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Maynard Smith

Artist / Storyteller
California, USA

What is your occupation?

Basically, I'm an artist/storyteller (no matter what my job title might be at any given time).  For many years I was a freelance cartoonist and sculptor.  However, for the last ten years, I've primarily worked as an attractions host at a major theme park in Southern California.  Working as an attractions host, I've had the good fortune of being able to incorporate storytelling and art as a performer.  Throughout a given day, I may sing some silly songs, tell a variety of absurd stories, perform a few character voices, improvise a little dance or two, incorporate cartoon sketches when signing autographs or have a conversation with a tree.  It's actually one of the most enjoyable jobs that a person could imagine.

What were your favorite subjects when you were in school?

I can recall working on a construction paper Santa Claus back in first grade and throughout the years, art has been a good friend to me.  It's also interesting to note, that I seemed to have had the same level of focus, desire to create and raw ability at age six as I do today.  Of course, I've learned a few tricks of the trade since then but in essence, he was my mini-me!  Writing, of course, has also been a close friend, not unlike a third arm.  Although we are closer now than we used to be.

Certainly, there are many people who enjoy the arts as a hobby but I think it's a bit different when you're born into the arts.  In essence, I have no choice about it, the arts have always been a part of me, it's in my blood, bones and soul.  A person can be an artist whether or not their talent(s) ever make them a dime and I think a person could have gigantic artistic ability without ever realizing it.  Sadly, there are women and men who live their entire lives not knowing that she or he was born into the arts (an honorable birthright).  Although I've explored a handful of abilities within my design, I'm looking forward to finding more.  Sometime soon, I'm hoping to take a journey within, to discover other treasures and spend time with talents that I've already found.  I look with anticipation, to enter the silence and find a personal renaissance.

It seems as though most people nowadays, have come to accept the mainstream idea that the sole purpose of 'getting an education' is so that they can get a better paying job.  I doubt that Socrates would agree.  There are risks involved with giving up the curious child within.  Indeed, almost every time I ask an adult, if anything new or interesting is going on in her or his life, their answer is almost always the same, they reply, 'nothing'.  One might wonder if they've committed some sort of creative/intellectual suicide for the sake of getting stuff.

Did you have any classes that were difficult for you?  If so, what did you do to get through them?

Algebra and I didn't get along very well.  Algebra didn't seem very practical, except for some of the word problems.  I remember asking my teacher why we were supposed to learn the subject and he replied that it was required in order to take other math classes.  I ended up taking the class a second time and my grades improved.  Today, when I think about his answer, it occurs to me that he could have had a career in politics.  I think I would have learned more if my question had been answered.

What kind of books did you like to read the most?  What was your favorite book all time?

When I was a kid, I liked to read books about cowboys and horses.  On a few occasions, my parents gave me collectible plastic horses as a thank you for writing book reports.  Two of those horses still stand in an honored location on my library shelf.

My favorite book of fiction is The Wind in the Willows, because that's the type of book I would like to write and illustrate some day.  Its time frame was near the turn of the century when horse-drawn buggies shared the road with horseless carriages.  A time of innocence mixed with a time of wonder, in a world teaming with nature and populated with talking animals.  However, the book which I esteem the highest, is the Bible (good stuff).

Did you do any theater or take drama classes as a child?  Did you always enjoy acting and creating characters with your voice?

In sixth grade, the music teacher had me sit on a bench outside the classroom once, because I kept singing with silly voices.  Although I didn't take an acting class until I was in college, I did attend choir classes in high school.  I took my first choir class in my freshman year and our teacher gave me the first solo part.  Many people bought tickets to see the production and I remember hearing an older student named Dan, introducing me and praising my vocal talent.  However, when the curtains opened and I was supposed to sing, I didn't sing loud enough and I ended up laughing because I felt silly.  Thankfully, the instrumental music covered up my embarrassing performance and the show went forward.

Although I now have about 52 character voices, I don't remember developing them much as a kid.   I did however, develop drawings of original cartoon characters while I was growing up.  The voices to me are somewhat like an extension of cartooning, like drawing with my voice.

When did you get involved in sculpting?  What kind of sculpting do you do?  How did you learn how to do it?

When I was very young, perhaps seven years old, I remember sculpting something in clay.  Later, when I was in 6th and 7th grade, I'd sculpt things out of warm wax.  One figure was a Santa on skis and another was a dragon with two legs.  In high school, I sculpted objects in clay and the pieces were basically turned to stone when fired in a kiln.  Years later, I used a grey-colored modeling clay to sculpt a variety of fantasy cottages.  The cottages were then mass-produced in plaster by a company which used Latex molds to duplicate the designs.  Another material that I enjoy working with is called 'Sculpty' and instead of a kiln to harden the material, I use a simple toaster oven.  Someday I would like to create some 3-D designs using this material and photograph the images and then incorporate the pictures into a line of greeting cards or a children's book.  As far as learning how to sculpt, it was just a matter of putting moldable material in my hands... it came natural, like a fish learning how to swim.

When did your ability to draw manifest itself?  Did you take art classes?  Do you use the computer to do artwork?

One afternoon in college, I bumped into a fellow who I knew from elementary school.  He remembered when we were about seven years old in second grade.  He said a long line would often form near my desk before the kids would go outside to recess.  They wanted to see the intricate pencil drawings that I had drawn on my desk.

In seventh or eighth grade, I had my first official "Art Class" and learning one and two point perspective and, of course, shading still-life objects were both very helpful.  It's great when a person gains a sense of self-confidence and for me, the arts have provided a spot of soil where I can stand.  From this vantage point, other subjects are more accessible.  For example, an artist usually has an advantage over other students when understanding the importance of shading, perspective, texture, etc. when studying art history.  Art history then becomes the launching pad from which the artist can confidently explore other subjects, such as: philosophy, world or regional history, psychology, sociology, business, law, science, music, literature, etc., etc.

The computer can be a powerful tool for creating images and I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with my Mac.  However, when I use a mouse, it feels like I'm drawing with a rock.  Thankfully, a friend gave me a pressure sensitive pen and tablet and it feels very natural.  I've also enjoyed a natural, intuitive feeling when using a paint program with the pen and tablet.

Do you have a favorite quotation that inspires you?

"Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents."

~ Matthew 25:16

- 28 November 2003


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Last Updated:
29 November 2003

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