Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dr. Anderson, I presume?

Dr. Maurice Anderson, was the surgeon of the Independent Company of South Carolina while garrisoned at Fort Loudoun in the Overhill Cherokees, near present-day Vonore, Tennessee.

Dr. Anderson was present at the start of the French and Indian War, being at the Battle of Great Meadows (and Fort Necessity) with the Independent Company and George Washington, who was then a Colonel of Virginia militia.

Anderson was later assigned as surgeon of the troops headed to Fort Loudoun, and served there with great distinction until 1760, when he was ambushed and killed by natives who were besieging the fort.

The model for this portrait of Dr. Anderson is Sam Reed, Tennessee State Park Ranger, who often portrays Maurice Anderson during the living history programs at Fort Loudoun State Historic Area.

For a schedule of upcoming events at Fort Loudoun, and the opportunity to see Dr. Anderson in action, visit the Fort Loudoun web site at

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Moving pictures

I'm working on getting the actress series of giclee prints ready for prime time (which won't be long). The scans are done and color-corrected, and I'm currently trying determine the best paper to print the whole set on (I'm leaning toward a smooth Crane drawing paper). They're looking very cool, if I do say so myself.

In the meantime, here's a blast from the not so distant past. Last July (of 06) "Alive at Five," a show on WBIR-TV did a brief feature on my work while it was hanging at the Blount Mansion gallery in downtown Knoxville.

So no sense missing an opportunity for some multi-media blog-o-tainment.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mud & Blood: the art is in

Well, this one was all explained in the last post, so not much left to say.

The original art is 28.5 x 36 inches, oil on masonite panel. I have an ongoing internal discussion about what to paint on. "The Web" is inconclusive about whether masonite (or hardboard) is archival or not. I've been using it for years, so I hope it's okay. This particular piece of hardboard was 3/16 inches thick, which is too flimsy for a piece this size, so I braced it with 1x3 spruce with masonite corners, which makes it rigid, but pretty darned heavy. I like MDO board, which is what the actresses are painted on, but for this last painting I bought single-sided MDO which had a totally different (ie: ripple-y) and unacceptable surface, and the two-sided was unavailable, which is why this is on masonite/hardboard. I've heard that MDF board is good, but I haven't tried that. I considered birch panels, but I don't think the panel seam would be completely invisible, which would be a problem. I could use canvas I suppose, but I prefer a rigid surface (I guess I could mount it), and I don't really like painting over all that weaving. Problems, problems.

The oil painting was photographed by Tony Long (, and he did a phenomenal job. Tony uses a new, totally digital setup that makes unbelievably detailed reproductions of flat art. And he's a first rate color guy too, so the colors are about as good as they can be. I'll write more about that later when the actress prints are released.

Oh, and perhaps I should say that the image size is 14" x 17 3/4 ", overall print size is 18" x 24". Print cost is $95 plus $18 shipping and handling (and sales tax, if applicable). You can purchase it at (which also answers to

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mud & Blood: coming soon!

I took my latest painting off to be scanned today, and I should have a posting of the image by next Tuesday.

In the meantime, here's the Press Release:


Mud and Blood – A New Painting by Ken Smith

WHO: Ken Smith, Historical Artist

WHAT: The Building of Ft. Loudoun, 1757, Painting to be Unveiled at Colonial Trade Fair

WHEN: September 8, 2007

WHERE: Fort Loudoun State Historic Area and

Vonore, Tennessee. He stands before you, staring you down, daring you to move, and you just know he is completely, utterly hating his life. This was the way for the South Carolina troops, who were enlisted into building Ft. Loudoun in 1756-57. As seen in Ken Smith's newest painting depicting the history of the fort, you get a sense of the people who made this moment and you feel their pain, or at least their frustration. This latest work of art will be on permanent loan to the Fort Loudoun Association and will be exhibited in the Fort Loudoun State Historic Area Visitor Center, while a limited edition of 250 prints will be available for sale to the public.

As a build-up to this historic site's 250th anniversary, the Fort Loudoun Association, the park's friends' group, has commissioned Smith to create a painting for each year of the fort's existence, depicting key elements in the life of the fort and culminating with a depiction of the fort's demise in 2010. The first painting was released last year and was called Over the Hills: Sergeant Gibbs and the Advance Party. This painting represented the relationship between the Cherokee and Redcoats and their partnership in securing a location for the building of the fort.

The second painting, Mud and Blood: Carolina Builds a Fort, shows the actual agony of such a project. Slugging away at the building process was Postell's Company of South Carolinians, while the Independent Company of South Carolina, British regulars, drill as the Cherokee watch from the sidelines. No mud or blood for them, at least not yet, as the history of the site will eventually reveal. Next year's painting promises to show a bit more camaraderie between the fort residents and their Indian brothers, and the following year becomes a bleaker still with an image representing dissension between the British and the Cherokee. The series is dramatically concluded at Cane Creek where the Cherokee massacred many members of the British unit and enslaved most of the rest–purportedly in retaliation for a similar handling of Cherokee hostages at Fort Prince George.

