From drawing books to walls
Muralist Anthony Smith enjoys painting huge structuresMonday, November 15, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
Using his bare hands, a paintbrush, roller or spray bottles, Anthony Smith is one of the muralists transforming graffiti-stained street walls and large drab structures across the island.
Smith's latest canvass is the silo at Carib Cement Company in Rockfort, Kingston, which, he said, is the largest mural he's worked on.
“When I first saw the silo I said, 'This is huge!' I realised that no matter how far I stepped back, my head wasn't able to tilt up far enough. When I finally got to a distance where I could see the entire thing and I walked around it I said this is huge but I am up for it because I'm not just making a mark at Carib Cement, nor just contributing to Jamaica's largest mural but I am contributing to one of the biggest steps that I am going to make in my career as a muralist,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer.
That mural will be officially unveiled as part of the island's 60th anniversary of Independence celebrations next year.
The artwork is being done under the 'Jamaica Creative: Paint Up Yuh Creative Space' mural project which started in December 2019.
Twenty-four-year-old Smith, who is from Mile Gully, Manchester, started out demonstrating his artistic skills while attending Devon All-Age School.
That's when his older brothers realised that he had a knack for craft and asked him to beautify their bedroom walls at their house.
“My earlier days of exploring art, as it relates to colour and scale in those times, I was using poster paint on walls. This was from primary school. At that time, looking back at it now, I thought it was nonsense. But going to primary school, transitioning into high school that was when I really started to explore painting on walls,” he explained.
“The house I lived in at that time was in a community called Bethany. We moved from there to Mile Gully, and then I continued to explore walls. My older brothers would have new walls because it was a new house. So they decided that they were going to hire me... for good favour. With them asking me to pretty up their walls in their bedrooms was a push for me to translate from drawing books to walls,” said Smith.
“I've always been drawing. I remember in grade one I did this drawing and my [art] teacher at the time decided that she wasn't going to give me a pass for it because she was not convinced I was the one who did it, so she sent me back home and said my older siblings should not help me with it,” Smith recalled.
In contrast, though, his siblings made his artwork less impressive.
“When I brought it back [to school], she accepted it and I was hurt. But I said, you know what, I am going to keep trying, and by grade two I was drawing diagrams of the ears, eyes, nose, and so forth for grade six classes,” he added.
Over time, Smith evolved from school assignments, to community beautification, to corporate mural projects.
In 2012 he painted the faces of reggae superstar Bob Marley, sprint legend Usain Bolt, comedian Oliver Samuels, and former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on walls in his community.
He also assisted in creating murals of a cricket match on the walls of Sabina Park in Kingston and a Rastaman holding fish and jelly coconut at the area known as 'Border' located between the parishes of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
Those murals were completed as part of Southern Parks and Markets Waste Management environment uplifment programme in 2019.
Teamwork, he explained, plays an important part in creating murals.
“It is inevitable. That ingredient you cannot do without. For example, when you're cooking rice and peas, you can't do without the rice and you can't do without the peas. That's teamwork when it comes to projects like these. Even if you are not working with another set of artists or an assistant, the team becomes you, the client, the entire supply chain, and those who provide the material,” he said.
Smith said he would love to create his next mural at the overpass at Three Miles, St Andrew.
“It gives me life while I'm doing it. It enlightens me. Whenever I am talking about it — executing, planning, or putting together a proposal — the entire process gives me life, it makes me feel like I can do this forever,” he said.