Name: Travis Smith
Location: San Diego, Ca.
Influences: Dave McKean, Stephen Gammel, Mike Clift, Derek Riggs
Current Project: A number of things yet to be publicly announced. Some notable album projects over the last year or two would include Opeth In Cauda Venenum, Psychotic Waltz - The God-Shaped Void, Diamond Head - The Coffin Train, Overkill - The Wings of War, Warrel Dane - Shadow Work, and Fleshgod Apocalypse - Veleno
Work Most Known For: Album covers and other works for Opeth, Katatonia, Nevermore, Death, Overkill, and others.
Open for Commissions (Yes/No): Yes
Do you recall the moment you knew you wanted to become an artist?
SMITH - I was drawing very early on, cutting my teeth on drawings of race cars, Kiss, and Star Wars, but never really considered it professionally until later. I’d been doing the odd flyer and shirt design for a few local bands for awhile, and really enjoyed visualizing and putting a face on a song or theme, being inspired by several album covers and artists myself. The opportunity came up to do a proper album package, complete with covers and illustrated booklet, which led to several more. It’s during that period when i think i found my proverbial calling and jumped with both feet into the potentially stormy seas of freelance.
What kinds of sacrifice have you had to make to get to where you are?
SMITH - I don’t know that I see them as sacrifices, per se, but it did, naturally, involve a fair amount of risk and a lot of discipline. Things were pretty secure - I had a lot of responsibilities and a good, safe job, but I had worked up to a point where I had come to some good opportunities with my own artwork, and to do the things I wanted meant more or less taking the risk of abandoning the stability of that. All or nothing. There were struggles early on, of course, and some times were tougher than others and more of a struggle. There are the stresses of keeping your had above water, keeping the work coming in, running the business itself days without sleep, and all those sorts of things. The normal price and issues of choosing this type of path, and I imagine it’s more or less true for anyone who does. There are plenty of upsides too, and they balance it out and make it more than worth it when all is said and done.
Do you have a particular work that continues to influence/motivate you artistically?
SMITH - Although I do have a handful of works I’m particularly proud of, I think I the best answer is that it could be any project I’m currently working on at any given time, as I want to feel at least as good, if not better about the next thing I do as I did when I finished the ones I’ve considered my best. I can find inspiration and motivation in any number of places. The mood, theme, or a lyric in a part of an album I’m working on, a personal experience, good or bad, trivial or significant, a passage in a book, or from completely out of the blue. When inspiration truly strikes, the motivation itself is more or less “built in”, driving me to finish it. Which, more often than not, involves me shutting out everything else until i do.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
SMITH - That my work has been a part of some of my favorite and noteworthy albums in the genre is something I’m very proud of. I’ve had people come to me just to say my artwork is an integral part of the their favorite album, or was the reason they found or bought it in the first place; or even that it’s inspired them to want to do the same thing and that really means a lot. One of my favorite things about getting a new record was always seeing the cover for the first time or studying it while I listened. It was an important part of the record’s experience and identity for me. I’d like to know that might still have that effect on someone discovering the record for the first time or pulling it out again for the thousandth.
What are the artists musically that matter the most to you and why?
SMITH - There’s quite a number of them, to be honest, and for many different reasons. For example, one of the bands, Katatonia, are a favorite of mine because of the amount of feeling in their music and the emotions it’s capable of invoking. It’s incredibly dark and atmospheric. At the same time, they are a band I’ve worked with for just about 20 years on several releases and it’s been an incredible experience. It’s very much the same for Opeth, or Psychotic Waltz, Overkill and a handful of others. Space prevents me from going into all of it here without some of it having to be left out, but suffice it to say some of the most important ones to me, whether personally, professionally, musically or any combination of the three would include, among others: Opeth, Katatonia, Psychotic Waltz, Death, Megadeth, Anathema, Overkill and Acid Bath.