Wednesday, September 12, 2012


During World War II and in the years that followed, William A. Smith traveled throughout the Far East.  Everywhere he went, he took his sketchbook.

The result was an extraordinary collection of insightful drawings from China, Japan, Burma and other countries.  Here is a small sampling:

Smith sketched local clothing and rituals, making a careful record of the features that interested him:

Smith made several drawings of this puppeteer.  Smith was so intrigued by the puppets that he brought a set back to the U.S.  According to tradition, the puppeteer must place hoods over their heads at night to keep the puppets from seeing. 

Smith's sketchbooks, overflowing with drawings such as these, contain a marvelous record of his Asian travels.


Blogger P Rice said...

Can you give an indication of what size these drawings are? The metal spiral in some images doesn't really help. Just wondering how big a sketchbook he used

9/12/2012 4:02 AM  
Blogger Kim Smith said...

The majority of his sketchbooks were 13 X 16", an odd size because they were linen-bound and made in Japan. I believe that the spiral sketchbooks from which David has taken the scans are yet bigger, about 16 X 20", right, David? It's a lot to lug around Asia on the 5-month trip! Dad and Mom were on a cultural diplomacy tour which started in Japan and continued through Vietnam, Burma, Nepal, Cambodia, India into Europe, (I may have missed a few countries) and was sponsored by the State Department. Not only was there a rich stash of sketchbooks, there is an outstanding collection of slides and photographs from the trip. Dad was also an excellent photographer.

9/12/2012 10:40 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

P Rice-- to follow up on Kim Smith's answer, I scanned images from a variety of sketchbooks, from 8 x 12 to 12 x 18. Most, as Kim says, were about 13 x 16.

Sometimes the most detailed and realistic drawings appeared in the smallest books, while the simplest sketches appeared in the larger books. The linen-bound sketchbooks she describes were wonderful, with a very classy, solid feel to them.

I am very grateful to Kim and her sister Kathlin for allowing me to spend time looking through their treasure trove. This week of posts will barely scratch the surface.

9/12/2012 12:02 PM  
Blogger larry said...

WOW! These are brilliant.

Thanks for the special gift!

9/12/2012 2:12 PM  
Blogger Untitled said...

Could you indicate each sketches size ? It really is very helpful to imagine how it looks in real life.

Also any idea about how fast he drew etc? sounds silly but I always wonder about how much time these wonderful drawings might have taken someone and if the people he drew were 'sitting' for him or he drew them from memory.

9/13/2012 6:20 AM  
Blogger Kathlin Smith said...

These sketches were done quickly and from the live subject. As a young girl I loved to watch dad sketch, because it was like watching magic unfold.

9/13/2012 9:58 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

You are lucky. It would be great to watch Smith drawing these.

9/13/2012 11:18 AM  
Blogger Kim Smith said...

We had our own personal and loving art instructor.

9/13/2012 1:10 PM  
Blogger Untitled said...

So lucky! Thank you so much for sharing. I live in India and am waiting for some drawings he made here. Hopefully David scanned some.

9/13/2012 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Kathlin Smith or Kim Smith is still here, Did Mr. Smith write a book or any articles about his technique? Is there a DVD of him working?


9/13/2012 9:19 PM  
Blogger Roberto Zaghi said...

All these sketches are simply beautiful!

9/18/2012 4:17 PM  
Blogger Kathlin Smith said...

Anonymous (9/13) -- Thanks for your question. I'm not aware of any articles by dad about his drawing technique, but he was working on a book about watercolor technique. Sadly, it was not finished before he died. The manuscript is in the Archives of the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown PA. It's possible there is some video of him working -- I need to review the cassettes that have been passed on. Will follow up if anything surfaces.

10/02/2012 10:52 AM  

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