Sunday, January 31, 2010

Interview with David Rabbitte

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
My first job was working for Topps on Star Wars Heritage in 2004. I was walking around San Diego Comic Con as I did every year showing my portfolio around and went up to the Topps booth where I saw some of the Clone Wars sketch cards were being displayed, so I asked if they had need for artists. I wasn’t really expecting more than ‘well, give me your card and if we have anything we will contact you’. But immediately the editor at the time, Matt Saunders, said yes and had a look at my portfolio. He asked me to give him my contact information and that he will need to get my art approved by Lucasfilm. Even now I was still skeptical if they would get back to me. But a few days after Comic Con I got an email and said they were interested in getting me on the next set. The rest is history!

Do you have an educational background in art?
Yes. Well it actually helped that my mother was an art teacher before she had a family so she was a good critic and encouraged my drawing and painting. But later I went to college, one year in the Regional Technical College in Galway in Ireland doing a foundation course in art, and then later I moved to Dublin where I studied for three years in graphic design, illustration and animation.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
I don’t think it ever bothered me. It’s very good practice as you get a lot of drawings done in a short amount of time. I think it has helped me for when I have done larger art.

How do you feel about the entire process?
Overall the deadlines are pretty fair. It also helps that you get to choose how many cards you feel you can do in the amount of time you are given, so I can’t complain. Generally I stick with the companies I like working with. I will say Topps and Upper Deck in particular have been very good to me.

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
Usually I like to do pencil work for my sketch cards, but I try to add color where I can, depending on how much time I’m given to finish them. It’s really been up to me if I want to add color. Sometimes I will mix it up and ink some cards, also do grayscale art with Prismacolor markers.

Your cards are very painterly. How do you begin work on your sketch cards?
For the painted cards, I start with drawing it out in pencil. I do an overall wash with watercolor as it is easy to establish the colors I want. Then I add gouache and acrylic as those paints are more opaque and the colors are stronger, and they help define the character more. Sometimes I will use some inks for added intensity. I usually then finish off with pencil colors and some airbrush work.

Does each painted card take you very long to complete?
Depends. Pencil cards take me 20 minutes to an hour (if I am putting a lot of detail into it), color can be anywhere from one to three hours.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I get quite a few collectors contacting me about buying return cards. I really appreciate all the people who have bought my work and have continued to support what I do. The majority of collectors I have dealt with have been very professional and very polite. And it’s not just people from the U.S. – I have heard from people in Europe, Australia, I even had a buyer from China.

Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
The one thing I found since I started doing sketch card work is unlike a lot of jobs in the past that offered ‘great exposure’ this work actually does! Once my name was attached to some high profile properties I started getting a consistent flow of emails from collectors to either buy my return cards or commission me to do a personal sketch card or larger art for them. It really has generated a lot of work for me which I am very grateful.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? What made it difficult?
The most difficult set was definitely Aliens vs Predator: Requiem set. Normally I am used to doing 100-200 cards and I am given around 4-6 weeks to complete them. With this set I had to complete 300 cards in three weeks and was told half of them had to be in color! I got it done, but that was a little much for me.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I must say I loved doing the Star Wars Galaxy series 4 set for Topps. It gives you the most freedom to do whatever you want from the Star Wars Universe, with the exception of the Star Wars Holiday Special. (which I think is a shame, I would like to draw the Wookiee family, and the characters from the animated short).

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
Well as mentioned above collectors often email me about buying them. Sometimes I sell them privately; sometimes I put them on Ebay. There are a few that I have decided to keep, simply because I like them.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
For while, yes I would think so. I think I have done somewhere around 15 card sets and I’m still not tired of them. Plus they keep my drawing skills in practice!

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
If you are looking to have an art career I definitely think it’s a good place to start and get your work known. The best place to show your work is by going to conventions – especially places like San Diego Comic Con – and visit the card company booths where editors can see your work. If you get turned away don’t get discouraged. I have shown my portfolio to editors who did not like my work at all only to meet up with someone else who loved what he saw and was interested in offering me work. Try every year, and never give up.
And if you are looking to do sketch cards for a particular set, show samples that illustrate what the editor is looking for. If you are looking to do Marvel cards, show Marvel samples. Lord of the Rings, draw the characters from the movie or books on your own sketch card stock. Don’t just assume they will know you can do it from looking at a drawing of your aunt.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I am currently working on Star Wars Galaxy Series 5 and I’m having a blast! Like Series 4 I have the freedom to draw most characters from the Star Wars universe, whether it is from the movies or the Expanded Universe (comics, novels, etc). Also I am very excited to have a base card included this time around, as it is more difficult to get accepted to do this kind of work. Being a part of the base set means the bar has been raised for me and can’t help but feel both proud and humbled to be among great artists and friends like Russ Walks, Joe Corroney, Randy Martinez, Cat Staggs, and many more which are not mentioned here. Can’t wait for this set to come out!
A small version of my base card may be seen on Topps’ sell sheet which I have posted over on my blog at It is shown in the the top left hand corner of the flyer, the one of the Stormtroopers vs. Boba Fett. I will post a larger version later when I get the ok from Topps.

