Drawing for Grownups

Ian Smile Takes Us to Neverland

ADC Member Ian Smile gets back into his childhood passion, his love for drawing, cartooning and illustrating. Now, this grownup plays in Illustrator, designing a plethora of quirky and nostalgic screenprints for those who are still young at heart too. How does this graphic designer/web designer/UX designer/cat herder/artist/illustrator find time to do it all?

ADC: How did you get into illustration?

Ian Smile: When I was a kid, I finished a piece my mother was working on for my Dad’s birthday. Then I started redrawing Bob Haro cartoons from BMX Plus! Magazine, Bloom County comics and skateboard graphics.

My whole career has been focused on design and photography and more recently user experience design, which are all things that I love. Besides sketching for design, I hadn’t drawn much since college, and I realized that I missed it. Now, I try to never be more than five feet from a pen & paper.

After a workshop I attended this year (more on that in a bit), I found myself using Illustrator on a daily basis, and I started banging out all this work. I have 50 pieces that are in some state of completion for personal projects that I’m looking to screenprint, sell and hopefully get into a gallery show. Also, I’ve recently done some client work for an author, a jewelry designer and a chef that I’m really proud of.

ADC: How are you managing your time? There’s this practical need to pay your rent and to buy food and get on the subway. 

Ian: I have a full-time design gig that pays the bills. In terms of time management, I have a few apps for “Getting Things Done” and organized, but usually default to Field Notes notebooks and tons of Post-its. Different things work for different people. Coffee helps too. You find little pockets of time and then extend them, if you really want to make it happen. I love creating things and I make that my priority. I try to always have my next 20 ideas in my back pocket.

Everything doesn’t have to revolve around an end goal. I’ve learned to enjoy the process, which makes the result more rewarding for me in the long run.

ADC: Have you learned skills from your day job that are applicable to side projects?

Ian: Yes, absolutely. In-house work involves so many skillsets that it has allowed me to grow far beyond my main role in the company. I’ve been involved in more strategy & development in the two last years than any other time in my career.

ADC: When you first spoke with me, you mentioned that “James Victore is your spirit animal.” What’s up with that? (You know he happens to be a Young Gun 1?)

Ian: Nowadays, there aren’t really heroes like there used to be. There are a lot of “Influencers,” “Thought Leaders,” etc. that too often mix words with jargon and give us quotes to tweet without really giving us anything actionable to improve ourselves and our work.
I attended a workshop last year that James, his wife Laura & his main man, Chris, put together called Take This Job and Love It. They came up with 11 Commandments that you can use to be a better and more creative person, such as:

“Your work is a gift.” “Always ask for more.” “Feck perfection.”

It was a great day of creative energy, Eastern philosophy, punk rock & Star Wars that ended with such a jolt of adrenaline that I had to start creating things that were important to me. MY GIFTS.

It’s said that “as a child, you only play and learn and as an adult, you stop playing and start working.” It becomes easy to lose sight of the things you love. Now, I make things that I love.

If Ian sounds like a potential spirit animal for you or if you simply enjoy his 80’s-pop-culture references, follow him. His work can be viewed at http://theseareideas.com and he tweets about design, UX, art, culture, music, comedy, skateboarding, food & other matters for uplifting gormandizers @endashes.

If you’re a member and want to share your story, upcoming event or a new project, contact membernews@adcglobal.orgfor more information!