Drawing on Experience

Former atheist Phillip R. Smith finds his artistic inspiration and drive to use his God-given talent from an amazing conversation he had with his Lord


Written by Victor Fernandes  /  Photography by Grant L. Gursky

Phillip R. Smith draws what speaks to him. A meticulous process that takes as long as 70 hours to complete an 11”X14” rendering. His subject matter comes from photography he takes. He looks for good composition, light and depth.

But the process for Smith, age 70, a West Ocean City resident, begins with his faith. On Sept. 3, 2016, Smith said, “God spoke to me. I heard the words in my mind. It was a simple conversation. He said, ‘I gave you the ability to draw. You haven’t been drawing. That’s wrong.’ I replied, ‘I’ll draw.’”

That conversation ended a 42-year hiatus from creating fine art. He now showcases work on Facebook and Instagram as Phillip R. Smith Fine Art, enters in art shows and displays on Ocean City’s boardwalk in the summer.

“That’s where my artistic rebirth started,” he said. “It was a wonderful feeling.” 

His unrelenting faith shines through every piece, even as his personal style continues to evolve from traditional graphite drawings to canvases popping with color using unconventional techniques, such as finger painting with oils. Each piece features the acronym FHG — For His Glory — on the front of each canvas and his name on the back, because it has taken faith, inside and out, for this onetime atheist to use his God- given artistic gift For His Glory.

He publicizes his work through local art leagues. Smith finished third in a month-long Art League of Ocean City show in January for a drawing, in graphite and colored pencil, of a crab basket. He will be entering more pieces in future Ocean City League shows. 

He has turned his focus to drawings of Ocean City, Assateague Island and the Chesapeake Bay region. After a brief stint on the boardwalk last summer, Smith plans to spend more time this summer showing Ocean City residents and tourists the unique passion that lies within him.

His faith, family and art are everything to Smith. 

“That’s why I will never stop creating art as long as I can move,” he said. “I’ve never stuck to anything ever. I’m just not that kind of personality. But there’s something good about following through. There’s no stopping this.”