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Life After HSU: Paul Cameron Smith

By: Marlee Sorrells The HSU Brand staff is pleased to announce a new human interest column to highlight the accomplishments of former Hardin-Simmons University students which will periodically appear starting today. The features are to be collectively entitled, “Life After HSU.”

The staff also believes our readers will enjoy perusing the many impressive achievements of those students who have walked the hallowed halls of HSU in the past and now are making a name for themselves in the so-called ”real world.”  Enjoy.

One of the most impressive structures on the HSU campus is the Elwin L. Skiles Social Sciences Building (named for the 12th president of HSU.) With its copper-clad dome and impressive columns, it projects a visual importance to all who visit the campus as well as those who spend many hours within its walls.

On the second floor of the Skiles Building is located the Dr. Lawrence R. Clayton Round Table Room. The room is used both as a classroom and for meetings. It is named for the Late Dr. Lawrence Ray Clayton (1938-2000) who was a professor of English and the first dean of Arts and Sciences at HSU.

He served the University for 33 years before his untimely death in 2000.

A poignant focal point of the room is an oil painting of Dr. Clayton looking every inch the western figure he so often wrote about and is pictured astride his beloved “Dunny.” The painting depicts a man who is at peace with himself and his love of the Old West genre. Dr. Clayton wrote thousands of words about the ranching heritage of Texas and regularly contributed to the ever-growing body of western literature.

His bibliography contains scholarly books, articles and presentations. He also was known as an accomplished author and western historian. He continued to document the life of the contemporary cowboy and the history of historic ranches Texas until his failing health took this beloved educator, leader, scholar, colleague and loyal and trusted friend to many from our midst on December 31, 2000.

The oil portrait is appropriately titled “Greener Pastures.” Our first featured student is the artist who was chosen by the Clayton family to forever capture this wonderful depiction of the late Dr. Clayton for future generations to enjoy, admire and perhaps be inspired. Therefore, our first former student to be profiled is Paul Cameron Smith, a 1988 graduate with a mass communication major and art minor from Weatherford.    

While he was a sophomore in high school in Cedar Hill, Smith was assigned to draw a portrait of a classmate. It was the first portrait he made and was displayed in the school library. The principal saw his work and ordered portraits of his parents, starting Smith’s career in portraiture. Smith continued to create more portraits during his time in high school.

In 1984, Smith started his first year at Hardin-Simmons University and began producing graphic arts for the Communications Department. He also painted numerous outdoor advertisements for the outfield perimeter of the baseball field. Smith continued to market his portraits around Abilene and produced approximately 100 pencil portraits during his four years in college.

After graduating in 1988, Smith worked as a graphic artist for the Abilene Reporter News for about six months, before taking a similar job in Dallas for a large advertising agency. While working in Dallas, Smith came up with the idea for a Western Art portrait, a cowboy leaning over his horse to kiss his girl goodbye. In December of 1990, he asked two of his friends from college to pose as a reference for him. About two weeks later, he completed the drawing titled “One for the Road.” Smith’s family encouraged him to make prints of the image, so he had 550 lithograph prints made as a limited edition print.

Smith traveled to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in January 1991 with 10 of his lithographs to potentially sell while there. He approached a vendor and asked if he would be willing to sell his prints for him. The vendor agreed, so Smith left his prints with him and told him to let him know if he would need more during the rest of the stock show. The next morning, the vendor called Smith excitedly and told him to bring more prints, because he sold all 10 in one night. During the remaining two weeks of the stock show, they sold nearly 100 prints. This began Smith’s art career, and he has continued to sell art at the Fort Worth Stock Show every year since.

After this success, Smith began producing more pencil drawings of a similar subject matter. During those next several years, he produced three or four drawings per year and marketed them at various art festivals around Dallas Fort Worth and about 20 gift shops in the north Texas area. In 1999, he had his biggest year in sales for his pencil drawing prints. “Needless to say, I was very excited to be able to make a living as an artist,” Smith said.

However, on September 11, 2001, his business changed overnight. After the attack on the Worth Trade Center in New York City, his sales dropped by 60 percent because of the impact it had on the financial world.

In 2003, Smith was accepted to display his art as a vendor at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. While he was there, he met Don Oelze, a fellow artist, who was painting an oil painting in the booth where he was being represented by his agent. They struck up an immediate friendship and Oelze invited Smith to his home in the mountains of Montana to paint with him for a week.

Smith had completed a few oil paintings before, but he felt that he still had several things to learn from the painter. While in Montana, Smith learned about how to mix paint colors on a palette and use various brushes and brush strokes to achieve the right look for his art. After painting with Oelze, Smith began to shift gears away from pencil drawings toward becoming a full-time painter.

After 2003, Smith began to display his western and Texas landscape themed paintings alongside his pencil work at the Fort Worth Stock Show. He still occasionally released pencil prints, but he focuses mostly on his oil paintings since they have grown in popularity.

Smith paints full-time in his studio in Weatherford and sells his art through several art shows throughout the year. The Fort Worth Stock Show being his anchor show that allows him to work full time as an artist. He also stays busy working on custom commission painting while he’s not creating inventory for upcoming shows.

“When I was 22 years old and unsure of what path my life would take, I prayed that God would bless my art business,” Smith said. “I feel very fortunate that He has done just that.”


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