Kell Smith, Artist and Illustrator

Interview by Mary Sheridan

How did you meet Glenn and become the illustrator for his new book, SPARKS?

I met him through Grayhaven Comics, where I had the honor to illustrate another story of his, a shorter piece called “Fasten Your Seat-belts”. He says he’s been a fan of mine since I illustrated the cover for “The Gathering: Dreams and Nightmares”, Grayhaven’s myth anthology. After thoroughly stroking my ego, he sent me the script for “Sparks” and asked for my opinion. A good tactic, in hindsight.

What was your reaction when you first read SPARKS?

I loved it. Melanie Sparks (“Mel”) is a fun character, and I did not see the twist ending coming at all.

The name, “SPARKS”, is very enigmatic. It suggests much but explains nothing – just as a good title ought to do. Do you think that is a fair assessment?

I think so.

What can you tell us about the story in SPARKS that will make everyone want to buy a copy but won’t land you in trouble with Glenn?

I’d say that it’s a murder mystery with a twist you won’t see coming, written and drawn by two highly-talented and charming individuals?

Clearly, Glenn is incredibly enthusiastic about your illustrations. How much collaboration went into the “look” of characters and locations that he had spent a decade developing on his own?

Glenn described what he was picturing for the main characters, and I tried to stay as faithful to that mental image as I could. He also supplied me with some great reference images for the main locations, but he left most of the details up to me.

It was a privilege to watch you on Livestream as you created the SPARKS cover. Was that fun, or stressful?

I’d say a mix of both, haha! It was my first time using Livestream, and I was so worried I was going to screw up or that something would go wrong.

But nothing did, and the page turned out incredibly well. In SPARKS you avoid the extremes that are so often a part of traditional comic books – caricature or exaggeration, for example. Your drawings of people and settings are both real and accessible, relying on things like facial expression, body language, and clothing to indicate mood and action. Is this your usual creative style – or do you enjoy creating unexpected monsters in closets, too?

Well, I’m pretty much happy drawing anything, but there’s something about people, about faces and expressions especially, that have always fascinated me.

How would you describe your creative background, experience, and education?

100% self-taught. I taught myself how to draw comics through books and online tutorials. My degrees are actually in Art History and Classical Studies, in case you ever need someone to parse some Latin for you.

Every artist has their own unique preferences. What is your most important tool as an artist – the one thing that you couldn’t bear to work without?

Photoshop and my Wacom graphics tablet. Although I like to pencil and ink traditionally, there’s no substitute when it comes to my colors. It’s made me a bit spoiled. Whenever I try to work with traditional paints, I keep wanting to reach for the undo button whenever I make a mistake!

The path to becoming an illustrator is pretty ill-defined. If someone in high school dreams of drawing comic books, what advice would you give them to set them on a good road and help to make their dream come true?

Just practice, practice, practice, and get your work out there. There are some fabulous websites now for artists that help to circulate your artwork, like deviantART and tumblr.

Do you have a “dream job” – something that you would really love to do but haven’t done yet?

I would love to either write or illustrate for Marvel, particularly on Thor. I’m a huge mythology geek. Huge.

Have you written, or would you like to write some comic scripts of your own?

I’m actually co-writing and illustrating an upcoming webcomic, tentatively titled “Safety School”, and I’ve just submitted a piece for Grayhaven’s Time Travel Anthology, so fingers crossed.

Are there any other projects – past, present, or future – that we should watch for, to see more of your work?

I’m currently working on a novel, and as for my art, I have the two projects above, as well as another project in the works with Glenn. More details on that later. ;)

In addition to illustrating books, do you also accept commissions or pursue any other artistic work?

I’m always on the look-out for more projects!

Where can people interested in your work go to get more information about your art? Do you have a website?

I post samples of my work on as well as on Anyone interested in commissioning me is welcome to message me directly at my illustration account at

Thank you so much for chatting with FANgirlblog, Kell. I look forward to reading SPARKS, and I know we’ll be seeing a lot more great work from you in the future as the industry becomes more aware of your talent!

Thank you, Mary! It’s been a pleasure!