As we tour the studio we stop at a red door, an antique English door with a stained glass window, that leads up a small staircase to his inner sanctum. While Windsor-Smith maintains a home elsewhere, he also keeps an apartment at the studio. Along the staircase are the fabulous Moon and Stars series of Alphonse Mucha prints, and at the top one enters a large open attic refurbished to be a delightful and modern aerie. We discuss the Mucha prints. “These were prints. Not posters; posters are advertising. These pictures existed for their own sake.”

The set is beautiful, much more muted than the posters he did, all mauve and slate. They are actual size. “The thing you’ve got to know about Alphonse Mucha,” says Windsor-Smith, “which most people don’t understand is that he was probably one of the greatest pencil artists of all time, and more than that he could draw backwards. I’ll do a drawing, and if I think something’s wrong with it, but I can’t figure what the hell it is, I’ll turn it upside down, or look at it in a mirror, or hold it up to a lamp and look at it backwards, flopped. And I’ll realize, omigod, of course, the eye’s all wrong! You can’t do that with Mucha because his drawings work both ways. He’d transfer his design with a grease pencil onto the printing stone and he’d be recreating the drawing backwards, so that when it’s printed it comes out the right way. It’s just boggling to me that he had such knowledge and facility.”

Here, in the privacy of Windsor-Smith’s loft, he is most relaxed, talking about artists and music. “Mucha was the greatest of all. People of his period and after, like Klimt, they were all academically trained, and then they went out into the world and broke every rule they could lay their hands on. I went to art school in the late 1960s, and I was extremely lucky to have such fine teachers.

  They taught me how to draw and how to think. I’ve been offered teaching positions myself, but I don’t want a desk job while I’m still able to fight in the field.”

We are sprawled on long leather sofas upon which several beautiful fabrics have been draped. It is growing dark, apparent from the many skylights. I cannot imagine Windsor-Smith as a teacher when he has so much creative fire left. “Leave teaching to Joe Kubert. But the fact is that Joe’s teaching cartooning, not art or art theory. Making a comic is mostly cartooning, telling a story. It’s not drawing.”

“What is the difference?” I ask.

“Drawing is not invention. Cartooning is, by and large, sheer creativity that can, but does not have to, adhere to any set-in-stone tenets of academic drawing. To be able to draw is to be able to see and to translate what you see to paper. It’s not easy, by any means, but the fact is that anybody with two eyes, a brain and a limb can be taught to draw. Drawing is like meditation, you just have to know how to control the brain by way of your mind. Cartooning, though, can be an unbounded freedom of expression. However much drawing one cares to put into it is entirely subjective and dependent upon the cartoonist’s needs to communicate with recognizable symbols. The fact is that comics could be our finest form of communication. In film, especially commercial movies, there are hundreds of personalities involved in the production and every one of them is just another chance to subvert a singular artistic vision. The words and pictures of comics could, can, might be the only unsullied, uncrowded platform of expression we have that has almost never been employed to its fullest, most far reaching extent of personal expression.”