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Mark T Smith

Illustration 1991-2018

From my earliest days, I was always most interested in drawing and creating visuals. I graduated from the Pratt Institute Communications Design program with a focus in Illustration. Illustration was the clearest path forward for me at the time – a way to have a career making images. It was more direct than the pathways to a Fine Art career and the intellectual component and tough deadlines were compelling. Illustration as a discipline has a long and storied past. Many artists in the pantheon of greats either started as illustrators (Warhol) or worked as de-facto illustrators their entire career (Michelangelo). I was more than happy to join those ranks in due time.

My very first large commission after matriculating from Pratt in Brooklyn was a work created for Walt Disney World. I had left New York City on a road trip south and landed in Orlando for a short stay. In those days illustrators went agency to agency showing their portfolios. This was one of my absolute favorite things to do – go out into the world and sell my work. I had the good fortune to show my artwork to an Art Director named Thomas Scott at an agency in Orlando at the exact time that he was looking for some fresh talent for a poster project for Walt Disney.

Limited edition poster for Walt Disney World.

After my short time in Orlando and stops in many other cities along the East Coast, I made the decision to move back to New York City, this time Manhattan. I started out with a lot of optimism, the Walt Disney commission had won numerous awards and I had a portfolio of printed works. NYC would welcome me back with open arms – not so much….. I took my portfolio everywhere. I saw between 4-8 people a day for the first year. I was able to put together some illustration work in the form of editorials for magazines and some other smallish projects, making 8-10 illustrations per month to keep ahead of the rent. Finally, I got another break, this time from MTV – the 800 pound media gorilla at the time. The brand became a great client, commissioning tons of work in the form of on-air logos, animations and a variety of other super cool projects. With the addition of MTV to my portfolio things really took off.

Sketch for New York Knicks season ticket design and on-Court graphic.

I have worked for an enormous number of brands over the course of my career. Budweiser, MTV, Absolut Vodka, Sony, VH-1, Showtime, HBO, Walt Disney, US Open, Random House, AT&T, Y&R, Taco Bell, UTZ potato chips, A&W Rootbeer, New York Knicks, Rolling Stone, and a list of magazines, bands and publishing houses too long to list.

Sketch for US Open project.

When working on an illustration project, the outcome must be something known. I work out all the details in the sketch stages with the final version of the sketch approved by my client, and in most cases by the client’s client. The final artwork will be as close to that sketch as humanly possible. When I am called for an illustration project most art directors let me do what I do best – solve the challenge in my visual language. This is a recipe for strong work.

Illustration of 50 cent for Rolling Stone Magazine.

I have had the pleasure of sharing my knowledge with a younger generation of Illustrators, teaching in the Illustration departments at several schools and universities over my career. Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, University of the Arts and Miami Ad School. I have lectured at many more on the topics of Illustration and Fine Art.

Absolut Smith ad 1996.

I am represented by Richard Solomon for Illustration and continue to make illustrations for clients. Richard and I have been working together now for many years and have created some dynamite work in the process. Most recently, I was tapped to create the album artwork for the new UB40 release.

UB40 Album cover.

I have lived my career between the two worlds of Fine Art and Illustration and plan on continuing on that pathway. I have a long exhibition history as a fine artist and continue to exhibit my works to this day with the galleries that represent my work.  Illustration is a singular and consuming passion that I intend to pursue all of my days. Below are additional samples from my Illustration portfolio over the past years.

Taco Bell in store artwork

Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce project.

Smith Pharmaceutical UK.

UTZ Billboard.

Key West Distillery.

Heavy Pets show poster.

Pilgrimage to Paradise / Activation for Chrysler

Poster for the US olympic team 2008 Summer olympics.

About Mark T. Smith

Mark T. Smith is a celebrated American painter. He is best known for his colorful, complex paintings and his passion for the application of art into the fabric of everyday life.