What are you currently working on?
I have a few projects that have been in the works for a while. One I am very excited about is I have done a painted cover for Boom Studios for their Muppet Peter Pan series, in which Kermit (of course) plays Peter Pan. It was originally meant for an alternate cover for one of the issues, but is now planned to be used as the cover for the hardback collection of the series. A really nice turn of events! I have no word yet when it will be released, though I would think sometime in 2010.
I also have collaborated with an established artist and writer on a comic book mini series, which I am working as a colorist and I am penciling two of the issues. It’s a horror/adventure comic, that’s pretty much all I can say about that for now though. We’ve been working on it for a while, but we have covered a lot of ground. It’s really a great story, and I think readers will dig it.

Where can people see more of your work?
My main site is though I also like to direct people to my more extensive gallery at which is updated more often. Also my blog, which I mentioned before at is where I post news updates.

Thank you so much for your time and input, David!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Interview with collector Meriwyn Travisano

How did you first get into sketch card collecting?
Actually, it began when I discovered Tom Hodges on Before he was a licensed artist, he posted a few of his sketches on the Fan Art gallery and I immediately fell in love with his style. I became a collector of his work and racked up quite a few commissions. As my knowledge of Star Wars art and other artists began to grow, I really came to appreciate all the different styles and interpretations of characters I had grown up with and still love to this day. I wanted to see how each artist would interpret the same character, so I picked my favorite (prequel-era Obi-Wan) and it kind of snowballed from there.

Is there a specific genre/property/character you collect and why?
Star Wars has always been my passion, ever since I was 8 years old. I love lots of different franchises though, such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Firefly, X-Men, etc. but unfortunately money won't allow me to get REALLY into all of them, so I had to pick and choose which I was seriously going to collect. As usual, Star Wars won out. I do have a few sketch cards/pieces of art of a few favorite characters from other areas though.

Do you prefer pencil cards over color (or color over pencil)?
Color all the way.

What do you look for in a card that you want to own?
Uniqueness (is that even a word?). I want sketch cards that are one of a kind, that take my breath away and leave me speechless when I see them for the first time!

If there is a specific artist - or artists - you like to collect and what is it about their cards you prefer?
Artists that I seemed to have gravitated to are:
Jeff Chandler - love love LOVE his style! I know he is no longer in the sketch card business, but I have quite a few pieces he did for me and I love them all. His use of bright color and fun-looking characters really appeals to me.
Mark McHaley - Mark did an Obi-Wan watercolor painting for me that I have to say is the jewel in my collection (no offense to any other artist). This piece absolutely left me speechless when he first showed it to me, and still does to this day. Again, he has a very unique style that really transcends "everyday" stuff.
Jessica Hickman - it's all in the EYES!! If I had to pick one artist who best conveys pure raw EMOTION, it's Jess. The way she draws eyes and expressions are second to none and looking at her art, you really feel yourself connecting with the characters she sketches. Maybe I'm a tad biased because we share the same passion for Disney parks and characters (hehe) but every time she posts new work it just seems to get better and better. And no, I didn't just say all this because you're running the survey haha.
Spencer Brinkerhoff - Again, this guy is pure FUN. Another very unique style, and I like the artists who take that risk and go outside the "norm". Spencer comes up with very creative "shadowbox" scenes which are just plain COOL. He captures moments from right out of the films and puts his own unique twist on them.
Tom Hodges - I guess you could say he's the one who started it all. As I said earlier, Tom is the first artist I started to seriously collect and whereas Jess is the one who conveys emotion, I would have to say Tom is the one who has evolved the most since he first came on the scene. His style was intriguing to me because it was so edgy and different, and I had never really seen it before. He has come away from that original style somewhat, but he has really created his own niche and his style is very distinctive.
Otis Frampton - in addition to being an absolute sweetheart, Otis has an EXTREMELY unique style. One that can't help but catch your eye.
Cat Staggs - hands down, Cat's work is simply beautiful. Her characters and backgrounds are rich in color and depth. No one does superheroes quite like Cat, and it's because of her that I stepped out of the Star Wars realm for a bit and picked up her Batgirl print (one of my favorite superheroes of all time). Her Star Wars "wartime propaganda" pieces (which will hopefully continue) are some of my favorite pieces out there.
Soni Alcorn-Hender - an absolutely lovely person, Soni's works look like gold-leaf pieces of illumination from medieval books. VERY unique, like nothing I've ever seen.

How large would you say your collection is?
Pretty up there haha.

How does your family/friends feel about your collecting?
The ones who "get it" think it's awesome. The ones who still think I'm a geek, just kind of shake their heads and laugh.

Do you ever sell off portions of your collection? If so, why?
No. Once I commission a piece, it's mine.

How do you feel about more sketch card sets coming out on a regular basis?
I'm cool with it, as long as it's not just "sketch cards for the sake of sketch cards" which I feel some of the sets out there are.

Would you say that affects collectibility?
Not really. All sketch cards are basically one of a kind.

How do you feel about come collectors that buy several cases at a time?
Not a huge fan of it, especially if they are simply looking to just turn around and sell them. There are collectors out there who are simply looking for the one or two cards to add to their collection, and the scalpers really ruin the hobby.

Do you take artist popularity into consideration?
No, if I like someone's style, I like their style.

What would you say is your favorite card you own and why?Oh man, my favorite SKETCH CARD? That's a tough one. I guess I would have to say Soni Alcorn-Hender's Obi-Wan that she did for me. My favorite piece of non-sketch card ART is the aforementioned McHaley Obi-Wan.

