Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview with Denise Vasquez



How did you get involved in sketch cards?
I was introduced to the sketch card scene by my boyfriend, Artist Randy Martinez. He invited me to collaborate on some sketch cards with him, which eventually led to Topps Trading Cards contacting me to work on my first sketch card set. They invited me to illustrate 116 sketch cards for the “Indiana Jones Masterpieces set”.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
Size doesn’t matter~ Ha ha! Seriously, I don’t really have a problem working on a small surface. I LOVE working on all surfaces. The size of the surface is a part of my creative process! Different sized surfaces inspire different ideas, so I actually like creating on a small surface. It forces me to create in another way!

How do you feel about the entire process?
I LOVE working on sketch cards, it’s fun for me! I have a great relationship with all of the companies I’ve worked for to date! I feel blessed every time I have the opportunity to get paid to do what I love, and I am grateful to Topps for giving me a chance! Having short deadlines sometimes can be a little challenging, but I love a great challenge! The reality is, it’s not only in the industry, where we never seem to have enough time, it’s a part of life! Having a deadline is just an ending point for me to see what I can get done with the amount of time that I have!

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
I LOVE working with a variety of mixed mediums...pencil, pen, marker, ink, acrylic, sparkles, beads...different mediums tend to spark and inspire a different flow of ideas for me whenever I’m creating...

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Yes, I do have collectors contacting me about my official cards as well as commissions.



How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
As an artist I am under contract to create “SKETCH cards”. Some people have misconceptions of what a “SKETCH” is! I can’t go too deep into this because of the book we’re writing, but I will say this, I had a wonderful conversation about this very topic with an Art Director who Hires sketch card artists to work on sets...basically he said this is what they EXPECT from the artists: They contract us, the artists to do “SKETCH” cards. If artists chose to do more than that, that’s great but it’s NOT expected of them! I notice that some collectors, not all, SOME complain because they have made a business of making money off of the work we do! SOME collectors want more detailed work because as the industry becomes more popular, they’ve now come to rely on the money they’ve been making off of the artists work. Just browse around ebay...you’ll see. Many collectors, I actually met a great one the other day, love collecting every piece of art created by their favorite artist whether it’s a pencil sketch or full color...they have no problem with simple sketches because they understand & embrace that a simple sketch is part of the artists process, and if they want more, they’re happy to commission the artist & pay the artist the $ they deserve for a more elaborate detailed piece of art!

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
Doing sketch cards is a way for me to share another creative love of mine (drawing & painting) to a fanbase I already have established thru music, writing and acting. It’s also been a great introduction to a new genre of fans that I establish with each set that I work on. For me it’s been a wonderful new medium to allow my creative juices to flow! I see it for what it is, an opportunity to do what I love! My career as an artist benefits from everything I am & do, and all of the hard work I put into it!



What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
The most challenging, and at the same time the most fun sketch card set I’ve worked on to date was the Topps Star Wars Galaxy “RED” Target Exclusive set! I had a VERY limited amount of time to create 50 sketch cards...They all had to be red...and this was my first STAR WARS sketch card set!!! I wanted to do something really special because I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan! I made the decision to do each sketch card as a ONE OF A KIND, no repeats on this set, and me being an activist & the founder of WO+MEN 4 A CAUSE, I wanted to represent the Female Characters in the Star Wars Universe. Finding good references was REALLY challenging given the amount of time I had, but I did exactly what I wanted for this set!

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
Honestly, ALL of them! Every sketch card that I’ve illustrated is a representation of where I was as an artist in that moment!

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
I sell my returns to fans that contact me about them, and once in a while I’ll put them on ebay.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Absolutely! I LOVE doing sketch cards! Although I must add that my schedule will determine what sets I’ll be able to participate on & how many I can do.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
You’ll have to buy the book “Sketch Card Mania” that I’m co-authoring with Randy Martinez for Impact Books...lots of GREAT information for YOU! But I will say this BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I just finished illustrating 208 sketch cards for Topps “Star Wars Clone Wars Widevision Season I set, I’m finishing up 5FINITY “Zombies vs Cheerleaders”, Topps Star Wars Galaxy 5 sketch cards, and I’ll be doing special sketch cards for “WarSport”.



What are you currently working on?
I’m currently co-authoring “Sketch Card Mania” for Impact Books with Randy Martinez; finishing up my “Zombies vs Cheerleaders” sketch cards, rehearsing & preparing to perform my songs at The NAMM Show in January 2010, sketching out ideas for the 501st TK Helmet I will be customizing, working on commissions, writing, writing, writing, Working on my 4th musical project/album & lots more!

Where can people see more of your work?
The best place to see more of my work is on my Official Website
http://www.denisevasquez.com

SKETCH CARD MANIA BLOG
http://sketchcardmania.blogspot.com

SKETCH CARD MANIA TWITTER
http://twitter.com/sketchcardmania

SKETCH CARD MANIA FACEBOOK
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000445317064&ref=ts

SKETCH CARD MANIA ON DEVIANTART
http://sketch-card-mania.deviantart.com

SKETCH CARD MANIA ON YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/sketchcardmania

SKETCH CARD MANIA ON MYSPACE
http://www.myspace.com/sketchcardmania

Thank you so much for your time, Denise!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Interview with Ingrid Hardy


How did you get involved in sketch cards?
About three and a half years ago I was drawing and illustrating mostly for horses, and frequenting a comic/art forum when an artist over there suggested I try sketch cards. I knew nothing about them and honestly found it a challenge to draw on such a small space. Now I absolutely love it and particularly enjoy painting landscapes and scenes on them. My first sketch card job was Star Wars 30th Anniversary, I was SO proud to be part of that.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
It took some getting used to, but now I really enjoy it. My eyes might not agree so much though…… But I’m not finished evolving and figuring it out. Different ways of doing a drawing, composing it, painting it, there is an awful lot left for me to learn!

