Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew “Sabey” Smith.
Matthew “Sabey,” we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Sure! Growing up I always loved making art. I have been making pictures since I was a little kid when my mom would have me do arts and crafts with her in the kitchen or do finger paintings on the dinner table. I grew up in a household that appreciated art with two parents who endlessly supported me. I know how lucky and fortunate I am to be able to say that and I am humbled every day by the love and compassion they always showed me.
I noticed as I started growing up I was drawn more and more toward my art. Let me tell you when those hormones kicked in during those teenage years. Those emotions were showing in my work. Anger, sadness, happiness, love, laughter, and total confusion all in one picture. Sounds like a teenager in a matter of five seconds right?
Well, I guess not much changed! I studied Studio Art at Stonehill College and had an amazing beneficial experience there. That is when my kinetic and free movement style just started to develop. I eventually moved to Phoenix and started either doing volunteer artwork, commissioned work or just work for myself. On top of being an artist, I run my own business as a Strength Coach, and I carry a full-time schedule as a student studying Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine & Acupuncture. Quite a mix of things but it works for me, and it is just who I am.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do? Why? And what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My artwork is all about the ENERGY. You will find that a lot of the art I create is full of kinetic movement, and my paintings are often blasting with color. I vary my working sizes, but my favorite projects are always on a larger scale. When I can work on larger scales, it allows me to use my whole body and place my entire movement into the canvas. That is one of the reasons I started making my own canvases, so I had some control over the scale of it. I like the images I create to pop off the page, either metaphorically or physically depending on the goal or message. The reason I create my art this way is I want people to have an experience, and I want them to see what I was thinking while making the piece. My art professors used to call me intense, and when it comes to my work and to be honest, they are probably accurate. I get so driven by emotion it just takes over, I channel all that energy and go at it, I love it. Its like I am in some free-flowing universe where the work just happens, almost as if I’m not even the one creating it! I find this happens particularly in my abstract pieces.
I’ve always been very much of a big picture, philosophical type of person so you will see a lot of that in my work if you look at it long enough. For example, a more recent work of mine titled, “Cosmic Soul Party” is all about the spreading of energies throughout the universe no matter where you are. The brighter colors mix with, the more pale colors, and they begin to mix and intertwine with one another all around the moon. Now you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. My goal with this painting, in particular, was to demonstrate that our actions, our thoughts, and our emotions play a role in everyone that is around us. The “vibrations” we create have an effect on everything in our presence. We have the choice to use ourselves for good or for bad, but that thought process is entirely up to us. Sometimes I compare this painting to a party where not everyone knows each other. You’ve got your bright, happy, go lucky party people (the brighter colors) and you have your more reserved, shy or nervous people (the pale colors). So, think about whose side you may personally sit on. If you resonate with the brighter colors are you going to get the pale colors to brighten up, or are you going to become shy, reserved and nervous like them? On the flipside, if you find that you resonate with the pale colors are you going to take someone’s invitation to relax, lighten up and have a good time? Or would you be the type of person that is going to try to make everyone else feel uncomfortable because that’s how you feel. The point is you’re all at the same party and parties are supposed to be fun right? So now it’s your decision whether to make it that way or not.
My artwork always has hidden messages, faces or objects within it. When people view my larger work, I always encourage them to look deep into it and just let the experience take them over. One of my older works from a few years back titled, “Emotional Chaos” is full of faces. Some are more abstract than others, but a lot of people struggle to find them all. There is a total of around twenty faces in that painting. Most people don’t usually see past about twelve to fourteen of those. I say, “around 20 faces” because sometimes I even surprise myself several years later and see another that I entirely forgot about! I make my art that way to create some fun for the audience, and I always get a good laugh when I point out what was hidden once people give up! I think the biggest thing to keep in mind when anyone looks at my work is if it looks simple or too basic, you are probably missing the point!
Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
I would say the conditions for artists today are rather unique. But being the person I am, I like to think that they are on the upside? I think one of the most major influencers now, is social media. Everyone is on Instagram, facebook, twitter, and all that stuff and we train our minds to scroll and pause on what jumps out. So as an artist sometimes you are either helped or hindered by that. I have found that in order to get through to other people, then you have to find how to fit in a square Instagram picture and make every inch count. To be honest, it really tests who you are as an artist in today’s society.
I think schools especially discount a lot of what we are able to do as artists, or the effects we are able to have on our surrounding community. I know for myself I do my art from within and from there I attract the people I want to attract. With that said I know a lot of artists are more honed in on making the audience just melt with their work because their main focus is to appeal to the public. Don’t get me wrong you need an audience, but I would keep making my work whether I had an audience or not. My art is who I am, and that will never change no matter how good or bad someone may feel about it.
Most studio artists I know also have other jobs, or they make their money being tattoo artists, graphic designers or things of that nature. When people ask me what do you do, I say, “well I primarily do painting, drawing, and printmaking.” Sure it would be cool to do more pay for service art like graphic design or being a tattoo artist, but I just fell in love with something a bit different that isn’t always commissioned as often. Make no mistake ALL types of artists work their asses off, so I have the utmost respect for all of them. Personally, I just make a living having a different job as a strength coach, and I am a full-time student studying medicine. Yea that takes a lot of time from my art but I just find ways to make it all work for me, and it totally does. I think that way I am free to create the art that most appeals to me rather than making it for someone else for a paycheck. People may have differing opinions on the matter, but that has just been my personal experience and observation.
As far as supporting local artists and helping us thrive, come to our shows, like us on social media, follow us on our threads or youtube channels and get out there, we absolutely want to meet our fans! You have no idea what it feels like when someone says “hey, your work inspired me to get through the day today” or “your work re-energizes my creativity and makes me want to get myself out there” HELL YEA! Go do it! Learning that MY work was able to inspire or help someone else in some way, there is no greater feeling than that! I absolutely live for that s*** man!
Phoenix, to me, seems like it is up and coming as far as the art community is concerned. We have such a unique melting pot of all types of cultures and people who have relocated here from around the country. I really think its on its way up. I have high hopes for the art community here, and I hope that the community projects continue to grow so we can start using our gifts of creativity to spread those good vibes around to all our neighbors.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can see my work on my Instagram or my Facebook pages or any shows I am in throughout the valley. I make all my announcements on there about where I’m going to be and where someone can meet me to chat about art! I have a show coming up in February with a bunch of other artists, I plan to get out to a few first Fridays this year, and I will be doing some private pop up gallery shows as well.
I sell my work, accept commissioned projects, and also sell prints of my art. For locals, I like to hand deliver everything when possible too, so that way I get to meet someone face to face and give them a genuine thank you for placing their trust in my craft, its a really great feeling.