We recently spent some time with artist, Ham Smith, in his new home located in Los Angeles, CA. Ham discussed why his work is rooted in American Outlaw culture, his resentment toward art in an academic environment, and how his style grew out of being broke in New York. Not to forget, his dog Murphy rules.
Tell us about what you do and some background on yourself.
I am an illustrator/painter/artist. I grew up in Virginia, then I moved to Savannah, Georgia to study illustration.
Recently, you moved to Los Angeles from the east coast. What prompted the move and how does this new setting influence you work?
Well I really wanted a change of scenery and thought LA would be cool... I also thought I could get more work here compared to Georgia. I guess being here has brought out the southerner in me, since being here I have watched a million documentaries about old southern juke joints and blues singers - that influences my work pretty hard.
Most of your work has an “American Outlaw” influence. Where does this interest come from and why does it resonate with you?
I grew up watching westerns and horror movies and still do. I also had a huge interest in motorcycles and cars. My uncle had a harley when I was about six and I covered myself in temporary tattoos and wore a leather vest with no shirt and a harley du-rag. My grandfather was also an all-American guy, he was a carpenter so he taught me how to work with my hands and his interest definitely rubbed off on me.
Did you have any mentors or artists you worked with that helped guide you along the way?
Not really, I worked for a few artists while I was living in New York but it was just busy work. I mostly grew into my style from being alone and broke in New York.
Did you go to school? What was your experience with art in an academic environment?
I always hated school. In high school I was in 4 different art classes because that's all I wanted to do. College was a little harder for me because I really hated being graded and told what to do as far as being an artist. I always had to paint and draw stuff that I didn't want to do just for a grade. I hated it, and often have nightmares of having to return to school.
You like to put create work on different objects varying from skateboards to shoes to motion graphics to pins. What’s your favorite medium?
I like tattooing and screen printing the most probably.
Can you tell us about any personal projects you’ve been working on?
I finally got screen printing supplies so I've been working on burning screens and shit.
What have you been jamming out to lately?
Junior Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, T-Model Ford, mostly dirty old blues guys.
When you’re not working on your art, what can we find you doing?
Skating, drinking or hanging out with my girlfriend and dog.