Lettering Artist Luke Smile Spreads Optimism Across the UK [Interview]

Lettering Artist Luke Smile Spreads Optimism Across the UK [Interview]

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight,” reads one of Luke Smile’s eye-popping prints. Based in the UK, Smile is a contemporary lettering artist whose colorful signs and murals spread cheer across cloud-covered UK.

Best known for his signature psychedelic smiley face and Smile Sans typeface, Smile transforms worn architectural structures into pieces of art. Created with spray paint and enamel, and often “embellished with spray textures,” Smile’s 2D designs bulge persuasively from their flat foundations, proving him a skilled colorist and clever designer. Although his designs are concentrated in the UK, Smile teases his trademark smiley face “may be lurking on its own in unexpected places around the world.” Smile’s lettering, however, is always paired with the signature smiley, whether it’s splashed across the side of a building, on a billboard, or a limited edition Beefeater label.

‘Sky’s the Limit’

Currently, Smile is occupied with a large-scale mural at PayPal’s new London offices, a project he’s excited about. If you can’t see his incredible designs firsthand, Smile is also working on a number of new prints that will soon be available through Art Republic. If you’re in the market for a new print or a little pep in your step, his vibrant work might just give you the smile you need.

Editor’s note: Smile also has a variety of colorful prints available on his personal online shop. To get your paws on one of his works, go here.

In Today's Q+Art Interview…

Luke Smile discusses why he loves what he does, the importance of “switching off” after work, and why being an artist is more fun than being a butcher.

‘Say it Loud, Sing it Proud’

Which books, art-related or otherwise, belong on every artist’s shelf?

Luke Smile: Steal Like an Artist. It's a great quick read that gave me plenty of ideas.

What do you wish you learned in art school but weren’t taught?

LS: It would have to be lessons on how to set yourself up for being self-employed.


How do you maintain a work/life balance?

LS: Making sure to switch off from work when I get home in the evening and spending quality time with my family. It's really hard to do sometimes, but it's key.

What does success mean to you as an artist?

LS: To be doing what I love day in and day out and being able to pay the bills.


What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

LS: It would have to be my first part time job out of school. I worked as a butcher within a large supermarket. I was too young to use a knife so all I did was package the meat for 8 hours a day; it wasn't for me.

What’s your relationship with money?

LS: Other relationships in my life mean a hell of a lot more; money is definitely not everything.

‘Shine Your Light’

What do you do to maintain your mental health?

LS: Get to the gym as much as possible and try to switch off from work when I'm at home relaxing.

How does your geographical location affect your work and/or success?

LS: Living in Kent means I can travel into London within 30 minutes, and that's where 95 percent of my work is at the moment; it's great.

‘Free Your Mind’
Luke Smile

Luke Smile: Website | Instagram | Purchase Work

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.

Want to be featured in Q+Art? Email editor@notrealart.com with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.

Jenna Eberhardt

Jenna Eberhardt (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s associate editor. Jenna is a writer and working artist from Asheville, NC, who specializes in watercolor botanicals and dreamy moonscapes. A true night owl, Jenna enjoys a minimum of two cups of coffee per day and isn’t afraid of the dark when she’s up late painting. As a registered yoga instructor with a background in health and wellness, Jenna believes in the brain-boosting power of a regular mindfulness practice, regarding rest and relaxation as a necessary part of the creative process.