Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with Randy Martinez

How did you get involved in sketch cards/What was your first sketch card job?
I was doing a lot of art work for the Star Wars Insider at the time (2004 I think), when I saw some cool looking sketch cards for the Clone Wars set.
I didn't really understand what they were at first, but I made a few calls and inquiries and before to long I got an invitation to work on Star Wars Heritage.
They asked me how many I could do, to which I answered "How many do you need?". They asked "how about 3000?" I said sure...not really understanding how many cards 3000 cards were. It was amazingly hard to get through so many cards, but I completed the job with literally 4 minutes to get to the Fed Ex drop around the corner from my apartment. An experience I'll never forget, but also taught me something new I was capable of doing.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
All of my life I was taught to draw as big as possible, and I still believe that lesson is true. But obviously, 2.5 X 3.5 does not really give that luxury.
I've learned over time to work on such a small surface, but I prefer to work much bigger.

How do you feel about the entire process?
I'm fine with it, I take a very business like approach to getting the cards done for any set I do. Really, for me, it's the only way to get through them. If I let the fan come out in me I'll be there all day on one card. I just can't do that. I work REALLY fast, probably due to working on 7000 cards in a year and and half when I first started. The only time deadlines get heavy on me is when I have
other deadlines for other professional work (Like books, games, or posters) that requires me to slow down and paint. It's very difficult to switch back and forth between sketch card mode and Illustration mode.
But, you know, I gotta do what I gotta do. It's a challenge which I like.

You do beautiful color work on your cards. Can you discuss your process for doing your color sketch cards?
Due to my new book coming out next year "Sketch Card Mania" (co-author Denise Vasquez), I can't really go into process right now. I can tell you that I use Prisma Color Markers and Prisma Color Colored Pencils.

Can you explain what after market cards are?
After market cards are sketch cards that have been pulled from packs, but are then drawn or painted over for a new or altered image. When sketch cards first started getting popular many fans used to have artists do after market cards on the cards they pulled for an extra fee to the artist. It was a really great thing because many fans wanted color cards, or some image they didn't get in the pack pull.
With after the after market market, the fan could get exactly what they wanted, and the artist could get compensated appropriately for the extra work they do on the card.

What’s your opinion on some (if not all) companies no longer participating in aftermarket cards anymore?
I understand where the companies are coming from. I used to think it was the card companies caving to the minority of collectors who complained about after markets (to which I've never understood the complaint). But, you know, when you speak directly to the source you tend to get the full story. After speaking with several card companies about "After Markets", I understood the decision to start banning after markets (on cards produced after 2005-6) had nothing to do with collectors, and everything to do with the licenses they held from different title properties. Not all of them, but a couple did not like that there was "unapproved" art being sold on the open market.
So they started to complain to the card companies, and the card companies put a ban on after markets. That is why we must sign an agreement to not do after markets when we sign off on new sets.
I used to feel it was unfair to take away a source of income from artists, but as time has gone on, I have learned that the ban actually HELPS the artists make more money on their return cards, that is, if you elect to make your return cards extra special and different from your pack pulls.
So, my opinion has changed quite a bit since I first started doing sketch cards.
It's amazing what you can learn when you listen and get facts from the source.

You have done base cards as well, correct? Can you explain what they are, exactly?
Yes, my first base set "trading Card" was for Star Wars Galaxy 4. I did the "Tusken Hero", which depicts a Tusken Raider having just defeated a Krayt Dragon.
Topps has kept me very busy for Star Wars Galaxy 5. I am creating 2 brand new pieces for the base set, 2-3 cards will feature Posters and covers I have done for past Star Wars Celebrations and Publications, and 15 Foil cards for the sub set (or chase card set). I'm really excited.
Base set cards are trading cards that make up the "set" of any given title. They are not unique or nearly as rare as the sketch cards, but it can sometimes be a challenge to collect the whole set of base cards.
The Foil Chase cards are usually deemed rare to ultra rare. They usually make special one of a kind foils that look slightly different than the others to make them Ultra Rare.

Is that process (coming up with the concept) very different than how you approach the regular sketch cards? Can you elaborate on your base card process?
It's really two different things for me. With sketch cards, they are sketches, there is just the tiny little space to draw on. So I usually just do a portrait. It's simple. Base cards are illustrations, I work big like I prefer, and I paint, draw, and do what ever I have to do to get the look I want. There is plenty of room to do some story telling, and big enough to get details in.
The concepts are always flying around in my head, so it's just a matter of plucking one out, which is easy. The only thing I have to consider when doing the illustration for the card is to remember that it will be shrink down to fit on a trading card. If you start drawing to small on the full size art, no one will see it in the reduction. As well, if you spend hours drawing every single hair on some ones head most of it will be lost in reduction. I mean, it doesn't totally go in vein, because you still have a great original full sized piece, I mean if the focus of your piece is very fine details, chances are it will be lost once it gets put on a card.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Yes, I am very grateful for the fan base that continues to commission me to do work and/or buy my return sketch cards. The fans have really helped my work gain popularity and in turn has made my career much better.
So I owe a lot to my fans. Thank you, Thank you!

