Michael Smith (b. 1984) developed a unique personal style in his teens that recalled fashion design and illustration from the 1940s. Created with colored pencils and pastels, his signature compositions were orderly depictions of fancy dresses, elaborate ladies’ hats, and stylized, doll-like faces. As Smith matured, his fashion-oriented drawings became more abstract. Figures once clearly defined began to blur under clouds of large sweeping marks, their features and limbs barely suggested.

His drawings question the function of contemporary visual culture and how images, representations and ideas normally function. Though his drawings reference recognizable human forms, the results are deconstructed to the extent that meaning is shifted and possible interpretation becomes multifaceted, leading the viewer round and round in circles. A generally quiet man, Smith succinctly describes his older work as “more finished”, while his current body of work is “more advanced.”

Smith was commissioned by architect and interior designer Amy Courage to create large-scale drawings for display in her Teen Retreat design for the 2015 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, at the home of the late filmmaker John Hughes.

Michael Smith joined Project Onward in 2004 as a founding artist, and he currently lives in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.