Monday, October 22, 2012

Rusty Gilligan

In this installment of Sketch Card Fanatics Talk features artist and writer Rusty Gilligan.  



 1. Please give a brief description about what you do and how long you've been in the art field. 
  •  Ok - well, let me introduce myself, my name is Rusty Gilligan and I've been an artist and writer in comics since 1978.
2. Did you have any formal art training?
  •   No, I wish that I had. In truth, I'm so slow that I basically hold a pencil and the Earth's rotation slowly moves the paper underneath it lol

3. You have a very interesting history with sketch cards. Can you briefly tell us about it? Anyone who wants to read the full story can follow the links:   
Original story from adult trading card site
 Copy of original text (non adult)
  • Well, the link is more of the 'comedy' version of what happened... but back in the end of 1992/beginning of 1993 I was employed by a mature trading card publisher named "Clubhouse Diamonds" to design and cultivate their line of 'sexy cards. During that time, I had created what has become 'sketch cards' in the industry. At the time, we had many blank cardstocks that were sent to us as 'seperators' (mostly overprints and run-offs) from the printers, and I had started to doodle on them... basic designs, model poses (because we had also photographed our own models), etc.
  • This one particular meeting in Las Vegas, I had proposed that we feature original art on these 'insert cards' (they were 1:100 packs at the time plus a case topper) and the idea was embraced by the publisher.
  • After I had done a few, I had asked comic book art legend Rich Buckler to do some as well as some local tattoo artists. They were basically blank on both sides with a basic white sticker stating the set, date, and number on the back.

4. What sets have you worked on that involved sketch cards?
  • Too many to list here, unless you want to hear readers yawn LOL. I started with the original sketch cards for "Clubhouse Diamonds series 2" back in 1992/93 - went on to work for such top producers as Upper Deck, Cryptozoic, Breygent Marketing, 5Finity, Unstoppable Cards, Cult Stuf, to name a few. I am also proud to say that I have contributed to sets from newer producers in the market such as Boo and Marty, Viceroy Cards, Frank Eachus and charity sets/projects such as "Island Dreams", the "501st Legion Star Wars" set, and cards benefiting the March of Dimes and animal charities, among others. Currently I am working with 2 new producers to bring even more sketch card opportunities to the market.
5. What would you suggest for anyone looking to get into sketch cards?
  • To the collector... this is a fantastic way to collect original licensed art. I am still surprised to see single sketch cards going for more than whole comic art pages, but this does show a major interest in the market for such a vehicle. These pieces are for 'your viewing' and not something that has been reproduced many times over in print, so you truly will have a personal masterpiece in your hands.

  • To the artist... this is an exciting variation on the 'comic art' theme. The publishers are shrewd, but they do appreciate consistency. Make your style known - send samples on a regular basis - ask questions, join groups, hob-knob, and get involved. I get a lot of flack for saying this, but not every job has to entail payment... work on charity sets, trade work when you can, and work on smaller friends' sets... this kind of networking is invaluable as an artist looking to market themselves in an additional avenue for their talents.


6. For someone who has been around sketch cards since the very beginning. How has artists and collectors have changed from its early days? Do you think sketch cards is still an appropriate name for them? 
  •  It's hard to answer the first part, because the original sketch cards were a 'newness' on the market, and a new outlet for an artist to get involved, make additional money, etc. Sketch cards were 'accidentally' the marriage of comic books and trading cards for the genre.
  • Today, the artist on a sketch card has a 'following', a fan base - it's amazing where the medium has taken the artist, and I'm glad to see the popularity on all sides of the fence.
  • As for the second part, I find that the term 'sketch card' is antiquated and out-dated now. Just after Clubhouse Diamonds released our cards, a few others tail-tagged behind us - "Simpsons" etc. We went on the road and signed at conventions and did basic 'sketches' on cardstock, pencil/ink... these were convention style sketches, nothing more. I remember doing a sexy girl with a 'Superman' "S" on her chest, no one asked for color - we did it for free to get some pr - nothing big. People appreciated it due to the newness of it.
  • Today, the artist seems to be making their cards more 'elaborate'. At first, I would imagine that they were going in the direction of impressing an art director to obtain new work, but then this slowly altered the medium. In doing so, did they 'mutate' the medium ? Do the producers have higher expectations now ? And, due to this, there are a lot of artists who are 'primadonnas' and hot shots in the industry. Lately, a few elitist attitudes are surfacing and there's no need for that sort of ego play. I have some opinions there that I will keep to myself.
  • Now color is in high demand, and gone are the 'sketches' to be replaced by 'pinups'. To me, some cards are so overdone they seem to outweigh the medium.
  • They're no longer sketches, I would call them 'artist cards' really.

