Cover artist Randolph Smith is at home wherever he paints, and “home” can mean any place from Charlottesville, Virginia to the Hamptons and New York City. Or beyond. His art also finds a home wherever Smith happens to be—his buildings and iconic locations fitting in perfectly, no matter what the environment. It stands to reason that Smith also feels comfortable in any setting, weather or ambience.
Regarding ambience, Smith manages to make the various moods he evokes a part of his signature style, a kind of Neo-Impressionism that’s gentle, engaging and sometimes fantasy-like. Consider his recent images of Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater and our cover of Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater, both movie palaces done in the Art Deco style. The structures have similar elements: a worm’s eye view; bright colors illuminating the buildings and an atmosphere that gives each venue a star-like quality. Smith’s New York subject matter also mirrors such a feeling with brownstones, Rockefeller Center’s ice rink and Central Park. Even his Hamptons beach scenes repeat the same perspective and fantasy-evoking setting. Smith’s images are playful and life-affirming, with forms that tilt, alive with “soft-edge” (non-geometrical) designs.
You are an artist who seems at home in a lot of places. What’s your connection to the Hamptons?
I spend one half the time here and half the time in Charlottesville. Recently, I painted the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum, and it [the painting] will be up for auction.
What other local subjects are you planning to paint?
The John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor, when it’s finished being restored. And the Old Whalers’ Church.
How would you characterize how you work and your mission?
I’m a plein air painter and a preservationist. The plein air group here inspired me to donate work for fundraising purposes. I want to paint the garage owned by Click and Clack, who do the Car Talk radio show on National Public Radio, as a fundraising project. I really want to pursue more fundraising activities.
You were very much involved with music from Appalachia.
Yes, I had a band, the Smith Family Band, with my children when they were 5 to 15 years old.
What’s your connection now with this kind of music?
I want to paint the Floyd Country store, the Blue Grass Center of Virginia.
Your other interests are historical as well, like your participation in the James River Batteau Festival in Virginia.
I do a painting once a year featuring the festivities, and we float down the river. Last year, it was pouring rain, and a rock punched a hole in the boat. We had to be rescued. I lovingly call the boat The Virginia Leaker.
Your other interest is yoga, and you take yoga classes when you come to Bridgehampton. How does it help your art?
Yoga helps me focus more. When I’m here, I take yoga, go to the beach, and all of a sudden I have created a painting.
How has your painting changed?
The paintings are coming slower, but I still paint a few works at one time. I’m doing them more in detail.
What are your plans when you come back here next time?
Maybe go to New York and finish a painting of the Plaza Hotel. And paint the Brooklyn Bridge from the top of the building Frank Gehry designed. It’s hard to get permission. Although I did get to paint in Bryant Park because I met the CEO, and he said I could stay.