We had the good fortune of connecting with Zack Smithey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zack, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind my success has been perpetual drive and motivation over long periods of time (decades, in my case), drive to be highly productive, drive to keep learning, growing, evolving, and expanding into new markets. Talent without drive means nothing. I’m trying to run a marathon at 100 meter dash speeds. I want the arc of my life to be an exponential curve upward, from birth to death. We are a culmination of our experiences. Everything you’ve experienced until this moment, makes you who you are. At this point, after decades of working 7 days a week in the studio, it feels unnatural to spend a day not accomplishing something. If you want to become something you have to dive head first into that thing, let it wash over you, drown in it until it becomes apart of your essence. It takes a full-time effort over the course of years. You can’t expect full-time results from part-time effort.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Of all factors in my life, creativity has been the only constant. I’ve been an obsessive creator my entire life. Growing up, and throughout my early career, I wasn’t concerned with communicating any messages with my art. I didn’t feel like the time was right. I was more concerned with broadening and sharpening my skills. What’s the point of trying to convey a message if your skills inadequate? Nobody’s going to read a book by an author who hasn’t mastered spelling and grammar. Now, I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist, capable of creating art in almost any medium or technique. After decades of studying the process, it has become a central theme of the majority of my work, the art of creating art… the ‘how’ instead of the ‘what’. Traditionally, it has been frowned upon for an artist to dabble in multiple styles of art. Galleries prefer focus and dependability from their artists. They want you to be that artist that does that one thing. It makes it easier for them to present you to their collectors. “I think you would love this artist. Their style and your taste are a perfect match.” The more styles you introduce, the more difficult it becomes to package you into a neat little box and sold to collectors. Lucky for me, I don’t give a shit about all that. I didn’t become a full-time artist so I could fit into other people’s boxes. I need full autonomy and freedom in order to produce the best work. If you don’t like what I’m doing, then keep scrolling. The internet and social media have disrupted the art world in favor of artists. It’s easier than ever for like-minded individuals to connect without the approval of the gatekeepers. With constant drive and proper marketing anyone can find their audience. Get used to the fact that life itself is hard, gaining traction and finding success is hard, finding inspiration and motivation is hard, everything is hard. I’ve always been a competitive person and a problem solver. I see difficulties, not as road blocks, but as challenges, which are opportunities for problem solving, leading to motivation. Look at the world as a game to be conquered, and then reverse engineer the game in a way that allows you to tap into your motivation to solve problems and achieve your goals. It’s easier to change your state of mind than to change the world, adaptation is the key to survival.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m not the best person to ask for an itinerary of activities. I was talking to a friend recently and he pointed out something that I was unaware of from my perspective. Spending all day every day in my studio, I’ve formed an imbalance in my life in favor of producing over consuming. My life outside of producing is minimal. My social life, even pre-pandemic, has been dwindling in my pursuit to maximize production and efficiency. I work all day and then come home and eat my one and only meal per day, usually between 6:00pm and 8:00pm, consisting of simple whole foods. I never get tired or hungry throughout the day and don’t have to spend time or money on food. Eventually I’ll re-balance my life and start including more external experiences and activities, but now is not the time. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Leonardo Da Vinci – growing up I admired all of the different disciplines that he excelled at – drawing, painting, sculpture, math, science, inventing, etc. His life inspired me to live up to my full potential and to be a well-rounded individual. My parents for supporting me in every activity I wanted to explore growing up. My wife Brie Smithey for her continued love, support and encouragement. We’re a team and she’s my #1.
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