How do you feel about an artist putting out several cards with the same image on them (profile, half face, a specific item, etc)?
Doesn't matter much. I can imagine doing hundreds of sketch cards can be daunting, and I'm no one to judge what they put out.

What is your opinion on pencil sketches in a card set versus fully colored/painted cards?
Again, I can imagine doing hundreds of cards can make you want to pull your hair out. However with that said, I personally prefer color cards.

On that note, how do you feel about some artists who state that sketch cards are just that, 'sketch' cards? Or that they are not paid enough per card to create many (or any) color cards?
I put these two questions together because they pretty much have the same answer. Egos are the one thing about this hobby that disgusts me. I realize many of the artists make their living this way, and I admire them completely. But when an artist comes out and says "I'm worth way more than that" or "I can't believe my card only went for X amount on ebay...that's insulting!", it really turns me off. If an artist feels they don't make enough money to create something they think is worth more, then they should create what they think is fair and leave it at that, but then don't throw a hissy because someone didn't pay hundreds of dollars for it.

Are there any sketch card sets you would love to see come out that haven't yet?
Not off the top of my head.

Do you contact artists for personal commissions, any return cards they may have, etc?

How do you feel about artists charging more for return cards?
As I said, I realize many artists do this for a living and they have to eat and pay bills, so I have absolutely nothing against an artist charging what they think is fair for their work.

Do you enjoy the other cards, autographs, costume cards, etc., in a set as well as the sketch cards?
In Star Wars yes, especially the Galaxy base cards.

Have you had any bad experiences with sketch card artists?Sadly yes. Both were eventually resolved, but it involved quite a bit of tooth pulling, threatening emails and having to ask for refunds to order to do it.

Is your collection online where people can see it?
Not yet, but I will have it up soon.

Thank you so much for your time, Meriwyn!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Interview with Mark Raats

Do you have an educational background in art?
Yep, after serving two years in the army I went on to qualify as a fine artist. I chose Fine Art because while I was studying I was also working part time at an advertising agency - so I figured that doing a graphic design qualification was a bit stupid since I was already doing the 'real thing'. I really wanted to develop my painterly techniques and I felt that traditional graphic design and illustration was far too limited in its approach to finished art.

I can't say that I enjoyed the fine art environment much because I had no tolerance for the artsy-fartsy bullshit a lot of my fellow students were wrapped up in. That said, in the end I did find and learn from some very serious artists who were dedicated to producing good art and I ignored the others who were all about zen and wiping butt's with fig-leaves.

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
Actually, I resisted getting involved with sketch cards for ages but David Waldeck came to find me at Celebration IV and very kindly invited me to do work for TOPPS. My biggest problem is that I don't have much spare time and making significant time available for a set of cards can be a real challenge. In the end I agreed to work on the Indiana Jones card sets not only because David had been incredibly patient with me but because I really LOVE the Indy franchise!

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
The tiny surface is another reason I resist working on them generally. Since I'm such an old fart my eyes really take strain working so small and generally my technique tends to demand a much bigger surface to run riot over.

How do you feel about the entire process?
Well deadlines are always a problem no matter what discipline you work in. Obviously, it would be really great to have more time to do anything but lets be honest, this is the real world.
In the end I believe its important to ensure that that the work you produce is 'fit-for-purpose' (I'll discuss what I mean a little later on) because, if you are determined to produce the Sistine Chapel ceiling on every card then you are going to be on a hiding to nothing when it comes to meeting your deadline..! The idea is to work SMART not HARD.
As far as the various companies go, I can't speak for all of them because I've only produced work for TOPPS. Although it can on occasions be hard, one must also remember that a man like David Waldeck is answerable to companies like LFL so, when artists don't produce their quota or produce shit work then his job IS sometimes to be hard-nosed and on the odd occasion, inflexible.

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
For the cards I tend to prefer to work with pencil for the general cards and then if there are card returns in the set, I like to do those using Copic markers, pencil and a little paint.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
No, not really.. Its not that I don't want the contact, but my official cards just seem to just vanish into the collector's worlds - which in all honesty is a foreign world for me! As far as unofficial cards go, I do get a lot of requests for cards but unfortunately this is not something I feel comfortable in producing.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
There are two perspectives here - the artists and the collectors. The problem is that the collector has no idea how much an artist is being paid to do the job and generally they think the artist is getting really well paid. Because of this incorrect perception the collector justifiably expects something more than just a scribble. The artist on the other hand knows what he or she is being paid and therefore the responsibility ultimately comes back to the artist to decide how detailed to make each card. This great thing about doing cards is that aside from giving you a licensed artist's title, it also gives you the opportunity to play in some of the worlds coolest yards doing these little masterpieces! Its hard to beat!

Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
I can't say that my career has benefited from the card work and this is probably my own fault.
In my opinion, if you want to be known by the fans and studios, then its wise to do as much work and as many cards as you can! My name is certainly not as well known as: Adam Hughes, Allison Sohn, Cat Stagg's, Grant Gould or even your own - to name but a few - and this is because my work is not nearly as prolific and this impacts on my overall profile as far as fans go.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? What made it difficult?
I can't say any of the cards sets I've worked on have been that hard but this is in reality because I haven't done many sets.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I liked the cards I did for Crystal Skull because the subject matter was brand new. I'm sure like me, nearly every artist feels the same about drawing from the same old reference over and over again! Although I didn't really like CS as a movie, I relished drawing Harrison as Indy again - as well as all of the new characters the movie introduced.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
I never put them up on eBay and this is generally because I'm in absolutely no rush to sell them. The problem I have with places like eBay is that you can get a feeding frenzy over the sheer volume of work posted there and this can often dilute the card's individual value. In the end its often an email out of the blue that sells them and because there's no pressure, I always get a price I'm happy with.

It has been awhile since you've worked on a sketch card you see yourself doing any in the future?
I guess its wise to never say never but at this stage I'm not planning on doing anything soon. As I've mentioned before I generally don't have free time available and so for something to work out I need to have a number of different things all coming together at the same time so that I can get the opportunity to do another set.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
I think the most important information any newbie needs to know was covered by the talented Allison Sohn in her brilliant entry on your blog. In addition to what she said I think new artists also need to realise that they will not be given the same latitude as older artists and that they must be prepared to work their way into the system - through hard work. A few other points I would like to make are as follows:
An artist must respect the collector! Please remember that someone is paying hard earned $$ to afford the card and there is nothing that irritates me more than when a so-called artist produces some shit little scribbles that they then have the audacity to try and pass off as cards. I know that cards generally don't pay well but either refuse the commission or look at them as an official opportunity to promote your work as a licensed artist - and have FUN! If you take on 3000 cards and produce 3000 disgusting results then you don't deserve your place as a licensed artist and you also don't have any respect for a collector who is saddled with a card nobody in their right mind will want to own.
Make the card fit-for-purpose! When taking on a card assignment you must decide before hand what type of work you want to produce. There are some fabulous artists who produce the most astonishing sets of cards but its wise to remember that they do so because they are dedicated to making great art and not necessarily great money. In my case I have taken the term "sketch card" quite literally and this is what I produce. Knowing that the general remuneration (for the set) will be poor, I set a time limit to each of the general cards I produce (about 20 minutes per card). I work in pencil with a little paint and while I'm not always successful, I try to harness my rather exuberant style to suit the tiny format. With the return cards, I know that I will be able to dictate the price of their sale so I try a lot harder to produce something that is more meaningful. In the end I try to produce something that will retain a certain value for the collector - the general card will attract a lower price so they are done fairly simply while the returns are designed to attract a higher price and thus dictate more time spent on their making.
Respect the client, the industry, the franchise and your fellow artists! As Allison pointed out, please remember that if you produce poor cards then the client is put in a tight spot themselves and with the studios. Only take on what you can comfortably produce because if you let the side down, it impacts on every one of us in the pipeline. Another thing to remember is that if you do make the ranks of Sketch Card Artist you join a fairly exclusive band of creative people. There are thousands of keen and willing artists simply clamouring for an opportunity so if you are not prepared to deliver then stand aside and give someone more deserving a place in the group.

What are you currently working on?
I'm busy working on a cover for a Hollywood based publication house.

Where can people see more of your work?
My official site is: I also have a Deviant Art account (which tends to contain more of the working stuff):

Thank you SO much for your time, Mark! I was a real pleasure!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chicagoland Entertainment Collectors Expo

Saturday, March 20th, 2010
Click the link below for more information on the convention!

Baltimore Non Sports Card Convention

March 21, 2010, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Click the link below for more information on the convention.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ad from Previews catalog.

Interview with Matt Busch

Do you have an educational background in art?
Yes. I have my A.A. from Macomb College near Detroit and my B.A. from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. A lot of people don't know this, but I've also taught at several colleges and am currently a professor at Macomb College.

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
The first gig I got was doing sketch cards for WITCHBLADE: MILLENNIUM, through Dynamic Forces. Not sure if that was the first set of trading cards, but it was the first I had ever heard of them. Other artists doing the sketch cards included Jim Lee, Michael Turner, J. Scott Campbell, Jae Lee, and Joe Jusko. It was an honor to be included with them!

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
In short- not a fan. But- I love sketch cards. I love that they are this unique one-of-a-kind collectible. I also like seeing how different artists utilize the space to do something creative and cool with the small surface they have.

How do you feel about the entire process?
It's all fine. It does get tiring cranking out card after card. It's a small amount of money for an extraordinary amount of work, so it has to be a labor of love. I'm sure every artist would say that!

Is there a particular media you like to work with on your cards? If so, why?
I find that I like to change it up quite a bit. I used to do all my sets in pencil- then moved to pen and ink... Some in full color markers, and I've even done a bunch of sets in full color! It takes longer- but I've gotten to the point where if it isn't fun, it's just not worth it.