7. With so many sketch card sets being produced by so many sketch card companies. What do you think of the current state of the hobby?
  • From a collector's standpoint, this is a good time to start or continue collecting. The art is amazing, and the availability of the works are at an all-time high. I may not always agree with the prices being offered, but collectors have to weigh the costs vs their needs. From an artists' standpoint, there's a lot of work out being offered out there in a varied amount of styles. There's work for everyone if they take the time to market themselves correctly. This is a wonderful time to be a part of things.
  • The hobby is in a current state of flux really. I hear artists all the time complaining about low payments and higher demands placed on them by the publishers. If these cards are truly inserts meant to entice a buyer, the pay should be more along professional lines. I hear about favoritism a lot. Disgruntled artists stating that 'he is getting paid more per card than I am' "I can't make the minimum amount of cards that they are offering' 'the art director is rude and hard to work with' and countless grumblings over late payments, rejections, etc. Personally, I feel that the medium is a bit out of control in these areas and the demands and treatment may not be worth the payment for some. But, this is a business after all. It's not for everyone and not every situation is perfect. In the end, and overhaul may be needed.
8. In order to keep consumer interest, companies are creating different type of sketch cards: hinge, fold out, relics, etc. This reminds me of gimmicks of comics in the early 90s. What do you think about all this? 
  •  Gimmicks are gimmicks, we've all seen the tricks that publishers have done for years. I remember Upper Deck's baseball team holographics, Donruss' puzzle cards, stickers, etc I remember designing an insert set for Hot Shots years ago where the cards were made of clear plastic and had a models' image 'trapped' in the center much like a slide, it went over big, then a few others re-did it... then outdid it... etc. These newer ideas for sketch cards are most welcome, anything to keep interest and sales up helps the entire hobby.

9. You created a Mac & Trouble comic book series and also produced a sketch card charity set based on them.  Can you tell us a little bout that?
  • I wanted to revisit a 'behind the scenes' position in cards (I worked with a lot of card companies years ago in design and publicity) so I designed a promotional set of cards for my new comic book series "The Adventures of Mac and Trouble" and offered friends and other artists in sketch cards and comics a chance to do something for various animal charities. Through my publisher WTF Comics, I designed a 3-card promotional set and a separate sketch card for original art. I gave each artist the opportunity to be 'free' with their own personal unique styles, and draw the main characters in a variety of situations. Well, the set worked out well... every set came with 1 sketch card, some with 2 as well as other bonus cards. A large portion of the profits is still being donated to local animal shelters and charities, the art cards were amazing (especially without boundaries). A bit of trivia here, not 1 sketch card was rejected and only 1 artist did not fulfil their obligation. So to me, this is as close to a 100% turn around as you can get. I was very impressed.
  • Going along with what I said earlier about professionalism and the demands of certain producers in the industry, I did something different with this set. I established a stronger rapport with the artists. I created a web page with all of the rules and licensing regulations of the set and updated it constantly... I collected all of the staff/artist/printer emails and sent a newsletter and announcements with information and deadlines, all written in a personal tone... I publicized individual cards with links to the artists in a few different forums and blogs... we created functionable flyers and sent files to all who requested them...  artists were offered more Artist Proofs for their work... and went on to request further work from artists on the set in both the sketch card and comic book markets.

10. Where can people learn more about Mac & Trouble?
  •  Currently, "Mac and Trouble" #0, the promo convention book, is out - #1 debuts this November with a special variant cover for the "Toys on the Hudson" collector show in NJ - and additional projects are in the works such as a cook book, joke books, etc. You can see more at www.macandtrouble.com as well as they have their own Facebook and Twitter.

