Artist Spotlight: Matthew Smith

Let’s take a moment and get to know another of our Barclay Award winning visual artists, Matthew Smith, whose video for the Tyler Childers song “Nose On The Grindstone” took top honors for March of this year.

Can you give us a brief biographical sketch? Age, location, background, studies, profession?

I’m 32 years old, living in Richmond, Kentucky. I’m an Army veteran; I am currently a fulltime student working on my BFA degree at Eastern Kentucky University here in Richmond. 

How are you holding up amidst all this upheaval? What’s happening in your area?

It’s not been terribly bad where I am considering what I’ve seen in other parts of the U.S. Recent events have been challenging to an extent. It is a confusing and frustrating time, I feel like, for most of us that are just trying to make sense of everything going on.

Are you a film professional or more of a student/hobbyist?

I had taken a study abroad trip to Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, last spring. I studied illustration there but also decided to take an elective film and animation class and fell in love with visual storytelling. That’s what I’ve decided my title is, visual storyteller.

What can you tell us about the “Nose On The Grindstone” production? Gear, crew, time? 

This video was filmed using a combination of a C100, Lumix GH5, and my Samsung Galaxy when I was flying over the island and about to land in the country for the first time. 

I had one other crewmember; he was a graduate student also from the US that I was introduced to, and a former marine. He assisted with camera and lighting, but I directed, performed, produced, and edited the video with the university’s equipment. I think we went from start to finish in about three or four days, max.

We used the university’s recording studio for some of the shots, and then contacted a church nearby to film a few scenes in there and the rest was reenacting the landing scenes at the airport mostly.

Did you have the “story” pretty well laid out beforehand to make a statement?

Tyler Childers and John Prine had toured Wellington just before this assignment for film class came up, so this was actually a project I filmed after the concert for a grade in film class. Tyler opened the show with this song, and I was homesick to a degree because I was expecting a baby back in the U.S.—that’s her ultrasound in the end of the video.  

I’d listened to the lyrics and recalled memories from childhood and was always being told that if I wanted to make it as an artist I’d have to leave home and go out into the world to learn how it’s done.   

Where I grew up in South Eastern Kentucky, we didn’t have many opportunities in the art field and I wanted to pioneer something here to prove to other local artists that we actually could. So it’s a chronological story for the most part of what they call in fiction as the “hero’s journey,” I tried matching visuals best I could with the words and it kinda just flowed. 

Is this your story, or that of someone close to you? It’s an emotional powerhouse.

These are my reflections growing up poor and somewhat under undereducated about the world. The picture of the house belonged to my great grandma.   

Neither of my parents went to college, I’m the first, I guess, to actually leave the country and study abroad, so it was kind of a big deal for me to get to tell that story in a country where they know little about KY but have KFC’s everywhere.

I’d been discharged early from the military and when I came home I struggled a lot with insomnia and mental health for a while in my 20’s. It kinda spiraled out of control and (I) couldn’t keep work, my car was getting repoed and I’d lived for about a year in a storage building. 

Finally in 2017 I won a claim I’d had to appeal four times from my medical discharge and they back paid me from 2012. 

That allowed me to have a second chance in life to have a clean slate and do something I was actually passionate about.

What are you working on these days?

I have about one year left for my BFA degree and mainly have my time focused on getting through that. I did, however, start up my film production LLC in February of this year and invested in resources and equipment to do more filming, documentaries, and music videos.

A friend and I just finished up another Unofficial Video of a song called “Dead Horse” he covered to compete in a contest for Hayley Williams the lead singer of Paramore. I just loaded it to Youtube as well, as a portfolio piece for the business, which is basically what I’d also done with this video.

Everything on my Youtube channel is just a big portfolio for my digital art.


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