Vibrant Visions: In Conversation With Kyle Smart

Drawing inspiration from comic books of the 1970s and the enchanting animation style of Studio Ghibli, Kyle Smart's vibrant, bold and bright portfolio teams with energy. Hailing from the UK, he works as a freelance Illustrator, Animator, and occasionally as a Director, finding great joy in breathing life into conceptual ideas.

Why did you decide to take up your creative trade?

I’m lucky, drawing has always been the thing that I do and love. As someone who grew up in various trucks and caravans, there wasn’t always lots of room for toys, so drawing was always the best window into my imagination. It didn’t really solidify as a career choice though, until one of my A-level teachers quit to become a comic book artist. It was probably the first time I knew someone who made a ‘proper’ living off their art and then that was it.

How do you get past creative blocks?

On a deadline, the best thing for me is to just keep the ball rolling in some way. Even if it’s a load of drawings that don’t necessarily feel productive, one thing can lead to another. Failing that or if it’s more existential; I try to switch gears, usually by trying to learn something new or digging into something I’ve not tried before.

What is your creative process?

It’s not unusual for me to have to get going on a project without the full picture or specifics. So typically, I start exploring ideas in my sketchbook. The hope is to get to some more universal and relatable idea, that reads at a glance. Once I have a few of these I hand them off to the Art Director and it’s usually downhill from there. I’ve recently moved my entire workflow over to Blender, developing a hybrid 2D/3D style that lends itself just as easily to animation as print.

Where do you look for inspiration?

My Pinterest is full of stuff from this great sweet spot of 70’s comic books like Moebius and then lots of 90’s Ghibli’esque anime. My studio is full of arts and crafts bits, bobs, pots and tiles which hopefully bring it all back down to earth a little.

What are you reading or listening to right now?

Since becoming a dad, I find it super hard to find the time to read like I used to unfortunately. Music wise it’s a workday, which generally means Lofi girl. Anything with lyrics really throws me off when I’m trying to percolate on an idea. On weekends you can usually hear Idles blasting out from the kitchen hi-fi.

What does your typical day involve?

I usually help get my kid ready for Nursery and then about 3 cups of tea and YouTube videos later, I get going on commissions. I try to block out things in 2-3 hour chunks before taking a break; whether it’s sketching up ideas or making final artwork and/or animation. I usually finish my day off by replying to some emails before going and picking my kid up again.

A big thank you to Kyle Smart for contributing to our series of creative conversations with industry experts.

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