Interview with Lane Smith

We continue our Interview series—in which we ask contemporary illustrators to share their experiences. Today’s guest is Lane Smith.

© Lane Smith

© Lane Smith

Where were you born? 

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on August 25, 1959. I grew up in Corona, California.

When did you realize that drawing could be a living?

In highschool. I was the quiet kid who sketched cartoon characters. I had a great art teacher, Dan Baughman; and he told me about commercial art.

What was your first work-life experience?

I graduated in 1983 with a BFA in illustration from Art Center College of Design. I moved to New York City the next year and started working for various newspapers and magazines—including TIME and Rolling Stone—as a freelance illustrator.

How did you get your start in illustration?

I did not have an agent. I hustled a lot. I went on lots of meetings and did lots of postcard mailings.

Can you tell me about why you change stylistic direction? It’s a common concern with our students.

My figures and buildings and things may look less stylized; but for me it was always about texture. My work today has the same texture it has always had.

Care to share a career highlight or two?

Probably the first time I had an illustration published in a big newspaper (the New York Times); and the first time I published a children’s book (Halloween ABC).

[Editor’s addition: After the publication of Halloween ABC, Smith’s wife’s coworker made this request: “You should meet my husband because he wrote this story, “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” and he’s been rejected by every publisher out there. And maybe you could illustrate it!”

Her husband was Jon Scieszka.]

What insight can you provide about being an illustrator that you think all illustrators should know?

Never get discouraged. There is always work out there somewhere. You just have to find it.


We want to thank Lane Smith for his insight. If you think this interview would be helpful to illustrators, please pass it along using the “Share” button below.

Be sure to visit his website here. And, thank you for reading!