Contemporary artist Tony Smith takes inspiration from a wide range of sources, but his greatest passion is sports cars and motor racing.
History and Background
From my early childhood days I knew I wanted to be an artist. My brother Gerald and I grew up with the smell of linseed oil and turps, watching our father paint for his living at home in Birmingham. Drawing pictures of everything we were interested in was second nature to us.
After graduating from art school with a distinction, my parents, knowing the fickleness of the fine art world, decided that I should have a proper job. I was therefore sent to work in one of Birmingham’s biggest advertising agencies for five years, after which I completed a year’s national service as an infantryman. Neither was a happy experience for me and my painting remained my first and foremost love.
I became passionate about motor racing in the mid forties at a time when there was no racing, so all my research was developed from books about the pre-war period of motor sport. The only speed I could personally indulge in was cycling and I became a keen racing cyclist. My first major journey took me from Birmingham to Silverstone for the 1948 Grand Prix, which I enjoyed immensely.
My subjects have ranged from portrait painting & drawing planes, Trains and military scenes, but it is the challenge of capturing speed in motor racing that occupies most of my time.
Another of my passions is building sports cars, something I have done since long before I was even able to obtain my driving licence.
My collaboration with Washington Green began in 1987 and since then I have produced many limited edition prints.
Ideas and Inspirations
I am surrounded by inspiration. I live in a small village in the Teme Valley in Worcestershire. The views from my home and studio are magnificent, a landscape artists paradise in fact. Unfortunately I do not paint landscapes. Another inspiration is beautiful women. An exhibition of pictures by Pietro Anigoni inspired me many years ago and I embarked on a period of portraiture. It was exciting, stimulating and very nerve wracking. It always worried me that the man paying for the ladies portrait would not be pleased with my painstaking efforts. I decided I was not a born portrait painter and returned to my earlier passion of racing cars.
Given the choice of model in art school, a racing car would always be my first and favourite. Back in the late fifties I drove a Formula 2 Cooper at Brands Hatch on two occasions with the Cooper Training School - they failed, however, to notice my potential as a future world champion! I was also once the passenger in a racing BMW that was hurtled round Brands Hatch by the great Derek Bell. It was both terrifying and inspiring – a glimpse into the passionate world of motor racing from the inside.
I love racing cars, their stylish shape, their engineering excellence, the sound of their engines, but most of all to see them driven hard by skilled drivers against other machines, that really inspires me.
Trying to capture the action, speed and even violence of motor racing is a great challenge – one I’m still working on.