I was born in Cambridge two years before the outbreak of World War Two. Some of my earliest memories are of the nightly bombing raids during the blitz, and later, of walking to school with my trusty satchel and gas mask, past bombed out houses that had been opened up like dolls’ houses.
When I was eleven, I won a scholarship to grammar school where I was encouraged to develop my talent for drawing, and then at sixteen I studied illustration at Cambridge College of Art. I began to establish myself as a freelance water colourist and illustrator working for book publishers and national newspapers and magazines, before winning the Shell poster prize in 1970. While working for Penguin Books, I was introduced to Ursula LeGuin, who asked me to illustrate her critically acclaimed Earthsea trilogy.
I built a reputation as a portraitist and caricaturist, carrying out many private commissions, including those of the original cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Les Misérables. In 1994 I moved to Nevada where I found work at the University of Las Vegas as an archaeological illustrator of Native American rock art sites in the desert of the American Southwest. I’d always loved the landscape I’d seen in the old Western movies, so it was a dream come true. After retiring from UNLV in 2015, I relocated to Nottingham, a city I’d visited regularly for thirty years, to spend time with my daughter, son and their growing families; a place which holds many happy memories for me.
Now in my eighties, I try to keep active by taking photographs of the city’s buildings and of shop fronts I find interesting, which I then paint back at home. My paintings of Nottingham are inspired by my love of the independent nature of so many of the shops and beautiful architecture of the city, as well as the vibrant energy and culture of the people who live here.
A limited run of Dave Smee’s Nottingham prints are available to buy. For more information, contact [email protected]