Artist Profile: Sean “Smack” Mack
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
CA: What made you first start drawing?
Smack: It is kind of weird to pinpoint exactly when because according to my folks I have been drawing since I could pick up a pencil. I was drawing Super Mario Bros, Ghostbusters, Batman, or Ninja Turtles. What made me want to really consider it was when I got into comics. Probably around middle school, I started really getting into comics and kept looking at the pages like I would want to do this one day. Since then, I really started focusing more on getting better with my drawing. I want to reach a point people can look at it and say “oh yea Sean drew that”. I think that was around the time I was getting serious about it.
CA: How did you become Smack and what influenced the name? Smack: Oddly enough, Smack was introduced to me during High School. I was in this youth group and one of my brothers in that group randomly called me Smack one day. Oh was like that sounds cool, I’m going to use it one day (which turned into the rest of my life). That is originally where it came from. I don’t know how I ended being Smack, I just started using it. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t find out until that day you can take parts of my name to create the moniker Smack.
CA: When it comes to art, what sparks a piece for you? Smack: It’s a lot of factors. Some of my pieces have been inspired by music. Some have been inspired by life experiences. More so my recent pieces have been inspired by music. I just finished a piece by Blackmilk’s album (If There is a Hell Below). The song in particular was titled The Story in Her and what attracted to me that song was the story telling aspect. I felt like I could translate that into my artwork. It depends where the inspiration is coming from.
CA: What helps you get in the mindset to draw something? Smack: Oddly enough, I do listen to music when I make more art. At the beginning of it, it is more so quiet time. Spending a little bit of time alone sitting with the sketch book. Sketching ideas out with no music and no distractions allowing me to run with my mind basically. When I’m the midst of making a piece, music definitely drives it.
CA: Do you have any inspiration/idols from art? Smack: Chris Bachalo, J. Scott Campbell, LeSean Thomas. Chris Bachalo has done work with Marvel. Jay Scott Campbell created the cartoon series Danger Girl and Gen 13. LeSean Thomas helped work on The Boondocks and currently doing Black Dynamite. Those would be my top 3 amongst many.
CA: What do you feel in front of a blank canvas? Smack: At first, anxiety. I think any artist can relate to not being able to figure what to put down on this canvas. It goes towards problem solving. What do I want to see on this piece? How am I going to check my idea? What style should I go with? Anxiety and problem solving should be it.
CA: What do you do to improve on your craft? Techniques? Smack: I started looking into other artists. Trying to get inspired by their certain styles. Not to emulate it but to mesh it into something that would relate to me (something I could call my own). I also went back to the basics. Finger drawing, drawing from life, and drawing environments. Trying to get the basics down so I can twist it into my own way.
CA: What is the perfect piece of art to you if it exists? Smack: All art isn’t perfect really. What would make it perfect is having the artist’s personality in it. Not something that is cookie cutter. You can get a sense of the person behind the art. Getting that sense of personality from the artist is what would make it perfect.
CA: Glancing at some of your work, your art gives me a modern Calvin and Hobbes feel to it. Did ever read that comic series before? Smack: Calvin and Hobbes was one of my favorites actually. That is an honored to be compared to Calvin and Hobbes. It was one of my top favorite comics.
CA: How did you start The Revolutionary Times with Brandon Howard? Smack: Brandon and I are childhood friends. It was actually his idea. He moved away before high school and we lost touch after a while. During college, he hit me up about starting this comic. I was hesitant because I was in college and didn’t feel I could put that kind of commitment toward something. I eventually said let’s do it. That is our origin story and 7-8 years later, we are still pushing these comics out.
CA: How do you describe your style? Smack: Personal, anime influenced, life influenced, somewhat loose in what I want it to be. Animation inspired in general. If animation were on a still page inspired by life, Japanese animation, story telling, and mixed in a little black culture it would be me.
CA: Do you prefer pens, pencils, or a brush? Smack: Most of my work is digital. You can’t beat doing it by pencil and paper. Most of my ideas are on paper or a sketch book. The thing I like about digital is you can fix mistakes immediately in comparison to traditional media. I found a home in digital using Illustrator and Photoshop. Digital is one of the best crafts for me.
CA: What do you feel is the best quality in terms of art that you possess right now? Smack: My characters, my expressions, and my ability to tell stories
CA: What is your biggest room for growth when speaking on your artwork? Smack: My weakness is definitely environments (cars, buildings, etc). It is something I am still working on currently. Going back to my previous question about who I look up to. J. Scott Campbell is amazing in how much detail he adds to his work. I would look at his comic panels and be overwhelmed by how much detailed in put in the background. It probably explains why I had to wait several months for another issue but it was worth the wait (laughs). Backgrounds and those kind of details are what I would like to incorporate in my future works.
CA: What is fun and rewarding for you in regards to drawing? Smack: Finishing it is one. The process of doing it can be a bit daunting. I think the other thing is seeing the reactions from people when you show them. Whether it is good or bad, it is those reactions which let me show how the art affected them. It is getting people to think about life and I think that is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an artist in general.
CA: Where do you want to take your career in art? Smack: I have been thinking about it lately. Getting into doing mainstream comics. I would love to do pages for Deadpool (character from Marvel Comics). Deadpool or Batman. I would love to get into animation (at least once or twice). There are so many things I would want to do with it. I think the end result would be to make a living off of it. To support myself and a family in the future.
CA: How do you want your work/portfolio to be remembered for? Smack: Some parts hilarity, some parts confusion. I want people to look at it and see me do it. For them to think that I am crazy and somewhat funny. I think that’s it.
CA: What is the best advice you can give someone with a strong desire to do art like yourself? Smack: Never give up. Getting into art is very difficult. You are jumping in a pool of millions. It is going to be intimidating, it is still intimidating for me. I get introduced to new artists every day which makes me want to quit and become an MMA fighter (laughs). The first and foremost thing, never give up. Keep going. Learn as much as possible to strengthen your art. Learn things that don’t have to deal with art. If may in the long run help you with the art.