Drawing was central to Smith’s practice. In a talk he gave on drawing in 1955, he said: ‘Drawings remain the life force of the artist. Especially is this true for the sculptor, who, of necessity, works in media slow to take realisation.’ Many of Smith’s sculptures started out as chalk drawings on the cement studio floor, onto which he would lay out the metal elements before welding them.
Hieroglyphic scripts and alphabets fascinated Smith, as can be seen in his sculptures The Letter 1950 and 24 Greek Y’s 1950. He also adopted the Greek letters ΔΣ for his initials in signing and titling many of his drawings. In The Letter, a grid of pictograms has been arranged as if written on lined notepaper, with a salutation at the top and a signature at the bottom. Over the years it has been read as a message to his mother, a romantic appeal to his second wife or a tribute to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, but as in earlier works the exact meaning remains deliberately veiled.