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Future Is Now
Self-Portrait, Laura Smith
Campaign Spotlight: Laura Smith
Memories of Childhood Provide Inspiration In Her Bold And Beautiful Illustrations
The eldest of four sisters, Laura Smith grew up just a stone's throw from the ocean in Manhattan Beach, California where her father had built a mid-century home, and where nobody but her mother locked their doors. After graduating from Pasadena's Art Center College of Design with a major in Illustration, Laura moved to New York City to jumpstart her career. After developing her style there for 13 years she returned to her native California and set up shop in the Hollywood Hills.
Smith’s graphically bold illustrations are infused with a love of nature, and influenced by the colors and images that surrounded her growing up in Southern California—which was heightened by her frequent trips to México City to visit her mother’s mother, and to Albuquerque by the Santa Fe train to visit her paternal grandparents. She remembers being too excited to sleep, watching the falling stars at night as the train rolled through the desert.
Her work is appealing, sometimes a bit nostalgic, and always eye-catching: color, motion and detail combine to great effect. She has produced illustrations from advertisements to billboards for a stellar list of companies including HBO, Microsoft, Capitol Records, Japan Airlines, Bols (Liqueur), Heineken, Time and Newsweek and has worked on projects for both Lexus and Ferrari. Smith has done promotions for the 50th Anniversary of the New York Knicks, advertisements for Mercedes-Benz, billboards for Wrigley's, Budweiser (Japan), and Levi's. She has created posters for The Walt Disney Company and Disney Cruise Line’s Millennium Celebration, Norwegian Cruise Line, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as for the theater (“Pal Joey” in Chicago). She was also hired to do postage stamps for the Sesquicentennial Celebrations of both Florida and Texas Statehood for the United States Postal Service.
Smith has also garnered recognition for the mural she executed for the NBA City/Hard Rock Cafe in Universal Studios, Florida, and for her program covers for The World Series and the American and National League Championships for Major League Baseball. She was the “Official Poster Artist” for the Kentucky Derby as well as for Honda's LA Marathon. Her work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and three of her posters were added to the collection of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
Q. What motivated you to begin drawing and painting?
A. I was about 6 years old the first time I went to visit my best friend Terri whose father was fine artist Donald Putman. Their house was filled with his life-sized paintings—not hung on the walls, but stacked against them in the living room, and next to his easel where he would paint over an oriental rug. His colors were vibrant and his work was loose. When Donald was a young man he had joined the circus and performed as a comic acrobat, which allowed him to paint circus life behind the scenes (kind of like Degas). I really enjoyed my visits to their house—especially when after Terri and I were done playing on the trampoline “Putt” would perform somersaults and tricks for us. I later discovered that he had done matte paintings and backdrops for films like Mutiny on the Bounty, as well as being one of the most popular instructors at Art Center. Having had that kind of exposure to this larger-than-life artist helped to set me on the path to becoming what I am now.
Q. Were you one of those children who could always be found sketching?
A. I remember drawing on the walls of my house, and getting in trouble for that. Then I discovered I could secretly draw on the underside of my parents’ desk without repercussions.
I loved drawing as much as I loved working on my own three-dimensional projects. Since the beach was my playground, I made plaster casts in the sand. Ultimately I always found and created my own projects to work on.
I think kids tend to focus on the mundane, on things which grownups become desensitized to. For example I remember looking at puddles after a rain and noticing the swirls of color that were created when drops of oil would get mixed in. It seemed all so iridescent and beautiful. I was also fascinated with colored tissue paper and how the colors changed depending on what color laid on top of another. At the time there seemed to be a trend of imagery playing with color in that way, or at least that is where my focus was. I remember staring at the graphics on the TV set. These images, and the way color resonated—even on TV—are still embedded in my brain.
Q. Who or what were your influences?
A. The list is long and this can’t possibly cover them all, but the ones that first come to mind are Cassandre, Paul Colin, Miguel Covarrubias, Mary Blair, Paul Rand, and many of the classics like Picasso and Braque. For the most part, I've been influenced by artists whose work spans the period between the 20's and the 60's. Cubism, Dada and generally anything that's considered to be “modern art” have influenced me. I do research on the Internet, but there is nothing like having a good art book to refer to and I have many. Recently the things that inspire me most are those that trigger memories from childhood.
Q. How did you evolve your color palette?
A. I'm obsessed with color. And while it's really important to me, I still cannot predict what colors I will end up using on any one piece. But I try to work organically and it's usually the topic that seems to dictate my color palette that helps evoke the mood that I want to set.
