Artist Terence Smith at Ann Coen Gallery

May 06, 2015
Photo by: Pat Johnson Terence Smith with two of his personality portraits.

If making friends is an art, then Terence Smith, artist, surfer and entrepreneur, is the Michelangelo of good times. His one-man art show “To and From” opened at Ann Coen’s Gallery in Surf City on Friday and was packed with well-wishers, fellow artists and surfers and those aching for an outdoor, rocking-the-block party. The music from the six-piece band Funk Shway brought cars cruising the Boulevard to a stop to take a look at what the commotion was about.

There was Smith, 27, surrounded by pretty women and his cast of characters captured in paint and pastel: a cigar-smoking fisherman, a grouchy carpenter, a goof-off in a yachting cap and a red-bearded friend with wire-rimmed glasses and “ready for anything” tux.

Smith received a B.A. in fine arts education from Montclair State in 2011 but says he is primarily a self-taught artist. His website on Facebook, “Garden State Surf and Art,” includes two videos of the artist at work, one in which he is drawing an old guy in a hat and another showing him using charcoal to make a lovely, sweeping drawing of a breaking wave. A video of Smith drawing the “Jillson’s Tux” portrait is on a loop in the Ann Coen Gallery.

Smith was born in Eagleswood and went to Pinelands Regional High School and now lives in Beach Haven;  he operates his own surf shop with his brother Jim, Garden State Surf and Art in Beach Haven Crest.

He approached the art scene cautiously, first showing off his work in his store. Friday was his first artist opening, and he was a bit overwhelmed. “I’m still young yet, so I haven’t developed a theme or a style,” he said.

Art agent Elizabeth Beaty of Burke Art Advisory had visited his store, loved his work and suggested the opening at Ann Coen’s Gallery. She particularly was captivated with the portraits.  “Terence’s subject matter is inspired by his appreciation for local lore and his passion for surfing,” she wrote in a press release. “The majority of the work in this exhibit consists of meticulously rendered nontraditional portraits and landscapes that hearken a love of solitude.”

Smith has a good eye for the unusual character, and the portraits are honest and straightforward. Although they are realistic, his way of building the face with successive layers of graphite makes it seem to grow organically from the page. Unless covered by sunglasses, the eyes gaze right at you, and you can easily imagine what the subjects would say next if that were possible.

Smith’s father was the inspiration for the scowling man in a sailor’s cap that was featured on the show postcard. “I call it ‘Dad’s Look-alike,’ but it was actually worked up from a photo in a magazine.” The cigar–smoking man was from a photograph that Smith took of a friend’s father, a former employer of the hard-working Smith. “I worked with him at Sun Decks doing fiberglass.”  “Dennis Leary” is a pastel and graphite portrait.

The pastel portrait “Blackout” is from a photograph of a friend, as is the oil portrait “Jillson’s Tux.”

Graphite and charcoal drawings of the sea and surfing are included in the exhibit; some of these are of the moody winter sea. As for many year-round Islanders, Smith’s work varies with the seasons. In the winter, he works as a carpenter (he and his brother actually put in the hardwood floors in the Ann Coen gallery); in the summer he works nights at the Octopus’s Garden restaurant in Mayetta and days at his surf shop. Winters are usually when he has time to do his art and make surfboards.

“In the winter, I try and do as much artwork as I can for the store. When it opens on Memorial Day weekend, I’ll have three times as much artwork there as is in the gallery show.”

Some of his beautifully laminated surfboards are included in the exhibit. “They are hollow, and the quarter-inch cedar is wrapped and glued for the decking.”

Smith said he has always liked to draw and credits his father’s culinary-artist skills as inspiration for his creative side.

Women’s portraits are left out of this show, but there are plans to remedy that, “I guess it was just that I got on the beard thing (many of the portrait subjects have beards), and I was into expression and not into making ‘pretty’ portraits. I have some photos of my mom and other friends to do yet.”

Maybe Smith thinks he doesn’t have a style or an artist’s visual stance, but I would say he does. His work has a good, spare, graphic quality, and his knowledge of what his medium can do serves him well. He goes pretty far by following his instincts and creating from what inspires him. That’s good advice for all artists, young and old.

“To and From” is at the gallery, at 1418 Long Beach Blvd., through May 17. The gallery is open weekends and on request. Call 609-339-9233 for more information.

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