How do you feel about the entire process?
Speaking for myself, I find it stressful. Trying to do your best job and still meeting the deadline is a very real and constant challenge, and when you are freelance it’s a challenge in every job. Well, every project I have had anyway, whether it be sketch cards or illustration or anything else. And as I’m not a very forward or brave person, sending out samples and doing the “door to door” is not easy either, but one has to deal with it. Most of us have to find our jobs – they don’t come to us.

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
At first I was a diehard pencil and watercolor user, but now I enjoy a variety of media: still using watercolor, also now use ink markers (Copics and Prisma), pencil, color pencil, and I’m so much fun using acrylics now too for some projects.



Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Less than before, unfortunately. In the beginning I had a lot more time to spend on different forums and communicating with collectors, but over the past few months less time has been available for me to do that. I truly enjoy talking with people about sketch cards and lots of other topics too, but those deadlines are always so short. I hope to get to some conventions and perhaps be able to meet some of them.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
Haha... I haven’t decided where I stand on that one yet, just because for nearly every set I do, I try to do what might please the collectors and what can work for the deadline I have. Most collectors are absolutely wonderful people, and they are fans just like we are, and want something cool, just like we do. When it comes to anything collectable or creative – whether it be art or music or books or cars, anything – it becomes a matter of opinion. What makes Jack and Jill happy may not make John and Jane happy. Such is life.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Only once, when someone emailed me to say that my work was “astoundingly inept” or something similar. I was really hurt at first, and then understood that actually that person did me a favor. Never assume anything.

Bad experiences with companies?
No, so far every company has been a great experience to work with.

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
It has definitely gotten my work out in front of more people than before. I can also send those samples out now and be taken seriously… That said, it hasn’t been sketch cards alone that has benefited me, but it has given me more confidence in myself to go out and at least try for projects.



What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
I think the most difficult set for me was Heroes Vol 1 and 2. I enjoyed it of course, but for volume 1 the deadline was so very, very short, it was next to impossible to do work I was even sort of kind of maybe a little satisfied with. There was no way. I think it was 2 weeks for 200 cards. And then for volume 2 I was on the set, then off the set, then on the set, so it ended up being a similar situation. But, such is life. Nothing for it.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
Actually, after everything I said above, there is one Heroes card that I really like and I still have it. It is a return card, but one that was done very quickly with color pencil and very simply drawn. So I kept it. And there are a couple of Star Wars 30th Anniversary cards that went into packs that I like. Of course, it was my first set, so it is sentimental too. As well, I am rather proud of my Clone Wars Widevision cards. I’m getting next to no feedback on those cards, so maybe the approach I took was all wrong, but I’m proud of them. I’m also proud of the set I’m doing right now – the Band of Brothers: America at War cards. They are a bit of a challenge as they are meant to be portraits that commemorate soldiers that were in the war (WW2) but their photos were usually quite blurry or even damaged. Hope I did a decent job with them…. but I’m proud of them.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
I usually sell them because it is a part of my income. Though as mentioned above, one card has stayed with me.



Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Probably, for now anyway. I really do like it, and I do personal sketch cards too. Right now, since I’m on an acrylic binge, I’m doing a lot of landscape-type personal sketch cards.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Be polite, be patient and be persistent.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I’m not one of those people who know very much in advance... (darn) but I have some projects of my own that I work on when time is loose.



What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m nearing the end of Band of Brothers, doing some Christmas commissions and working on some writing.

Where can people see more of your work?
I’m pretty good about keeping my website up to date, where I post at least a sampling of everything I do. It is Rabid Horse
Illustrations at http://www.rabidhorse.com
There are lots of things to look at, and there is also a LINKS page with lots of different links to things that interest me.

Thank you so much for your time, Ingrid!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interview with Allison Sohn


How did you get involved in sketch cards?
Another card artist forwarded my work to their editor, who invited me to participate in the first Lord of the rings card set: Evolution.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
It was difficult to get used to at first, but once I did, I liked it a great deal! You can create a mini-masterpiece, and it doesn't take a week or two to accomplish, the way larger pieces can. Also, I like that I can throw 6 cards in my bag, and go to my favorite coffee shop for the afternoon to work. I feel like I've got the day off and am lounging enjoying snacks and hot beverages, but I'm really working!

How do you feel about the entire process?
I like the sketch card process A LOT. I often tell people its the perfect amount of work for me. The deadlines have a little flexibility, the editors are all very nice, and you can offer to do as little or as many cards as you can manage in the given time frame. So its very accommodating to the other work I take on and my travel schedule. I also feel that because these are supposed to be "sketches" and because there are so many to do for any given set (I've done upwards of 400 cards per assignment) that I can get experimental with this work the way I never could with a piece for print. So sketch cards really allow me a freedom to try out new styles and new mediums that I can later integrate into my other work if I choose.

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
Right now I'm very much in love with Copic markers. They give me a result that people often mistake for paints. And they play nice with other media as well; so I can mix in some pencil and some white paints for effects.



