Joshua Smith was drawn to street art since he was a kid. He became a self-taught stencil artist when he was very young. But after 17 years creating this kind of street art, he wanted to try something different. He already had an eye built for details, so he took a bold step in his career and he became a miniaturist, also self-taught.
His works are amazing and they focus on overlooked aspects of urban houses and scenes from notorious big cities all over the world. Joshua builds 1:20 scale miniatures of old rusted buildings, stairs, photo boots, tiny mailboxes and dumpsters and recreates perfectly gritty and decaying urban landscapes.
“I find that the decrepit and old buildings to have more of a history and story to tell than the famous known ones. There is an entire history from when the building was first built, to the uses of the building to the decline of its use. All of these moments are layers of time which are shown in the building so it becomes more than a building it becomes a whole heap of stories.”
We like a lot Joshua Smith’s miniature sculptures and his artistic concept called “urban decay”. We were very curious to find out his story, to talk to him about art and his fascination about miniatures, so we’ve asked him few questions.
I am an artist based in Adelaide, Australia who creates miniatures of the Urban Environment. Formerly I created Stencil Art and also ran an Art Gallery for a number of years.
I am self-taught in building miniatures as well as stencil art and have been doing it as a career since I was 16 years old first starting with local art exhibitions. I have now exhibited my artwork all over the world including the UK, USA, France, Germany, Denmark, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
Stencil art & architectural miniature
I created stencil art for about 17 years until I started creating the miniatures. The stencil work was built for both exhibitions as canvas work as well as to be wheat pasted onto the street on abandoned buildings. I think it was these abandoned buildings which then became an inspiration and a focus for my miniature work.
I was creating the stencil artwork for so many years and wanted to try something new. After running an art gallery for a few years I experimented with my first miniature and the result and response was overwhelmingly positive and I had a lot of fun building it so I continued to build them. Pretty soon I started building a career out of making miniatures.
Both are meticulous, time consuming and really fine detail work. They both have a lot of processes to get to an end result and I find doing both to be quite meditative.
The small details
I think working with my hands for so many years cutting out tiny details as stencils that I just trained to notice the small details in everything so it was a pretty easy transition. Given enough reference photos I will notice every small detail on a building and try and recreate it as best as I can.
Buildings that inspire you
I find that the decrepit and old buildings to have more of a history and story to tell than the famous known ones. There is an entire history from when the building was first built, to the uses of the building to the decline of its use. All of these moments are layers of time which are shown in the building so it becomes more than a building it becomes a whole heap of stories.
The process of creation
I'd say 90% of the buildings are ones I have not seen in person. I build everything from reference photos whether they are taken by myself, one of my followers or the client or from Google Maps Street view.
Once I have the reference photos I start looking at the overall detail and shape of the building as well as all the small details. I break it down into components and start building it a part at a time. Once I have all my parts assembled I will then paint it and finish it by weathering it to give it the aged look.
People who buy your works
Around 95% of my clients are all overseas. Mainly the US, UK and Europe as well as a few in Hong Kong. They are mainly art collectors but also people who want a custom work for something that is sentimental to them. For example a client based in the US recently purchased a miniature of the doorway to a building in Spain that their wife and them first lived in together.
Impression, reactions, comments
Generally there is an overwhelming positivity to my work with most comments about the detail or realism of the work. I think the oddest reactions is when people don't immediately recognize that it is a miniature and initially think it is a photo of the real building!
Keeping the creativity alive
I am definitely passionate and also hard working. I get this drive from my mum who is also a very driven person. I am always making sure that I am keeping busy creating something. If I don't have any projects I am working on I will give myself a project to work on.
Your mission as an artist
I think it is to keep creative but to also love what you do and be passionate about what you do. I am very lucky in that I can be employed in doing something that I love. It is very time consuming work but it also very satisfying. To create a meticulous detailed work from nothing to a refined finished work is very satisfying when it is complete.
The lockdown period
To be honest even with the lockdown I was largely unaffected. I work from home anyhow so not much changed there. The only real change was my girlfriend had no work to go to so was home all day. She is a creative also so we just kept busy creating anyhow.
I worked on several projects for clients during the lockdown and am still currently working on about 8 projects simultaneously. I expected to have a downturn in work but in reality it was the complete opposite. I was suddenly inundated with new projects for clients.
With the art galleries shutting down for the pandemic it showed that I had more than enough work in building commissioned works directly for clients so for the time being I will focus on just doing client work as opposed to exhibitions. Exhibitions are always risky as you create work in the hope that it will sell when it may not. A lot of time and money goes into creating a work as well as the cost of shipping in the hope it may sell. Now I am generally working for clients where I know the work has already sold before I build it which from a financial standpoint is a lot safer and less risk.
A message for all the art lovers out there
Keep buying and appreciating art! Artists will always create but it keeps us alive when people buy our works.