Jamie Smith named Artist of the Year 2020 by Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:15 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce has selected Jamie Smith as its 2020 Artist of the Year.

“That was an incredible honor. There were some other artists equally deserving of the award, so I was really, really humbled when that happened,” he explained.

Smith has been creating the “Nuggets” cartoon feature in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner since 1988. He has also created logos and done other projects for various entities in the community.

Smith also participates in fundraising for the Literacy Council of Alaska.

“The meat and potatoes has always been just trying to make somebody laugh, which we kind of need these days, I think,” he said.

Smith draws every day, “whether it’s on a napkin, or on a receipt, or in my sketchbook, but I’ll try to spend time in the studio, sweating beads of ink, staring at a blank sheet of paper, try to do that every day as well.”

According to Smith, he also teaches as an adjunct professor part-time at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Fine Arts Department. “That gives me a lot of chance to do a lot of demonstrations and for a lot of people to see work in progress.”

Smith said the art community in Fairbanks took a hard hit in 2020. “I think a lot of us are trying to rethink how we can reach people. There are some people doing outdoor exhibitions, for example.”

Ursa Major Distilling is currently displaying Smith’s work through the end of January. He said, “This is the best work I’ve ever done in my entire career.”

According to the artist, his favorite part of drawing is hearing people laugh at his creations. “I don’t get to hear that when it’s in the newspaper. It just goes out, or it goes out online, so when it’s up on the wall, and there’s people around looking at it, I actually get to sit in the background and really enjoy one of the fringe benefits of doing all this.”

“When I teach in the studio class, I often tell my beginning students, ‘There’s as many different reasons to draw as there are ways to draw,’” Smith said, adding, “Maybe I want to impress my wife, maybe I want to make some money, like earn rent, maybe I just want to make people laugh, maybe I’m bored, maybe I’m angry, maybe I want to change the world, so there’s always a rotating, shifting mix of why I do art, why I make art, why I like art, why art is important.”

For Smith, getting ideas for his art is “all about just taking notes. I just keep my ears open, and I listen, and look for unique things. A lot of my cartoons only make sense to you if you’re from Alaska, specifically from Fairbanks, Alaska, and that’s fine. I like being in that niche.”

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