11. Do you have a website people can visit if they want to commission you or to check out your work?
  • I've never really had the time to build up a website of samples and set commission prices, I've always wanted to. I never charge much, I always feel bad asking for too much from a fan.
  • People can contact me on Facebook under my name or use any of the information that's there (gallery links, public albums, emails, phone number). I love to chat, so I welcome the contact :)

  • I wish everyone... collectors, artists, and publishers alike... much success and happiness in this wonderful industry that has treated me well for so many years.
  • I'm an entertainer, and working along side of today's best and brightest is a supreme honor for me. I value every friendship and working relationship, and consider myself lucky that I still have a place here.
Thank you for your time
 
  • Thank you.

You can find Rusty Gillian on Facebook at:
 Rusty Gillian on Facebook
Mac and Trouble on Facebook
Mac and Trouble site

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sketch Card Collector : Annie Williams


 Annie Williams is an established collector in the sketch card community. She has been collecting sketch cards since 2008. Collectors are essential for funding the industry. Without people like Annie, there would be no interest for companies to produce sketch card sets. 


1- How did you get into collecting sketch cards? And how long have you been a sketch card collector? Why sketch cards, what is it about them that you enjoy so much?
  •      I got into collecting sketch cards with the release of Rittenhouse's Women of Marvel set.  I saw a Storm sketch card by Joe Rubenstein, and I remember thinking that $30 was an awful lot to pay for one card.  However, it stayed with me, and I finally had to break down and buy it.  I've been hooked on sketch cards every since.  I think what I love most about sketch cards is the fact that they're miniature pieces of artwork - the only sort of original art I am able to afford, and easy to display.  For me, there is no rush quite as incredible as ripping open a package to reveal the sketch card within. 
2 - How big is your sketch card collection. Do you display your collection or are they kept in a folder. And if you were to choose one card as your absolute favorite...which one and why?

  •      My sketch card collection probably numbers around 600 or so.  I display my cards in different ways - the majority I keep in binders (which I flip through pretty much nightly) but some I keep in displays that hang on the wall.  I store my oversized artist proof cards in 4x6" photo albums, but I hope to get some of them framed someday.  If I had to pick just one card as my favorite (eek!), I think I'd have to say it's a Psylocke PSC from Renae de Liz, one of the first artists I ever commissioned.  The card is absolutely stunning, and I get goosebumps every time I look at it

3- Do you collect anything else? If so, what?
  •      I do indeed collect many other things.  In addition to sketch cards, I've become hooked on collecting larger pieces of original art (the core characters I collect are Rogue/Gambit, but I also like Storm, Psylocke, Phoenix, and Arwen/Aragorn from LOTR).  I also enjoy collecting press kits (both digital and older kits with slides and photos) from movies/TV shows.  I'm a voracious reader, and I love nothing more than picking up a special copy of a great book (Easton Press is one of the best) or an ARC (advanced reader copy).  I think that's about it!
4 - Do you follow certain artists or characters when you collect?....What is it about Rogue/Gambit that you like? =D
  •     In terms of collecting "official" sketch cards, my number one must-have is Andre Toma female sketches (I have over 60 total) and Rogue/Gambit cards.  As far as commissions go, Meghan Hetrick is my go-to must-have artist...I own over 15 pieces by her, and I intend for my collection to keep on growing and growing.  
  • Rogue and Gambit are, as most people who know me (and my collecting tastes) know, my favorite all-time fictional couple.  The story of why goes back to the early 90's, when I first got into collecting comic books.  A friend introduced me to the X-Men animated show, and I fell in love with Rogue and Gambit and their relationship.  Soon after I became a fan of the show, I saw Andy Kubert's iconic cover for X-Men #24 - featuring Rogue and Gambit in a torrid embrace.  It was love at first sight, and I picked up the comic immediately.  I was just as entranced by Rogue and Gambit's comic-book relationship as I had been by their TV romance; there is something so incredible about being so attracted to somebody that you can't touch for fear of dying.  While Gambit was always portrayed as something of a ladies' man, his love for Rogue never wavered (even though she certainly had her moments of infidelity) despite his inability to touch her.  To this day, I keep hoping that they someday get their much-deserved happily ever after.