You have done base cards as well, correct? Can you explain what they are, exactly?
I have done base cards; I'm really grateful to my editors for thinking of me for these assignments. A base card is a piece of art done for a printed trading card for any given set. It's not done to size the way a sketch card is (although I suppose it could be, if you wanted to) so you can work larger, and get greater details or more of a "story" going on in the piece. I've got a few of them under my belt now; my first base card was for Lord of the Rings Masterpieces, but I've since done cards for the DC VS trading card game, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, to name a few sets.

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 very different, for me. A sketch card is sort of a throw away; you know you are going to do hundreds of them, so it sort of frees you up to be creative, and to take risks and be experimental. If it's not your greatest card ever, well there are 100 more you can work on to try and get to that end. But for a base card, you may only have the one chance to get that image right. I think I re-drew the artwork for my Star Wars Galaxy 4 base card five or six times before I began coloring it. And once it was colored, I went back in with Photoshop to adjust those colors. But I didn't think about the printing process, and when it went to press, the colors all shifted very yellow. At that point I realized that I had never calibrated my computer monitor for printing purposes. So while it looked the way I wanted it to on my computer screen, it printed out very differently.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I have some contact; probably not as much as some other sketch card artists. It's always flattering to read online when someone likes your work, and it can be devastating to read when fans or collectors think you did a poor job. So I try and limit my time online reading feed back or chatting with collectors and fans. But I do a fair number of conventions during the year; and I do get to meet a lot of collectors that way.

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 that a collector should not influence how any art will ultimately end up. That being said, I feel that an artist has an obligation to do their best work on whatever job they accept. No one forced you to accept poor pay rates, no one twisted your arm to do the job. Having agreed to do the work for the set pay rate; do the BEST work you can. That's my personal mantra.



Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Of course. And I'm sure collectors have had bad experiences with me. I've been doing this for 4 years; people are bound to not agree in that time frame.

Bad experiences with companies?
Not really. I don't work with as many companies as some artists do, and I think that has helped me avoid a lot of problems. I did have some return cards get mixed up and not returned; but the company sent me blank cards to make up for it, so I wouldn't call it a bad experience in the end.

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
Absolutely! I don't know that I'd be getting any printed work if not for my years spent doing sketch cards. I think its impossible to do all those hundreds and thousands of tiny little drawings, do the best job you feel you can do, and not come away from your drawing table a better artist for it. I have often called sketch cards my "mandatory practice time". Left to my own devices, I would NOT draw hundreds of little pieces of art, over and over. But sketch cards require it of you. Now if you are just hacking those sketches out, of course you aren't going to improve as an artist. But if you are doing good work, someone is going to notice. And when that someone is an editor, sometimes it results in more work.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
I think my first set was my most difficult. I loved the material; I've been a fan of the Tolkien novels since I was a child. So to have my first professional job be drawing Lord of the Rings: Evolution was both a personal treat and intimidating. Also, that was the set where I had to learn how to draw that small.



Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I really liked my work on the Women of Marvel set that Rittenhouse Archives produced. I was asked to do incentive cards for that, and they were larger than regular cards, measuring 5 by 7 inches. Artistically, the material was a dream come true to work on, and having that extra little bit of space was wonderful! I feel I really knocked those cards out of the proverbial ball park.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
I sell them, when I can. I have kept some, for sentimental reasons. I still have a card from my first ever set, and a card from my first ever Star Wars set.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
I do, though maybe not as many as I have done in the past. I'm being more selective with the sets I choose to work on, so that I can do my best possible work for that set.



Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Heh. Yes. I'm always amazed at people that think they are going to get rich doing sketch cards, or transition from sketch cards to comic books within a few months of starting. Good luck with that. I would suggest that people have far more realistic expectations, and that they bring their very best work to the cards they agree to do. There's enough mediocre garbage out there; no one wants to see more of that, and that sort of work isn't going to help you build your portfolio or advance your career as an artist.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I'm currently participating in the Marvel 70th Anniversary card set for Rittenhouse Archives, and Star Wars Galaxy 5 for Topps.

What are you currently working on?
I'm also trying to coordinate a charity art auction for a local animal rescue. If you are reading this and you are an artist, don't be surprised if you get an email from me, begging for drawings of dogs. :-D

Where can people see more of your work?
I have a very poorly designed and out-dated website at
http://www.allisonsohnart.com/
My Deviant Art site is only marginally better updated, and can be viewed at:
http://www.allisonsohn.deviantart.com/

Thank you so much for your time, Allison!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interview with collector Anne Kong



How did you first get into sketch card collecting?
I started collecting Lord of the Rings movie actor autograph and memorabilia cards on eBay in 2006. I noticed sketch cards popping up for sale from the LoTR Evolution set and started to buy those from eBay, too. Now I am a Moderator on Scoundrel Art Forum--”The” website to see the latest artwork from most major sketch card releases and to network with artists directly for commissions.

Is there a specific genre/property/character you collect and why?
I collect Lord of the Rings because I love the book and Peter Jackson’s movies. Rangers, Elves and Hobbits with appropriate amounts of humor and horror and honor! What’s not to love about the Tolkien world? South Farthing Tobacco Leaf? … ;)
I love Catwoman from the Batman Returns movie by Tim Burton but I also collect the recent comic book version (Adam Hughes style). Catwoman is sleek, wiley and sexy so she’s a fun role model and alter ego for me. :P It has nothing to do with wanting her whip or latex suit. **wink** I also collect Star Wars sketches on occasion--especially related with “A New Hope”.

