Artist creates mural for new business

Local artist Chris Smith with his mural commissioned by Guitar Zone, a music shop opening soon on South Cumberland Street in Morristown. Smith, a Texas native who relocated to Tennessee a few years ago, has created artwork using several media at his home studio.

New challenges are nothing new to Chris Smith.

Relocating to another time zone for love, teaching himself to paint and sketch and learning the slower pace of Tennessee have all been influences in Smith’s life.

So painting a mural for the first time was an easy undertaking. Smith recently finished a mural commissioned by Guitar Zone, a music shop opening soon on South Cumberland Street in Morristown, and he said he could have finished the project in less than the week it took.

“(The mural) probably would have taken three days to finish had it not been raining. It set me back a couple of days,” he said.

At 23 feet by 12 feet, the finished project features three different types of guitars representing different genres of music. Painted completely free hand from a sketch drawn days earlier, three musical staffs in both treble and bass clefs grace the top and bottom of the mural replete with quarter notes, half notes, eighth notes, double stops and flowing chords. In the center is a varnish triangle with a treble clef in the center that gives the mural a raised look in the sunshine.

“I knew what the shop was gonna look like. The owners knew what they wanted,” Smith said. “I knew I couldn’t just do one guitar. I painted one guitar, then something more jazzy and another more rock and roll.”

Smith wanted to add his own personal story to the project, as well as that of the owner of Guitar Zone. The result was four guitar picks. One pick represents Smith’s home state of Texas, while another boasts his current state of Tennessee. Two picks at the bottom of the mural represent the German flag crossed by the American flag.

“I wanted part of me in the mural. I’m from Texas, so I used one pick to represent my home state, and I’m now in Tennessee so I painted the Tennessee state flag,” the Dallas native said. “The owner is German, so I painted their flag, but he’s also American – and he loves this country – so I painted our flag.”

Smith uses everything from oil-based, latex and water-based paints to mixed media, which is the use of a variety of media in an entertainment or work of art. He also believes in recycling wooden frames to give his paintings a more vintage look, similar to a half century-old Martin Dreadnought guitar with the old dents and scratches permanently making a home in the wood.

“I don’t use new frames. A lot of people like the new plastic or ceramic frames, but I like the romance of those frames,” Smith said. “A lot of people throw those (older frames) away, but I’m an artist, so I can fix those.

“The new frames don’t have the aesthetic effects the old wooden frames have. I’m working on one right now.”

Smith loves running his art studio from home because it gives him the peace his own walls give him. Despite being told he would never be able to sell his works of art from home, modern technology has proven his naysayers wrong.

“We’re in a worldwide market. Everything is on the Internet,” Smith said. “We see a lot of brick-and-mortar studios go out of business because there’s no more foot traffic.

“I’ve sold paintings in Michigan and New York City – and I’ve never met any of the people who’ve bought my painting.”

Smith’s entry into the art world can be divided into two chapters. Chapter One can be traced to a sibling rivalry with his older brother as a toddler, and his dogged determination to learn how to emulate his brother – even at three years old.

“When I was little, old enough to talk but not in school yet, my brother would get bored in class and draw pictures,” Smith, 42, said. “I wanted to learn how to draw too. I tried and tried until I finally learned how to draw.

“My brother can’t draw anything anymore – and I forgot how to for a while.”

The origins of Chapter Two of Smith’s artistic journey can be found in a computer game called Game of War. Through the game, he met his future wife, Krista, online. Messages turned into calls. Calls turned into visits back and forth from Texas to Tennessee before a permanent move to Morristown – and a marriage. Smith said his new love inspired him to rekindle his relationship with an old love – art.

“I self-taught myself how to paint and sketch in 2017,” he said. “I still have my first three paintings. I won’t ever give them up.”

In his short time in East Tennessee, Smith has learned to love the area – as well as the people.

“I like the people here. I come from a city (in Dallas) where people cuss at you just for looking at them,” he said. “(Morristown) is a nice change of pace. I get to see the mountains every day, and I get to see black bears. Who gets to see mountains and black bears every day outside of here?”