What’s In Your Toolbox: Cedric Smith

As soon as I am in the position to invest in artwork, I will immediately become one of Cedric Smith’s greatest patrons. I have been a fan of his ever since I saw one of his mixed-media paintings hanging in my ultimate happy place, Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah. Cedric is known for marrying bold, bright colors with vintage photographs of African-Americans. He layers paint, photos, paper and fabric with the same finesse with which he layers different messages to the viewer. Behind every seemingly nostalgic and whimsical portrait, Cedric subliminally acknowledges the absence of the African-American presence in advertising. In addition to the powerful messages and ideas that it inspires, his work is just plain beautiful. He clearly has a sentimental heart, a trait that magnetizes me to his work. I am so pleased to introduce y’all to this amazing artist, Cedric Smith. Ginny

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox? This can be anything from your favorite types of paint brushes, paint, glue, etc. Anything you love to use when making your art!

Cedric Smith: I use acrylic paint (Utrecht and Liquitex), all types of paintbrushes, blue painter’s tape, my cameras (Mamiya 645 pro, Nikon D300) and the painter’s knife with an accumulation of paint, which I use to distress the look of my paintings.

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ______.”

CLICK HERE for the rest of Cedric’s interview after the jump!

3. Design*Sponge: What are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Cedric Smith: I draw a lot of inspiration from blogs such as 100 Layer Cake, Bedlam of Beefy, Design*Sponge (aw shucks!), Once Wed, The BK Circus, Martha Stewart and Sweet Paul. For magazines, I turn to Donna Hay, Detail, Metropolitan Homes, PDN, Bon Appetit, Zinc and Country Living.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Time management is often one of the biggest obstacles for creative minds. Do you have an agenda book and do you make to-do lists?

Cedric Smith: I don’t have an agenda book and I don’t make to-do lists.

5. Design*Sponge: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist?

Cedric Smith: The best advice I’ve received was to always paint or shoot photography. I always learn something new to apply to a paid photography job or painting for a show.

The advice I would give young artists is to stop just thinking like an artist; you need to also look at yourself as a business. I hear a lot of artists saying they don’t do it for the money, but struggle with their bills and work for a job they don’t like, and only paint on the side. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you apply some business to your craft, you could be doing what you love full-time.

6. Design*Sponge: If you could look in the studio of any artist, dead or alive, whose would it be?

Cedric Smith: I would love to look in Walton Ford or Odd Nerdrum’s studio.

7. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Cedric Smith: I combat blocks by listening to music or watching a movie.

8. Design*Sponge: What is the best part of what you do, and what is the hardest part?

Cedric Smith: The best part is getting to meet people from all over. My paintings and photography have allowed me to travel abroad to places I never thought I would visit. The hardest part of what I do is not being able to get a paycheck consistently.

9. Design*Sponge: If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?

Cedric Smith: If I could have any superhero power it would be the ability to read people’s minds.

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it include? It can be your favorite classical songs or blues or hip-hop or NPR or whatever is on heavy rotation for you. Anything and everything!

Cedric Smith: B.B. King, Public Enemy, James Brown, Elton John, Nina Simone, Koko Taylor, Luciano Pavarotti, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Jay Z.

  1. CB says:

    utterly endearing

  2. chelsea says:

    love this.

  3. Annette says:

    “if you apply some business to your craft, you could be doing what you love full-time.”

    best quote, and oh so right!
    loved him for a long time! thanks ginny!

  4. Shones says:

    This guy is amazing. Thanks for introducing me to his work.

  5. His work is so beautiful! I love his studio space too!

  6. 3piece says:

    I have been following Cedric Smith’s work for some time now and will definitely love to own some of his work. He is phenomenal.

  7. Regina says:

    Oh thank you so much for introducing us to this artist. I agree, I would love to buy one of his works one of these days. LOVE IT!!!!!

  8. summerland says:

    Fabulous introduction. He sounds so authentic and warm. And his work does evoke strong feelings. Truly unique!

  9. i love his work. thanks for sharing! that quote mentioned above should be a screen background as a reminder. :)

  10. karen says:

    it is nice to see a person of color represented on your site…I’d love to see more diversity!

  11. Maria Cunningham says:

    Thanks for featuring Cedric’s work! He is a great artist and I’m so jealous you got to meet him!!!

  12. watched with bated breath
    well done!

    I’ll return to here again and again

  13. Kira says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous work.

  14. jane says:

    what a freakin breath of fresh air… DIVERSITY!

    gorgeous, all of it.

  15. Cedric, can I come hang out in your studio? Seriously, it looks like such a happy space–and full of beautiful work.

  16. Karen D. says:

    I am a huge fan of Cedric Smith’s work! I live in Savannah and swoon over his creations every time I go to Back in the Day. He has such a great backstory too. Love that you guys did a feature on him!

  17. Anne Marie says:

    Never heard of Cedric Smith before. Now? Love, love, love his work. Thank you for the feature.

    And yes, more diversity pretty please? Especially of this calibre. Thank you DS :)

  18. haylie says:

    ginny & cedric- what a great interview! you both know how much i adore cedric’s work. i have a print (thanks to cheryl & griff), and one day i’ll work my way up to a real painting too!!

  19. Ginny says:

    yes miss haylie bird! i’m jealous you saw his show in nyc!!

  20. Awesome work!! Paintings are vivid and colorful. Thanks for introducing this artist to us. He’s definitely on my radar!!

  21. teresa says:

    I agree, such interesting, moving work. I so want the “Black Pepper” piece in my house!!

  22. Melaine says:

    Inspiring in so many ways. I want one!

  23. Lindsey says:

    Brilliant! Ah, soaking over these is a pleasure!

  24. shannon says:

    how had i never heard of cedric smith before? thrilled to be introduced to his work.

    and i agree with other commenters who would love to see some more diversity here.

  25. Erica says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the “what’s in your toolbox” feature is my absolute favourite thing on this site. I loved his description of how he feels when in the studio.

    Can’t wait for the next one. Keep up the great work… these toolbox profiles are good for the soul!

  26. dina says:

    absolutely amazing works. such a beauty!!

  27. Kirsty says:

    Cedric smith is a genius, amazing work!

  28. Sara says:

    Love his work! They feel pure despite the rough, grundy texture. love it.

  29. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for featuring a young and gifted African-American painter! Keep up the good work Cedric!

  30. camille says:

    I want to buy the paintings (and the products they illustrate)… awesomely original, design, technique and execution… even as can be seen through the photos. Every element and its context just works.

  31. Sally says:

    I see Cedric at the dog park on a pretty regular basis. Goes to show, I should ask more questions when I am at the dog park. I am wowed by his talent and perspective on being an artist. Now, I can go beyond, “Hey” next time I see him…

  32. Bren says:

    I love it. So much resonates with my sensibilities… great interpretation of the culture and history! I’d invest in his pieces too if I could! Thanks for sharing.

  33. I love his work, every time I come across it I know it’s his! I too first saw it at Back in the Day bakery and actually his girlfriend Autumn worked there (maybe why they had his work up?) and we had such a great talk with her about him… ever since I’ve just thought he was a magical artist.


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