The Victoria and Albert Museum honored Mark Smith with a shortlisting in its annual V&A Illustration Awards competition for his work on a feature story, “She Has a Name,” which was published in Alta Journal in December 2021.
Formed 50 years ago, the V&A Illustration Awards remains one of the U.K.’s most esteemed competitions. This year, the V&A jury received a record-breaking 1,440 entries across four different categories: Book Cover, Book Illustration, Illustrated Journalism, and Student Illustrator of the Year.
“It’s a huge honor for me to be shortlisted for the V&A Award,” says Smith. “It’s one of the most prestigious awards in the U.K. and to have this image in particular on the list is very satisfying.” The Exeter-based artist was named a finalist in the Illustrated Journalism category.
“She Has a Name” examines the killings of two women who went unidentified for more than 40 years. Through dogged detective work and by utilizing advancements in DNA technology, law enforcement identified one victim in 2019—but is still seeking to name the second. Smith’s images helped amplify a larger point of the story: society often overlooks the plight of missing Indigenous women.
“The stories in Alta allow me to explore both the conceptual and more narrative sides of my practice, and every now and again, these cross over in the same image. That happened in this instance, and I can’t thank Alta enough for sending me these stories to work on,” says Smith.
To create the images, Smith used a mixture of pencil sketches as well as found and self-created textures. He then used Adobe Photoshop to assemble collages and finalize the artwork.
“Mark Smith did an excellent job in capturing the grim tone and chaotic energy of this piece,” says Alta’s creative director, John Goecke. “Alta is proud to display his talents regularly in its pages. Smith deserves the recognition, and we hope he wins the big prize.”
The 2022 winners will be selected in the coming weeks by a panel chaired by V&A director Tristram Hunt. Winners in the first three categories will be awarded £3,000, and their work, alongside honorable mentions, will be featured in the V&A South Kensington galleries beginning July 20.
The overall winner of the competition will also receive the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year Prize, an additional £5,000, and a permanent entry of their work into the V&A Museum. •