As a child I spent many summers in México visiting my maternal grandmother. I was intrigued by the color of everyday life there. And there was nothing better (as far as I was concerned) than to go to the traditional outdoor markets. Even the colors in a platter of fruit seemed amazingly vivid and intense: watermelons sliced in half (intense red, white and green), papayas (bright red orange), limes (yellow green), mangos (golden yellow) and all of it beautifully displayed. But nothing seemed to match the intensity of the local soft drinks and traditional candy. Some of it actually looked as though it could glow in the dark. Even the packaging was bright and fun.
Q. What medium do you prefer to work in?
A. I’ve been working digitally lately, primarily in Illustrator, and I am really enjoying it since it allows me to experiment with color and form without undermining the art. Previously, I worked exclusively with acrylic and a stipple brush on canvas.
Q. What is your favorite type of assignment?
A. I like the constraints of an assignment. That’s what makes a job interesting to me—working and solving problems within limitations—but I also like to be given a certain amount of flexibility to interpret an assignment as I see it.
Q. What is it like working with your husband [graphic designer and owner of Alphabet Soup Type foundry] Michael Doret?
A. I love typography, and like working out how type will lay out in my work, but there are times where I really need his advice. Occasionally we actually work together on larger projects. We both rely on each other when it comes to our individual work. It really helps to get another person’s perspective. By the way, he says I should mention, “It's an honor for me to work with him.”
Q. What is your process for tackling a poster for such an iconic event as the Kentucky Derby?
A. I like to look at a situation or event and try to determine what is unique or different about it, or come up with a slightly different perspective than what would normally be expected. In the case of the Derby, it was clear that previous posters had predictably focused primarily on the horse race. But I felt that the audience watching the race was also a compelling story, so that is what I focused on. In the case of the Kentucky Oaks poster (which happens the day before the Derby) that race is about the "Ladies" (or fillies). Women wearing hats is also big that weekend, so it was a natural to play up that aspect for this poster.
Q. Can you describe your studio environment?
A. When living in New York we lived and worked in a loft environment. Fortunately once we moved to Hollywood we were able to convert our three-car garage into studio space, and it too has a loft-like feel. At its highest point the ceiling is about 13 feet high. Somehow it’s comforting to have those high ceilings despite the fact that we don’t actually need it. Michael and I work in the same space, but I think the ceiling height gives us room to breathe. Inside there are two drafting tables, two computer stations, an island for cutting and wrapping packages, shelving for books, cabinets that wrap around the studio as well as one very large wall of cabinets for storage. We're in the hills of Hollywood, and from our vantage point we can look out of the windows, and the view feels almost like Italy.
To see more of Laura’s work, visit http://www.laurasmithart.com
Bonnie Gloris, Charles Baudelaire, 2010, charcoal and mixed media on Mylar, 10 x 8 inches.
Mike Maxwell, The Central Nervous System, Spray Paint, Acrylic & Gouache on Wood, 12 x 18 inches, 2011.
Gary Baseman, Beyond the Hills of Creamy Goodness, acrylic on wood panel 4 x 9 feet, 2011.
Exhibitions of note nationwide.
Author portraits by Bonnie Gloris
Through June 25th
Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
The Authors is an ongoing series of portraits of writers that Bonnie admires, the most recent addition being a commissioned piece of the French poet Charles Baudelaire. In these portraits, realistic depictions of the authors are supplemented by collage elements that give insight into the subjects’ personalities and the personalities of the characters they create. Other components of the picture represent the settings in which they worked. Miniature scale and kitschy frames humble the portraits of these iconic figures to the intimate level of family photos. Curated by Barbara Wing, The Authors exhibition of small paintings is arranged in foyer cases on the right side of the main lobby entrance.
Extra Sensory: New Works by Mike Maxwell
2479 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101
Subtext Gallery welcomes their first solo exhibition with artist (and San Diego native), Mike Maxwell. In a slight departure from his previous works, Extra Sensory features looser brushstrokes that are very much influenced by psychedelics and the questioning of waking reality. “Compositionally, the pieces in this show are heavily layered, and extremely colorful with hints of abstraction. Maxwell’s explorations for this body of work revolve heavily around the constant misleadings of our own senses, and lack thereof,” they describe.
Opening June 1, through November 6th
Fondazione Claudio Buziol Abbazia di San Gregorio
Dorsoduro 172, Venice Italy
Gary Baseman’s new painting Beyond the Hills of Creamy Goodness, “...a look into the future of the once doomed and glorious Forest of ChouChou”, will be featured in Future Pass, an official collateral event of the 54th International Venice Biennale curated by Victoria Lu, Felix Schoeber, and Renzo di Renzo.