Do you prefer pencil cards over color (or color over pencil)?
I love detailed graphite cards but I’m also very fond of painted and full color pencil sketches. I like all mediums that create sketch cards.

What do you look for in a card that you want to own?
The character or scene must appeal to me but I want the card based on the artist’s execution of the art. I can usually tell from my initial reaction on seeing a card if I really want to own it. I’ve been collecting sketch cards for several years so that feeling is actually more accurate than just acting on impulse.



If there is a specific artist - or artists - you like to collect? What is it about their cards you prefer?
I’m a devoted collector of anything by Sean Pence and LoTR by Cat Staggs. Their graphite and color portraits convey a lot of emotion from the character they’re capturing.
I’m very fond of Soni Alcorn-Hender’s works. Many are inked with a sepia background but her acrylic painted pieces rawk my world too.
Len Bellinger’s painted and penciled LoTR pieces always appeal to me because I know how much love and detail he pours into each little cardboard sketch card. He’s OCD about LoTR. Did you know that? Doesn’t everybody? ;)
I collect many other eBay artists avidly including Anna Usacheva (oil/acrylics paints or pastels), Charles Amsellem, and Nathalie Hertz--primarily for their LoTR art. Anna also does wonderfully playful cats and Nathalie has some incredible horse art. Charles has a series of Mermaids ACEOs he’s currently selling that is playfully sexy yet charmingly innocent.
The personality of the artist certainly enhances my enjoyment of the art. Soni is a spirited and intelligent Weasel Woman. Sean is a gentlemanly sweetheart. Cat is quiet and humorous. And Len is charmingly OCD about all art. When I look at their artwork, I know a lot of dedication has gone into its creation.

Have you ever contacted a card company about a card set? If so, why?
I’ve contacted Topps customer service about dud boxes that didn’t contain any sketch cards and they sent me replacements without any hesitation.

How large would you say your collection is?
It’s too big to count. It’s well over 1000 set sketch cards (3 LoTR sets, Galaxy 4, DC Universe, Batman Archives, Clone Wars Widevision) and over 500 commissioned sketch cards.

How do your family and friends feel about your collecting?
They know about my hobby but they do not participate in it. That’s why I love the Scoundrel community. We network and trade/sell cards but only Scoundrel members truly understand another collector’s passion for these 2.5 X 3.5 pieces of artwork.

Do you ever sell off portions of your collection? If so, why?
Not so far. I’m lucky to be able to afford to keep my all my sketch pulls and purchases. And I’m leaving my sketch cards to my friends in my will. Yep. :)

How do you feel about more sketch card sets coming out on a regular basis?
I love the variety of sketch cards and as a collector, I’ve noticed the prices of sketch cards being sold on eBay dropping because of the increased availability of artwork.

Would you say that affects collectibility?
Many collectors will not be able to keep every card they love. They have to sell some of their collection in order to afford to buy new cases or sketches from upcoming sets.



Do you purchase several boxes or cases of cards at a time?
I have purchased single boxes in addition to 4-8 cases of product in the past.

How do you feel about some collectors that buy several cases at a time?
They are taking a well known gamble that they will pull any sketch cards that will make them deliriously happy. But most case-breakers want the thrill of finding rare or astounding cards. I find it most cost-effective to buy my fav sketches from eBay or Scoundrels or artists directly than to buy large number of cases.

Do you take artist popularity into consideration?
No. But my top fav artists that I collect are considered desirable by many other collectors. Unfortunately, their set cards are more expensive to purchase as a consequence.

What would you say is your favorite card you own and why?
Really! I cannot name a single favorite card. I have too many to choose from! :O

Here are my 5 current favs.
Sean Pence’s Coronation Couple
Cat Staggs’ Aragorn with Palantir
Mark McHaley Catwoman
Soni Alcorn-Hender Rivendell
Charles Amsellem Eowyn
(These cards are featured in this interview. -Jess)

How do you feel about an artist putting out several cards with the same image on them?
I think many of these undetailed repeat images are usually the result of an artist trying to meet their deadline and time running out. As a collector who has pulled them from a case…and there is more than one of such image in a case of 8!!…I know the heart-sinking feeling of disappointment. But it doesn’t ruin my hobby. It is supposed to be random, after all. There will be “fun” pulls. And not so “fun” pulls--it’s become the nature of the hobby.

What is your opinion on pencil sketches in a card set versus fully colored/painted cards?
I like pencil sketches but I’d prefer more detail than a simple outline on the card.



On that note, how do you feel about some artists who state that sketch cards are just that, 'sketch' cards?
These artists are entitled to honor their contract with the card company and do just that. But they should be prepared for the collectors and dealers to be derisive of the simple sketch they produce for pack insertion. Especially when everyone sees their peers on the same set are putting more time into each card.

Or that they are not paid enough per card to create many (or any) color cards?
No. These artists are not paid much money for the pack-inserted cards. But in exchange, they get national and international exposure of their name and art--especially if they get a base card or insert set The sketch card biz isn’t likely to support a household, but it could lead to valuable private commissions and other work in the art world.

Are there any sketch card sets you would love to see come out that haven't yet?
We need a sketch card set for Harry Potter. If Ms. Rowling would pretty pretty please agree! And I’d love one for Supernatural (the TV show).

Do you contact artists for personal commissions, any return cards they may have, etc?
Yes. I love interacting with the artists in this way. The Scoundrel Forum is excellent for networking with artists. Many have become good friends of mine from our dealings and e-mails discussions.

