Illusive Perspective: An Interview with Timothy Robert Smith

0 Comments 06 November 2015

Shifting perspectives and living wildly in and out of his artwork, Timothy Robert Smith opens up to Yay! LA.

By Evan Senn


“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

As he prepares for his solo exhibition, Multi-Dimensionalism” at Copro Gallery, opening Saturday, November 7 in Santa Monica, and running through November 28, Timothy Robert Smith is getting a lot of attention about his show and his jaw-dropping artwork. But this 34-year-old California native is a passionate, humble, quiet riot. His fascination with the human experience and perceived realities in our individual and shared experiences makes for a powerful body of work that is both intellectually stimulating, soulfully satisfying, and visually engaging in every detail.

His oil paintings for his solo show at Copro Gallery are exquisite and surreal. Realistic in technique, Smith takes the familiar realities and transcends our normal understanding of what we see, think and feel—and jumps off the deep end, into the sea of imagination. Shifting planes, multiple dimensions, many different perspectives, reflections, and experiences are expressed in flawless detail, forcing the viewer to rethink their physical, mental and maybe even emotional perspective and perception.

We got to sit down with Smith to talk a little bit about his practice, his new show, and his inspiration.


Reality Feedback Loop (Fig 1.2) oil on canvas. 36” x 24”. 2015.

Reality Feedback Loop (Fig 1.2)
oil on canvas.
36” x 24”. 2015.


What does your day-to-day routine looks like?

Full-time artist, part-time teacher. I usually paint ten hour sessions, 4 days a week. When I get in the groove, I like to get lost there. My studio is a five minute walk from my apartment, and I live above a bar and a coffee shop.


What or who got you interested in art?

Well, I come from a family of musicians, so I think it started with that. Both are expressions of some indescribable thing that lives inside of you. Until a few years ago, I balanced my time between art and music. But, honestly, my songwriting kinda sucks. And I have really terrible rhythm.


Timothy Robert Smith

Timothy Robert Smith


Were you artistic as a child?

That’s all I did. There were no other kids on my block and I’m an only child.


How would you describe your art?

It’s kaleidoscopic, energetic, and kind of all over the place; but connected at some core level to an idea (usually a very abstract idea about the nature of existence). And there’s a lot of humor, absurdity and awkward situations too. Mostly, I use locations and artifacts from my life. I experiment a lot with different perspectives. There are areas of intense realism, and areas of swirling psychedelic colors. Characters are small fragments of larger, complex scenes.



Untitled oil on wood panel. 20” x 16”. 2015.


Do you have an overall message behind your artwork? Is each series different from the previous? 

Each piece has it’s own springboard idea that I use to jump off into the deep end, where the real meaning lives. It slowly appears during the process of creation. The series as a whole is connected through my experiments trying to understand multiple dimensions, strange perspectives and time and space. It’s similar to what I was doing last year, but hopefully more developed.


What inspires you?

Seeing the truth behind things. Looking strangers directly in the eyes and trying to figure out meaning and patterns in their lives. Experiencing new things. The world is very mysterious and beautiful to me. I also love being in nature, watching clouds and stars, and being with smart, funny, good-spirited people.


What’s the typical setting in which you create a piece? Day time/Night time? Soft music playing? Heavy metal blasting?

I usually work all day and into the night. By nighttime, I’m deep inside the feeling I’m exploring. I’m mostly blasting loud music and grooving with it. My tastes are pretty eclectic, but I’ve had a consistent Polyphonic Spree fixation for years. Other times, I do the audiobook thing.


Waiting Room oil on wood panel. 30” x 24”. 2014.

Waiting Room
oil on wood panel.
30” x 24”. 2014.


Where do you get ideas for your artwork? References? Personal photos?

I read a lot and try to immerse myself into what’s happening now, in the news, and science, culture, music, movies, art, etc. I also like having lots of interesting conversations. This all sinks into my head, and usually resurfaces as a really confusing, abstract thought that I must somehow make sense of. I make tons of quick, scribble sketches, trying to capture these raw thoughts before they morph into something too contrived.


If we walked into your home or studio, whose art would we find on your walls?

Scott Hess gave me an awesome drawing that I hung up. Other than that, there’s not much of anything. My apartment has mostly blank white walls, which helps me think. It also constantly reminds me that I’m in a state of transition and shouldn’t get too comfortable.


i-Finity Phone 7 oil on wood panel. 11"x14". 2015.

i-Finity Phone 7
oil on wood panel.
11″x14″. 2015.