"I would like to show a little bit of the frustration of what were essentially National Guard troops being assigned to carry out a disagreeable task in what to them was a foreign country," Smith says about Mud and Blood. He believes in showing the humanity of the unsung heroes and villains of history, everyday people living their lives.

Ken Smith is no stranger to British life at the fort during the French and Indian War era. He volunteers in the park's living history program, portraying a private in the Independent Company. Smith's models are park volunteers, staff or other acquaintances, often painting the people who portray the characters of Fort Loudoun in the park's living history program.

Smith is the Creative Director for Media South, a full-service communications company in Knoxville, Tennessee. He holds a BFA from the University of Tennessee, an MA from Syracuse University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Hartford. Smith also teaches figure painting for the continuing education program at University of Tennessee.

Mud & Blood will be unveiled Saturday, September 8, 2007, during Fort Loudoun's Annual Colonial Trade Faire. It can be viewed starting at 10am and will remain at the park's Visitor Center after the Trade Faire is concluded. Limited edition prints of Mud & Blood will also be available for purchase at this time, as well as prints from last year's painting, Over the Hills. Smith will be on hand to personally sign prints on both Saturday and Sunday of the Trade Fair.

For more information about the Fort Loudoun's Colonial Trade Fair or to purchase prints, call Ranger Shay Steele at Fort Loudoun State Historic Area (432-884-6217), or to see more of Smith's work, visit

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Annie Leibovitz, OMG!

I had the great fortune to visit the Annie Leibovitz show at the High Museum in Atlanta last Friday. Just amazing! I've been a fan of hers since the Rolling Stone days, but I have to admit I haven't been keeping up these last fifteen years. Now, after seeing this latest exhibition (1990-2005), she is without a doubt simply the best.

Here are the exhibit details from the High web site:

The personal photographs in the exhibition document many events involving her family, including the birth of Leibovitz’ three daughters and the death of her father. Portraits of public figures include the pregnant Demi Moore; rock star Mick Jagger; actors Chris Rock, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Scarlett Johansson; George W. Bush with members of his Cabinet at the White House; William Burroughs in Kansas; and Agnes Martin in Taos. Assignment work includes searing reportage from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s, and a series of landscapes taken in the American West and in the Jordanian desert.

The show is up though September 9; if you're in the Southeast and have a chance to go, by all means don't miss it.

And here's a link to the show

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Over the Hills

I'm currently in the process of doing a series of five paintings and prints depicting each of the five years in the life of Fort Loudoun, commemorating it's 250th anniversary (1756-1760). Each print will be debuted and released in September of its anniversary year, and each painting will show something pertinent to the events of the fort in that particular year. The painting for last year's premier of the series (which you can see above) was called, Over the Hills: Sergeant Gibbs and the Advance Party. This painting shows the British Sergeant Gibbs (on horseback) being guided through the Smoky Mountains by Little Carpenter (or Attakullakulla) the chief of the Overhill Cherokees (the redcoat standing to the left of the horse is yours truly).

The prints are available from me at or from the Fort Loudoun State Park: 250 print edition, $95 plus $18 shipping and handling.

Coming in September will be part two of the series, tentatively titled,
Mud and Blood: Carolina builds a fort. This painting will show the South Carolina Provincial Company involved in digging the earthworks that would soon become Fort Loudoun. Look for it soon at a blog near you (or come by the Fort in September). For more information on the program at Fort Loudoun State Historic Area, click here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The London Olympics

This has been getting some press in the British news lately: the new London Olympics logo.

Neville Brody, the famous British graphic designer, is supposed to have said that it looked like "Lisa performing fellatio on Bart." And now that I've heard that description, that's all I can see.

The cost: $796,000

Oh, and the animated version apparently caused epileptic seizures. No, I'm not making this stuff up.

Just part of the wonderful world or graphic design.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Savannah Nocturnes: Mercer House

Now for something completely different. No history and no figures. This is the first in a series that I'm calling the Savannah Nocturnes. Night time paintings of the famous haunted houses of Savannah, Georgia. The old houses of Savannah look very stately and Ole South during the day, but at night you can begin to picture them in the lush tropical environment that feels like the real Savannah.

The Mercer House, of course, is the original home of Johnny Mercer, and the house that played a large part in the book and movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The painting will be reproduced in a 250 print edition on paper, and a 25 print edition on canvas. Available for Christmas!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Murray Tinkelman

Murray Tinkelman is the director of the MFA in Illustration program at the University of Hartford, and is one of the most amazing people I've ever met.

