EPISODE 73: Rob Smith, Jr. – Artist, Political Cartoonist, and Florida Historian

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Unlike many of my guests who come to their dream careers later in life, Rob Smith, Jr. was on the path to becoming a cartoonist from his earliest days.

Born in Orlando, Florida when there were still orange groves in the city and Disney World wasn’t yet a gleam in developer’s eyes, Rob Smith, Jr. learned to cartoon at a young age. Rob credits his fourth grade art teacher for motivating him to learning the cartooning craft. He started in the professional cartooning biz at the tender age of 16 drawing caricatures and creating advertising illustration. Rob paid his dues doing retail caricatures before taking on caricature as entertainment at corporate events and creating hundreds of illustrations for the advertising market.

Rob studied art at the Ringling School of Art and Design and the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art. He also studied political science, philosophy, and religion at his mother’s alma mater, Rollins College and Valencia Community College. In 1992, editorial cartooning became a passion for Rob and he began to produce cartoons regularly for the Winter Park Observer and the Lakeland Ledger. He has received six Florida Press Association Awards for his work.

Rob worked for the City of Orlando for 20 years as an artist and cartographer, drafting and archiving maps, and got to know his hometown like the back of his hand. On the side, he performed at corporate events and continued to cartoon, in syndication as an editorial cartoonist for 6 years with the now-defunct DBR Media and has drawn editorial cartoons since 2001 with the Glenn Beck Program. Rob “retired” from the city in 2006 to become an official full-time cartoonist. It’s now been more than 32 years as a professional cartoonist and Rob continues with creating editorial cartoons, book illustrations, advertising art, caricatures and practically all fields of cartooning and illustration.

One of Rob Smith Jr.’s long-term projects is Swampy’s Florida, a cartoon about Florida history, geography, animals who live there and more. He posts a daily cartoon on Swampy’s website. You can see his books and more about Swampy on the Swampy’s Florida Facebook page here.

I met Rob Smith Jr. more than a decade ago when we were both at an event in Orlando where I was speaking. He even did an awesome caricature of me that unfortunately may be lost to history (but I’m going to look for it because it was SO good! If I find it I’ll post it here.) His talent is amazing and I’m excited to talk to him about how he’s been able to maintain a career in a field known for it’s “starving artists.” Rob Smith Jr. brings joy to the lives of those he interacts with and who see his comics.

PS – If you happen to check him out on Facebook… his profile image is one of his cute cartoons! Every time I see him pop up in my feed, I always smile.