Rich Smedley is a riddle wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. The notoriously inaccessible artist has no website of his own, nor does he have a presence on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. Yet despite his relative anonymity, he has become a fixture among the online community of gun girl fetishists. His Flickr page has been profiled by Girls with Guns as well as Alex In Wonderland.com (profiled here). His fan base numbers in the hundreds, perhaps thousands, and his artwork has spawned numerous imitators. Dismiss him at your peril.
In a brief email interview, he talks about his transformation from lone artist to internet sensation, critics, and his love of the gun girl aesthetic.
John Winn: When did you first decide to draw gun girls?
Rich Smedley: I have been drawing these types of pictures for a very long time. Only in the early 2000s was I brave enough to share them with the world through a GWG Yahoo group with the “stage name” Rich Smedley, offhandedly thought up when I created when I created my “anonymous” email address, and now I am stuck with it.
Prior to the Internet, I, like many others thought I was the only one with an interest in the genre. So I posted a few and got positive feedback and kept at it. I think my technique has improved over time. “Do anything long enough and one is bound to get better,” I suppose is the operative mantra here.
JW: Where did you draw your inspiration from?
RS: Initially, I started drawing these pictures because of personal fantasies and the fact that none existed. I enjoy the juxtaposition of heavy weaponry with intense femininity. Also, I am intrigued by the paradox implied in an image of the woman as mother and nurturer who can become a destructor with a single twitch of one finger. Add a smoking fetish, and you pretty much have my work summed up. I knew what worked for me and so I created these sketches usually based on poses in fashion magazines and the like.
JW: What materials did you experiment with?
RS: I have only worked in pencil on vellum (briefly tried color pencils and realized it was for experts!). There are some computer manipulated images on the Flickr site but that was an experiment that was quickly abandoned. I left them there because one never knows what others may like and in fact, one of them is my second highest viewed picture. Go figure.
Now with an abundance of reference photos, and since my technique has improved, I can create more powerful images that convey the type of woman that used to exist only in my head. By the way, the Flickr page is the only gallery I control.
There is also a site called <a href=http://www.moviebadgirls.com/>moviebadgirls.com</a> which I have a few pages of the same images under the heading “user fan art”. Unfortunately, Jack has not updated his site in over a year and a half, so I started the Flickr page.
JW: Do you believe criticism of it [the Flickr page] is misdirected?
RS: I’m not sure I know what you mean. If you mean GWG, I don’t have much of an opinion. For the record, I am anti-gun and abhor all forms of violence in the real world. But my work is all fantasy. I don’t consider it a valid form of art, just a niche market. I am thus completely unaware of anything negative since I only post these pictures where I know they will be well received. I would be immune to any criticism, since I do these for free and could care less if any hater started flaming me because of them.
Let’s be clear: these works are my totally subjective views of fictitious creatures. If they objectify women as a class, tough shit; don’t look at them. They work for me and my “fans,” and unless Flickr objects to the content, I will continue to update whenever my muse stops to visit.
I have also found several fans that have written me encouraging words and offered suggestions for future drawings, some of which have helped create the work on my Flickr page.
JW: Thank you for your time.
RS: Thanks again for contacting me.
–Interview by John Winn