It’s likely most who do an online tour of Chad Smith’s art works will become intrigued as this writer was. Sweeping brush strokes, vivid colors and high energy are evident. Yet, an in-person viewing allows one to better appreciate how layered and nuanced they are. You too might hear his paintings.
In an interview to help explain more about his work to readers of Picture This Post (PTP), Chad Smith (CS) describes how difficult it is to capture what he is seeking in a two-dimensional space. In this writer’s view, he has succeeded in making art that is life-changing, like the music it emulates. The pieces look animated. This is not a cerebral body of work, but one that is to be experienced with the senses. If you both enjoy abstract- expressionist art and Chad’s music, a visit to see this traveling exhibit is highly recommended.
(PTP)In addition to being the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers you’ve become an outspoken advocate for music programs in schools. Can you comment about that?
(CS) I started hitting things around the house at seven, not yet playing the drums. It wasn’t until I took music classes in school that I really learned to play the instrument. I never took any private lessons. My public schools outside of Detroit, Michigan, offered a lot of music classes. Junior high & high school had concert band. If you practiced there was symphonic band, and of course marching band. We had a jazz band and a music theory class in high school too. These were all in public schools.
Now, music and art are the first things that get cut from public schools. So, it's a shame because I think it's an important part of learning. Students can become well-rounded when they are exposed to music and art. Kids do better in school. Attendance rates are up and graduation rates improve in schools with music and art. I think music and art should not be electives, but part of the regular curriculum, like science and math. They’re the fun part of school. Certainly, they were for me.
I would never have made it through school without music, though I was goal driven and knew what I wanted to do. Certainly, by the time I got to high school, I was planning to graduate and become a professional drummer. As soon as I graduated, I started my professional career. I played in Detroit at the Detroit club scene and circuit for eight years, six nights a week, three sets a night. That's where I got my bones, my 10,000 hours, or whatever you want to call it. It was really fortunate that I was in such a rich musical environment. I just loved doing it. I felt as though I was making it earning $165 a week! I had the greatest time.
As the years went by, I felt as though I’d experienced all that the music scene in Detroit had to offer, and that’s when I moved to California. It’s sunny out here. It was either go to New York or California. I had friends in the L.A. area. I was seeing Guns ‘n Roses and other bands; Sunset Strip and California looked cool. I wanted go there.
Music has always been such an intricate part my life and art. This brings us to my art show here where I'm incorporating my drumming and my love of rhythm into interesting art pieces that I hope people will appreciate.
Can you explain what you want to convey in your paintings?
Similar to a great piece of music, if you start talking about it too much you don’t allow people to develop their own relationship to the work. I believe music and art should be in the eye and the ear of the beholder. I think that's important. A piece could mean one thing to one person, and another person might get a completely different feeling from it. That's the great thing about art.
I can tell you the process involves me playing in a darkened room with fluorescent light-up drumsticks. SceneFour, the studio I work with, photographs me with different shutter speeds and various angles. Some images are more literal, and you can kind of see a ghost image of me in the background—Chad. Some of the drum images are simple and more abstract—Jellyfish Series. I also use different canvases to work on for the finished pieces. In post-production, color and light are some of the many options. I work closely with the people at SceneFour. We choose images that show what I want to convey in the work. This is the challenge.
Drumming is such an audio and visual experience. It’s physical. I want to convey that energy on a flat surface and have people feel the motion, the power, the energy and the light in the way that I play the drums. I used very bright colors to convey these qualities in this series. I made colors explode, and used brush strokes on some images to show the fluidity of the motion of drumming. That’s what I was after. This series feels bright. It feels energetic. I want people to see, and hopefully feel, the motion and power of the rhythm of my drums.
On SceneFour’s website there are other pieces from other drummers. Do you think if the other drummer played the same song, the images would look very different? .
Seven guys on the same drum set, with the same music, are going to sound and look very different.
Is the drumming energy that you put on the canvas different when you are performing in a dark room than it would be when you are performing in front of a live audience and getting audience feedback?
It is a different medium. It is still me performing, and playing the drums. I don’t have the energy of the crowd to work with for sure. Playing in a dark room is a different kind of performance art. It’s a challenge to get the act of playing the drums, and making music on a flat canvas. I’ll say it again, it is a challenge. I hope people like my art.
Slider Photos - by Jim Platel and courtesy of Chad Smith
About Caryn Hoffman
Ms. Hoffman has a degree in art and her life’s work has been environmentally and politically focused. After community organizing on both coasts, she had a career as an educator in Southern California. Now, semi-retired, Ms. Hoffman leads an active, outdoor lifestyle, continues to advocate for the environment and travels. She is especially fond of art, film, cultural events and is an ardent, live music fan. She loves adventure travel including camping, hiking, kayaking, rafting and road biking.