How do you feel about artists charging more for return cards?
The return cards usually have more detail than the pack inserted cards. The artist deserves the income from the returns to compensate $$$ for all the work they put into the entire set.

Some companies put cards out that vary in size (Topps' Clone Wars Widevision, for example). Does that affect whether or not you will collect from that set?
I like both sizes but storing the Widevision will be more space-consuming in my binders.

Do you enjoy the other cards, autographs, costume cards, etc., in a set as well as the sketch cards?
Yes! The LoTR autos and costumes are initially what I collected before the sketch cards.



Have you had any bad experiences with sketch card artists?
Yep. I’ve been in the most unfortunate situation when an artist is paid $$$ up front to deliver a commission art or return card. Then the artist failed to respond to e-mails to update on their delay or progress. I’ve been personally involved in three situations where a public prodding was required to push those deliquent artists to complete and deliver the long overdue pre-paid artwork to their upset customers.
I can patiently wait up to (and over) a year if the artist keeps me updated about delays because of unexpected personal problems. Ideally, I don’t think any paying customer should wait over 60 days for pre-paid artwork unless there are rare extenuating circumstances. So far, I have not had any artist fraud me and never deliver on paid artwork. I have had artists return my money when requested since their schedule was too busy.

Bad experiences with card companies?
Not yet. :)

Is your collection online where people can see it?
No, not yet. I don’t have the time to upload my sketch card collection in entirety. Perhaps I can do one set per year in the future?

Thank you so much for your time, Anne!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Interview with Uko Smith



How did you get involved in sketch cards?
My first sketchcard job was the Marvel Sketchagraph series back in 1998 produced by Skybox. The first ever sketchcard series produced to my knowledge. Good friend Scott Rosema got me onto that set.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
The first few to start are always the hardest for me. But once I get going and get on a roll, it’s no problem at all. The thing that helps with drawing that small was the fact I have drawn really big images throughout my career on certain projects and in college. Drawing big helped me draw small. If that makes sense to anyone.

How do you feel about the entire process?
The process itself is pretty standard. You get the call, you say how many you want to do and then you do it and turn them in. Pretty simple in any standards. But there’s life and sometimes it gets in the way with other projects. But with any project I get, especially sketchcards, the one factor that gets me out of procrastination is the fact that I can do them pretty quickly. I practice speed and speed is my BFF. I like the fact that when one company has its foothold on the industry in sketchcards is that others pop up and want to do more interesting and different subject matter. Y’know, things that get other people excited about the entertainment field. As for the artwork itself, I try to put my best foot forward. I try to make each card individually different with no repeats (knock on wood).




Have you been asked or would you like to work on the larger incentive cards?
I’ve never been asked and yes I would like to work on larger incentive cards. But I want to do what I want to do with incentive cards and that’s create good illustration work. I don’t want to be bothered with the fact that it’s got to look painterly so that dealers can buy more. I just want to create good art, plain and simple.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Sometimes. But mostly at conventions where I come in contact with card collectors. I get the email commissions and things like that, but mostly at shows is when I get to meet a majority of them regarding my cards. And it’s all positive, which makes me feel great. It lets me know I’m doing a good job. I think people can respect that when you do good artwork that they want to purchase over and over. I’ve met collectors that are just plain awesome and they really get into what I do and start to dissect how and why I do things. I love them all, but there are some standouts for sure that communicate with often. Every once in a while, I’ll do a free piece of art to a collector who really enjoys what I do. That’s always fun.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
Y’know, I do what I do what I consider sketchards are. Mainly sketches that are done in such a way that portrays the character in an energetic way. I don’t see myself working 2-3 hours on a single card for what we get paid for.



Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
No. Can’t say that I’ve had any.

Bad experiences with companies?
No, not really. Other than I thought I was going to be working on a particular set and confirmed, but never got the cards. I didn’t worry about it too much though. Life goes on.

Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do?
I’d like to think that my cards are consistently collectible. I hear they are, but again, as long as I’m asked to do cards, I’m more than happy to do them. Like, I’m going to be doing some Avengers cards and Dr. Who here soon with Strictly Ink and am excited to do them. I don’t do likeness cards very much and since the number will be low, I’m going to knock them out of the park. :)

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
Oh, most definitely. I love sketching and it’s one of the things I excel at as an artist, so sketchcards are perfect for me.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
Oh geez. Probably the Star Wars Clone Wars Widevision set. I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but it was just getting myself into that universe as I’ve never really drawn any Star Wars characters with regularity. I love Star Wars as much as the next person, I just wasn’t used to drawing them.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
Oh yes! The X-men Archives stand out prominently. It’s one of my favs. I thought the quality in those really stood out and the reaction I got from collectors about that set really showed when I would see their comments online when I posted some of them. I’d have to say the DC Legacy set holds good memories as well. The Women of Marvel and the Batman Archives. The Batman Archives in particular is that I did four Batmobiles that I’m not sure ever got into the packs as it was over the amount that was requested of me. For DC Legacy, I did some 750 cards in the months allowed and another Marvel set I did somewhat around 700 I believe. I just wanted to see if I could do them and I did. For those particular sets, I did the most of any and am proud of them. When I have told people how many I’ve done, they’re surprised at the quality in which I did them in. So with that in mind, those really stand out.



Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you?
I do, but not because I want to. I haven’t sold most of them. For the most part, I really haven’t advertised that much that I’m even selling them. Every once in a while I let it be known that I’ve got blanks and get inquiries, but mostly I just reserve them for conventions if someone asks if they’re available.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
I do for the most part. But definitely not in the quantity that I used to do them in. Nowadays, I’ve got projects that require more time and don’t lend itself to the time I put into sketchards, but will set time aside for them if asked to participate.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Speed will be your best friend.

