It’s one thing for an illustrator to create a recognisable style that underpins all of their work, but it’s another entirely for them to succeed in moulding that style to suit a whole realm of needs. Freelance illustrator Scott Smith does this effortlessly though, fashioning shadowy, half-concealed hidey-holes in the jungle as aptly as he does geometric cityscapes and comfy-looking domestic interiors. We had a chat with the London-based creative about how his working day pans out…
Where do you work?
I’m currently working for a design agency full-time while working freelance at evenings and weekends. I’ve been treating my room in Bethnal Green as a studio, which works fine for me. At work and at home I sit close to the window with lots of natural light, which I think helps me with illustration. While at home it’s also good to have somewhere to relax and draw rather than being sat at a desk. A studio might work better, but right now I wouldn’t use it all day every day, so it’d be a waste.
How does your working day start?
It starts with the snooze button. That’s followed by getting on my bike and cycling to work. When I’m working from home it’s usually a much slower start, as it’s normally a weekend. Either way, I’m mostly getting things together for when I’m actually awake – checking emails, getting coffee, planning my day.
How do you work and how has that changed?
Before doing any work on the computer I like to draw or look through my sketchbook. I see working on the computer more as refining, rather than generating ideas. Some ideas start as a squiggle on a Post-it, others start fully finished in my head, and I just do my best to get them on paper. Structure and composition are best done by hand as you can get a better feel of it, but all of my work is finished digitally. This is a fairly recent way of working for me and I think it’s influenced by working in graphic design.
I tend to be obsessed with one particular project at a time; I rarely put something on a break then return to it later, but if I do it will be a complete restart. Commissioned projects work very differently, and each one is particular to the job and client, but it’s always more of a paced process.
In the past my style was very sketchy. My early inspiration came from sci-fi ideas I had as a kid, and I still draw from those ideas today. Whenever I have free time my hand will go back to drawing weird creatures. That kind of work is very niche and geeky but it helps to begin with a big idea and narrow it down, rather than the other way around.
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
I spend a lot of time on my bike and I like to swim as I have the York Hall and London Fields pools close by. I also like to eat, drink and bum around, so the health benefit balances out.
Would you intern for yourself?
That would depend on the pay, which wouldn’t be much, so probably not!