Sunday, April 11, 2010

Interview with Rich Molinelli

How did you get involved in sketch cards/What was your first sketch card job?
I met Cat Staggs on a forum called Digital Webbing. She introduced me to the editor from Topps and here I am. :) My first card job was Lord of the Rings Evolution being a huge Fantasy and Lord of the Rings fan, what better first job to have.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
At first I loved it. I could do smaller detailed work but after some recent jobs where I was allowed to draw much larger I have felt that the smaller surface hinders the vision I have sometimes.

What media do you like to work with for your cards? Is that different than what you normally use to produce artwork?
I LOVE working with my Copic Markers, for almost every set I worked on I use my Prismacolors and my Copics. Normally I use the computer to color all of my work, but I have been using markers on some new pieces.

How do you feel about the entire sketch card process?
Hmmm I think it is a great way for an artist to get his/her feet wet and starting learning about things like composition, what companies want and working within deadlines. I mean nothing is more important to me than the meeting the deadline. I have only missed ONE in my whole career and that was because I was trying to work with a dislocated elbow.

Is there a lot of ‘prep’ time when you begin work on your cards?
Yes. I break down my cards based off time and pay rate. For most sets now I do no more than 100-200 cards. If the set is for 100 cards I take 25-50 of them and do the whole thumbnail, pencils, inks and if time allows color. But as I said it all depends on time allotted to me.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I used too. The hobby market has changed so much from when I started these 4 years ago that I don’t have as much contact as I used. Anyone that goes to Scoundrel Art Community can see from my post count that I used to post quite a bit. I still try once in a while to interact 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?
This is an issue that is never going to make anyone happy, artist or collector. It is very similar to the never-ending battle between He-man and Skeletor. I fall on the side of I feel an artist needs to maximize their time, effort and money. And this answer might not be so popular but it is how I feel. If company X offers me $1.00 per card, then I need to look at it from the business side and decide if I am going to do 6 full color cards a day with planning and all the trimmings and make $6.00 a day for the next 3-4weeks. If I am doing 100 cards that means for one project I make $100 for the month to pay my rent, food, car insurance, art supplies, etc. Now I know some will say that we get Return/AP cards to sell with as we please, but don’t factor in that these return cards can come anywhere from 2-3 months AFTER we complete the work. Usually when a job like this comes up I take on 2-3 more jobs with the hope that they all balance is out. It doesn’t always work like this though, especially when working freelance which is usually feast or famine and I may have 2-3 paying jobs but I need to make sure that each client feels I’m giving them my full attention by meeting said deadlines for them to meet their own deadlines to get product out. Hence why I tend to do repeat inked drawings so that at least the collectors get a drawing I put some time into. My honest answer to some who have questioned the repeats, if you really want a card or drawing from me or any other artist then maybe collecting return cards or private commissions are the way to go.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Up until last year, no. I wouldn’t call them “bad” per say either. Just some rudeness from people, I tend to do some repeats in most sets I work on and I understand that some don’t like this. I hope that by reading my earlier post that maybe I could help you understand where I, as an artist/businessman, may be coming from. Some don’t like the characters I selected for sets either but what can I say I tend to like the more out there characters from X-men, Spider-man and Comic Book based properties.

Bad experiences with companies?
Who hasn’t? It comes with the job. You just hope at the end of the day that fans and fans of the property like what you have done.

Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
Oh yes it has. I learned to work in a deadline and do quality work in said timeframe, learned to make a business model that usually works LOL. Sometimes things get out of whack, but usually it works. I mean how many people I went to school with can say that they have worked with Marvel, DC Comics, Thundercats, Ninja Turtles, CSI, Doctor Who and Star Wars as there job? Not many I know. Unless of coarse they work as an artist ;) most of the work I have gotten is due to my work on these sketch card projects.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
1. Heroes. I never got into the show; I found the characters not fun to work with and dealing with the headache of a short deadline, made the whole job not fun at all.

2. Woman of Marvel – Just a bad time in my life and I was being tested for stomach cancer while drawing the cards in the hospital room and in doctor’ s office. If I could go back and redo that whole set I would.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Didn’t like working on something I had no previous opinions of, nor had I seen anything to make me say "Wow".

You recently did a Star Wars base card, correct? What was that process like for you?
This was awesome! A dream comes true for me. When Topps editor Dave Waldeck came to me and asked for me to create my own vision of something off screen in the Cantina, words couldn’t describe how overjoyed I was. Not only did I get to draw something printed for Star Wars I got to create something of my own. And what did I come up with? Jawa Arm Wrestling with Kabe and Muftak to see who buys the next round of drinks. The process for this was not very different as doing my sketch card work, but here I had to have each step approved along the way up until Inks. So the thumbnails were sent to Dave he looked them over and chose which one he likes, then rough pencils are sent in and phone calls are made to tell me what needs to fixed and what they don’t like. But in the end I have a piece of Artwork that I am very proud of.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
Star Wars Galaxy Series 4, I went in with a different mind set and drew the characters in my own vision. Most fun I had working on a set in a long time. I'm also very proud of the work I did on Legends and Lore.

Some companies provide return cards or Artist Proof cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
I sell almost all of them. Some I have kept for my own collection but over the last few years bills have needed paying I had to let them go. Though with the economy lately I have seen a bit of a down turn in moving the cards as quickly.

Can you talk about your own sketch card set "Childhood Dreamers"?
Sure it is in the planning stages at the moment. I have some great artists attached to this set. Nathan approached me about doing an artwork of “Ram” set but I didn’t think that would fly off the proverbial shelves for, so I pitched an idea where I could get a group of artists to draw about their childhood fantasies. So what this set will have is various childhood fantasies of being an army infantryman, astronauts, Pro-Wrestlers, Mermaids and Big Foot Trackers! I feel that our fans will love to see what we as child’s use to dream about. Some name attached this project are: Jess Hickman, Jeff Chandler, Don Pedicini Jr, Phil Hester, Ray Anthony Height, Nik Neocleous, Khoi Pham and many more. A full artist list will be revealed soon. The set is set to be released in early 2011 and will include sketch cards.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Yes I do, but in a much more diminished capacity.

Any advice for people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave. LOL – stole this line from Stone Cold Steve Austin.
By this I mean come in get some work, get your names known, build a fan base, make some contacts, show you can meet a deadline, do some kick butt work and then realize when it is time to move on and build that portfolio WHILE working on sketch cards. I had a hard time admitting the last part but I am fixing that now. :)

Where can people see more of your work?
My personal website –
Facebook Users can join my fan group –

What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on Star Wars Empires Strikes Back 3D from Topps, Golden Age Comics from Breygent Marketing and Damsels and Dinosaurs from Sadlittles. I’m also working on base cards for Rantz Angel’s and a 2 page Illustration of Thundercats for Cereal Geek Magazine. Also just did a little pitch with Nathan for a sketch card project, this is a top secret project, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.

Thank you for your time, Rich!

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