You have done base cards too, correct? Do you find the process of base cards similar to your illustration work, or different?
Yes- doing base cards is just like any other illustration gig. You have to provide sample sketches of what you want to do. You make changes that need to be approved before doing the final painting- and even then you may have more changes. It's a lot more work than what goes into a single sketch card, but literally pays 500 to 1000 times more.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Not as much as I'd like. I've been on Scoundrel less times than I have fingers. It's hard for me to stay on top of everything I'm juggling. Most of my interaction with collectors is at shows- which is great because I can really get to know them and vice-versa.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
It's a tough scenario, because collectors don't understand how the process works. Artists are paid peanuts to do the cards. We are expected by the licensees to do 30 second sketch cards. Hence the name and the low pay. And way back in the day- that's all quick sketches were. And fans were content with that. Then, when sketch cards became a bigger market, many artists used the opportunity to make the most of the exposure- doing incredible 30 minute pieces on each card. The first I recall doing this was Cat Staggs- every single card was a masterpiece. This was kind of awkward for some artists, as Cat had totally upped the bar for what could be done on a tiny card. Some felt that it's not fair- as some fans compare that to what other quick sketch cards you see. But I think Cat was very smart. She has played her cards very well (no pun intended) and has taken the industry by storm since then. She makes sure that every piece she does is worthy of her signature. And in a round-about way, I have Cat to thank for doing that. I used to do an upwards of 2000 sketch cards per set. Mind you- these were 30 second sketches. The quality was okay, but I got burned out doing so many. Now I usually do 100 or less- but I usually go the extra mile to make each card a killer piece of original art. And I have more fun doing it.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Never. Everyone has been really supportive. I feel blessed.

Bad experiences with companies?
Nope. Not yet. I guess the pay could be improved for artists- when you consider the amount of work we do versus how much they improve the sales of the trading card sets. Many collectors buy up boxes just for the incentive sketch cards and signatures. But- that's the business. For each artist, they have to gauge which jobs are worth it and which aren't. Some might not be worth the pay, but are worth the exposure, etc. My take is, the fact that I get to do what I love and get paid at all is a dream come true. I'm having way to much fun with this, and the day I don't is the day I hang up the hat.

Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
No. But I was already a full time professional illustrator before the sketch card arena came around. Sketch cards have certainly helped a lot of other artitsts, though. I think it's a great way to break in- not only cutting your sketch chops, but to get experience working with licensees, deadlines, etc...

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
There was a Classic Sci-Fi and Horror set I did a few years back for Breygent. Those were difficult because they were full color painting on each card, and you had to duplicate an existing poster. Any design you submitted had to be approved first. The work itself wasn't hard- it just took all the fun out of having the creative freedoms you normally have on sketch cards.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
My favorite set was the STAR WARS 30th Anniversary set. I only did 106 cards, but I hand painted each and every one. I put a lot of time into it, but felt I really wanted to give back to the fans who have been so great. I had a blast doing that.

With all of the work you've done on sketch card sets, do you find that you have your choice of companies you want to work with (Rittenhouse, Upper Deck, Topps, etc)?
Nah. I like working with everyone. To me, it's more about the content. If it's a property that I'd like to work on, I'm in. If it's something I'm not as much a fan of, I pass.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you?
I should be selling them on Ebay or Scoundrel, but I just don't have the time to set it all up. I usually keep them in a binder to sell to fans in person at shows.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Sadly, I've scaled back the number of sketch card sets in the past few years. But from time to time I jump on a set. I find that if I take breaks, I enjoy them much more when I do a new set.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Yeah- for many artists breaking in- this is your first shot where people around the world will be exposed to your work. When doing your first set- you will be drained. It's like nothing you've done before. You may even hate it! But- do the best job you can. Make every card a mini masterpiece. These cards all have your name on them and you never know who is going to see the work or own the card. Make each card worthy of your signature.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I'm currently doing some for STAR WARS GALAXY 5. Not sure what's in the pipeline after that.

What are you currently working on?
I'm wrapping up the final season of the How To Draw STAR WARS videos. I've had a blast with these. When complete, there will be 21 episodes in all. I've got a huge over-sized sketchbook in the works. I'm also wrapping up a ton of pieces for a new Planet of the Apes book.

Where can people see more of your work?
First and foremost, the official site is I'm also on Facebook: and Myspace:

Thank you so much for your time and insight, Matt!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sketch Card Tips from Jessica Hickman

I wasn't planning on putting much, if anything, about me in this blog, but I do get a few emails here and there asking sketch card related questions, so I thought I would make a small post about it.

Don't ask current sketch card artists for the email address of specific card company editors. That's like someone asking you for your boss's private info so they can contact them out of the blue and ask for a job. Bad etiquette.

Don't copy other artists on your cards. The sketch card and comic community is very small. People can spot a swipe a mile away, no matter how obscure you think your reference image is. Some companies, however, do allow you to "copy" a previously published image if you write 'After So and So' at the bottom of the card. Just make sure it's okay with your editor first.

Don't erase then draw over another artist's sketch card. Odd, isn't it? But it does happen! Even if you don't like the artwork, that is an approved artist's work. Erasing it, drawing over it, then trying to pass it off as your own work or sell it is a HUGE 'no no'. Again, small community. It's the fastest way to become persona non grata on various sketch card sites as well as with card companies.

Do leave your information with editors at conventions. They can look at a LOT of work over the course of the day. Giving them a business card with your information and maybe your artwork printed on the card is a good way for them to remember you. Also providing them with a postcard/pamphlet with your contact info and artwork on it is good as well.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're unsure about something regarding the set you're working on, email or call the editor. If you'd like to be considered for any of the larger incentive cards or base cards, contact your editor. Never hurts to ask.

Do submit your portfolio via snail mail. If you sent in samples electronically and haven't heard from the company you REALLY want to work for, sending in a small portfolio addressed to the "Art Director" is a great way to have your artwork in hand at a company.

