Friday, December 11, 2009
Interview with Dennis Budd
How did you get involved in sketch cards?
I was in the middle of a job when the boss-man mentioned he knew someone at Topps and they were looking for artists to work on these things called ‘sketch cards.’ Mind you I had not collected trading cards for many years and had no idea what the little suckers were. ‘So you draw on blank stock and they’re inserted into packs,’ I asked. ‘That’s kinda neat.’ It sounded like an interesting side job so I whipped up a page of sketches and sent them off to the editor, and a short time later I was working on Lord of the Rings: Evolution.
Do you have an educational background in art or are you self taught?
When I was a kid I took classes with a pair of local artists for a number of years, which I think gave me a good foundation for a lot of self-discovery and experimentation later on. After high school I attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc., and learned from the many great, creative people there, teachers and students alike.
How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
The first twenty-five or so cards I drew for LOTRE were absolutely horrible (sorry collectors), if memory serves, most of them were Gollums and Faramirs, which didn’t really look like either character/actor, and a high level of frustration beset me in that early hour, but I managed to plow my way through so that a couple of days later,by the final pen stroke of the two hundredth card, it sorta looked like I knew what I was doing. Now having done hundreds of cards I’m much more at ease with the size.
How do you feel about the entire process?
It is what it is. Time and money are our masters, and there’s never enough of either! :D
Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
I have no real preference concerning media. Time can be a major contributing factor in whether or not I decide to paint since a painted card can take hours to complete, as opposed to maybe twenty minutes if I go the pencil/ink/marker route. It’s much easier to identify the media I don’t like, which is usually anything that is messy, like charcoal or pastels.
Some of your cards are very painterly. Artistically, how do you approach those cards?
There are some fundamental changes that occur when I switch from my cartoony comic book style to realistic. When I draw the comic book stuff it’s pretty much out of my head, and is dependent on how I’m regurgitating everything I’ve seen and learned and how I understand things. When painting realistically, generally you have a reference photo or different images that you’re transposing to another surface, and there are proportion and color considerations that need to be observed in the interpretation for it to look real.
Do you have a hard time switching from a cartoony style to a more realistic one?
Not anymore, now that I’ve been doing it for awhile. There’s a brief moment when the gears in my head grind to a halt, then start up again.
Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
It has, and it’s also made me a better artist. Doing hundreds of cards in a short time frame quickly teaches you how to draw fast, and the simple the act of drawing so much makes you better at it, which is a great advantage when drawing is your profession.
How do you feel about companies no longer allowing aftermarket sketch cards?
It’s a bummer. Aftermarkets were a nice way to interact with collectors, improve upon the original sketch and pick up some extra bucks. It was sad to see them go but I guess nothing lasts forever.
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I did when I was active on some message boards. I had to take a break from them for a couple reasons: first, I got busier with work, and second, there were periods where it just seemed everyone was cantankerous or peeved at something, stuff like ‘I’ve been ripped off, I bought a case of cards and didn’t get one color card or an artist I like.’ Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority, if not all, of people I’ve come into contact with are very nice individuals, but it’s that small vocal group that sees no problem in voicing their disgust for just about everything that can wear you down, and things got increasingly negative, so I just needed to get away for awhile. I recently started lurking again, so I could be coming back to a message board near you (if you’ll have me?).
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? What made it difficult?
On Indiana Jones Masterpieces, I tried to do some monochromatic painted cards, but there was some new coating on the cards that wouldn’t allow the paint to settle right, and there are horizontal streaks running across them all, so I gave up after about twenty or so. There were a couple of repeat-a-sketch projects, too, that were draining creatively, and by the end of drawing the same images again and again, I wanted to gouge my eyes and saw off my hand.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I don’t think so. I tend not to fall in love with anything I do. Usually I end up dissatisfied with my work anyway before the week is out.
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
Usually sell them. I still have a bunch of returns from the past few sets, but they’ll eventually find their way to market.
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
I do, but it depends on what the set is and what strings are attached to the project. Some companies have what is akin to style guidelines, and they’ll require different things like every card being in full color, or a certain percentage of a character’s body needs to be represented, or only the approved samples are to be drawn over and over and over again, which really takes the fun out of working on them and turns it into just another job. Since cards are more or less a side gig I prefer projects with fewer hoops to jump through.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Everyone knows the old staples, like draw a lot, draw from life, blah, blah, blah. Let me touch on what will keep you in the business once your foot is in the door: follow directions, meet your deadline, and don’t take on more work than you can handle that would put you in danger of not making that deadline. Start off with a hundred cards and see how it goes, after all, it’s much better to fulfill an obligation of a hundred than diving into a thousand and struggling to finish half the sum with a few days before they need to be mailed in. And it doesn’t hurt to know people.
Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I’m now awaiting the blanks for Star Wars Galaxy 5.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on some creator-owned projects. The first is a follow-up to the Model Operandi comic that I work on with my buddy of Marvel lettering and writing fame- Joe Caramagna. The second is a book that is in the R and D phase, but I’m not quite ready to divulge what it is just yet. Other than that I work on commissions and anything else that pops up.
Where can people see more of your work?
Thank you, Dennis!