Discovering Jeff Smith

Discovering Jeff Smith:

I feel like I’m very late to the show. A few years ago, when there was still a Borders in my town, I would walk through the bookstore and see these Cartoon Books called Bone. I walked past these books many times, noticing the cover and the artwork, but never really giving it much thought. A couple of times I think I even picked up the book and flipped through it. I remember thinking to myself…"Hey, these characters are pretty Cartoony and Simple, I can do something like this." But, even though I noticed these books and picked them up, I never bought them.

Flash forward to today…

Now here in 2013, after the comic consuming world has been devouring Bone Books for many years, I decided to jump in a see what all the fuss was about. And I was also interested in the Artist behind these graphic novels. And I’ll just say it up front, even though I said above that at first glance "I can do something like this." Jeff Smith is a phenomenally better artist and writer than me. Just had to put that out there.

The art of Jeff Smith - Bone
The first Four Bone Books, which are a treat to read.

As of the publishing of this blog post, I am about halfway through the Colorized, Scholastic published version of the Bone Series. There are nine books total. These books really do draw you in the further you read. When I started reading the first book, Out From Boneville, I thought that the story was pretty basic and charming, but nothing really too exciting was going on. Then it starts to weave this elaborate tale and it sucks you in. The characters are engaging and you find yourself wanting more. I’m already starting to dread the day when I finish the last book and realize there will be no more new Bone Stories…but again, I still have half the series to go.

Analyzing Jeff’s Work

As much as I’m enjoying reading Bone, I am not really reading it like most other people. I assume that most people are reading these books to enjoy the art and the storytelling. But I am also analyzing the book as a writer and an artist myself. Because I am trying to improve my craft of writing, drawing and inking. I am right in the middle of my 2nd book and Jeff’s work has inspired me work extra hard on my book. Well, I can say I already was working hard, but it sometimes is hard to keep up the pace and enthusiam because creating a book by yourself takes a long time. It is a very slow and tedious process. It’s enjoyable, but it goes really slow.

Mike's Library
Part of my bookshelf with newly added Bone Books.

I have found myself trying to learn all I can about Jeff Smith because at first glance, his art style seemed similar to mine. The fact that he drew a black and white graphic novels was similar to what I am doing. And the fact that it took him such a long time to finish the Bone Series (about 13 years) was something I related to since I’ve been drawing my characters for a long time.

I found myself searching the internet for anything I could find on Jeff Smith, youtube videos, podcasts, interviews just to learn more. I even bought the DVD, The Cartoonist, which is basically a very good documentary on Jeff Smith and his work. After having said all that, my biggest regret is that I didn’t discover this artist much sooner. I’m going to my first Comic event this month (April 2013) which is the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. And I was disappointed to find out that Jeff will not be there, however, he will be at this years San Diego Comicon, which I’m also considering going to.

If you’d like to learn more about Jeff Smith and the Bone Books, visit www.boneville.com.


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