Do read contracts carefully! Some companies require a certain amount of color cards. Or a certain amount of full body cards. While other companies don't care. Companies pay differently too, including when you - the artist - will receive your pay.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Marvel's 70th

Thank you for the scan, Sonia L!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Interview with Andy Price

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
You know, I barely realized that Sketch cards existed before my first job, which was DC LEGACY, for Rittenhouse Archives/DC Comics. One afternoon I checked my email, and found contact from an old pal, Mark Spears... he said he was doing a job for DC and they were in need of more artists, but in a dire hurry... but Mark wasn't replying to my emails, and I had no number for him, and no way to find him! I was calling every Spears in the phone book! Through a grand scramble, I got in under the wire and it started a great continuing relationship with this hobby.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
Well, I don't mind the small surface too terribly... when working on comics, we have no choice but to learn to draw small. I prefer the uncut cards as opposed to pre-cut, as it's a bit more space to loosen up with, and I can bleed colors and such without worrying about picking up the edge of the card. The surface itself I'm so-so about... it doesn't take wet media very well, and wants to work against you.
I generally approach most of the card jobs in an assembly line fashion... I'll do somewhat-finished pencils on a number of cards, then go back with inks, and then go with colors. I tend to work like this for batches of 10 or so... scattered around my desk will be stacks of cards in various stages, so I can pick up where I feel like picking up.

How do you feel about the entire process?
There's so much to say here... it's enlightening, maddening, invigorating, educational, frustrating, time-consuming, life-demanding.... overall, I do enjoy it greatly. It's given me a chance to work with mediums I haven't touched in a while, and it keeps my creativity moving forward. It does demand a LOT of time however, and pushes so many other things out of its path that have to fall by the wayside. It can make it so difficult to complete other projects, or even to simply have personal time. Particularly for me, as I also have a day job, so all freelance and commissions work has to come during nights and weekends.

Have you done any of the larger incentive cards?
I've done incentives, but for both sets that I did incentive work they were all normal sized cards. I wouldn't mind at all being able to play on a bigger surface...likely a lot easier on the eyes!

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Not on an individual basis, but I do see some at shows and conventions, particularly dealers that are into the hobby. It can be very humbling to see the price tags attached to cards you have done, or to see people with your works in a binder... I've had a number of people come up to me to show me the cards they have acquired, which is a wonderful feeling, if not a bit surreal.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
It's difficult to answer, really... companies continue to demand more/better work at the same pay rates, as do collectors, and if things aren't careful, it's going to push some of the artists straight out of the business. Most artists work with where they are comfortable and have found their niche, but I have seen artists that I cannot understand, A) how they got the job and B) why they are continuing to get work. An artist has to be fair to themselves and realize when they have gone so far beyond what is needed that they are now undercutting themselves, as well as setting a bar they will have to continue to meet.
When collectors balk at the prices an artist asks for their work, they need to stop and ask themselves what THEY would hope to be paid for hours of work... we put more than crayons into these things, we put a great deal of time and our lives into them. It's our job, we'd like to get paid for it. We get little else, and frankly, most of the artists I know are undercharging.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Luckily, not really. I have had people trying to get PSCs or Proofs from me at a discounted rate, only to find that the intention is to resell or use them for barter. It's up to a buyer as to what they do with a card, but this personally really irks me.

Bad experiences with companies?
Thankfully no! I've worked primarily with DC and Rittenhouse Archives, and they have been outstanding to deal with.

Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do?
I've discovered I have a few followers that want my cards regardless of the set, but I think overall the set as a whole is the first thing to attract the collectors, and then they dig to see who's going to turn up the volume of the desirable cards. I'm astounded at the prices my cards go for, and very very flattered.

Do you feel sketch cards are increasingly collectible as a whole?
Well, I think so... at least for now, I don't really see an end to them. So many collectors out there are really only interested in resale value though, and I'm not sure what lasting power that will have in the hobby.

Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
So far, yes... my work on DC LEGACY and BATMAN ARCHIVES has led to different work for DC, and I have more recognition and desire for my work at shows. On a personal level, making myself do so many different individual pieces has only improved my skills and speed and ideas with mediums, so I feel I have benefited as an artist as well. It's now also lead to doing base card art as well.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
No question, THE FANTASTIC FOUR ARCHIVES. I hated almost every moment of that set, and my wife can attest to that... I was quite vocal about it. I've never liked (or known much about) the main characters, and had never even heard of most of the supporting cast of characters. I felt most of my work was sub-par as a result, but that was just me. Looking back on them now, I do see where I still continued to find new ideas and even made a few cards I was quite pleased with, so it was beneficial... but damn, who really wants a card of an old man in a parka suit???

