Artist Spotlight: Aj Smith

Meeting in Oneida, Arkansas at Lee’s Grocery” by Aj Smith, 2022, graphite on paper, 46×36.


“It is important that I show a likeness of my subjects through facial expressions. In order to do this, I must first spend time getting to know the individual. Initial visits may not include working on the drawing, but engaging in casual conversation and taking several photographs. Photographs of the subject are taken under different environmental circumstances and social situations. This allows me to glean some subtle indications that reveal the subject’s personality.

“Although direct subject observation is important in the drawing process, much of what I do to capture personality is from memory. The drawings are more about establishing a communication link between the subject and myself.

“I hope to present an honest depiction of my subject that reflects upon a suspended moment in time. When others look into my drawings, I wish for them to speculate on the subjects’ demeanor, attitudes and general disposition. I hope that my portrait drawings remind the viewer of someone they know, have once known or would like to get to know.”


Born in Jonestown, Mississippi, Aj Smith is currently a professor in the art department at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Smith holds a master of fine arts degree in painting and printmaking (1977) from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY) and bachelor of fine arts degree in painting and printmaking (1974) from the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

Smith is also a master printer in fine art printmaking. He apprenticed for five years with Robert Blackburn, distinguished artist, art professor and founding director of the Printmaking Workshop Inc. in New York City. Smith’s additional scholarship includes fellowships at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine; Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Brandywine Center for the Visual Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont; and Invited Artist at the 2008 GKK International Linocut Symposium in Galleria Klatovy-Klanova, Czech Republic.

Smith is recognized for an extensive exhibition record including national and international venues. He is included in Who’s Who In American Art, initial entry, 24th Edition. Art review publications to include Smith’s artwork are the New York Times Weekend Arts Section, Los Angeles Times, Flash Art magazine, international office in New York City and Artforum magazine.

His work is represented in public and private collections throughout the U.S., China and Czech Republic. A selected list of public collections include the U.S. Library of Congress, Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Foundation Permanent Collection, Columbia Museum in South Carolina and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania.

Smith’s work is currently on display at the Historic Arkansas Museum through Sept. 24 as part of the exhibit “Celebrating Trinity Gallery: 50 Years of Arkansas Artists.” Find more of his work locally at Greg Thompson Fine Art and online at

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