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Meet Austin Smith of Inksmith Illustration in Simi Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Austin Smith.

Austin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have known exactly where I want to end up ever since I was 4. The route to that point has been confusing to say the least. My first major break was when two producers saw I doodle I did while working as a host in a restaurant. They offered me a storyboarding gig that earned me the money to buy my first drawing tablet. Since then, I have been freelancing in art, particularly the film and animation industry.

I graduated summa cum laude from CSUN with a degree in art and was assured by my professors that with my skill and personality, I would definitely have a fantastic career in concept art. Things didn’t work out that way at all! I was blessed with some awesome freelance gigs at excellent studios, but no matter how hard I tried to break in full-time all sorts of circumstances would end the deal. I even got to work on a very well-received pitch to Disney when I couldn’t even get the tiniest studios to answer my emails. Nothing has made sense, and things haven’t worked out at all so far in that pursuit.

I got extremely depressed until a friend told me to say, “Well, screw them then!” and to go all-in on making my own way with my own business and pitching my own shows without partners. Now I am still pursuing animation jobs, but I am also actively pitching two original shows to animation studios and starting a sticker/art/commission shop online.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has been a garbage-laiden road covered in glass, man! The art world does not reword traditional effort. Connections, Elitism, Nepotism, Social Media, Marketing. So many factors to contend with, and only some which you can actually control. I’ve done 8 hour long art tests only to be completely ghosted by the hiring manager. Really gets you right in the self-worth. Learning to forgive myself for the things I can’t control has been the hardest part of this journey. Until this point, I have always been able to work harder or learn more to solve my problems, but in industries where just being seen feels like Game of Thrones level politics, that doesn’t cut it anymore. I will admit I am currently extremely depressed by the way things are going. Doesn’t feel very fair at all.

This is why really doubling down on my freelance business has been such a breath of relief. I can’t control whether someone opens my email, but I can consistently stream my art on Twitch, build an awesome community of cool people, sell my stickers, and take private commissions. I have even been involved with eight different show pitch decks as their artist now, outside of my own two show of course. It has been my only lifeline in these crazy times. In a world seemingly determined to keep me powerless, I have found my own little island of self-sufficiency. I am intensely grateful.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Inksmith Illustration – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
My business really capitalizes on my flexibility. Sometimes I am designing puppets for commercials, storyboards for nonprofit organizations, concept art for pitch decks, my own original show concepts. But most of all and most consistently I am selling my art and stickers through an Etsy shop. I am only a few months in running this shop and I am nearing my 100th sale. I am actively expanding my merch too.

I am proud that my company is about honesty, transparency, and excellence in all things. I work tirelessly to make sure that my quality is improving, my content is relevant, my work is expeditious, and that I am using my art to make the world a more fun place.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the variety of LA. I love that you can dip into so many cultures through a single day. The museum variety. The activities, The galleries, The nightlife! There are few other places where you have such boundless freedom to curate the most specific, perfect life for yourself.

My least favorite thing about LA is the traffic and cost of living. I am straight-up not having a good time with the rat-race of living here.


  • My stickers are super durable so I typically charge $4 each, but I am making more value packs these days.

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