where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I’m from a lovely little city called Exeter, 2 hours from London (on the good train) and 20 mins from the beach, which will be great if we ever have a summer again.

what specific challenges do you face as being a (relatively) new illustrator?
The main challenge would be the same for any new illustrator I suppose, juggling the dream job with having to pay the bills. All of my work so far has been editorial, which I absolutely love doing, but the pay isn’t really enough to provide for the lean times when I’ve got no work on. I’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose the odd shift at my wife’s club to cover myself during these times though.

what specific challenges do you face as an illustrator from the uk?
It doesn’t seem to matter where you live as far as getting work goes, the internet overcomes these problems. I would say that the high price of living in England is quite prohibitive (as you well know), space is limited here and you have to pay a fortune if you want any. But then working out of dingy little shitholes is the romantic view that people have of the struggling artist isn’t it? Is it romantic? Not from where I’m standing, but I still wouldn’t swap it.
how has your style evolved, what were some of your early influences?
I tried pretty much every way of working possible during college before I found the way I work now. Charcoal, acrylics, watercolour, pencil, ink, digital, figurative, abstract, naïve blah blah blah and loads of variations in between. I didn’t know what it was I was looking for at the time but something always felt wrong for some reason or other. With hindsight I think I was just looking for something that would be able to communicate the range of my ideas effectively and also kind of serve as a representation of me as a person, in the way that clothes might for example. Sounds easy when it’s put like that doesn’t it? No matter what medium I used it was always quite graphic and fairly minimalist and I think since then I’ve just focussed in on the essential ingredients. I love the deferred communication that suggestion and metaphor can give and I try to use this as much as I can. Noma Bar does something similar to this but with negative space, his stuff is amazing. An early influence from my childhood would include the MAD comic, I was too young to get most of the jokes but I loved the drawing, I think I learnt how to draw noses from looking at the drawings in there. I also used to have lots of Giles anthologies but I don’t know what it was that I got from these! The late 80’s / early 90’s skateboard scene has probably influenced me a lot too. I rode a skateboard for years and my first board was an old Gator deck (he seemed like such a nice young man!!), the graphics on these boards were great. The way the paint used to crack after skating around in the rain too much probably influences the kind of textures I’m using now.

whos work are you loving right now?
There’s so many people doing stuff that completely blows me away it’s hard to know where to start. There’s yourself of course, Zara Picken who, like me, is relatively new to this but seems to be a complete natural, David Plunkert, Shout, Emiliano Ponzi, Paul Blow, Paul Thurlby, Noma Bar, Daniel Pudles, Dan Page, Blair Kelly, Yuko Shimizu, Edel Rodriguez………I could go on for ages.
what can we expect (in your opinion) in the next few years for our industry?
I’m still a bit green to be answering a question like that. Maybe a huge upsurge in the demand for illustration, fees skyrocketing like never before, illustrators being treated like rock stars or football players and enough jobs for everyone! (if we build it they will come) If only everything turned out like a Kevin Costner movie. There seems to be a need for a worldwide illustrators union type of thing but that’s probably idealistic and maybe not very progressive thinking on my part. I’ll stop short of ranting about parallels in the fashion industry with Primark and H&M selling off the shelf ‘images’ for less than you would have paid 20 years ago but I hope some bright spark will come along with an idea that will divert the illustration industry away from the same fate.

tell me about your wifes punk rock club!!!
My wife is the coolest part about me! I have a wife that runs a punk venue (if you’re a purist I use the term Punk quite loosely). It’s called the Cavern Club (not the Liverpool one) and has hosted some of the best underground bands in the world. It’s a fairly small venue, 220 capacity, and is gorgeously rough around the edges and also one of the best places I’ve been to see a band. Some of the bands that have been through the place are – Quicksand, Sick Of It All, Burning Airlines, Rival Schools, The Hives, Jets to Brazil, Bluetip, Fugazi, Samiam, Agent Orange, The Spermbirds, RX Bandits and loads of other great names that I can’t remember right now. Coldplay and Muse also played early shows there, as did the Kaiser Chiefs, Ordinary Boys, Idlewild and other big names. Damon Albarn was even down there with The Good, The Bad and The Queen, mental.

your top 5 punk (or hardcore...or anything really) bands of all time...
That’s almost too difficult to answer! I’d have to put Fugazi in there though and I’ve always had a soft spot for Samiam. I think those two bands would always be in there but as for the last three spots, today I’ll go for Propagandhi, Husker Du and Refused. Those choices could be completely different on a different day though.
if you had just one dream mag to work with, who would it be and why?
I think the art director would be more important to me than the mag to a certain extent (although the cover of The New Yorker would be nice). I’ve had some great experiences with the art directors I’ve worked with so far but if I were to pick someone that I haven’t already worked with then I’d like to work with SooJin Buzelli one day. I consistently hear great things about her art direction and her results speak for themselves.

any advice for new illustrators?
Don’t give up, it might be just around the corner.

any advice for older established ones?
If I’m still getting work in 15 years time ask me then and I might have something worth hearing. If not, be nice to your dustman, it might be me!
All images copyright Mark Smith, seriously great work Mark!!
see more here: http://altpick.com/marksmith


  1. Wonderful design and simplicity in these works. Harder to do than most think.