techniques that I might want to experiment with. To me, I see art as an expression of ones thoughts carried onto a medium or surface. Paint, Drawing, Sculpting or what ever your fancy, should be 100% your own visions. Don’t paint to impress the masses or magazines- paint because that’s what you paint even if it sucks. If you’re passionate about it you’ll make it great and people will appreciate it more than you’re ripped off version of someone else’s passion.

MD: Do you have a career/ job (other than the art you create independently)?

Dr. Sizzle: Yup, I am a motion graphics designer and animator for TV and video. I create the cool stuff people take for granted on TV. Like your favorite commercials, or music videos and even the show title open.

MD: Have you had any careers not related to art?

Dr. Sizzle: HA! I designed Hoagies while going to AI. LOL. Yeah, lots of odd jobs before I got my break in the professional world.

MD: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

Dr. Sizzle: It’s tough out there. To put a price on something you spent a good deal of time on and expect someone topay that is really hard. If you’re up and coming, or just not well known enough, you really have it hard. I have a hard enough time parting with my originals as it is and to price them to sell is almost impossible. I’ve been creating prints and selling limited numbers signed until I exhausted them to the point of selling the originals. Creating a website and swag helps a lot to promote myself and get the name Dr. Sizzle out there. It’s really hard balancing time to paint, promote, work my day job, hold my family together … not to mention my nine million hobbies and other creative vices…

MD: What are your goals? What are your plans for the future?

Dr. Sizzle: My plans are to paint when I feel like it and not make it my job. It’s important to me to keep painting a hobby and not my primary source of income. Once that happens it becomes work which is no fun. I paint for passion not for paychecks. Changing that would have a considerable effect on my art and my love for it. I plan to continue painting my Pin-Ups and
branch them off into a few directions and various series. I have a few products in the works as well as some videos and books planned, so stay tuned!

MD: Do you have side projects you work on? Have you collaborated w/ other artists in the past?

Dr. Sizzle: Being a graffiti artist, I have worked on much collaboration on a very large scale. It’s one of the best feelings. I hope to get out this summer and do a few more.

MD: What was one of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?

One is a portrait I did of Miss Mia Sinclair which took over a year to complete and is one of my largest brush paintings. Mia passed away last October 2008. I’m glad I had the pleasure of working with her.

MD: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the art world since you got involved? Where do you see the art industry going in 5 years? 10 years?

Dr. Sizzle: Well I have to say the “Lowbrow” art scene has taken the world by storm. It was frowned upon and was never really accepted into the gallery and art world but now it is pretty much dominating the globe. I suspect things will evolve full circle. As people start to realize there is a difference between Lowbrow Art and Lowbrow posers. People will eventually go back to a more Fine Art taste and talentless crud will wash away. Then again who am I to say what is good and what is not. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. So maybe the things I call trash and what people love and that will wash fine artists away AHHA. Who cares, art is art. People will express themselves whether someone likes it or not. I think if enough people hate you you’re probably doing it well enough to piss people off it will eventually become the best thing the movement ever seen. Just like PUNK ROCK!

MD: Favorite painter/ artist:

Dr. Sizzle: I have tons of favorites, a few, in no particular order are;
Keith Wessner, Glenn Barr, Coop, Gil Elvgren, Rockin’ Jellybean, Maxfield Parrish, Robh Ruppel, Kris Kuksi, Frank Frazetta, and many others.

MD: What are you listening to?

Dr. Sizzle: Old Punk from the early 80’s


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