He's crusty and outspoken, compassionate and caring; he knows everything that ever happened in the history of illustration (and has an opinion about it); and as a teacher, has had an astounding influence on a generation of artists.

Recently Zina Saunders posted a very interesting and enlightening interview with Murray on her blog at:

Read it and enjoy; I know I did.

(PS: in case it's scrolled away by the time you read this, the article is: Murray Tinkelman Profile, posted on July 25, 2007)

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Here they are, all the actresses finished, framed and hanging at the Silpe Gallery at the University of Hartford.

and here's a link to the story:

one small step.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Fair of Rosalind

From As You Like It by William Shakespeare
With Lily Langtry as Rosalind

Rosalind, the cross-dressing debutante, is one of the more visually picturesque figures in Shakespearean theater. On a quest to find her father, the banished Duke, Rosalind takes the name of Ganymede and travels with her friend through the forest of Arden, eventually coming upon her love interest, Orlando, whereupon Shakespearean hijinks ensue.

The painting shows Rosalind dressed in men’s clothes with her hair under her cap, reading the love letters that her beau-to-be has posted around the forest. The background replicates a section of a Victorian matte painting, while Langtry/Rosalind/Ganymede reclines on a stone while reading her lover’s missives. I could find no reference to the actual color of her clothing so red was chosen to provide a dramatic contrast to the primarily green forest background.

Lily Langtry, popularly known as Jersey Lily, was introduced to a modern audience by the Paul Newman movie, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, in which Langtry was depicted as Judge Bean’s lifelong obsession (though they had never met). Langtry was in fact a major actress and socialite of the late nineteenth century. She was mistress to the future King of England, Edward VII, and friends with the author Oscar Wilde and the painter James MacNeil Whistler.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Peter Pan, the Avenger!

Maud Adams will always be associated with the role of Peter Pan though she was not the first actress to play the part (Nina Boucicault has that distinction from the original London production). Adams did, however, play the part 237 times on Broadway (and thereupon entered the Peter Pan collar into the fashion vernacular). The actress was also responsible for the camouflage-style costume and the headgear with the jaunty feather (the original Peter Pan in London was bareheaded).

I have shown Peter Pan during the attack on Captain Hook's pirate ship, the Jolly Roger. Dropping his cloak to the floor, he exclaims, “Peter Pan, the Avenger!”

Saturday, June 2, 2007

500 paintings of women

You myspace-savvy people have probably already seen this, but I haven't, so I pass it along, just in case.

A loop of five centuries of artistic representations of women's faces. Pretty cool.

Women in art

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ah! How Wretched

This is the fourth painting in the actress series: Helena Modjeska as Marguerite Gautier in Camille.

Ms. Modjeska was a Polish immigrant who fled her country in 1876 and eventually settled in a Polish agricultural colony in the small pioneer village of Anaheim, California. The colony suffered financial failure during the drought and depression of 1877, and Ms. Modjeska was forced to learn English and return to the stage—first in the title role of Adrienne Lecouvreur, soon followed by appearances as Ophelia, Juliet and Camille (Marguerite Gautier). Over the next thirty years she became one of America’s most beloved actresses. Modjeska was featured (anonymously) as the fictional actress, Maryna Zalezowska, in the Susan Sontag novel, In America.

The challenge of painting a scene from Camille was in the creation of a Victorian room on a Victorian stage, a room that could theoretically be disassembled between acts, and yet have the feel of an overfilled Victorian era sitting room on a stage in late nineteenth-century California.

The scene is at the beginning of the play, when Marguerite, having been discomposed by a bout of coughing during a party at her apartment, says, “Ah! How wretched I look!”

The lighting was chosen to replicate the nature of stage lighting, which causes a spot lighted subject to leap into sharp focus while the rest of the set fades to murky darkness. The wooden floor implies the frontier aspect of the California theater, and the costume replicates existing apparel from the photography of Ms. Modjeska.

And this weekend, I start the last painting in this six-part series, Maud Adams as Peter Pan.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What's done is redone

The Divine Sarah as Lady M is back on the canvas (or board, as the case may be). It's a better painting for it, despite the loss of a week that I could've been working on other pieces.

The scene is from the sleep-walking, out-damn-spot part of the play. "What's Done Cannot Be Undone."

Castle wall background courtesy of the University of the South.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What's Done Cannot be Undone

This is the title of my forthcoming painting of Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth, my most annoying and difficult painting to date (at least in this actress project).

Everyone has a vague idea of what Berhardt looked like from all the posters by Alphonse Mucha, but I'm here to tell you: everyone is wrong.

Sarah Bernhardt has a big nose, an overbite, eyes spaced wide apart and frizzy hair combed into a myriad of different combinations. I know this because I've looked at a jillion (yes, a jillion is a lot) pictures of her. I've been working (unsuccessfully) on a portrait of her as Lady Macbeth for the past several months, and last evening, I simply painted her out of the picture. Back to square one.

