Once upon a time, in a land far, far away known as Orlando, an artist by the name of Nick Smith was rediscovering his love of art and began creating original pieces based on classic novels and popular stories.
“I’ve been drawing since I was a wee little lad,” Smith says. “I actually started tracing, that’s one of the things I always tell people, learn how to trace when you’re young so you get an idea of shapes and figures.”
Smith moved onto sketching cartoons and comic strips throughout middle and high school, even drawing for his school newspaper, but shortly after graduating he took a break from art.
“I went into the corporate world,” he says. “I was working six, seven days a week, and I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. I quit my day job and got back into art after 15 years or so.”
In December of 2018, Smith started experimenting with ways to take existing works of art in literature, music and pop culture, and turn them into visual representations of a character from that story.
“I had seen a piece art created using sheet music, and I thought that was really interesting,” he says. “It’s two types of art; you’re taking the music, which is art, and then adding a different layer to it.”
Smith began creating his new pieces using sheet music. He pasted the music to the canvas of his first piece and drew his subject—a young woman—on top of it, but he wasn’t finished.
“I took a sheet of the music and created a 3D flower from it and attached it to the canvas so it looked like it was in her hair,” Smith says. “I was trying to make the piece feel more original, like it’s mine. She is my favorite piece I’ve done so far.”
After a series of drawings based on sheet music, Smith had an idea to create pieces based on some of his favorite books. The first one would be based on the Lewis Carroll classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
“I started with this idea of taking Alice reading her own Wonderland story in the piece,” Smith says. “I thought she was a good one to start with since in the story she is literally reading the book.”
Smith started by laying the pages on the canvas, but he didn’t place the pages randomly. Even the canvas itself tells the story.
“So when I make these pieces, and I’ve read most of the books I use, I’ll go through and relive some of those memories and then I put them on the piece,” Smith says.
He starts with the top left of the canvas and places the book’s first page. The bottom right is the last page. He then takes you through important scenes from the story. Smith adds 3D elements to the piece letting the character literally leap off the pages. He completes the piece by adding in the book itself.
“So in the finished product not only do you have a character, reading a book or interacting with the book, but if you actually read the canvas, you’ll see big moments from the story, and you also get these 3D parts of the story in the piece as well,” Smith says.
Even with just starting back on his art six months ago, Smith has created nearly 25 pieces featuring some of pop culture’s most beloved characters. One piece features The Cat In the Hat reading the popular Dr. Seuss children’s book “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” In another, Christopher Robin holds Winnie the Pooh in his arms while he reads about their adventures in A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-The-Pooh” surrounded in honey-soaked pages.
As he created more and more pieces, Smith started to add in more elements to his works.
A piece based on Walt Disney’s first animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” itself adapted from The Brothers Grimm fairytale, depicts the Evil Queen inside the magic mirror. In one hand she has the poisoned apple she feeds to Snow White, and in the other is a copy of the classic fairytale.
Another piece showcases Pennywise the Dancing Clown on the pages of Stephen King’s horror novel “It.” Pennywise has the iconic red balloon in hand as he reads from a blood-soaked copy of book.
You’ll float too!
new piece of art up on my Instagram: https://t.co/Q6g4JPWXhM
Who doesn’t love a good old killer clown?
— Nicholas Smith (@nickoftime85) May 1, 2019
“I really like to add more of the 3D effects to the pieces because it makes them harder to recreate, which makes each piece more original,” Smith says. “It isn’t something that can be mass produced. Each piece is what it is all its own every time.”
Smith has posted photos of his work on social media and is getting noticed through his Instagram (@NickSmith.Art), Twitter (@NickOfTime85) and his Facebook page. Pieces drawing a lot of attention include a glow-in-the-dark canvas of characters reading the story of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” a 4-foot canvas of the character Tyrion Lannister reading one of the books from George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series, and a pair of pieces from the first two books in J.K. Rowling’s massively popular “Harry Potter” series.
“Harry Potter and Dooby got people excited, so I am planning on doing a set based on the series of books,” he says. “I’ll feature one character from each book in a popular scene.”
The social media acknowledgement that excited Smith the most?
“Candace Bushnell liked my photo of her ‘Sex and the City’ book on Instagram. That is my favorite show and I was so thrilled when not only did realize she saw it but liked it too,” he says.
Smith is bringing his work to an art exhibit at Southern Craft in Orlando’s Milk District on June 5. At the exhibit, more than a dozen pieces will be up for sale.
“There will be more pieces on display at the show but 13 of them will available to buy,” Smith say. “A percentage of the sales from those pieces that are sold that day will be donated to The Barber Fund.”
The Barber Fund is a small, grassroots nonprofit organization established to help those in Central Florida living with cancer. It was launched in 2014 by Blue Star to honor John “Tweeka” Barber who lost is fight cancer in 2011. The organization uses funds raised to pay mortgages, power bills, medical bills, phone bills, purchase groceries, chaperon appointments, help care for animals and more.
Smith is also using the event to hold a book drive for the organization Books For Troops, a nonprofit group that supplies books to active duty members of the military, veterans and family members.
“I really enjoy making these pieces, but I felt kind of bad tearing up books to do it, so I thought if I am taking a book out of this world I want to figure a way to put them back in,” Smith says. “Books For Troops is based here in Florida and they are a terrific organization. You drop off books to them and they send them out to deployed troops, homes with military families, VA hospitals and clinics. I have a lot of family members who were or are in the military so it’s something that is near and dear to me.”
While the event itself is for one day, Smith’s pieces up for sale will hang in Southern Craft throughout June. Smith says that he will be looking to do commissioned pieces as well down the road.
“I created one piece specifically for my AP English teacher from high school. She has a special place in my heart and she asked for ‘Fahrenheit 451’ so I made it, but commissioned work is a bit hard with these pieces because if I haven’t read the book I won’t have an understanding of the character, so it makes it difficult but I’m working on a process to do that.”
In the meantime, Smith is always open to recommendations from his fans online of what his next piece should be.
“I have some things in mind for future pieces but I’m always looking for new and original suggestions,” Smith says.
Above photos by Jake Stevens.