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Born and raised in Wagner’s homebase of Telluride, resident graphic designer and passionate outdoorsman, Sherwood Smith, says he’s living the dream. “I feel like I’ve been wandering through the woods trying to find jobs that weren’t absolutely horrible, and then I walked out into a meadow, haha,” says Smith.
A series of twists and turns, zigs and zags led Woody away from the mountain town he called home to wildly different places throughout the country: summers in New York City, working in Denver, making life-long friends in Montana, and the most unexpected, a stint on a fishing boat in Alaska.
Ultimately, these experiences would lead him back to his art and help him define a signature style that can be seen on many of Wagner’s topsheets today. We sat down and had a chat with Woody about growing up in Telluride, his path to becoming a professional artist, and balancing it all with his love for outdoor adventure.
What was it like growing up in Telluride?
It was amazing. My family and I have always been really into the outdoors. One of the coolest parts about growing up here, is our parents would drop us off at the ski mountain or in town and let us do whatever we wanted until they came to pick us up later that day at 5 o’clock. We had a sense of safety growing up. I look back on it now and think of how incredible it was to be outside all day for 8 or 9 hours, get picked back up, and then go home.
What’s it like working for Wagner?
I’ve been a little shell-shocked in a great way since I started working with Wagner in August because it’s been a goal of mine to be in the mountains, but also work on things that aren’t athletic, so I can let my body rest and do different things with my mind. I don’t know how it worked out, but I’m so happy it did.
Were you an artist before this job? How did you get into this line of work?
Before this, I was doing a lot of labor jobs and property management, and trying to do freelance artwork on the side, but I got really jaded working for some bad companies. So, for about two or three years I didn’t do much art at all.
When my wife and I decided to move back to Telluride, I hadn’t found work yet, and some friends of ours own a commercial salmon fishing boat in Alaska, so I decided to go work for them for about 8 weeks. It was slow and the fish didn’t really show up, so I picked up a sketchbook and started drawing again, and that’s really where I found my current style. It’s a funny thing, I don’t think I could have ever planned it that way.
I had interned with Wagner right after graduating in 2013, and right after I decided to move back to Telluride they had an opening available and that’s how I got involved with the team.
How would you describe your style?
With my illustration work, it’s sort of a cartoon-y, illustrative take on animals, characters, and landscapes. I just started drawing birds and fish I saw in Alaska and I really liked that because I’ve never been very good at realism. So, it was just playing around with making them into something interesting visually.
How does the process of designing a topsheet work?
When it comes to custom skis, first, one of the ski designers will work with a client to boil things down to a single idea and then they’ll pass it on to me. A lot of times clients will want some photographs they’ve taken or an illustrative style they like, and I’ll pick it up from there and try to find a creative way to piece it together. Where it gets challenging at first is the layout of the skis is difficult. It’s unlike any canvas shape you’ll encounter. That’s where it gets fun and challenging to make it look good within those constraints.
For stock graphics, our creative director Heather has a ton of insight into what works and what doesn’t with the people who enjoy Wagner skis. Last fall, we had a creative explosion where we threw ideas around. I was noticing that simpler designs were more popular and I’ve always loved layering texture and color to create a vibe. It’s always fun as an illustrator to work with someone who says I like what you do, just go for it and bring stories to life. I’ve really missed that collaborative nature to building things.
Got any dream topsheets? What’s up next for you?
I’d really like to do landscapes. Sort of like a mini-series of National Parks inspired by retro posters. I would also love the opportunity to do a piece inspired by either the podcast Tanis, or The Black Tapes from Pacific Northwest Stories.