Future Pass opens to the public June 1st, and considers the values of different cultures in addressing contemporary art in the digital age, uniting the experiences of Conceptual Art with an investigation into new materials and subject positions, and destabilizing the pre-existing hierarchies found in dialogues among different cultures.
Other artists in the exhibition include two of my favorite contemporary Japanese artists: Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. Future Pass takes place at the Fondazione Claudio Buziol, a private institution based in two venues at the center of Venice. After the Venice Biennale this exhibition will travel to Rotterdam’s Wereld Museum, the National Taiwan Art Museum in Taichung and the Beijing Art Museum in China.
A brief review of notable titles and inspiring monographs.
Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s,various artists; introduction by John Benson, published by Fantagraphics, 320 pages, softcover, $29.99.
These tales, with their accompanying lurid and compelling illustrations, harken back to a time when scary stories were savored in the pages of EC (Entertaining Comics) titles like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror.
Four Color Fear, edited by John Benson and Greg Sadowski, reminds me of 1950’s Saturday morning horror films filled with hulking, shuffling images of terror. Those were in black and white; the comics provided the colorful version of these depraved tales. Frank Frazetta, Basil Wolverton, Jack Cole, and a raft of twisted stories, offer “...a surprising number of disturbing original concepts,” according to John Benson in his introduction. Sounds like my cup of tea!
I Love You, OK?, by Gary Taxali, published by Te Neues (this title will be released June 15th), 144 pages, hardcover, $19.95.
Gary Taxali is a true original. He is both a delightful human being with an infectious laugh and an immensely talented illustrator. Inspired by vintage comics and period advertisements he creates whimsical characters that provoke both humor and examination. He looks at human obsessions in a playful manner, often through the eyes of a monkey. Any showcase of his art is bound to be a journey through a minefield of emotions. Enjoy!
Art Work, Seeing Inside the Creative Process, by Ivan Vartanian, published by Chronicle Books, 192 pages, hardcover, $24.95.
Every creative person has their own methodology to writing notes, and selecting inspirational words and images that inform their art. In Art Work, Ivan Vartanian, author and editor of many books on art and design, offers readers a sneak peek at the journals and visual materials that inspire(d) a range of artists from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Eva Hesse, and Louise Bourgeois to Tadanori Yokoo, and many other art world luminaries. It makes you want to crack open a new journal, grab a good pencil, and start the ideation process.
A few hot breaks to check out while surfing the net.
www.theillustrationconference.org — The wait is over! ICON 7 will take place June 13–16, 2012 in, wait for it, Providence, RI, at the Renaissance Hotel (a restored Masonic Temple for all you conspiracy theorists!). Keep checking the site for updates.
imprint.printmag.com/daily-heller — Steve Heller, prolific author and editor, former art director for the New York Times and current co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author Department at SVA, writes on topics of interest to illustrators including his May 10th post on Illustration and the Law, a concise update on the lawsuit that pitted the Graphic Artists Guild against the Illustrators’ Partnership of America, concerning “orphaned fees” and defamation. Check out The Daily Heller.
www.thehandstand.com — If you have an iPad 2, you might find this useful. The HandStand is a protective hard case that rotates 360 degrees. It’s a safe and ergonomic way to use your iPad; with a flick of the wrist you can turn the device from landscape to portrait view. It also has a stand for viewing and typing comfort when using on a desktop.
www.shellypalmer.com — When you want to geek out and keep up to date on all aspects of the digital world, drop by the radio and television tech expert’s blog “digital living”. I was interested to note that Microsoft has acquired the voice and video chatting service Skype, from a New York Times item Palmer posted.
www.spd.org — I recommend checking out The Society of Publication Designers site to learn which magazines are winning awards, and which art directors are receiving attention. These are the people you should direct self-promo pieces to, plus you can read other media news that might direct you to leads. It’s worth following good art directors from publication to publication!
laluzdejesusgallery.blogspot.com — ArtOfficial, the La Luz de Jesus Art Blog is where the popular Los Angeles gallery posts snaps from openings, signing events, and in-store happenings (you never know who might show up!). “We sometimes post secret sale info and advance preview links there, too,” they say. You can friend them on Facebook to access even more photos and get info on Soap Plant and Wacko happenings. June will mark the 40th year that the shop has been opened for business, and in October the gallery turns 25. They’ll be offering a series of exciting events to commemorate Soap Plant's Ruby Anniversary and La Luz de Jesus' first quarter-century. Yikes!
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Advice from an industry of one, but a determined one.