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
Oh yes. I think every artist has their babies. I am still most proud overall on my work on BATMAN ARCHIVES, as it was a true labor of love... Batman and his cast will always be my favorites and what carried me into the genre. I've become known most of all for my humor in my work, and that is something I'm proud of as well... when I first did it, I wasn't sure how it would be taken, but I get bored following a standard format. When I got a call from DC telling me that I was REALLY pushing the envelope, I got nervous... but they also said they loved it. So I still try to go to the edge.. it results in getting a fair amount of re-dos or rejects, but it keeps me on my toes. Most of those stand out to me.
Almost every Scarecrow card I've ever done, I've wanted to keep... I managed to work in a one-shot character from the 60's called Mogo the Bat-Ape, and I had to buy back the card, it tickled me so much. I've done a few collaborations with Katie Cook on sets, and her work is so damned adorable, I want to keep the cards... hell, I want to hug them!
I've also fallen in love with a few cards simply because they worked... thanks to the multi-medium incentives I have done for X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN, I've gotten to play with everything from painting with wood stains to using vinyl, glitter, and even coloring with food (!)... when it works, I love it!

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with the cards returned to you?
I've never gotten to work with a company/set that does the return card method... Many of the sets I have done have Artist Proof cards instead. These I try to sell as private commissions.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
I hope to... certain projects and life in general may demand a break, but I have taken on new projects for now!

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Do original work, don't “lift” model shots. Keep your work clean and clear. If your work is rejected by a company/editor, ask for what they want to see you improve, and do it again! They are always looking for new work, so no reason to give up!

Where can people see more of your work?
My website is and work can also be seen on my Facebook fans page!

Thank you so much for your time, Andy!

Galaxy 5 sell sheet 2

Click image to enlarge.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grant Gould's Sketch card Step by Step

Valkyrie Card in 3 Steps
Originally posted on on December 16, 2008

I thought it might be fun to scan this one in as I went and show you each step. The drawing surface is about 2x3 inches (playing card size). The guy who commissioned it wanted it to be a 2 of spades card with Marvel's Valkyrie character. I start with light blue pencils. I pretty much only use blue pencil now, because if I have to scan something into Photoshop, I can easily erase the blue lines so that I see only ink lines -- but for the purposes of sketch cards, there's no good reason to use blue -- it's just habit.

The card stock on these things is often slightly glossy, which means it's not a great surface for my Prismacolor markers.. So to avoid smudging and splotches, I lay down all my light colors first. I put down some flesh tones, then light grays, eye color, some shading, blonde hair, whatever else. I let these marker colors dry completely before I add any inks.. I used to ink and then add colors, but I've found it's much safer to go this route.. It's a little trickier and takes more practice, but ultimately it saves me a lot of headaches, especially on these slightly glossy cards. (If you're looking to get some blank card stock for artists to draw on, I highly recommend going for matte surfaces and NOT glossy.) This Valkyrie one wasn't too bad.. Like I said, it was only slightly glossy, so I didn't have any huge problems.

After those markers dry, I grab a Faber-Castell Pitt brush pen and do my inks. I'll add some darker marker colors in, too.. maybe do a little blending (ie. grab a gray or a goldenrod type color and add some extra shading) - whatever makes it look okay. And then for this one, after my inks dried, I grabbed a Bic Wite-Out pen and put some random "snowflakes" on there.. Those Wite-Out pens can be handy.. I screwed up her left eye a bit while inking and ended up using the Wite-Out to cover my mistake, then go over it again with pen.. And you can't even tell now. :)

And of course, you always gotta be sure the card is dry before you (a) scan it in, and (b) put it in a plastic sleeve to mail it off to its new home.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sketch Card Tips from Allison Sohn

Do have a selection of samples ready in differing styles. For example, cards done in pencil, pen, and paint, or line art, gray-scale and full color.

Do show your work in a style that you feel you can maintain for 100+ cards. Its no good to spend 2 hours on a sample that will get you the job, and then not be able to complete the job to that standard. When I was trying out for sets, I would do sample cards that took me no more than the amount of time I knew I wanted to spend on the actual cards themselves, usually about 20 or 30 minutes.

Do limit your portfolio to your top 3-5 pieces of artwork. An editor will know in that amount of time if they want to hire you or not, and the extra 10 or 20 pieces you put in are not going to change their minds. It's just going to waste time and possibly (probably) annoy them.

Don't forget that everyone reads message boards: artists, collectors and yes, even editors. Ultimately, if you want to be a professional, act like one; even online.

Don't lie about your abilities. If a set requires an artist that can do 250 cards, and you can only do 100 in that time frame, then that set is not for you. It doesn't matter that its your favorite character, or a licensed property that would be great to be involved in. You only end up hurting your own reputation, and disappointing collectors when you commit to something you cannot actually accomplish. Again; if you want to be professional, act like one.

Don't break the rules. If your contract says "don't draw this certain thing" then don't draw it. If it says "don't do after-market cards" then don't do them. When artists feel that the rules they agree to don't apply to them, it makes things worse for the entire community. Too many times we've seen un-necessarily strict rules written into contracts because on a prior set someone wasn't able to use good judgment. Don't be the artist that makes it harder on everyone else later in the game.

Marvel's 70th by Rittenhouse

Monday, January 4, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

Interview with collector Chris Inoue

How did you first get into sketch card collecting?
I had been a sportscard collector for a long time, and I dabbled in non-sport cards here and there. I was interested in the early sketch card products like Star Wars Heritage and Lord of the Rings Evolution, because I felt that the sketches were a fresh new type of insert.

Is there a specific genre/property/character you collect and why?
I'm a huge Star Wars fan, so Star Wars products are my favorites by far.

Do you prefer pencil cards over color (or color over pencil)?
I don't prefer one over the other; attractive art is what I like the best. Some artists work well with color, others can do amazing things with pencil.

