During the past several months, curatorial staff have had the pleasure of visiting with Elwood H. Smith, the one-of-a-kind creator of high-grade humorous illustrations, in preparation for his upcoming exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum. The first in the Museum’s new Distinguished Illustrator exhibition series celebrating the contributions of noted contemporary illustrators, Elwood’s World: The Art and Animations of Elwood H. Smith will take a lively look back at this inventive image-maker’s forty year career through artworks that have made their way into the hearts and minds of an ever-appreciative public.
As a boy growing up in Alpena, Michigan, Elwood H. Smith loved comic books and early twentieth-century cartoon characters, particularly those drawn by George Herriman, the creator of Krazy Kat. Encouraged by his parents and his high school art teacher, Nancy Boyer-Feindt, he developed his drawing ability, taking the Famous Artists School cartoon correspondence course and attending art school at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. After working as an advertising art director in Chicago, illustration brought him to New York and his own comic style began to take form. “I really wanted to be like Norman Rockwell—not work like him but be a well-known illustrator. Maybe it comes from primal insecurity. I was shy in school and drew in my books all the time. I felt it was the one thing I could do well.”
An acclaimed humorous illustrator, Smith is best known for his whimsical comic characters that lend pointed perspectives to the written word. His intelligent, inventive drawings have appeared on the covers and pages of Forbes, Fortune, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, GQ, Money, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among other noted publications, and have enhanced the corporate profiles of Sony, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Pizza Hut, AT&T, McDonald’s, Cellular One, and Bell Atlantic. Stalling, Hot Diggity Dog, Catfish Kate and the Sweet Swamp Band, See How They Run, The Truth About Poop, Raise the Roof!, and Bug Muldoon are among his many illustrated children’s books. He has also enjoyed exploring the world of animation in creative productions like Kyoti Kapers, Little Green Monkey, and Sweet Dreams, which bring the artist’s drawings to life. Musically gifted too, Smith has been playing guitar since the late 1950s, and composing his own songs for more than three decades. The former lead guitarist for Ben Day and the Zipatones, an all-artist band that included Lou Brooks and Mark Alan Stamaty, he is the creator of Lucky Dog, his debut compilation produced and sung by John Platania.
We have so greatly enjoyed learning more about the life and art of this incredibly gifted artist, and look forward to sharing the extensive body of work that is testement to his extraordinary career. Please join us at the festive opening of this exciting exhibition on Saturday, February 19 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm, with commentary at 4:30pm by Elwood H. Smith and friends, noted Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne, and author/actor Will Osborne.