I think I was sixteen, maybe seventeen, the first time I ever saw one of Zak Smith’s painting. Actually, it was just a picture of one of his paintings in a book. At the time, I was going to a weekly evening class at my local Art School (ESADHaR).
I don’t remember what I drew that day or even what was the subject of that particular session. What I do remember however, was that our professor, at the beginning of the class, showed us a bunch of books about contemporary art.
As she quickly flipped through one of them, giving us a brief lesson on Art History related to what we were supposed to focus on, a glimpse of blue caught my eye and I decided to check it out later…. Which I did, once she gave us the pile of books so we could take a look at them to find inspiration/try to grasp what she was expecting from us that day.
I struggled to find it because it was a relatively small photograph in a relatively big book, but after ten minutes of going back and forth I finally found it.
I was immediately impressed. There were so many details in such a small picture, I didn’t know what to focus on. And it looked SO realistic. And at the same so NOT. Like an alternative kind of reality. My first thought was: it looks like a picture transposed as a painting. My second thought was: this girl looks badass. My third thought was: WHO did this? And what else did they do? The rest of that class is all blurry… Pretty much like the rest of these two years I did of evening classes. But that painting stuck with me. (Picture taken from Zak Smith’s tumblr)
Over the years, I checked Zak Smith’s work on various websites, read interviews he did and watched some of his debates online.
“Zak Smith, also known as Zak Sabbath, is an American artist and adult film performer.” That is the first thing that will pop up if you Google his name. But he’s actually so much more than that. I encourage you to follow his Twitter, his tumblr and/or his D&D blog, just so you would realize that 1. He writes a lot about many things. 2. He is really approachable and will not hesitate to answer you if he is interested in what you have to say.
He published several books, among them is Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow that I still have to read and is one of his most famous works. He also published Dungeons & Dragons guides titled Vorhneim: The Complete City Kit (which he received the IndieCade 2012 Technology Award for) and A Red & Pleasant Land.
I believe that if I am so infatuated with his work, it is because it reminds me of comic books while being something entirely different and unmistakably his. With a subject as “common” as girls, he shows us his perspective, from what he experiences on a daily basis. Everything seems messy and overloaded with details but, to me, it seems just right, just the way things are supposed to be. It makes me want to try different things, to find my own way, my own perspective and how to express it.
I really hope I will, someday, have the opportunity to see some of his paintings in real life, and not just glossy pictures of them in art books.