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
I feel collectors want to capitalize on their investment when they buy a case of cards. That is understandable.
But, I feel that it is unfair to place the responsibility of making the collector a profit on the artists is unfair. The artists are all doing the job they were hired to do. They met the requirements of the publishers and they made it into packs.
Bottom line is buying packs of cards, whether it is baseball or Star Wars has always been a gamble.
When I was a kid I would buy pack after pack of baseball cards to get a Steve Garvey. I spend $5 (which was a lot to a 4 year old kid in the 70's) and I'd maybe get 1. Was I mad at the card companies? No, I knew ahead of time that there was a chance I might never pull a Steve Garvey. But that is what makes
open packs of cards fun right? The thrill of the chase.
With sketch cards, collectors know they may not get a card they like, but they buy packs, boxes, and cases anyway. If they blow $1000 on cases of cards, knowing they might not be happy with what they pulled, shouldn't that collector take responsibility for gambling on their money on the cards in the first place?
Of course, there will always be some collectors that will argue that if they were artists they would do finished art on every card.
To which I say, put your money where your mouth is. Become an artist and get on a sketch card set.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Actually, none that were bad enough for me to remember.

Bad experiences with companies?
No. I'm happy with my experiences with all the card companies I have done work for.

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
I would have to say yes. In terms of fans and commissions. It has opened my career to a whole new pool of fans and collectors, across many different genre's.
As far as my illustration career? Maybe, I mean the Topps Trading cards definitely. But most clients who have me do book covers, games and posters are not really interested in my sketch card work. They are sketch cards and many art directors just leave it at that.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
I don't like saying any thing negative about any title, so I will give you my second most difficult set I have worked on. The second most difficult title I have worked on was Star Wars Revenge of the Sith.
I signed up for 3000 cards AGAIN, but this time I was trying to make a new relationship work at the same time. I had much LESS time to work on this set, and my girlfriend at the time did not dig me bringing my sketch cards everywhere we went. But I had to. It got to a point where I wasn't even thinking about it, I'd just be drawing while we were at dinner, at her parents house, at a wedding reception. Just in case your wondering, no, that isn't why the relationship didn't work:) or, I don't know maybe it was the reason. She said something like I'm always drawing those cards and I don't ever listen to her, or something...I don't know I wasn't paying attention. :)

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
To be completely honest, I am proud of most of my cards. My color returns are always fun and turn out nice, but the cards I'm most proud of are my first set of 3000 for Star Wars Heritage.
It was such a task that I felt I would never be able to do, but I did it, and got it in on time. I am extremely proud of that.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Have you kept any of the cards returned to you?
I sell my return cards. I really don't have any interest in keeping them. This is my take on my art in general. Art is an experience, and everyone has a different experience with it.
As the creator my experience is in the process. making the art is what brings me the most bliss and fulfillment. Once I finish, it's over with. I have no more need for the art. But that is why I am happy to sell the piece and move it on to someone who can have the experience of the viewer. it's a completely different experience that I can never truly have concerning my own art. That is why I don't have any of my art up in my office.
I used to, and it made me feel like I was living in the past, in the experience I already had. I gotta keep moving forward, like a shark. As you know, if a shark stops moving forward it dies.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Actually, I see it myself doing sketch cards for a little longer. Things are starting to pick up with my illustration career, and there is less and less time for me to do sketch cards.
I've been doing less and less for each set. But fans don't have to worry. Most likely I will have some sort of hand in the sketch card world for years to come. :)

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Can't really say a lot due to our book, but I can say just love what you do. If you aren't having fun then your doing something wrong.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I'm working on the Marvel Archives with Rittenhouse Archives right now. I just finished Clone Wars Season 1 Sketch cards, and Major League Baseball 2009 for Topps.
I'll most likely do any Star Wars sets that contain sketch cards. I love Star Wars so how can I not?

What are you currently working on?
Right now at this moment I am working on my second base set card for Star Wars Galaxy 5, AND I am writing and illustrating "Sketch Card Mania" with Denise Vasquez. In fact we have to have a meeting right now to hammer out some stuff. Look for Sketch Card Mania next year in the Spring. All I can say is it's all about sketch cards, it's like nothing else you've ever seen, and it's going to be the MUST HAVE for 2009!

Where can people see more of your work?
You can always see my art at my web site
My Blog:
My FaceBook:

Thank you so much for your time, Randy!


  1. GREAT interview!

    PeAce LOvE aRt & sOuL
    Denise Vasquez

  2. The cards are great, and I can't wait until the book comes out!!