VINTON–The Vinton Dogwood Festival represents 60 years of traditions and memories. This year the 2015 Dogwood Festival Committee commissioned Norman Smith to preserve those memories with a unique work of art. The result is the “Dogwood Festival Doodle” which is made up of dozens of images of Vinton landmarks, this year’s festival events, and sponsors of the festival.
Smith has created similar doodles for surrounding localities including Botetourt, Roanoke, and Salem, focusing on historic buildings, businesses, restaurants, and festivals. He started off just sketching favorite landmarks like the Dr. Pepper and H & C Coffee signs in downtown Roanoke. That led to “doodling” other iconic images in the area. People noticed his work and began requesting prints. That led to commissioned work.
“I always call my art ‘Doodling’ as most of my drawings are off the cuff without rhyme or reason.” said Smith. “The Dogwood Festival Doodle evolved from the ‘Vinton’ print that businesses and individuals were purchasing. Mary Beth Layman contacted me and asked if I would be interested in doing something for the Festival and it evolved from there. It being the 60th anniversary, I think the print would make a great souvenir or keepsake. My personal gratification was in getting to do what I love–Doodling around.”
The committee suggested elements of the annual festival that they would like included in the piece: dogwoods of course, a tiara-ed female figure, carnival rides, the parade, some representation of the 2015 festival sponsors, the “In Vinton” branding, town landmarks, the Town seal and Town Clock.
Smith said that his usual procedure is to turn on the radio and start sketching. He has generally “Googled” images beforehand or taken photographs that he can refer to on his iPad. Once he begins, he “keeps drawing until there is no more white space left.” For the Vinton Doodle he knew which elements he planned to include and had them organized in his mind. His background in commercial art has made him familiar with logos for sponsors and for landmarks and businesses recognizable to the general public.
He often completes a drawing in two to three settings, taking about six hours in all for the Vinton Doodle. His procedure is to lightly sketch with pencil and then go back over the lines using a gel pen, not the India ink of earlier years.
His Vinton Dogwood Festival Doodle is a limited edition with 250 prints available, exclusive to this year’s event.
Smith is from Salem. He grew up at the Lutheran Children’s Home and graduated from Andrew Lewis High School. He went on to attend the Harris School of Art in Nashville on the Vanderbilt campus and then transferred to The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he graduated in 1972.
He worked for the Fort Lauderdale News for a time as an editorial cartoonist before moving back to Virginia. He has worked in various capacities in computer graphics and design for several print manufacturing firms for the past 39 years.
He also worked in silk-screen design for Ripley Textiles doing sports-related designs for area colleges, high school sports, and organizations for many years.
“I retired from commercial art-related work and started concentrating on my personal Fine Art abilities, doing consignment work and generally doodle a lot,” said Smith. “Richard Moon [Roanoke County Schools art coordinator] had me help with the after school Gifted Art Program at Northside Middle School while at the same time, I acquired my CDL to start driving a school bus for Roanoke County and I still work for School Transportation today. My reason for starting that venture was insurance and benefit-related, but that changed as of last year with the county opting to take benefits away from all part-time employees. I elected to come back for various reasons, but mostly because I enjoy the relationships developed with the kids and families. I have a Facebook “Bus 107” Photo Album with drawings I do for the kids.”
He transports students, about 70 per bus load, on routes serving Bonsack and William Byrd Middle and High schools.
Smith said bus parents, school personnel, and friends have been very supportive of his art, commissioning drawings for birthdays and other special occasions or just portraits for no particular occasion. He produces fine art renderings in addition to his doodles. His talent has spread by word-of-mouth. He doesn’t advertise. Someone sees a piece of art and asks how to get a copy or to have one of their own created. He works mainly from photos.
Smith said he inherited his artistic talent from his father who was a stonemason and skilled in all types of folk art.
But that’s only part of his story. According to Smith, he and his wife Patricia have been together since 1976 and are very active socially. He is president of the Roanoke Valley Shag Club.
“If there is a beach band, festival, or party with shag, beach, and Blues happening, you will find us on the dance floor,” said Smith.
They are deeply involved in their great granddaughter Haylie’s life and take any opportunity to spend time with her. Haylie is ten years old and has been diagnosed with autism. They just returned from Myrtle Beach and have a trip planned with her to Disney World when school is out.
Haylie has become one of the joys of his life along with his art, dancing, and the beach. After a difficult childhood with losing his parents at an early age, he is glad to have more or less retired and “segued into a more relaxed lifestyle.” The two of them draw together on iPads or in the sand at the beach. Proceeds from sales of many of his prints go to meet Haylie’s needs.
The Smith’s two children and five grandchildren all attended Roanoke County Schools and were involved in many sports activities, “plus many years at Floyd Ward” dance. Smith coached recreation league baseball and basketball, along with many years in the travel ball circuit. He is also a devoted UVA fan.
“Anyone that knows me personally can attest that I am a Wahoo,” said Smith.
Copies of his Vinton Doodle will be on sale at the Dogwood Festival at the Information Booth at the Carnival location. He plans to be on hand himself on April 24 and 25 to sign prints. Prints are also available online at www.vintondogwoodfestival.org for $15.
Samples of his other artworks, along with photos and videos of Haylie and her art, are available on his Norman Smith Facebook page. He may be contacted at email@example.com.