Douglas Smith

  1. narrative
  2. vignettes
  3. bio
  4. work process

Born in New York City, Douglas Smith began drawing early. To Douglas, the most appealing aspect of making art was storytelling, and with this in mind, he chose to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, earning his BFA in Illustration in 1974, also studying sculpture, painting, and printmaking.

Smith moved to Boston shortly after graduation, and started to build a freelance career, working for local magazines and newspapers such as the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Inc. Magazine, New England Monthly, and others. His work was frequently selected for inclusion in the Society of Illustrators exhibition, Communication Arts Illustration Annual, American Illustration, Print’s Regional Design Annual, Graphis Annual, and ‘Outstanding American Illustrators Today’ from Japan.

His national reputation building, Smith received many advertising, book, and corporate assignments, and was profiled in 1986 by Communication Arts. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Richard Solomon group and is now its senior member. Additional honors awarded Smith over the years include a Silver Award from the Society of Newspaper Design, an Award of Merit from the Society of Publication Design, Gold and Merit Awards from the Art Directors Club, and an Achievement Award from the Society of Technical Communication. He is also a frequent exhibitor at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

In 1992, Douglas was invited to participate in the United Nations/Society of Illustrators show – ‘The Illustrator and the Environment,’ a subject of deep interest to him. During his Boston years he designed and drew numerous projects for Greenpeace, including an anti-whaling children’s book, and an internationally famous t-shirt design opposing the annual ‘harvest’ of harp seal pups. Smith has lectured at Rhode Island School of Design, Massachusetts College of Art, Art Institute of Boston, Parsons, New England School of Art, and Maine College of Art.

Smith realized a long-held dream when he moved from the Boston area to Peaks Island, off the coast of Maine, in 2004. Now, aside from his illustration work, he also participates in the vibrant island arts community, becoming a member of the cooperative art gallery, displaying ‘found object’ sculpture, as well as drawings and paintings in various media. He lives a short walk from the ocean, in a house full of art, odd stuff, and three cats.

Client List

The New York Times Magazine
The Boston Globe
The Chicago Tribune
Smithsonian Magazine
Rolling Stone
Oprah (‘O’) magazine
Vanity Fair
Atlantic Monthly
Arizona highways
INC. magazine
Texas Monthly
USA Today magazine
Harper Collins Books
Little Brown & Co.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Harcourt Brace
Time Warner
Simon & Schuster
McMillan Pub. Co.
Penguin Random House
St. Martin’s Press
William Morrow
National Geographic
Franklin Library
Chemical Bank
J.P. Morgan
Swatch lab
Miller Brewing Co.
Sam Adams Brewing Co.
Absolut Vodka
Milton Bradley
Kaiser Permanente
Bell South
Wells Fargo
GSX Corp.
US Postal Service
United Nations Environmental Agency
Society of Illustrators
New England Aquarium
Massachusetts Dept. of Tourism
Brigham & Women’s Hospital

My working process for most assignments is first to read and respond to the supplied story, article, or job brief with small pencil roughs- sometimes just one or two, if the job is very straightforward, or the client has requested a specific composition. But more often, and especially for the more conceptual assignments, I will do four, six, even ten roughs from which the art director will choose. Next might be one more pencil roughs with requested alterations. When this is approved, I may need to take photos of models and search out other reference before moving on to the ‘tight pencil’ or ‘working drawing.’ This is done on vellum, on which I work out all the kinks in my composition and refine the drawing, until it is all there, at least in outline form, exactly as it will appear in the finished illustration. I tape this down over a sheet of black scratchboard, with carbon paper between, and carefully go over every line of my working drawing with a pencil, pressing firmly to transfer the image to the scratchboard below. Then I have a black-on-black guideline for the engraving I will do, and can begin the rendering of my black and white original. Especially for complex pieces, it is slow, meticulous work. If this is to be a color piece, after I have completed the black and white original, I make a good quality reproduction, same size, on card stock that I can then watercolor on. This now becomes my original – or rather, I end up with a black and white original and a color original, which often comes in handy when the piece has several uses.

Assignment Example:

I have designed and draw the covers for all five of Gregory Maguire’s best-selling novels, beginning with Wicked. In this third novel, Lost, Maguire adapts Dickens’ ‘Scrooge’ story in the service of unsettling tale of tormented spirits and loss. I had free reign to respond visually to the author’s writing, but as always with his books, I had to design for the ‘keyhole’ jacket format. This is very challenging, as I have to choose a central element that will be showcased within the ‘keyhole’ – it has to be above the middle line, and portray something important to the story, without revealing too much. For a ‘surprise’ effect open the jacket and uncover the whole image. The larger, more important storytelling image thus has to be composed with the ‘keyhole’ element always in the same place. You’ll see in all the panel roughs here that the head of the main figure is always in the same centered spot. And the scene revealed is different from anything one could have expected from the jacket art, which is a variation on the Dickens scene in which Scrooge sees a ghostly head over his doorknocker.

back to top