5 - Do you find it difficult or get expensive when other people know what you collect? Do you limit yourself with a price range budget?
  •      I sometimes find that it can get expensive when people know what I collect...but sometimes it helps to have others looking out for you (with a big shout-out to Kevin, who hooked me up with a dream Jack Redd Rogue/Gambit sketch card).  I've noticed that Andre Toma sketches have certainly gotten more expensive over time, but I attribute that to the fact that others are  finally catching on to his incredible style.  I have a VERY limited price range and have never spent more than $300 on a single card (and it was an artist proof card).  I see some collectors spending $300+ on cards routinely, and I marvel at the prices they pay.  I'd rather commission an artist directly and have all the money go to the artist.
6 - Do you buy individual sketch cards from dealers or do you search ebay for cards you might be interested in? Or do you buy boxes or even cases in hopes for a card you'll be happy with? 
  •     I have bought one box of cards in the last 10 years, and while it was fun to open, it’s not going to become a habit.  I much prefer to buy individual sketches from eBay or members on Scoundrel, many of whom keep an eye out for cards they think I may be interested in.  I also enjoy commissioning artist proof cards, because I’m able to get exactly what I’m looking for – and the artist gets paid that money directly.

7 - Do you sell the cards you sometimes get or do you keep everything for yourself?
  •      I mostly keep the cards that I obtain, but I certainly have sold cards before.  When I sell a card, it’s usually because I know somebody out there wants it more (or will appreciate it more) than I do.  As corny as it sounds, I like to see any cards I sell go to good homes where they’ll be loved. 
 
8- What is your opinion in the regards to the never ending debate of quality vs pay rate for sketch cards? As someone who buys sketch cards, do you think card companies should do more quality enforcement for the cards artists work on? Or are they fine the way they are? 
  •      I think this debate is incredibly tough.  What makes it tough for me is that some artists (such as Meghan Hetrick) take up to 8 or 9 hours on a pack-inserted sketch card that will sell for $250 or more.  Other artists can create beautiful works in a fraction of the time.  Still other artists clearly put in minimal effort on their cards.  Somehow, though, each of these artists is paid exactly the same (piddling) amount of money per card.  Sketch card companies (and, to a degree, collectors) have some nerve paying artists peanuts for their work but expecting 100 Mona Lisas in a 4-5 week period.  It’s nuts.  You know it can be done right, though, as evidenced by the success of the recently released Classic Mythology set – artists got paid fairly, had adequate time to produce their sketch cards, and the finished product was of the absolute highest quality with no “weak” artists or slopped-together work.
 
9- Is there a noticeable change with what you see in today's collectors as opposed to when you first started , if any?
  •      If anything, I think that people have gotten meaner and ruder.  It’s not uncommon to receive requests from other collectors asking to purchase a card from your collection, and if you politely decline or say that said card is not for sale, you’re called names and made to feel that you’re somehow a jerk for wanting to hold onto it.  Guess what?  If you like it that much, chances are I do too!  Also, I have found that chats on community boards have gotten nastier and more personal.  Certain community members can go a long way towards ruining the whole experience for everybody else.  I’m known for being pretty willing to speak my mind, and on many occasions I have gotten flack for sticking up for artists and/or collectors who were thrown to the wolves by ill-informed board members who feel like making a splash.

10 - How do you feel about commissioning artists. Have you had any bad transactions with artists or collectors?  Has it been resolved to your satisfaction?
  •      I am a big fan of commissioning artists.  I can request exactly what I want, and my money goes to support artists I think are great and deserve to succeed.  I have had some very bad transactions in the past (some ongoing, actually), but it hasn’t turned me off of commissioning artists.  I like to think that I’ve gotten smarter about how I do commissions with artists, especially those I haven’t worked with in the past (setting expected completion dates, paying only half up-front, etc).   I am certainly more likely to do repeat commissions – there are a few principal artists that I commission over and over again because they do great work and are a pleasure to work with. 

