North American Review Cover 301.2

Getting Inspired by the Coming Spring by Danny Smith

When I first began my thumbnail sketches for the cover illustration, it was snowing. Outside my studio window, the Connecticut landscape was getting a small covering of our usual winter guest. Snow transforms: it hides all the cracks and divots, and just for a moment you might think the world is smooth and reflective. Cold marble to the touch.

What always unwinds winter’s grasp is rain. Spring rain. The first showers of it rarely feel like spring at all; it feels like a static shock, a betrayal to your senses. It should be warm and welcoming, but you’re still bundled up and now wet. While it’s not the time to go splashing around in puddles, you get to see your land again. You get to see the mounds of gray plowed snow melt down from their sad peaks.

My attempt was to capture a scene when these moments have passed by—that day when you can embrace some warmth, flowers readied for picking, and the rain isn’t sharp.

The cover illustration is created in pastel and charcoal. The color is added digitally in Adobe Photoshop. It’s 13.5 x 17.5 inches, drawn on Stonehenge paper. I use a variety of tools in those drawing mediums, from pencils, sticks, to even powder charcoal. Erasers of varied size and shape as well. I’ve found the combination of the materials at the drawing level create an organic exchange that you can’t plan in the sketches.

As an example, the sky and clouds were not planned out in every detail. I knew I wanted a storm-like sky, dark, with some morning light. As I build up the materials, erase some of it away, the grit and powder start leading you into the places it wants to live. I think it’s natural. Part of finding yourself is listening to your medium and investigating new things in each piece.

While I am very far from ever claiming to be a master, I do understand that along the way to mastering something you have to have this sort of investigation and give yourself up to those discoveries.

And all of these things are not created in a blissful art bubble. Illustration is very much a team game. I actually love that aspect of working, the navigation of your voice amongst audience, editors, and art directors. Each person wants the best, each brings certain skills, and the art hopefully reflects the best of everyone.


D.G. Smith is based in Manchester, Connecticut. He has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Hartford.  Both degrees are in illustration. He was recently a prize-winning finalist in the 2016 House of Illustration and Folio Society Book Illustration Competition, illustrating the novel War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.  Please feel free to contact him at www.dgsmithillustration.com.