Issue Archives
The cartoon vision
Jere Smith began his career as what he terms “an all-purpose artist” in Arcata, Calif.

“I called myself a graphic designer and learned as I went.” Eventually migrating to Juneau, Alaska, Jere became the graphic artist for the City. He also began working with an esoteric group called Arts Are Us that conceived and performed one-night stands in out-of-the-way places, mixing visual and theatre arts.

In 1988 he moved to Seattle and launched a career as an editorial illustrator. “Doing the illustration was good for coming up with concepts, trying to communicate a client’s message using one’s own imagery and imagination with a point of view and humorous tone.” Imagery as much influenced by the classic illustration of NC Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish and Marcel Duchamp as little Orphan Annie and Popeye.

“It was always about the cartoon vision,” says Jere, “especially through the funhouse lens of early Mad magazine. Weaned and art-damaged on this as a youth, comics played a major part in activating my imagination.”

After twelve years as an editorial illustrator the market began to dry up and Jere began to focus more on making a living as a fine artist. “I decided just to go for it. Do what I should be doing.” He continues to focus on cartoon-based imagery and calls himself a Neocompostmodernist. “I don’t think there’s really one ‘ism’ that pulls everything together,” he says.

Jere is currently a resident at the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle, which in its prime was a home for wayward girls and is now a self-sustaining multi-purpose community center.

“They had six spots for artists,” he says. Financial considerations, breadth of work and in the end dumb lottery luck played a part in his garnering one of the spots. “I feel so lucky to be here. It’s a progressive and artistic culture—an urban oasis.”