Where can people see more of your work?
You can see a majority of my work on my website @ www.ukosmith.com, www.mypsace.com/ukosmith, www.comicspace.com, www.comicart fans.com, www.ukosmith.blogspot.com and on Facebook. I have a Twitter, but don’t know what to do with that one so much.

Thank you so much for your time, Uko!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Facebook Page

If you're on Facebook and would like to keep up to date on Sketch Card Art blog posts, "friend" us, wouldja?
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sketch-Card-Art/192136797960

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Nina Edlund




How did you get involved in sketch cards?
You and Grant Gould! I can't remember which one of you contacted me first but you guys offered to pass my name along to Topps if I was interested in doing sketch cards (which I was, obviously!). I sent the art director an email, dropped your names and attached a few samples of my work. I was so anxious about doing a good job because I wasn't only representing myself but, since you both vouched for me, reflecting on you as well.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
I don't tend to draw very big anyway -- most of my drawing takes place in the margins of my notebook during meetings so drawing small is my natural state of being. However, it was an adjustment compositionally. I'm used to doodling across an entire page so it was a mental realignment to place things correctly in a small, specific area. I'm still trying to figure it out!

How do you feel about the entire process?
In a perfect world, the artists would be given long deadlines and only be asked to take on a small amount of cards. Also in this perfect world, I would have a house made of diamonds and ride around on a pink, sparkly unicorn. Although I would like more lead time, I certainly have no problem with the way things are. You just have to know, as an artist, what you are able to take on within the parameters of the deadline and commit yourself accordingly (I learned this the hard way. Oy.).

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
I definitely prefer working in pencil. My lines are much more confident in that medium and I feel like a lot of the subtle beauty of my work gets lost when I try to take it to ink and color. Knowing that collectors far and away prefer inked and colored pieces, it becomes a dilemma for me. Do I give them what they want and have the product be not as good as it could be? Or do I stick with pencil and make something that I feel happy with? Maybe some day I will figure out how to achieve the things I want to express in a full-color format so everyone's happy.



Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Not too much! I'm pretty shy and I am awkward at best when it comes to praise regarding my work; it's makes me want to blush, punch the person in the shoulder and say 'Oh my goodness, crazy pants!' Yes, praise reduces me to elementary schoolesque bashfulness. I post a little bit on the Scoundrel message boards but I don't ever have a table at any conventions. Maybe someday!

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
This is such a tricky thing. I completely understand the collector's desire to have a mini-masterpiece with each sketch card they pull. And I certainly try to do a good job on the cards I draw. However, the amount artists are paid per card is extremely minimal. I have several friends who are artists professionally and if there is one thing they all agree on, it is this: do not devalue your art. If a person is willing to give away their art for practically nothing, it impacts the value of other people's work as well because folks come to expect something for nothing from all artists. I think it is great when artists do beautiful, fully-painted cards that just take people's breath away to look at and a lot of them do it simply for the love of the subject matter. I think the thing for collectors to remember is that they should cherish those cards as something special and not expect it in every card they come across. If they do not want to risk paying for a case on the possibility of just getting true sketches, they should probably hold back their money and use it to buy return cards since they can be sure of what they are getting. Case breaking is a gamble after all!

Another aspect of this debate has to do with an artist investing in themselves. Doing quick sketches and keeping the value of the art in line with what they are being paid is not going to really advance an artist. However, if they devalue their art in the beginning of their careers (as in doing fully painted, intricate scenes), that is a strategy of getting a future return on investment. Because if they go above and beyond, they are more likely to make a name for themselves amongst collectors and eventually be able to command much more when they sell their return cards. Additionally, establishing oneself could lead to opportunities beyond the sketch card world.

So what's right and what's wrong? Whether an artist wants to do a full-color mini-painting or stick to true sketches, neither is the wrong way to go. It really depends on what the artist's goals are and their personal philosophy when it comes to their art and collectors should accept that diversity in opinion. And I'm not even getting into the subjectiveness of art and how beauty can be found in the simplest of lines!

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Nope! Everyone I have dealt with directly has been really nice. And while there will always be someone voicing an unhappy opinion on message boards, criticism is information an artist can use to improve.

Bad experiences with companies?
I've only worked with Topps and I have no complaints (although if they decide they want to up the pay rate, I certainly will not object)! No one has kicked me in the shin or anything so it's all good!




Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
I'm not sure how to answer this! Hmm. I'm not an artist by profession and I don't actively seek freelance jobs. My day job is being a web designer at NBC and I mostly do sketch card sets every once in a while as a personal side project. I do them for fun without the intention of using it as a stepping stone to other things. Although if the stone presented itself, I would step on it. Oh yes I would. I would step all over it. Maybe even skip!

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
Clone Wars Season One Widevision. Why? Because I had never seen the series! I'm familiar with the Star Wars movies but not the tv show so I didn't have any ideas about pivotal scenes and I had to research the characters (all within a short span of time with no DVDs to pounce on). However, the larger cards were nice to work on so that was a good trade off.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I really like the style that emerged on my Clone Wars Widevision cards. I've also done a few cards in a sort of art nouveau style that came out nice; I'll probably try to do more of those in the future.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
I sell them! Although I did keep one of my Lord of the Rings Masterpieces II cards. It's a pretty simple pencil sketch of Gollum; it probably wouldn't interest collectors and I just really love the expression I pulled off on that one. Plus it was the first set that I did so I wanted to keep something from it.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
As long as they'll have me. Although I really need to stop agreeing to sets that fall around a holiday or vacation! My family is scattered across the country and I don't get to see them too often; I think they are getting tired of me working on sketch cards during Christmas vacation when I should be hanging out with them! But it's just too hard to refuse when a Star Wars set comes knocking.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?