What do you look for in a card that you want to own?
I would say a combination of the artwork, the artist, the medium, and the subject. It's hard to describe it exactly, but I know if I like a card or not when I see it.

Is there is a specific artist - or artists - you like to collect and what is it about their cards you prefer?
There are so many artists I admire, that I hope no one is offended if I accidentally leave them out. But my list includes (in no particular order): Katie Cook, Sean Pence, Otis Frampton, Randy Martinez, Denise Vasquez, Jeff Chandler, Renae De Liz, Amy Pronovost, Grant Gould, Cat Staggs, Kate “Red” Bradley, Tony & Elaine Perna, and Jessica Hickman. I have a tendency to follow artists who not only are great talents, but also who are great people and friends.

Which is why two artists whom I really collect are Leah Mangue and Jamie Snell. Leah's fine art background allows her to create work which is not only detailed, but also beautiful to look at. One of my favorite cards of hers is a still life of Indy's stuff from the Crystal Skull set. And Jamie is my favorite Star Wars artist. In my opinion, he draws the best clone troopers (and I love the Clone Wars era). But most of all, I have become very close friends with both Leah and Jamie, and that makes me want to collect their work even more.

How large would you say your collection is?
I haven't taken count lately, but I would estimate 150-200 cards.

How do your family/friends feel about your collecting?
My friends joke about how much of an obsession it's become for me. But overall, they are supportive.

Do you ever sell off portions of your collection? If so, why?
I have sold cards to help finance the purchase of unopened boxes or other sketch cards.

How do you feel about more sketch card sets coming out on a regular basis?
I think that once sketch cards became the “hot” insert, card companies flooded the market with sketch-based products, because they found that they could sell a large number of boxes with a small cost to them. I think that it has hurt the sketch card market, in that there are too many cards, and not enough buyers.

Would you say that affects collectability?
It doesn't much affect collectability, because collectors can afford to buy more cards for less money. What it does affect is the resale market, because people who open boxes/cases to resell the sketches are finding that they are not able to get the same prices as three or four years ago.

Do you purchase several boxes or cases of cards at a time?
I have cut way back on the purchase of unopened boxes in general, but for Star Wars products, I will buy several boxes, up to a case.

How do you feel about some collectors that buy several cases at a time?
I have no problem with it, as they are the major source of cards on markets like eBay. If they didn't break open so much product, there wouldn't be nearly as good a selection of singles. However, I also feel that these people should understand that they are taking a chance when opening such a large amount of product, and are not any more “entitled” to a high-dollar sketch card than a collector who buys only a single box.

Do you take artist popularity into consideration?
While it is definitely nice to pull a card from a popular artist, I am more excited to pull a card from an artist whom I collect.

What would you say is your favorite card you own and why?
I don't have a single favorite card, but I love my collection of Lion Jedi personal sketch cards (PSCs). I wanted to create a Star Wars collection that I could call my own, and I love what different artists have done with my theme.

How do you feel about an artist putting out several cards with the same image on them?
I understand that sometimes it is necessary, with large numbers of cards and fast-approaching deadlines. Plus, because they are all hand-drawn, there are slight differences which make them one of a kind. And some artists, like Randy Martinez and Grant Gould, will change up the cards a bit, like with different colors or slight variations, to make each card more individual.

What is your opinion on pencil sketches in a card set versus fully colored/painted cards?
I have no problem with them, as long as the artist is showing sincere effort.

On that note, how do you feel about some artists who state that sketch cards are just that, 'sketch' cards?
Personally, I have no problem with it. I understand that for many artists, it is a business decision, and I respect that. However, I think that it is dangerous for artists new to the business to go that route. The general opinion in favor of full color cards is skewed so much now that a new artist who does “only” pencil sketches may have a hard time getting commission work. I think that it is grossly unfair, but that's the way the market is right now.
Also, in art, sketching is part of the process from idea to finished piece. I find it very interesting to view an artist's sketches and to see part of his or her thought process and technique.

Or that they are not paid enough per card to create many (or any) color cards?
Compared to what the card companies pay for autographs and memorabilia from athletes, the artists are severely underpaid, even when return cards are taken into consideration.

Are there any sketch card sets you would love to see come out that haven't yet?
Definitely “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Do you contact artists for personal commissions, any return cards they may have, etc?
I am a big fan of commissions, because the most important thing to me is the artwork. I don't much care if the art is on “official” Topps, etc. card stock, or on an artist's personal cards. Plus, by commissioning artists, I know that the money is going directly to them.

How do you feel about artists charging more for return cards?
I support it, and I think that artists should get as much as they can for their return cards. They are part of their compensation package.

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?
While I love the additional space that these cards give the artist, they are more difficult to display and store, so I don't put as much money or effort toward collecting them.

Do you enjoy the other cards, autographs, costume cards, etc., in a set as well as the sketch cards?
Yes, especially for the Star Wars sets. I'm excited that they included autographs from the voice talent for the Clone Wars Widevision set.

Have you had any bad experiences with sketch card artists?
Yes, I have had a couple of cases where I paid artists up front for commissions, and it took a lot of effort to get them to finish and ship the final work. I have no problem with waiting months for a commission, but only if the artist states the wait time up front and/or provides status updates in case of delays.

Thank you so much for your time, Chris!!