BJ Smith, Artist

BJ in the process of hand-cutting artwork

Story of an Artist

As a child, I was often found carrying a notepad or sketchbook with me. I recall purchasing a basic airbrush set, which while not as precise as the more expensive versions used by mall artists in the 1980s, still allowed me to paint model cars.

I decided to try my hand at using the airbrush to create designs on t-shirts and vanity plates, but since I did not have the same level of control as the professionals, I resorted to using stencils. I would hand-draw my designs on paper or cardboard and then carefully cut them out using a craft knife. While my pieces did not have the same soft gradients as those produced by more expensive tools, they featured clean, simple designs with crisp, defined lines.

It is surprising to think that nearly 30 years later, I am still using these skills to create fine art.

A different direction.

As a young student, I initially enrolled in a fine arts program at university. However, I eventually changed my major to business after realizing that certain required courses, such as sculpting and metalwork, did not align with the type of art that I wanted to create -- youthful idealism.

I loved design and I saw myself in a similar role to Darrin Stephens from the TV show Bewitched, presenting my campaigns in the boardrooms of advertising agencies.

It was during my college years that I began exploring the field of web design, a relatively new technology at the time. After spending a couple of years working in television advertising, I transitioned to a career in web design that lasted for 20 years. During this time, I taught myself various graphic design software programs, including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Darrin from Bewitched looking at a storyboard.


Today, I combine the skills I developed in creating stencils with my knowledge of graphic design programs to create my art. Many of my pieces are roughly designed on the computer before I begin working on them by hand. I apply the principles of placement, the golden ratio, color combinations, and more that I learned through years of experience in graphic design to each work.

The real magic occurs when I start bringing these designs to paper and adding freehand lines to complete the piece. I never know exactly how a work will turn out until I have finished and can step back to assess it.

I enjoy observing people's reactions to my hand-cut paper artwork. From a distance, they can appreciate the overall designs, but when they come closer, they are often surprised to discover that the pieces are made from layers of paper that have been carefully cut by hand. Photos do not always do justice to these works.