Alan Smith obituary | Art

My dad, Alan Smith, who has died after a heart attack aged 81, was an artist, designer and bon vivant at the heart of the “swinging London” scene of the 1960s, before embarking on a career in art education that culminated in him becoming principal of Bradford Art College.

It was while at Goldsmiths College, south-east London, studying fine art in the early 60s, that Alan became part of a bohemian scene of artists, publishers and poets drinking in pubs around Bloomsbury. Alan took on the role of driver for the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh when he stayed in London.

He designed book jackets for the publishers Sidgwick & Jackson, and the fabric used for a dress worn in the 1967 film The Jokers, starring Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford. Oliver and my dad became drinking buddies, and my brother Ollie is named after the actor. He also designed a 45ft high caricature of Ted Heath for John Lennon’s 1971 exhibition at Alexandra Palace in north London, and helped to define the look of the band Genesis, creating trippy posters, set designs and merchandise for their 1972 UK tour.

Born in Bootle, Merseyside, to Flo Gerrard, a millworker, and Fred Smith, a cinema projectionist then electrician, Alan was the first in his family to pass his 11-plus, going to St Bede’s grammar school in Bradford, and the first to go to university, to what is now Goldsmiths, University of London. He would make it his life’s work to encourage others to transform their lives, regardless of their background.

After graduating in 1962, he did voluntary service overseas, including one project where he drove a Land Rover overland to Mali.

Alan Smith designed the fabric used for Lotte Tarp’s dress in the 1967 film The Jokers, starring Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford

In 1968, Alan got his first lecturing role at West Sussex College of Design. This was followed by visiting and staff lecturer posts at Harlow School of Art, London College of Printing and Winchester School of Art.

Meanwhile, in 1970, he had bought a semi-derelict farmhouse high up on the Pennines, and over the years transformed it into a fabulous house and garden, the scene of many parties.

He taught at Halifax School of Art (1972-74), Cleveland College of Art and Design (1977-79) and Huddersfield Polytechnic (1979-84), as well as working as a graphic designer for North Yorkshire county council (1976-77), and as an educational advisory officer for BTec from 1988. The same year, he was made principal of Bradford Art College, where his contemporary David Hockney had studied. He left that post in 2001 to be a founding partner of Kendall Smith Design.

In 2013, Alan came out of retirement to head up the IMS Design and Innovation Academy in Noida, India. However, he resigned in protest just over a year later, after a dispute about unpaid wages.

Alan adored fine food and drink, and music from Puccini to Prince Buster. He was married twice, first to Lesley Rogers, a TV producer, with whom he had two sons, Hugo and me, and then to Bev Kendall, a textile designer, with whom he had three sons, Alexander, Oliver and Sholto. Both marriages ended in divorce.

Alan is survived by his children and by five grandchildren, Niamh, Binks, Gus, Oscar and Milo.

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