In your art practice, what is your favorite medium and why?

Oil paint has a rich depth like no other. I like oil on wooden panel, because I can get rough with a palette knife and not worry about anything ripping or wobbling too much.


Discuss the process you go through to create a piece.

It always starts with a crazy sketch, and then I try to make sense of it. I don’t enjoy doing the same thing twice; so I like to invent new, complicated puzzles that require me to think outside of my own comfort zone. I find a location and take about 300 pictures, spinning the camera in every direction. I sketch more, find models, shoot them, draw them, and start painting. Usually, as I’m painting, the ideas evolve to expose what I was really trying to say, and I have to reshoot a few things and add stuff.


Elevator Music oil on wood panel. 24” x 24”. 2015.

Elevator Music
oil on wood panel.
24” x 24”. 2015.


“Multi-Dimensionalsim” is your most recent exhibit, at Copro Nason. Can you tell us a little bit about the work involved in this exhibition?

There are 10 new pieces, all slightly different variations on finding the true nature of time and space. Three pieces in the show are inspired by “video feedback loops,” where you point a camera at the monitor while recording, which shows millions of repeating versions of the same reality. “Reality Feedback Loop” (Fig 1.1 and 1.2) is what the world would look like if there were infinite other dimensions with alternate versions of ourselves in them.

In “Upside Downtown,” I wanted to show a “worms-eye” POV; living underground, looking up. The sky is the dominant force that holds everything together. A person is walking over a whirlpool of dirt, grime, trash, pigeons and all the stuff we try not to notice. There’s an undertow that can suck you underground if you’re not careful.


Upside Downtown oil on 3 wooden panels. Each panel: 22” x 24”. 2015.

Upside Downtown
oil on 3 wooden panels.
Each panel: 22” x 24”. 2015.


How did the concept of the shifting perceptions of reality enter your creative brain and process?

I’ve always questioned my own perception of things. Showing multiple viewpoints in one physical space is about opened-mindedness, and losing yourself in the greater picture of all things.


Do you have a favorite or most personally significant piece in this show?

To me, “Upside Downtown” is the most fun and inspiring. The viewer is looking up at a bright blue sky that’s full of potential. That one, and “Elevator Music” were the hardest compositions to consider, we gives me a strong connection to them.



Nickel Diner oil on wood panel. 24″ x 16″. 2015.


Perspectives are very difficult to render, especially when they are as extreme as the ones in your most recent work. Can you tell us a little bit about your techniques for getting these extreme perspectives of the human figure and spatial surrealism?

I use ladders a lot. In “Elevator Music,” I wanted to show two models in the same space, but one shot from above and one from below. Patrick stood close to the ladder while I was shooting from above. Jackie stood up on a ledge, while I lay on the ground and shot looking up.

In “Upside Downtown,” I put my camera phone on floor (looking up) in a parking lot where a bunch of pigeons hung out. I threw lots of birdseed while a recorded video. I went frame by frame, and was very happy with the results.


Do you have any words of advice for an upcoming artist?

Don’t just tell stories, be the story! Live it out. Un-desensitize yourself and jump headfirst into the deep end. And never trick yourself into believing that something is finished just because you’re too lazy to fix it.


Find Timothy Robert Smith on Facebook.

Follow Timothy Robert Smith on Instagram.

Find more info on Copro Gallery’s website.

Print Friendly



Powered by Facebook Comments


- who has written 16 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Evan is the Editor-In-Chief of Inland Empire Weekly, Culture Magazine, and owns and operates the independent online art journal, Rogue Art Research & Writing. She has an M.A. in Art History and is a Curator, Artist, Graphic Designer, Editor and Writer. She has contributed as an arts writer for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, KCET Artbound, OC Art Blog, OC Register, OC Register Magazine, Artillery Magazine, Local Arts Magazine, Culture Magazine, IE Weekly, Laika Magazine, Unite4:Good, and E-VOLVED Magazine. Past publications also include ArtScene, Juxtapoz, and Art Ltd. Follow her on at Twitter @EvanASenn. Follow her on Instagram at @senntastic.

Contact the author

Share your view

Post a comment

© 2017 Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine. Powered by WordPress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium WordPress Themes