How to Break into the Sketchcard Biz

10 Blueberries, freshly picked
Twine, enough to encircle your head
2 Trout, whole fish about 1.5 lbs. each
pinch of salt
On the third full moon of the year, string fresh blueberries on a length of twine and fashion it into a crown to wear upon your head. Make slippers out of the trout and put them on your feet. At exactly midnight, dance counter-clockwise in a circle three times and then throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder. This should please the Sketch Card Gods and you will receive a positive omen from them within a fortnight.
But seriously... I just kind of fell into it so I don't know if I have any specific advice for people wanting to get into sketch cards. As far as general advice on improving oneself as an artist? Draw from life whenever you can. If you are just starting out, do not spend a lot of time on style or mimicking someone else's; work on your foundation skills of composition, perspective, form, function, line quality, etc. When your foundation is solid, you'll know what you can realistically exaggerate, which rules you can break and which ones you can only bend; when that happens, your own style will emerge and you can kick ass all over the place. And when you kick ass, opportunities have a way of finding you.



Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I'm not working on anything currently and when I do sets, it's usually an email out of the blue a few weeks before the deadline so I don't know what I am working on too far in advance. I'd love to work on a Harry Potter set though and I will always, always make time for Star Wars.

What are you currently working on?
I'm working on developing superhuman abilities. I would like to figure out how to breathe under water but flying and invisibility would be cool as well. Unfortunately, my success in this arena has been minimal. I am also working on getting a Ragdoll kitten sometime in 2010 and organizing my closets.

Where can people see more of your work?
If folks wanna see my day-time work, they can go to
http://www.nbc.com/! Yay NBC! But I guess you mean my art work? In that case, I can be found at http://ninae.com/ and http://fluffybottom.cghub.com/

Thank you so much, Nina!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

JLA Archives Trading Cards


*image above from the Rittenhouse website.
Click the link below for information on this set.

Interview with Art Grafunkel



How did you get involved in sketch cards?
I've known both you and Grant “Solid” Gould for a while now, although only online, because we seemed to hang out at similar internet message boards, like Steve Niles' Inner Sanctum and Ben Templesmith's Conclave... you know: “Best Friends I've Never Met”.

You were both doing lots of sketchcards, and I must've mentioned I was interested in doing them as well, because one day I get an email from Grant, asking if I'd like to do a try-out for doing sketchcards on a genuine card set for Topps. That was “Lord Of The Rings – Masterpieces II”. I quickly doodled some sketches, sent those to Grant, and he passed them on to the powers that be at Topps, who immediately got back to me. Which was nice. And a few days later I received my very first box of blank cards in the mail.

So I have to thank both you and Grant for introducing me to the biz!

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
I'm used to drawing in small sketchbooks, little notebooks, post-it's and such, so the small size isn't much of a problem. I guess it might become a challenge if I start colouring my sketchcards with watercolors, or painting them all together. I'm in total awe when I see these highly detailed, painted masterpieces on some sets. I'm always wondering if those artists got bigger cards than I did.

How do you feel about the entire process?
It's a delicate balance: on one hand they're supposed to be sketches, the deadlines are fairly tight, you don't make loads of money on these projects... but on the other hand, given these circumstances, you still need to create something that would make both yourself and the buyer happy.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I'm still really new at this, so I don't think many collectors actually know either my name or my work. I do post stuff on my Facebook page and also at Scoundrel, the message board for both sketchcard artists and collectors, which is a good way to get feedback on your cards and to keep in touch with collectors.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
I'm still a newbie to sketchcards, but I've already noticed that, as with most hobbies, there is a lot of passion involved... and sometimes a lot of money invested. And that can cause some tension.

Collectors invest a lot of money, buying whole boxes and shipments, sometimes just to get a handfull of sketchcards. So I can understand it must be frustrating getting “only” a pencil sketch, but, considering the circumstances, sometimes that's all an artist can afford.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Not at all.

On the contrary, I (unwillingly) gave the guys that bought my returns a hard time. A simple payment from a U.S. bank account to a European bank account isn't that obvious, apparently. It involved some paperwork, and a small extra fee for the buyers, sadly.

But everything worked out fine: they got their cards, I got paid... and it showed me that these people really enjoy my work, so that's neato.

Bad experiences with companies?
Not really, although my first sketchcard set, “The Lord Of The Rings - Masterpieces II” series I did for Topps, wasn't really smooth sailing for me.

I was more than halfway through my 200 cards, when I got a mail from Topps, saying New Line Productions didn't like the initial sketches they saw... not the sketchcards, mind you, just the really quick sample sketches I sent them early on, to show my style... but Topps told me not to worry, to just keep on drawing my cards, and that they'd handle it. But New Line didn't want to negotiate, so they couldn't approve any of my cards. As such they weren't inserted in any packs, and technically can't be made public.

Topps did all they could, and the people at New Line probably have lots of people breathing down their neck as well, so it would be dumb to blame anyone... but, being a fan of the books and the movies, that was a bit of a bummer.

