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Meet Alim Smith, the Afro-surrealist painter inspiring through pure artistic expression

Delaware artist Alim Smith a.k.a. YESTERDAYNITE is an Afro-surrealist who has found his place in the universe.

When viewing his works your eyes should jump as you try to capture colliding colors, popping pastels, and leaning lines. His artistic adaptions of Black internet memes promises to capture your attention.

Smith’s art will echo forever and each piece is a stamp in time.

We caught up with the ‘art god’ via email and what he had to say will inspire any up and coming artists to chase their dreams. Through his art, Smith is able to touch the hearts of a diverse audience.

Everyone relates to memes but not everyone relates to fine art. Intelligently, Smith combined the comedic culture of internet memes with his oil paintings. He has only one goal in mind –  to connect with the viewers so that they “can see themselves” in his artwork.

He told us why it’s so important to create reflective art pieces. Smith said,

“I think it’s important to relate to people in this way because growing up, art was very boring to me. I barely ever saw a painting that made me care to look longer than five seconds. Art is a tool to communicate and express ideas and my only goal currently with art is to connect to the viewer and relate so that they can see themselves in the work, I do it through oil paintings now, but one day I’ll just be the guy standing on the corner with a mirror. I just want the world to see itself.”

Those Jordan tears weren’t painted in vain as Smith’s artistic journey is one for the books. As a young blood Smith was never interested in art. In fact, it was adolescent love that sparked his artistic enthusiasm.

In fifth grade, he pursued his crush and his amour is what motivated him to apply to Cab Calloway School of the Arts. He was actually accepted into the program because of his writing and not for art. To the haters, his visual portfolio wasn’t good enough.

Still, Smith managed to stay in the program through high school but when it came time for college he was denied from the only university he had applied to.

This didn’t stop his art from going viral as his works have been picked up by Time Magazine, OkayAfrica, and Vice. Not to mention his long list of celebrity fans including Swizz Beatz, Spike Lee, Amare Stoudemire, Nick Cannon, and Chance the Rapper.

Smith spoke on how he dealt with denial. He said,

“What helped me through the tough times was projecting. Everybody was a hater in my mind and it had nothing to do with me. I didn’t take any of the tough times personally because I had faith that I would be able to do something undeniable.”

A post shared by ALIM SMITH (@yesterdaynite) on

Smith’s style originated out of artistic boredom of perfection. He was taught in art school to accurately draw everything but the pencil in his hand wouldn’t allow him to proportionately sketch anything.

Nevertheless, Smith still “captured the feeling and look of any person” he illustrated. Today, he spends his 10K80 mastering his craft by testing his eyes to see how they break down reality.

Smith told us what his daily grind consists of. He said,

“Often I paint in short bursts every day for a month then I spend a lot of time writing and thinking about new ideas to create. I used to spend everyday painting and drawing just to stay sharp but one day I realized it’s less about how much I paint and more about how my eyes are breaking down reality… So, I spend a lot of my time just seeing how many different ways I can look at things and I feel that has genuinely made me a better painter and creator.”

Grinding day in and day out is light work for Smith but he’s still a human being and from time to time he’ll find himself in a lazy funk. Yet, he’s able to pull himself out of a lackadaisical wormhole by finding motivation through his fans who tell him to keep going and forcing himself to create until it feels natural.

So I was in a whole funk Depressed probably ? Which isn’t funny but it’s funny to me because I’m always the one saying this world isn’t real and it’s a simulation (which I still stand by lol) But feelings are real And I’ve been ignoring myself I will work and write and do as much as possible to distract me From myself When all I really need is to sit my ass down lol and really be present with my self I went from someone who didn’t care to someone who was caring way too much about shit that doesn’t matter That’s why I haven’t uploaded any art I never wanna put that funky energy into my work I know how to focus my energy to create cool work But I didn’t know how to focus all my energy into feeling like a masterpiece before I create anything I was taking everything personal but my self I feel better now tho Sometimes you just gotta put your phone down Climb in a tree Tune everything out So you can tune into yourself The funk is dead Back to creating 📸: @zunyda

A post shared by ALIM SMITH (@yesterdaynite) on

Lest we mention his 10 Art Commandments which Smith created for himself a couple of years ago. Inspiration can be found just by glancing at the first one which reads – You shall put nothing before your creative process. 

Smith also focuses on maintaining his mental and physical health which is very important. The 28-year-old artist told us how he keeps his head above the clouds now and how he plans to combat his mild epilepsy in the future. He said,

“Mental health is very important! How do I stay focused? I stay focused by remembering that I’m a black man in America from Wilmington, DE who has an impact on people whether I want to believe I do or not. There are thousands of black creatives just like me who just need to be sparked…”

Smith continued,

“As far as epilepsy, I’m currently on medication that does make me a little more emotional than my normal baseline personality. After a few more big shows, I’m probably gonna disappear for a bit and actually get this shit cured. Unfortunately, to do that I will need to be away from computers and technology because it can be a trigger. I’m basically working toward that space because I’ll have to be in a place where money doesn’t have to be a major concern so I can just heal my body.”

In private I watch problematic stand up And listen to misogynistic music And I laugh and I dance (whispers) I also talk to my friends about controversial things And accidentally call people by the wrong pronouns Because I’m not perfect But on Facebook I just nod and scroll and try to write pleasant things that won’t offend people in real life I have a very dark sense of humor And I don’t take many things seriously I have friends and real people I really talk to and conversations outside of that are research for stories, characters, and inspiration for projects I’m just a fan of experience The only thing I probably deeply care about is my internal peace Being healthy My existence having the least amount of negative effects on others Black people And people believing they can do whatever they put their minds to And capturing the black experience in abstract and unique ways I can see how everything is problematic and absolutely nothing is problematic Idk there’s just so much stressful shit happening when your just a human I can’t invest much time in taking people’s thoughts opinions and ideas personally to stress my self out more We are living in someone else’s idea of how life should be most of us struggling working all day doing things we don’t care about just to die I could give a fuck about what artist are doing or saying It’s more important to get out of that trap and get everyone I know out of it -free write exercise Good morning!!! 👋🏾😁 Prints available at ydnite.com

A post shared by ALIM SMITH (@yesterdaynite) on

What’s next for Smith? “PURE EXPRESSION.” The young Afro-surrealist plans on creating work that isn’t confined to one medium and that makes people uncomfortable. He also looks to create experiences, become the art, make more music, shoot short films, write books, host more events, and enjoy more freedom.

For up and coming creatives out there with a dollar and a dream, you should definitely take a chapter out of Smith’s book. He was put on this planet to inspire and he has some enlightening words just for you…,

“TRUST YOUR INTUITION. THIS WORLD IS MADE UP OF IDEAS, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE RICH TO THINK. YOU CAN THINK YOURSELF RICH. SOULJA BOY FOLLOWED HIS DREAMS YOU CAN DO IT TOO!”

Want to cop any of Smith’s works for the low? He has prints for sale. Click here to peep.


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