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'I make things that I love': St. Louis artist creates unique paintings of famous figures

"My brain makes the art, but my hands allow my brain to create what I’m thinking," artist Zack Smithey said.

ST. LOUIS — There is a saying about not judging a book by its cover. The statement may hold true for St. Louis artist Zack Smithey.  

He has a very muscular build from playing sports in high school.

“Football, baseball and wrestling,” Smithey told 5 On Your Side.

But he no longer participates in those activities. He now uses his muscles to create what he visualizes in his head.

“I get so excited when I can imagine, close my eyes and imagine something," Smithey said. "My brain makes the art, but my hands allow my brain to create what I’m thinking."

What he creates varies from abstract art to paintings of pop stars, such as Biggie, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

Credit: KSDK
Zack Smithey paints in his studio

“I work in many different styles and materials," he said. "I make things that I love."

Smithey also loves doing historic figures in unique ways. Smithey does whimsical paintings of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. 

Credit: Zac Smithey
Zack Smithey painting of Abraham Lincoln

Smithey has brought a new interest in Mark Twain. He's given the famous Missouri writer a lot of exposure with his paintbrushes.

“I thought, you know what he doesn’t have a big presence in the art world,” he said.

Credit: KSDK
Zack Smithey paints a portrait of Mark Twain

“It started out just the subject then that pulled me deeper into the man himself. I would say, at this point, I have at least 400 Mark Twains out there. It’s a series that never has to end,” he said.

Smithey does make a living as a full-time artist even though his non-traditional works may not be for everybody.

“It just depends on, you know, what’s your flavor. I’ll take negative critiques. It’s the only way you are going to get better,” he said.

He appreciates having the freedom in his art to express himself his way.

“If I haven’t done it, it’s just cause I haven’t gotten around to it yet,” he said.

He doesn’t take his ability to have his mind and body in sync to produce in a variety of art forms for granted. 

“I feel fortunate to be able to have that gift,” he said.

He’s hoping that his art becomes as lasting as the words of Twain and Lincoln.

“That art is most likely going to outlive me,” he said.

If you want to see more of Smithey’s work, click here.

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