C.B. Smith

What is the focus of the new exhibition?

This is the very first show I have ever done that actually has a scholar curator whose brainchild this is. Cathy Crane Frankel wanted to use my drawings as a way to get people to think about drawing. For me, it's not about making art, it's about learning. It's about seeing things better. That's why I draw.

How did you get into creating architecture books?

I studied architecture for five years, and I have a degree in architecture. But I didn't want to be an architect. I just sort of knew that by my fourth year. So I began looking for some alternative, and illustration became increasingly appealing to me, especially picture books, because it looked like those people were having a good time. I put some story ideas together, and one of them was a story about gargoyles coming to life in a half-finished cathedral, and of course I loved drawing all its stones and scaffolding and ropes. I took my drawings to Walter Lorraine at Houghton Mifflin, and he said, “Well, you know what, we don't really need another gargoyle story, but tell me about this building.” So I went back to what I had been studying, and I assembled a sequence of images that would show how you would build a cathedral, and that was the beginning. If Walter hadn't been in that day, I don't know what I'd be doing.

When does the narrative enter into the picture?

The words and pictures grow together. They have to. I don't know how to do a book any other way. Sometimes the pictures are more or less efficient than the words as ways of communicating. Probably only 5 percent of my drawings make it into the final book. The other 95 percent are what I have to draw to understand the information I am trying to communicate.

Are you working on an architecture-themed book now?

I'm working on a book about the human body. There are no bricks here, but there are lots of building blocks.

Do you think you've influenced future architects?

I think I've influenced young people to consider architecture or consider illustration. But when I talk, I invariably run into somebody who decided to go to architecture school because when they were 12 they found one of those books. I am responsible for some of it.