Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Interview with Paul Allan Ballard
How did you get involved in sketch cards/What was your first sketch card job?
I had been doing freelance for a little while on the side not really getting anywhere with it and trying to break into the world of sketch cards. With some great and much appreciated help and advice from Cat Staggs and Grant Gould, I ended up working on the first season of NBC Heroes cards.
How do you feel about working on such a small surface/how do you approach it?
At first the small surface was very daunting, but scarier was the fact that there was a limited amount of cards, leading to not being able to make any mistakes. When I'm working on something there's always a huge pile of wadded up paper next to me of all these various sketches trying to get the drawing right. With sketch cards I do the same thing, working out the problems before I even approach the card. When it's time to make the actual marks on the card, I have it already plotted out and understand how the markers are going to blend. That said I still make mistakes and it's a battle with myself to make the cards still dynamic after all the prep work.
How do you feel about the entire process?
I love the idea of working in all these various sandboxes. What other job would you get the chance to draw everything from giant robots to elves, to spaceships, to evil nazis? When I'm doing my cards, I try to think about the person on the other end opening the package for the first time. I remember how excited I was opening packs as a kid; a sketch card would have blown me away. It's that kid I do the cards for.
Have you done any of the larger incentive cards? Would you like to?No I haven't, sounds interesting though.
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Yeah lots of contact with collectors and that's really what makes the all nighters all worth it.
How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
Well I'll admit this is a battle for me. I put way more into the cards than what I feel I should be getting paid. But I've been using these cards as promotion of showing what I do. So I see these more as calling cards of my abilities. Hopefully it gets me more work in the long run. It's one reason I created the sketchier vehicle style (heavily influenced by Joe Johnston and Doug Chiang),because I could do those much faster.
Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
The collectors have been awesome. Lots of them have been very patient with me and that rocks. It's been crazy juggling work with commissions and I really feel like I'm just learning how to make this all work.
Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do?
It's very interesting, sets vary all the time. But that said, I'm glad to do something like Voltron and bring in different people to my cards.
Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
I would say definitely yes. I had been plugging away at various projects and my name was slowly getting out there, but when I started doing LOTR cards and Star Wars, people started recognizing what I do. I'm very grateful for this opportunity.
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
The Clone Wars widevision set was very challenging. As with other animated projects I wanted to approach it with my style. It was a lot of fun translating the characters, but lots of hours involved.
Also I had become very interested in the history of Topps, particularly a 1950's card set about the Korean War called "Freedom's War". I had a goal to invoke similar colour palettes and compositions with the Clone Wars. So there was lots of practice getting the feel just right. Hopefully when you look at those cards you'll get this retro feel of a war from the past.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
Those CW Widevisions hold a place in my heart, but my favorite cards to do were the Flying Wing from Raiders, soaring above the pyramids and the skyhoppers in Beggar's canyon, something we never got to see in in the movies. Plus I really enjoyed doing the treasures of Indiana Jones. I did just one of each, one ark, one staff of Ra, etc... Then I used real gold leaf to add to the card. I saw them as little treasures to be unearthed.... or unwrapped in this case.
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you?
Nope, I wish I could sometimes.
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
I have a set coming up, but I think I'm going to start cutting back on sketch cards. I love them and will probably always do them to some extent, but it takes a lot out of me and I'm anxious to getting the chance to work on my own projects. Maybe someday there will be a sketchcard set for my characters.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Draw every day and bring something new to the card business. There are a lot artists doing hyper realistic images, but the key is to be unique and have your own voice. I'm always struggling to add the touch of uniqueness to the card, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Where can people see more of your work?
You can check out http://www.nekokaiju.com/ and click on my journal to see what I'm doing currently. I have some big projects coming up later in the year including some personal projects that I'm very excited about.
Thank you so much for your time, Paul!!