There is no getting around the fact that having one’s work included in prestigious annuals and winning competitions is good for business. It’s something that I recommend people do, along with reading the trade press and staying up with industry-related websites. There are many competitions for illustrators to enter. Some are genre specific; others are open to work in many categories and styles.
Fee structures vary. You have to decide what percent of your promotional budget should go into entering competitions, as opposed to investing in a social network presence, advertising or producing self-promotion pieces.
You can look at the list of judges for various competitions, but trust me, as someone who has judged a number of illustration, photography, and graphic design competitions, judging is subjective, and it’s impossible to avoid some personal reactions. Your best bet is to make sure if you are entering a series of images, that each and every one is equally strong. If you’re uncertain, do not enter as a series, but as individual entries. Time and time again, I’ve heard judges at CA remark that they would have voted in a series but for one weak or misplaced image.
I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention Communication Arts’s Illustration competition (Illustration Annual 52, the May/June issue is out now) with an annual deadline in March. Check www.commarts.com for more information on the Illustration Competition, as well as the other competitions in graphic design, photography, interactive design, and typography. When I was managing editor of CA and fielding calls from illustrators, I would advise people to enter their work into the other annuals as well. One friend always enters her work into the Design Annual, never the Illustration Annual, because she designs her posters and creates the type and feels that is where her work should be placed. Checking out how your competitors’ work is being used by ad agencies and design firms can be educational. And a bonus is the directory at the back of CA’s annual issues; if you study the annual and consult the directory listings you can create a customized database of art directors to add to your “mailing” list.
If gaming is your arena, this one is for you: Play! and Wacom present The 2011 International Art Competition (Celebrating Visual Excellence In Video Games, Toys And Entertainment), now open for entries in 6 specialty areas (Art Direction, 3D/Animation, Storyboard, Toy & Game Illustration, Character/Concept Art, Comic/Sci-Fi/Graphic Novel) through June 20. Visit contests.playillustration.com for more information, and to enter.
Few competitions are age specific. Breakthrough is one. It’s a new worldwide artist talent search, the first to be launched by an artists’ agent (Richard Solomon), and it aims to find the most talented young professional artist or student 18 to 35, who has less than 5 years of paid professional experience in the industry. They are looking for, in Solomon’s words, “skill set and applicability.” The goal is to introduce them to the day-to-day business of illustration and award a cash prize. The competition ends June 20; for more information, visit www.richardsolomon.com/breakthrough
Breakthrough reminds me of the Magdalena International Festival of Creative Communication contest held annually in Maribor, Slovenia, designed for advertising creatives under 25 years of age (www.magdalena.org). Several years ago I was asked to be the jury president for Magdalena, and I was impressed by the wealth of talent and creative risk-taking that I saw in the work of these young creatives, and the way the whole city of Maribor embraced the festival with its outdoor performance art spectacles and installations. And the gold medal winners received the famous Magdalena “golden bra”!
The Society of Illustrators offers many competitions and awards including the prestigious Hamilton King award (best work by a Society member in the Annual Exhibition), Annual Exhibition, and Student Scholarship (an annual juried exhibition for college-level art students). Visit www.societyillustrators.org and click on Awards and Competitions on the black bar at the top of the home page.
3 x 3 The Magazine of Contemporary Illustration sponsors several competitions. Check out 3x3mag.com to sign up for the mailing list for their Call for Entries.
Lürzer’s Archive magazine also produces Specials that publish outstanding work in the areas of advertising photography, illustration, packaging design, catalogues & brochures, and design for music. The 200 Best Illustrators 2011/12 is available now: 200 of the world’s best illustrators are featured in a 320-page volume. www.luerzersarchive.us
Entering competitions is not as complicated as it used to be. Most competitions have streamlined the entry process. The days of painstakingly packing and mailing one’s entries is over as most competitions can be entered online. (No more squashed poster tubes!) Hey, it’s a tax write-off, you’re putting your work out there, and who knows, you might gain attention, potential jobs, and flattering Facebook posts. So, do your homework, keep a good archive of your work, and good luck!
Your 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants, by Mark Ulriksen.
For someone who usually paints small, say the size of a New Yorker cover, 4 x 5 feet is huge. Even more so when you consider the fanatical attention to detail that San Francisco illustrator Mark Ulriksen puts into each and every painting. But paint it he did. Your 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants (as Mark claims, “the object of my profound affections for over 45 years”) is a vivid action painting showing eight baseballs in play. This self-assignment took hundreds of hours and was hung at the Giants spring training hub in Arizona, Don & Charlie’s restaurant in Scottsdale. Visit www.markulriksen.com for more information, or to buy a print in one of three sizes.
If you have received an award, published a book or have other exciting career news, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.