I had photographed my model reference using a low, creepy light source (footlights), and try as I might, I could not get the model to resemble the Divine Sarah. Her features are just too unusual for me to replicate into a normal looking person with that bizarre lighting. So it's back to the drawing board. I'm going to use my second choice reference photo, and--this is the important part--I've found a photo of Sarah's face that matches the reference almost exactly.

After piddling with it for three months, I hate to start over at this late date, but there it is. Apparently what's done actually can be undone.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Always with the negative waves, Moriarty

...a line from one of my favorite movies, Kelly's Heroes.

It appalls me how much negativity is on the web. Recently I've been listening to a book on CD, The Shark Mutiny (typical Clancy-like thriller stuff), and I've been enjoying it very much. So the other night I logged onto Amazon to see what else the guy had written and ran across the reviews for The Shark Mutiny. And everyone hated it! Virtually all bad reviews; 2 stars average, maybe. And I noticed instantly that I was enjoying the book less myself. It was the same old book, but it had just been bombarded by negative waves.

Do people consider that when they make a negative comment or write a negative review that they're simply adding to the World Negativity Quotient(WNQ)? In my experience at least 75% of the material on internet forums consists of simple negativity and out-and-out rudeness. Who raised these people; were they taught no manners at all? Did their mother not tell them that, "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all?" Or am I just prejudiced because I was raised in the South?

Consider that for every negative comment loosed on the world, somewhere out there is a receptor for it (or, thanks to the internet, thousands of receptors). Consider that your one piece of blithe negativity may have an adverse affect on thousands of otherwise positive people--a powerful position for one nattering nabob.

It's way past time for a return to simple civility. Enough with the negative waves, Moriarty.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Southland Bookstore show

If any of you are near Maryville, Tennessee over the next four weeks, all my prints and four of my World War 2 oil paintings will be on display at the new Southland Bookstore location in Maryville.

During the bookstore's open house this Saturday, there will be an artist's reception from 5-6 pm (with foodstuffs from ArtyAppetites and new summer coffee samples)and the Doug Harris jazz band from 7 til 8 pm. Southland has a huge and varied collection of used books, a coffee bar, and a stained glass studio.

Southland Books' new location is at 801 E. Broadway, across Washington St. from the old store.

See you there!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Speaking of Ellen Terry

While browsing the net the other day, looking for Ellen Terry material, I came across this site:

Here you will find an interview with Ellen Terry, recorded during a seance in 1965 (Terry died in 1928).

As the web site says: "it explains what the afterlife is and encourages us to look forward to it as the most wonderful part of our eternal lives. She explains the condition people find themselves in and the fact that there is no hell, only each person's assessment of his life."

It's a very lengthy (and somewhat wordy) dissertation by Ms. Terry, and, in my opinion, isn't so much interesting for its content as it is for the simple fact of its existence.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Pray, Love, Remember

My friend, Linda, has chastised me for not keeping up with my blog, so I'm making another effort.

Here's a photo from my easel of my latest, unfinished, on-going effort: Ellen Terry, the famous British actress, as Ophelia. The title of the piece will be: "Pray, Love, remember." The scene is from Ophelia's mad scene, as she's wandering through the castle, recounting the flowers in her hands: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember. And there is Pansies; that's for thoughts."

I thought I was about half-finished with this painting at the end of March, but as it turned out, I was only about one-sixteenth finished. Much work is still left to do, but it's mostly tweaking and refining at this point.

The great challenge with historical art is the attempt to be accurate, an attempt made more difficult by the necessity of working within a budget and a timeframe.

I've read Ellen Terry's memoirs, at least as they relate to her role as Ophelia, and I have a studio photo of her in costume, which is what this art is mostly based on. Recently, however, Google has placed online a number of out-of-copyright books, one of which is Henry Irving's memoirs. Irving was the actor/producer who hired Ellen Terry for the part of Ophelia, and then played Hamlet in the production. In his book, Irving notes that Terry played the part with an "armload" of flowers, including Lilies. Unfortunately, as you can see, I have handfuls, instead of armloads (and no Lilies, but alas, poor Yorick, at this point, that's how it's going to stay). Another recent Google book entry notes Terry's costume as "white samite," a heavy, medieval silk. Well, the photo looked like wool to me [heavy sigh]. However, I did manage to make it white-ish.

I don't know if any of you have noticed this or not, but when you're searching in Google, particularly for obscure historical reference and pictures, the search results vary, sometimes dramatically, from week to week (I've been searching for Victorian actress photos since July). It makes it difficult/impossible to say, "yes, I have the definitive visual information on this piece," when the next week, there might be a whole new portfolio of photos posted. Certainly makes it interesting.

Doing WW2 art seems to be much easier.