Owen Smith’s lurid figurative art often depicts the basic, sometimes base elements of life. Inspired by popular culture and artwork of the first half of the 20th century, his works are reminiscent of the robust style and subject matter of Depression Era art. Smith’s paintings mirror our current social and economic climate. His archetypal characters inhabit the boxing rings, construction sites, flophouses and burlesque theaters of urban America. Like the characters from Film Noir, Smith’s subjects seem to survive on their wits, sexual allure and violent tendencies, trapped by life, circumstances and social roles. Smith paints in oils with rich colors and shadings that emphasize movement and volumetric form. Smith also creates large charcoal drawings. His tight compositions heighten the sense of tension between the figures. Smith enjoys playing the line between serious art and kitsch, making comments about society at the same time he is having fun with a romanticized view of America’s tough past.
Smith's resume is long and impressive. His sculpture is included in the exhibit “I Want Candy: The Sweet Stuff in American Art” currently on a tour of museums across the US. Smith’s award-winning illustrations have appeared in numerous magazines and Newspapers including Sports Illustrated, Time, Rolling Stone, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The New Yorker (for which he has created eighteen cover illustrations.) His work helped win a Best Packaging Grammy Award for Aimee Mann’s CD “The Forgotten Arm.” Smith has awards from the New York Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, and Print Magazine. A New Yorker cover he co-created with artist John Mavroudis won the 2007 Cover of the Year from the America Society of Magazine Editors. His clients include The San Francisco Opera and The United Nations. While living in New York, Owen was commission to design a set of mosaic murals to be permanently installed in a New York Subway Station at 36th Street Brooklyn. Smith also created posters for the Subway System. Currently he is designing permanent art including murals, mosaics and relief sculpture through the San Francisco Arts Commission for historic Laguna Hospital. In 2007 he designed six posters for the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Market Street Poster Program depicting the life and work of mystery writer Dashiell Hammet. Smith currently resides in Alameda, California where he teaches Illustration at the California College of the Arts and lives with his wife and two sons.