Monday, March 21, 2011

Joe Smith

I got my professional Star Wars gig, doing a card for the first Star Wars Galaxy card set in 1993. (what happened then, Grandpa?)  At a local show, Topps had many of the artists involved there to promote the set.  I was there with my friend Jerome Moore and we met the Joe Smith.  Joe was 80 then, and spry as a man half his age.  Joe is one of the coolest guys I've ever known; he and his wife lived in this groovy house up in the valley with his pet hawk.  Yes I said hawk.  The hawk wasn't caged, he simply chose to live in Joe's backyard.  When Joe called, the hawk would fly over, say hello and then go back to his business.  Joe taught me how to think around problems by truly understanding the fundamentals of whatever you were dealing with.  He taught me to understand exposure in photography in a way I've never heard before or since.
Perhaps Joe's best known work is his poster for Ben Hur; y'know the big, stone letters with the chariots going around them.  He did art of the cast, but it was never used prominently, too bad because Charlton Heston was his favorite actor to draw (like Struzan's is Harrison Ford, and mine is Nathan Fillion) 50 years later, Ben Hur is being released on Blu Ray, and I was asked to produce artwork of Heston that would counterpoint Joe's original art which would be preserved.   I was very excited about this; my artwork being combined with Joe's art, 50 years apart. I think my old friend would get a kick out of this.  So I produced the art, Heston is an interesting subject, and all involved seemed quite pleased.  But in the end as they always do, they used a photograph. 'cue the dying pac-man sound: Beoweoweowoop*'


  1. It is times like these that I trully HATE studios and their decisons... I bet the guy who went for the photo also killed Firefly ;)

  2. Jason, it's great that you had this opportunity. Obviously, the decision to go with photos is always disappointing to those of us who prefer drawn/painted pictures.

    That being said, how great is it that artists nowadays have a forum like this to get their art out there? And I'm glad you chose to share this piece. I've been following your work for a while, and this is one of my favorite things I've seen from you.

    As always, thanks for sharing your art and for sharing your experiences with Mr. Smith.

  3. What an awesome piece of work, and quite an interesting story. The fact that they didn't use it is disheartening. Reminds one of why Struzan left the business.