Alex Smith’s Cartoon World of Cutesy Characters

Written by Gus Crothers

Noodle arms and pastel depictions of cutesy animals fill artist Alex Smith’s illustrations. However, looking past her freelance work with brands like Think Coffee and Polygon, the pastel colors and squishy characters represent themes from Alex Smith’s life, like her struggle with chronic migraines and coming into her own after moving to the country’s mecca of art, New York City.

Art by Alex Smith aka ‘KewlPotatoKid’

Smith’s art draws inspiration from multiple sources to create her whimsical and cartoony feel. Most of Smith’s colorful characters have the big round eyes and spaghetti-arms of a 1920s cartoon or something out of Adventure Time. “I love Adventure Time; I would say as much as I like the philosophical meanings behind Adventure Time, I really just like the whimsical style that you can just have a noodle of an arm and that’s fine and it so simple to draw.” said Smith.

From a young age Smith was interested in the cartoony styles of The Simpsons and Gorillaz’ visual art style. This, alongside with encouragement from Smith’s family helped her pursue her passion in art. “At first, I always told my family growing up, I would never want to do this as a living and I just always wanted it to be the thing I do for fun, but she always encouraged, me she would take me to art classes at rec centers and stuff with her. And as I got older, I always liked cartoons, but I got more into how it was feasible as a job.” said Smith.

Eventually, Smith would go to art school at Philadelphia School of the Arts, where she initially wanted to apply to work at Cartoon Network but opted not to, in favor of a new option for her, freelance illustrator, which remains her full-time job.

Art by Alex Smith aka ‘KewlPotatoKid’

Freelancing allows a flexibility that a conventional job would not. “I actually get chronic migraines which is also why I like being a freelancer right now. It’s a good balance for my schedule while I’m trying to get that more figured out, for the most part, I do. But I would say there is usually a lot of open heads in my work and stuff like that, which is me interconnecting to that part of myself.” said Smith.

Art by Alex Smith aka ‘KewlPotatoKid’

Some of Smith’s freelance work has been murals, including Huda, a sandwich shop in Philadelphia, and another brewery and kitchen in Philadelphia. Currently, Smith is looking for mural projects that fit into her ethos of community. “I would like to start doing more projects like that, but even more locally with murals and stuff as I have done a few murals but not from a communal setting yet,” said Smith, “I would love to work with kids at some point.”

Smith’s uses a projector to project a rough outline of her mural before doing the final version on the wall. Although, Smith is hoping to venture into more outdoor murals which cause more complications like weather conditions and the durability of the paint.

Art by Alex Smith aka ‘KewlPotatoKid’

After coming to New York City after art school, Smith became overwhelmed by the city, “I was so overwhelmed with everything, with how intense it was at the time that I just fell on the floor and was like ‘oh my god, how am I going to this?’” said Smith.

However, Smith eventually came to love the city in which she currently resides, in the East Village, “it somehow latches onto you and hold on to you makes you want to stay and even though it’s so expensive to live here,” said Smith, “even if it feels like it’s prying at every little thing in your soul and you think in your head ‘Well, if I went somewhere else it was so much cheaper’ It’s New York, there’s nothing like New York.”

In New York City, Smith was a finalist in the American Illustration contest, along with currently participating in the Communication Arts awards. Smith is a member of the Society of Illustrators, an art nonprofit and museum in NYC. Through Smith’s connections to these institutions, Smith felt “this exhilaration of community.”

Currently Smith is applying for graduate school and hopes to foster a sense of community in her time in graduate school. “At some point, I would love to teach as a professor, and I really do miss that community and studio aspect of working with each other and I want you to do that in a studio or a shared studio space or discipline with other artists. It’s not the same as in an academic setting. So, I’m partially going back because I missed that also partially, I would like to teach and freelance at the same time.” said Smith.

For now, though, Smith hopes that her art “uplifts your day and makes you feel a little better… like you can relate to the humanity with each other.”

This year was accepted to the School of Visual Arts graduate program, which she is excited to begin this fall.

Art by Alex Smith aka ‘KewlPotatoKid’