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“My earliest memory of making art is being given a box of Crayons as well as some pencils and paper and being told to go play in the corner – and actually enjoying it,” confides the man with a faint Texan drawl whose callused fingers were once more familiar wielding a blow torch than the metal pencil now making the most frequent appearance in his hand. Almost 35 years later, animation artist John “Mouse” Smith is now rarely seen without his trademark army green bandana, wry smile, battered set of headphones, or electronic drawing pad on hand.

After an initial spark of interest in art as a child, Mouse continued to doodle throughout most of his early years of education until attending the Dallas Comic Book Convention in the ’80s. At that point in time, he shares, his perspective on and passion for making art was completely transformed. “I realized that animation was one of the ultimate art forms,” he says, “because you have the ability to breathe life into your character. You need to give an impression of so much more than simple pigment and lines. Animation takes [art] another step forward: it is no longer a static image. It moves, it has a voice — it’s alive.” Although the largely self-taught artist has had an extremely wide and varied range of job experience over the years that allowed him to pursue his artwork on the side, manual labor occupations that have included working at a movie theatre, a refinery, a landscaping company, a tree crew, a chemical processing plant, a fast food restaurant, and even a Renaissance Festival, a recent car accident served to propel him towards pursuing art as a more full-time vocation. “If you’re trying to pursue making art as a career,” he shares, “be damned sure that you want to turn your art into your job — if you can’t do both, if you can’t enjoy it and live off it, don’t even try. I love it,” he continues, “and I think that comes out through my work.” With an artistic background in multiple mediums such as sculpture, woodworking and paint, Mouse’s primary outlet has been in creating graphic pieces with an electronic pencil and drawing pad as well as an expertise with digitally-mastered editing and programming.

Much of Mouse’s artwork centers on a fascination with exploring and capturing the human form as well as with expressing the imaginative. Whether he’s creating brief, simple pencil sketches or intricate works of far-off galaxies that require hours of attention to fine details, Mouse carries the same amount of passion into whatever it is he’s creating at that moment. “I would best describe my art as thought-provoking, playful and,” Mouse paused and then laughingly concludes, “sensual.”

 

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