11 -What do you think when you hear about artists who have overdue commissions yet are seen taking more work or are seen listing new cards for sale on eBay?
  •    It seriously pisses me off (pardon my language).  I certainly understand that artists have to eat (and keep a roof over their heads, and support their families), but there are a few infamous artists who manage to dig themselves into holes the size of the Grand Canyon and then just keep digging.  If I pay for something, I expect timely completion of the product I paid for (goodness knows I wouldn’t go to the grocery store and pay for groceries that would be delivered “sometime” soon).  That being said, I am very willing to be reasonable and work with artists – IF they communicate with me about what’s going on and why the project may take longer than expected.  I think 99% of collectors get angry because artists ignore their customers owed commissions - customers who just want an artist to take a few seconds to let them know what’s going on.  It’s very unprofessional to ignore communication from customers; can you think of a single business that could succeed with such behavior? 
12 - Does it help lessen the frustration if the artist is in constant communication with you? 
  •     Yes!!  This is the single best thing an artist can do to make for happy customers.

13 - What are your thoughts on the incredible prices some sketch cards actually sell for? 
  •     I think it’s ridiculous to pay some of the amounts I’ve seen spent on a single piece of cardboard (no matter how lovely).  I, for one, would rather take that money and get it directly to the artist/creator, rather than see it line the pockets of a middleman or card company.

14 - Are there too many sets out in your opinion and is it a good or bad thing?
  •     Goodness gracious, it seems that there is at least one new set every month.  I think the market is incredibly over-saturated, and I for one would love to see companies slow down the frequency of their releases.  This would make for increased demand and improved sketch quality.

15 - Is there any change in the hobby that you would like to see, if any?
  •      I really would like to see a sketch card auction site catch on big-time.  eBay stinks for sellers (and sometimes for bidders, too), and it would be nice to have a sketch-card oriented auction site where buyers and sellers could come together more personally.  I’d also like to see unfounded personal attacks (on artists and collectors) stop on chat boards.  It’s not right that people are allowed to make unfounded accusations and/or bully fellow chat members without serious repercussions.  

16 - Have you heard of the SketchCardAuctions.com? If so, have you tried it out or considered using it?

  • I have heard of it and dropped by a few times, but there didn't seem to be a lot up.  If it were to expand, I'd be all for it.  eBay could use some competition.

17 - Do you have an online gallery to display your collection? How do people contact you if they have cards they think you might be interested?

  • I keep my stuff in multiple different locations.  Most of my sketch cards are on sketchcollectors.com (user name will1078 ) but I also have some of my pieces linked to my DeviantArt site.  I mostly hear from people on the Scoundrel forum with regards to cards, but I've gotten messages on sketchcollectors.com, too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Talk with Cryptozoic Entertainment's Scott Gaeta





 

















1- What is your title/position at Cryptozoic Entertainment and how long have you been with them?
  •   My title is Chief Operating Officer. Basically that means I run the day to day business.  I touch pretty much everything from finance and strategic planning, licensing, marketing, and my favorite thing, product development.  I've been here from the start and am one of 4 partners who put this whole thing together. 
2- Can you give us a brief description of what Cryptozoic Entertainment is and how it might be different from other card companies? What are some of the products that Cryptozoic has produced in the past that people might be familiar with?


  • Well, we're probably a little more diverse than most of the other card companies out there.  We also produce a lot of games ranging from the World of Warcraft TCG to board games based on movies and television and then we also create our own original games and IP (intellectual property). A few of our recent releases are games for The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory.  We also have games releasing later this year for The Hobbit.  You will also be seeing more of our games on iOS in the very near future. 
  • In addition to our lines of cards and games we also do custom comic book publishing and marketing for several movie studios and video game companies. 

3- Sketch cards have become pretty popular in recent years and is continually growing. As a card company, was that something Cryptozoic have been aware of and keeping track of? 

  •   Yes, definitely. I've been a collector my entire life so I've followed the trends from that perspective.  I also developed several trading card sets at another company before CZE.  Before CZE the one I'm most proud of was bringing Marvel Masterpieces back.  Marvel Masterpieces 1 back in 2007 was my set.  =) 

4- Do you collect sketch cards and what is it about them that appeals to you?

