I sat down with my friend Josh Smart, the third and final member of Toon Smoosh, to ask some questions about his art, his process, and his remarkable physical transformation. For Josh, all those things are tied closely together.
Okay, so first off, could you just tell us how long you've been drawing? When did this start for you?
Josh: Three years old, sitting in front of the TV trying to draw ‘The Flintstones.’
Were you pausing video tapes and stuff? Trying to copy the screen?
Josh: No, as they were in motion, I swear that's where my speed comes from! (laughs)
I was going to ask that later, but yeah! I was thinking you might be so fast because of your live caricature work. You are ungodly fast. I see you pumping out multiple finished pieces in a night.
Josh: Yes, I really think caricaturing for the public, on top of the fact that I want to see what I am drawing completed, is where that comes from I am as excited as anyone to see a final product.
What's a normal work day look like for you?
Josh I am lead Graphic Designer for a marketing firm specializing in creative design. I do more than layout text and production art.
Ah, interesting! So for work, are you meeting with your firm's clients and such? When you say you do "more than layout text and production art" what does that mean in this case?
Josh: Anything that goes out to a client needing an artistic flare comes to me. I am the go-to guy for creative.
Where does your sports-related work fit into this picture? Is that something you do after-hours?
Josh: Yes I have like, 30 jobs.
Wow, but that's also a really high volume of work, from what I've seen! Yeah, you have at least three roles that I know of! Do you get enough sleep?
Josh: Never! Ha!
I have more to ask you about your art, but since we're talking about schedule, I have to ask you about your workout routine. You've made this huge, impressive, and very public transformation. Where does that fit in to all this? Do you work out in the early mornings or something?
Josh: I workout after work, in the evening. Then come home, eat, and draw.
Do you go every day?
Josh: 5 days a week.
How important was habit building to your transformation? Is there any parallel in your art?
Josh: I am an extremist when I set my mind to anything. First it was my art — then my physique.
There are so many guys out there who are sitting where you used to sit, and haven't started yet. What would you tell them, if they wanted to draw like you, or look like you? I know it's a tall order, but where does a guy start when he's kind of at the bottom of all that?
Josh: Wow, that's a big question. I think convincing yourself you are capable on a daily basis is one very important part.
Here's a common head voice: "Yeah, but I'm NOT capable." Were you ever at that place? What turned that around?
Josh: I also think being realistic, knowing your strengths and weakness' is key. You will fuck up. You will draw crappy pictures. You will cheat on your diet. You will skip the gym to go drinking. You have to realize, “I will fuck up. But I am capable to keep my fuckups in check, and reach my goals.”
It feels so important not to hold yourself up against perfection or else you'll just always feel like failure. Better to keep at it and forgive yourself over and over. If need be.
Josh: Yeah, I still struggle, daily, but I know my enemy. It's all about being practical and logical and calculated with yourself.
How long has it taken you to go from your former self, the shy, chubby wallflower, to your current status of bodacious muscular gym hero? That can't have been fast.
Josh: No! When I was 23 I dropped 175 lbs. I looked like a skeleton (laughs), but I felt accomplished. Then weight started coming back, and I panicked.
So do you blame that on improper motivation and goals? It seemed like you didn't really love yourself back then. Like you lost that weight from hating yourself.
Josh: Yes! I was 23 when heroin sheik was the look. I was what others told me I should be. It was unhealthy and impossible for a guy of my build to maintain, so I got fat. For a short period of time.
You seem like you were never supposed to be "skinny." You were supposed to be huge. Just awesome huge, is all. And now your art embraces that too.
Josh: Absolutely. I know who I am, and I listen to myself.
That look is so much a part of your Bulky Bears [drawings].
Josh [The] Bulky Bears keeps me motivated.
It's like you're celebrating yourself but also setting goals at the same time.
Josh: I can't be the obese creator of Bulky Bears! (laughs) Integrating myself into my brand holds me accountable.
What other projects do you have going right now? What are you excited about?
Josh Smart I am working on a web comic and brand called ‘Precious and Demona.’ I also work with my best friend, Professor Watermelon a.k.a. Chadwick Gillenwater, illustrating all his educational children's books. Two books are out on Amazon — ’Herbert,’ about a fly who wants to make honey, and ‘Flamingoes on a Stick,’ a tale of a boy trying to save flamingos from a witch. Two more are slated for this coming year.
I really like the unconventional tone.
Josh: A guy who calls himself Professor Watermelon has to be pretty unconventional.
I'd like to ask you about your social networks. Where do you think is the best place to be as a working artist right now?
Josh: I have really just dipped my toe into social media. So much of my business has been due to word of mouth, [but] now that I am on board with the Internet as a marketing tool, I have to say: Instagram. It is all visuals. And that's how we as artists get people to like our work. [And] it gives people who like your work access. They feel a part of it.
So let's talk about the Instagram audience for you. This is something that really fascinates me. You have one crowd there for the art, and another crowd that are there to admire what we'll call your "gym progress." But now, with the 'Bulky Bears,' those things seem to have converged some. Do you think that's the case?
Josh: I am just me. I think that is what helps.
Josh: I am not on there to do anything but be myself. Selfies. Art. “Ugly” pics. (Laughs)
Yeah, but for some people, authentic means a whole bunch of shots of like lasagna and poodles and ferns. You have a sort of advantage over that, when your particular arsenal of authentic.
Josh: I just do me and try to be what people expect a "meathead cartoonist" to be. There is a lasagna following, I am sure. That is the beauty of it: something for everyone.
You do have this "meathead" character you play sometimes, but let's be real: you're very smart, and a very fast cartoonist too. Do you kind of feed that "meathead" image for fun?
Josh: Yes! Play dumb and when you do something incredible, everyone takes note (laughs).
People are definitely taking note of you these days. Any last remarks for your following or the people just meeting you?
Josh: I can only do what I do because I have a man behind me who does all the little things I can't focus on. I like to play the superhero, but I have help.
That's a very sweet thing to call out, Josh.
Josh: It's so true. We all need backup, so make sure you have it.
Check out Josh's merch store: redbubble.com/people/smartoonist
Follow Josh's Instragram profile: instagram.com/smartoonist