Steve Smith Artist

Steve Smith has as many opinions as tattoos, a no holds barred character whose significant talents as an artist range from sign writing to painting to producing graphic novels. He leads a simple life but has strong views on the world and our role in it.

“I have had so many different experiences and I’m a social-political animal. I believe the world is in trouble and we have to try and save the planet,” launches Steve when asked to pinpoint the inspiration behind his art. “My art is very much take a look at yourself you fuckwits!”

Having grown up between Perth and Bunbury, Steve’s artistic journey began when enrolling in art school in the 1970s. “I studied art at a place called Alexander McKay which went on to become COFA (now UNSW College of Fine Arts). I had my first exhibition in 1980 at a place called Mori Gallery, stayed with him until pretty close to 2000 and then I went to Ray Hughes for ten years.” Now in his early 60s, Steve’s passion still burns bright. “Signwriting is the business that supports the art. I can’t churn the art out.” Fortunately then signwriting is on a crest of a Bondi wave, enjoying a notable renaissance. “I have been around the area for a long time. I have seen the place change radically and I have seen signwriting go through a massive period of where all this vinyl took over and now signwriting itself is becoming incredibly popular again.”

“I have been doing this for 30 plus years, I find work comes from good work you do, people will look for you, they will wait,” explains Steve. “It all comes from doing things in the first place, it evolves.” Contented clients of Steve’s include Vacanza in Surry Hills and Ruby’s Diner, Bronte.

“If it’s your passion follow your own instincts and don’t copy what other people are doing. Do from within,” advises Steve. “I have done so many businesses over the years, I almost know when I am doing something if a place is going to succeed or not. The successful ones aren’t the copycats. So many people see what others have done and go ‘I can do that’ and then they will go and do it and becomes a disaster zone.”

Steve who treasures his Adidas originals, enjoys a daily breakfast at Jeds and on a Saturday rides his bike between different galleries carries a deep concern about the future. “I see this greed-driven society as basically evil and sick and disease filled and poisoning this planet. What is being left for the next generation is scary. I do what one person can do. I use my art to do what I can and that gives me the space to do what I can and be comfortable within myself.”

That’s the opinions, and the tattoos? “The first one I put on myself as a kid (in late 50s in primary school). I come from a fairly dysfunctional family. When I did it, my mum looked at me and said you are going to end up covered in tattoos and cried. I was born with tattoos.”