  •    I do.  I love original art and collect some comic art too.  I don't have as many as I would like but probably have more than I should. I think it's really special that a fan can own an original.  That's what I'm most excited about with our upcoming DC line.  Owning originals of your favorite characters is probably the pinnacle of being a comic book fan. 
5- What made Cryptozoic decide to finally produce sketch card sets? And how did you approach it?
  •  Well, there was never any doubt as to whether we would do sketch cards.  The question is what brands are appropriate for them and in what quantities.  I think we have to be careful not to flood the market…that never works out well.  For example with Walking Dead TV the sketch cards were very limited to 1 per case.  The main driver for a live action show is the photo imagery, autographs, and wardrobe but we though sketch would be cool too so we added a modest amount.  But then you have something like DC Comics and that's all about illustrated art so 1 sketch per box is more appropriate.
6- How was producing a sketch card set different than a "normal set"? And was it more difficult to do than you had thought?

  •  This wasn't the first time I had worked with sketch cards so it was about as expected.  As we've grown we've added more staff so hopefully the process should be easier for both us and all the great artist we work with.  We're constantly looking at how we can do things better. 

7- Your first sketch card set was a charity set created to help the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). How did that happen?


  •   It really just came about one day when we were hanging out with Larry Marder from the CBLDF.  We think their work is very important to an industry like ours and wanted to figure out a way we could support them.  Trading cards with sketches seemed to be a great fit.  

8- Not only do you have an Art Director, David Barron  but also an Art Acquisition Manager, George Nadeau. What are their responsibilities in regards to handling sketch card products.

  •   George is really the main guy for sketch cards.  He's managing the booking of every project, approvals, and contracts.  If you're a sketch card artist you will be working closely with George.  The rest of the trading card team is Miranda Anderson, our brand manager for all trading cards.  She writes a lot of the sets and works with me on product configuration and marketing. Then there is Rachel Valverde, our project manager for trading cards.  She oversees all the manufacturing.  We also just recently hired Carmen, she has over 10 years experience working with wardrobe, autographs, etc.  She's in charge of QA and managing all that cool stuff.  Beyond all these folks is a team of very talented and experienced graphic designers who create all our card designs, marketing people, etc. 

9- Who should artists contact if they have questions about a sketch cards?

  •   George is your guy. 

10- What kind of expectations do you have for the sketch cards that artists produce for Cryptozoic? And what are your thoughts on the pay vs quality debate for sketch cards? Better quality usually requires more time and its really not financially rewarding for an artist to spend literally hours on each card. Are you fine with the cards produced for you as long as they meet Cryptozoic's contract requirements?


  • Quality is definitely something we care about.  Basically we just expect solid work.  Every artist is different and that's a good thing.  Some artists add great backgrounds to their cards, some airbrush, etc.  I would say as long as you are declaring something the fans would be happy with we will be more than happy to keep working with you.  In the end we all work for the fans. 
  • The one thing I like about sketch cards from the perspective of an artist is that it give you all the opportunity to work on some pretty major high profile character and that could lead to work on other projects.  At CZE since we do more than just sketch cards, we commission well over one-thousand pieces of art a year for game and comic projects.  We're also creating new base card art for some of our future trading card releases.  We've already found several artists in the sketch card community that we've been able to give other work. When we find people we like to work with we tend to stick with them. 

11- You have 2 upcoming sets from Cryptozoic. Walking Dead Comic set and the new DC set. 

 (a) - Walking Dead TV series set which included sketch cards was very successful for you. What made you decide to have the new set based on the comic book instead of the TV series as a "sequel'? 

  •   We thought it would be fun to explore the comics between seasons.  It allows us to do some things we couldn't do with the TV set like focus on sketch cards.  

 (b) - Not long ago it was announced that Cryptozoic Entertainment had acquired the DC license. How excited are you to be producing a sketch card set for them and what should fans expect from it?