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
Illustration is more a thing I do on the side, but it certainly flexes artistic muscles which I don't get to use during my dayjob as a graphic designer. It's a challenge: catching that certain character, or expression, or mood, or pose, on a very limited canvas, within a limited timespan, while still concentrating on composition, texture, contrast and anatomy.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
I haven't worked on that many sets, but I'd have to say the least interesting to me personally was the “Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull” set, based on the last movie. The exclusive reference material we got was very sparse and non-descript: man in suit, man in suit with hat, man with glasses, man in suit with glasses and gun... I had no idea which ones were bad guys or good guys, no clue what the plot was, or what the movie stills were about.



Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I did some pretty decent cards for the “Star Wars Galaxy 4” set by Topps. Probably because the Star Wars universe lies close to my heart: the characters are so dramatic and expressive, and the designs are so over-the-top, so I couldn't help but draw them jumping around, capes flapping behind them, or lunging their lightsabers right at you. The field of reference for this set was also wide open: comics, movies, cartoons, games, toys, almost everything was available.

The bounty hunters and the weird alien barflies at the cantina were paricularily fun to do.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you?
Yep. I still have my Indy returns.

What are you planning to do with them?
Sell them one day, hopefully, hah!

But if they don't sell, I might frame them.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Sure, I'd love to do more. I'm a nerd, so I love sci-fi, and horror, and movies, and comicbooks, and that's what the sketchcard business is based on.

I really want to do a Star Wars set again. I didn't get to do a Darth Vader in the previous Galaxy set, so I hope I get to doodle old helmethead in an upcoming card series.

I'd also like to work on a Marvel or DC card set. That'd be so awesome, as I've been reading comics since I was about twelve, doodling little Batmen and Spidermen on every blank scrap of paper I could get my hands on.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
The usual stuff, I guess.

First of all: draw. And draw all sorts of things, like comicbook heroes, movie characters, but maybe more importantly: draw from life. Your garden shed in the midday sun, the girl sitting at the other end of the coffee shop, the guy walking his dog in the park, anything. That stuff is very important if you want to draw convincing anatomy, clothing, and textures.

So just draw a lot, and get your work out there where it can be seen: blogs, online portfolios, message boards. And you probably could get in touch with the card companies directly through their contact info on their sites.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
There's nothing particular in the pipeline, but I noticed on your blog that Topps is doing a “Star Wars Galaxy 5” trading card set, so I hope I can work on that one. I already gave them a little poke, to show them I'm still alive and kicking, so my fingers are crossed. Basically, I'll do anything that tickles my fancy, so to speak.

What are you currently working on?
Well, there's my dayjob as a graphic designer... And then there's my two kids... so that leaves about fifteen minutes of spare time each day.

And during those fifteen minutes I'm doing some research and preliminary sketches for a possible comicbook series, written by a local author/illustrator, but it's still very early on... and if it's published, it'll probably be limited to a local (Belgian) release.

I also have a few short comic stories lying about, some written by me, some by others, which I'm constantly playing around with.

Where can people see more of your work?
I post some of my artwork on Scoundrel, and most of it's on my Facebook page.
http://grafunkel.livejournal.com


Thank you, Art!

December Expo addition!

So far, Mark McHaley and Bob Stevlic will be there, along with Ari Lehman - the first Jason of Friday the 13th.
Also due to this being a holiday show, for those who bring in a sealed toy, card set or card box, they will receive free admission to the show that day.
Take care,
Happy Holidays!
Paul
http://www.nonsportcardexpo.com/

Friday, November 13, 2009

Added Chicagoland card show

Hello all,
Great news! To finish this year off with a bang, I decided, with some help and prompting from several customers & dealers alike, to add a holiday show. The date is Sunday, Dec 13th in Ballroom B, at the Holiday Inn 150 S Gary Ave Carol Stream, IL. Just 3 miles west of I-355 expressway.
There will be exhibitors, & artists at this one.
Help spread the word please.
Dealers & Artists, if you are interested, please post here or drop me an email at "cecexpo@gmail.com". Limited space, low admission cost. We will also be offering the special advance admission cost for the 10th Anniversary Expo Sept 9-12, 2010 again just like we did this past Sept.
The website will be updated soon, email now to insure a space at this show.
Thanks and take care!
Paul

http://www.nonsportcardexpo.com/

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
www.randymartinez.net
My Blog:
http://randymartinez.blogspot.com/
My FaceBook:
http://www.new.facebook.com/randymartinez40

Thank you so much for your time, Randy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview with Francis Tsai




How did you get involved in sketch cards?
The new Clone Wars widescreen cards are my first sketch card job.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
It's definitely a bit of a challenge. I tend to pick close-ups and simpler subjects. Makes the work go a little quicker though!

How do you feel about the entire process?
Actually I like that there is little to no art direction (that I know of). The hard part is the volume, coming up with 100 images over the course of a couple of months. I also liked getting back into analog/traditional media - pencils, ink, markers. Been a long time since I did a lot of that.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I feel like they are all more or less the same level of quality, for better or worse. Some are line art only and some are more rendered, but there aren't any that I remember standing head and shoulders over the others.



Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you/will you keep any of the cards returned to you?
Yeah, I did an additional 6 cards that I requested to have sent back to me.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
If I have time and if it's subject matter I can geek out over. Marvel or DC sketch cards would probably be something I'd like to try next.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Yeah - work out your drawing hand! :)



Where can people see more of your work?
Most of my stuff can be seen on my site at teamgt.com, and there are links there to other places online where I have some art uploaded.

Thank you, Francis!