Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Special Effects and Their Source in Illustration Art

posted by Nell Minow

David Apatoff’s Illustration Art blog has a wonderful post on how the great illustration artist William A. Smith taught his daughter Kim how to draw and paint, and how she applied that in becoming a special effects designer for the movies. I love the way he connected the imagination and skill of the last generation of visual artists, who drew for books and magazines, to the place where the really imaginative visuals are now — movies.
Smith’s daughter Kim watched her father work and was inspired to follow in his footsteps. She learned traditional art skills from him. “He gave me LOTS of advice,” she recalled. “He talked about composition quite a bit. Also, that the whites of eyes aren’t white at all. He taught me to make a good green from yellow and black.” Kim learned to draw beautifully at a young age and went on to learn painting, printmaking and sculpting.
But when Kim began to work professionally she discovered that the art world had changed. The work that had sustained her father’s generation of artists was disappearing. She moved to the west coast, where she eventually found work in movies building models.
She ended up working on just about every blockbuster you can name, from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Star Wars” series to designing the white feather for “Forrest Gump.” Be sure to check out the video clip of some of her work on the blog.



  • Amanda J.

    That was incredible! I could name most of the movies. I think if the video were larger I could have done better. Either that or I need to have my eyes checked!
    I have a daughter that is artistically talented. It thrills me to see people working and getting paid to be exceptional artists and designers. It give me hope for the future for my daughter.
    Thank you for posting this link.
    Amanda J.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Amanda! I got to speak to Kim Smith and it was very exciting. She is currently working on “A Christmas Carol” with Jim Carrey that will be out at the end of this year. An amazing amount of work goes into every detail and I can’t wait to see it!
    I also have an artistically talented daughter and I am delighted that she has found a very creative job as a theatrical costume designer. I have learned so much from watching her work and it is a joy to see how much she loves it.

  • jestrfyl

    If I could collect anything from the world of movies, I would love to have some of the storyboards that have helped shape famous films. I realize boards from films like the Star Wars cycle or any of Spielberg’s productions would be prohibitive, but I am sure there are some from lesser movies that still reflect the way the visual images carry significant portions of the story and characters identity. Has anyone made a collection – perhaps for a traveling exhibit – of these boards? The artists who create them make a contribution that few in the audiences appreciate. Ms. Smith seems to have a good grasp on how to help clarify the effect desired for the film images. I am quite impressed.

  • Kim Smith

    Nell, thanks for posting this. I really appreciate the comments, and hadn’t known they were also on your blog till today, Inauguration Day.
    To answer jestrfyl’s question, I don’t know specifically about a storyboard show travelling. For the last ten years or so in the MOVIE business, most storyboarding has become a thing of the past. It exists elsewhere. We do what we call “pre-vis” which is kind of like a simple animated cartoon of the shot.
    Thanks for all you interest!
    Kim Smith

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you so much, Kim! It was a thrill to meet you and I am a huge fan of your work. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

  • Bob Massie

    Nell, that was absolutely fantastic. I love reading David’s website – I learn so much stuff from it and the montage about Kim blew my mind. I am not a very visual person — at least I wasn’t until I married someone who teaches architecture at RISD and since I started watching 100s of movies in my extended sabbatical. Thank you for your wonderful enthusiasm for just about everything.

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