With a glance at his caller I.D., Bron Smith, 64, found out that he’d be drawing his way into a homecoming of sorts.
The City of Sequim reached out to Smith, a 1965 Sequim High graduate, to draw its Downtown Sequim fun map as part of a promotional map incorporating the region and city.
Late this week, 50,000 maps are scheduled for delivery to the chamber of commerce’s Visitor Information Center, 1192 E. Washington St., and to downtown merchants, with half as a pad map style and the other half as a folded rack card style.
Barbara Hanna, City of Sequim communications and marketing director, said the maps are one of the most popular visitors’ tools they have and should be even more popular in this variation.
She said it was by chance that they recruited Smith for the project. Initially, they hired another artist for the map, but that person dropped out. Hanna had been using Smith’s examples from his site Fun Maps USA as a sampling of what they’d like for the project.
Hanna and others had hoped to use a local artist and she didn’t learn he was born and raised in Sequim until after talking with him.
“He’s done a phenomenal job,” Hanna said, “It’s been easy because of his background here.”
Since leaving Sequim, Smith has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry, predominately as an artist. His long resume includes being a cartoonist for the globally syndicated Health Capsules, an illustrator for books such as the parody “Where’s Dan Quayle” — he met Quayle while crashing a gala event — and cartoonist for his Fun Maps USA. As a performer he has been Captain SeaTech on a children’s TV show, a weatherman and a children’s speaker.
Sequim’s downtown map adds to his list of more than 100 Fun Maps from across the globe. He drew his first map in 1982 of South Hill in Puyallup, where he lives now.
“Maps have an immense longevity,” Smith said.
He recently spoke at his city’s local historical society meeting, where he saw his map framed.
“It becomes a time capsule for the area,” he said.
Early on, most of his clientele were from Pacific Northwest cities, but after starting a website his business took off.
Smith said he has about 15 maps going at a time, along with various other projects such as Health Capsules, and his ongoing blog story Trowbridge Chronicles, of which he just posted the 130th episode.
For each map, Smith typically uses Google’s online map feature as a base view for his layouts. He’ll hand draw the map before he and sometimes his wife, Jacquie, digitally color and refine the maps. She also designs ads for maps, too.
For accuracy, Smith likes to use the Google street view of streets so he can draw each building correctly. However, Sequim’s street view only showed Sequim Avenue, so he came to town in December and photographed the fronts of most of the buildings in downtown Sequim.
“I put extra effort into this project because it’s my hometown,” Smith said.
He has a number of family members in the area and visits when he can, even though his tight schedule with cartooning requires him to bring work along.
“Sequim is a haven for me,” he said.
While drawing the map, he reflected on how much Sequim has grown. He remembers going for drives for fun from Cal’s Drive-In, where the Islander Pizza & Pasta Shack is now, to Tom Tom's Grocery, now Rite Aid, and that was the extent of the town.
“I guess that’s when Sequim came into modern times with burger joints,” he joked.
While a student at Helen Haller Elementary, Smith determined he’d like to be his own boss.
“I prefer ‘owning’ my life, not ‘renting’ it, like I would if I had a 9 to 5 job,” he said.
Much of his cartooning and writing happens outside his office and in coffee shops.
He spent a lot of years trying to break into the syndicated cartoonist beat and eventually self-syndicated for more than a year. Smith said for every few hundred calls he made to an editor, he’d see his health cartoon, “To Your Health,” go in one newspaper.
His submission to Universal Features Syndicate came at the right time in 2003. The original illustrator of Health Capsules, Jud Hurd, who created the cartoon with Dr. Michael Petti in 1961, had died at age 92.
Smith said he never would forget what his contact wrote to him in a fax: “Your timing is dang good. Please send 12 more samples.”
“Two weeks later, I received a contract and was pinching myself,” he said.
Recently, Smith finished his 3,000th panel for Health Capsules.
“I never get tired of this,” Smith said of his workload. “It’s exciting to me.”
Smith and his wife have two sons, Brad and Eric. He also leads assemblies and workshops on drawing for students.
Contact the Visitor Information Center at 683-6197.