John D. Smith, Sr.

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John Daniel Smith, Sr. (American, 1922-2013) painter, advertising designer, illustrator, photographer and lecturer known for his landscapes and portraits in watercolor, and illustrative paintings. John was born on July 28, 1922 to Walter and Stella Smith in Savannah, GA, and had three siblings to include Walter Smith, J. Allan and Martha E. Smith. As a young boy, he developed an interest in art which continued throughout his lifetime. During WWII, John served in the United States Army where he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and used his artistic talents as a cartographer in the Eighty-Eighth Infantry Division. After marching through North Africa and Italy from 1943-1945, he was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

After graduating from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in 1949, John worked in New York City for the next ten years doing illustration work, advertising, packaging design, and also worked in the film industry doing filmstrip art for children. In 1955, John married Annette (née Conlin) Smith of New Britain, CT and the couple had four children to include Daniel, Andrea, Eric, and Heidi. In 1959, he began freelance and consulting work for the Fisher-Price Toy Company whose headquarters were based in East Aurora, NY. The family soon relocated to Western New York and settled in East Aurora where John eventually became the Director of Art at Fisher-Price. He held that position for over two decades and during that time, he oversaw a period of rapid expansion and amazing creativity within the company. Many of his fellow artists and co-workers in the Research and Development’s Art Department at Fisher Price became life-long friends. During the 1980’s, he continued to work as an art consultant for Fisher-Price, and shortly thereafter established Graphic Color Associates, Ltd. with his wife Annette. Every spring, John and his wife Annette would travel to Charleston and Savannah to paint.

John exhibited his watercolor paintings throughout the Western New York region and was a member of the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society (NFWS), the East Aurora Art Society (EAAS), and the Fine Arts League of Buffalo, as well as exhibited in Charleston, SC and his hometown of Savannah, GA. His appreciation for nature's influence on perception contributed to his use of vibrant colors and light in his paintings. He enjoyed speaking about art and demonstrating painting techniques for colleges and various groups, including local art clubs. In addition, he also enjoyed outdoor photography in this country and Europe, drawing cartoons and creating personalized cards for family members and friends. Many of his original painting illustrations of hometown scenes were also used for the local East Aurora S&G Press calendars. Other associations included: The Art Directors-Communicators of Western New York, the Color Marketing Group and the American Legion. Among many interests, he was an avid reader, especially of books about American and world history.

John died in Buffalo General Medical Center on June 1, 2013 at the age of 90. A celebration of his life was held in the Salon Room of the Roycroft Inn located in East Aurora, NY on June 15, 2013 and was followed by a memorial service that July at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, GA.

(Rewritten in parts and compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY,, sources: Our internal records;, online obituary, The Buffalo News, “John D. Smith Sr., 90, art director for Fisher-Price: July 28, 1922- June 1, 2013”, Page D, Published on Thursday, June 6, 2013;, online obituary, “In Memory of John D. Smith Sr. July 28, 1922 - June 1, 2013”.)