Penning the Groves of Academe

Staff Member David Smith of Natural Resources Finds Beauty All Around Him

by Fernando Quintero

You can almost hear the rustling of the leaves in David K. Smith's stippled rendition of the old ginkgo tree near the entrance to Giannini Hall. His drawing of Wellman Hall is so detailed it seems to take on a three dimensional quality.

As a 16-year staff member at the College of Natural Resources, Smith has developed in his unique style a valuable portfolio of the landmarks, people and places that characterize the historic college.

"The ginkgo tree is a familiar and well-loved landmark. I think it's really wonderful that we have someone here who can create visual images that are familiar and meaningful to our alumni and donors as well as faculty, staff and students," said Kathleen Gilcrest, director of Development and Alumni Relations at the college. "He creates a special sense of place for us."

Work wasn't always a pretty picture for Smith, who began his campus career in 1978 as a part-time mailroom clerk at the college.

"I did things like sort incoming mail, make deliveries, make photocopies, and...move filing cabinets," he recalled.

Smith had moved to Berkeley just weeks after he received his BS in geology from the University of Connecticut.

"The oil crisis was at its peak. As a geology major, I could have gotten a job in seconds," he said. "But much to my parents' dismay, I was not interested in any jobs in my field."

As a mailroom clerk, Smith in his spare time drew pictures of the scenery that surrounded him. College officials noticed his abilities and began assigning him brochures and fliers to design. Through the years, Smith became proficient in computer layout and design and was ultimately assigned to work on the college's monthly newsletter.

It takes Smith about 60 hours to draw a picture such as the ginkgo tree. "Drawing is what I do. It's something I've enjoyed since I was a kid. I feel comfortable with a pen and pencil," Smith said.

But drawing isn't all Smith is about. Every summer since 1989, when he went on his first University Research Expedition, the mild-mannered artist has pursued his other boyhood dream of digging for dinosaur bones.

"I was into it long before 'Jurassic Park,'" said Smith, who also volunteers at the Museum of Paleontology helping prepare an exhibit of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the museum's atrium. This summer, he plans to go to Montana as a volunteer on a dig with paleontologist Jack Horner. "I live for these digs," he said. "It keeps me going all year."


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