Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.
In February, I spoke with Denton cartoonist Jeremy Smith about his art. And this month, he was named the recipient of a Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant. The Dozier Travel Grant, established in both artists’ honor in 1990, offers artists an opportunity to travel. The Doziers’ believed in the power of such experiences, and this grant is awarded to professional artists at least 30 years of age who reside in Texas. I caught up with Smith over the telephone this week:
Tina Aguilar: Congratulations, when I heard the news I was not surprised. Tell me how it feels.
Jeremy Smith: I have to thank Brian [Gibb of The Public Trust]. He thought I should apply for the Dozier Grant, and I went for it. We discussed how I had my artist friend, Al Columbia, and he’s wanted me to come to New York, but it has always been a matter of finances. Brian explained to me that the grant is for travel, and so I said, “OK let’s try it.” It feels awesome and, while the Xeric Grant is for publishing, this grant is about getting validation for the fine arts. It felt so right to get it, because I wanted to go to New York City, and I wouldn’t do it unless it wants me there.
T.A.: Any ideas on what you will do first?
J.S.: The plan is to work, not too much personal, and find the cartoon syndicates and make appointments with them. Usually you do this by mail, but back in the day you went to New York and hit the pavement. I want to do that and shake hands with the editors. If I am rejected, fine, but I want to meet them in person. I will get to talk to people and go around New York and observe the city as much as I can. I grew up on Long Island but moved when I was young and I never went to New York City. The city seems like another country to me, and I am looking forward to being there.
T.A.: Are there any updates with your plans with your friend Al? How did he take the news?
J.S.: We are in collaboration, and when I get to New York we will continue with our picture book. He is very supportive and was glad to hear about it. I have never had an artistic mentor, and on top of it all he’s a great guy … very free with his knowledge. He’s looking forward to showing me some techniques.
T.A.: Speaking of techniques, what have you been practicing lately?
J.S.: I have been practicing the look of my characters … making them more individualized. It happened, not too long ago, that I worked out keeping the characters more consistent and keeping a spontaneity with them. And I achieved this with proportion. If I am going to be doing this day-in and day-out I want to make it work. These characters are alive to me and have specific personalities. Of course, I am practicing my inking, and I feel good that the characters are coming into themselves.
T.A.: What do you think about the idea that another artist wants to offer a fellow artist a new experience?
J.S.: With this it seems perfect, because the Dozier is for travel and for someone at least 30. When you are in your 30s, you reflect about your 20s, and I am ready to go forward and really see what comes next and experience the city. I want to share my work, and hopefully editors will give me a chance to see my work and talk to me about what come next. I look forward to the experience.
Jeremy Smith plans to visit New York City this fall and will show new work in July at The Public Trust Gallery.