  •   Extremely excited! This is something I've wanted to bring back to trading cards for years.  I've worked with the folks over at DC on other projects in the past and they are a great bunch of people to work with.  They really love what they do and care about their fans.  We're creating a lot of sketch cards for this set and have a great line-up of artists.  It's been a long time since the fans have had DC trading cards and I think these will be very well received. 

12- What do you think of the current market for sketch cards? And what do you think about all the smaller companies or artist created sets that have recently popped up? Is it a good thing for the market?


  • First of all I think it's great when creators have a medium that they can use to express themselves in.  Sketch cards are fairly easy (relatively speaking) for someone to produce on their own.  I mean if you have a passion for architecture it's a little harder for that person to go out their and do something on their own.  
  • I do worry a bit though about too many sketch cards on the market but I don't think the smaller creator owned sketch projects are an issue.  All we can do at CZE is try and be responsible with our own releases.  With DC for example I know based on past experience and demand we've been getting from distributors that we could probably sell almost twice as many boxes as we are going to produce for this first set.  But in the long run that's not good for the market.  It just creates a glut and the quality per average sketch would go way down. 

13- Cryptozoic Entertainment along with Versicolor Productions is sponsoring the upcoming Pop Art Con on June 10th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ft. Washington, PA (outside Philadelphia). Also Cryptozoic Entertainment and Breygent Marketing has generously sponsored several artists to appear at the Pop Art Con. Do you see this as part of the evolution of the non-sports hobby and its interest in its artists? 


  •   Yes, I think it's great that sketch cards are being recognized as a high quality piece of art.  My biggest regret is that I'm going to miss this first show because of a previously scheduled family obligation.  Hopefully this one will be a success and I'll get to attend the next one.  

14- Basically all of the bigger known non-sports conventions are held in the east coast. With Cryptozoic being based in California, do you think there is enough interest in the non-sports hobby to have similar conventions developed here in the west coast? Would you like to have one here?....Perhaps even start one? *wink, wink*

  •   It's something I've definitely thought about and even mentioned to Harris Toser at NSU.  It's on my list of things to do in my spare time.  =) 

15- For artists looking to do some work for Cryptozoic. Who should they contact and how can they do it? Also what do you recommend they should send in as samples for their submissions?

  •   George is the right guy to start with for sketch cards.  Just send him some jpg samples, a link to your web page, and a rundown of published work you may have done.  

16 - Any upcoming projects people should look out for?

  •   DC is the big one right now and there will be another big sketch project releasing in the fall.  We're going to start booking that one in about a month so artists should have more time to work on their cards than they have had in the past with us.  

17- If anyone would like to know more about Cryptozoic and its products, where can they get more information?


Thank you for your time and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions for me.


Any time!  It was fun!

Best,

Scott


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SKETCH CARD DEALER : RACHEL AHRENDES

Rachel Ahrendes is a sketch card dealer with over a decade of experience. She along with her fellow dealers play an important role in supplying and circulating the sketch cards into our community. Without dealers like herself, many people would have a much harder time finding the cards they want...if at all. You can find Rachel as an active member of the Scoundrel Art Community under the user name Blink AoA.




1 - How long have you been a dealer and how did you get involved with sketch cards. 
  • I have been a dealer for about 4 years but I have done hobby selling for 14 years.  I loved the idea of original art combined with the chase to find that special card.  It was a win/win combo to me.  I had collected cards for a few years previous to then.
2 -  What was the first sketch card set you sold?  
  • The first sketch cards I ever sold were from Marvel Creators Collection from 1998.
 
3 - Are sketch cards primarily what you deal with? Or do you work with other products as well? What would be your specialty?
  •   I specialize in sketch cards but I have also sold other types of cards including autographs. I sometimes sell other collectibles but not often.
   
4 - Do you collect sketch cards?  
  • Yes, but I keep it very selective.  I can't make money if I keep too much.  That is also why almost every card in my collection is for sale at the right price.
 
5 - As a dealer how different is it to work with sketch cards than your traditional trading card?
  •   I think mainly you just have to be very careful with them.  This would be the same with Autos and other expensive chase cards.  As for just regular cards, it drops the value of them to near nothing.  I end up donating most of my common cards to a children's hospital near me.

 
6 - Since each card is an original piece of art. How difficult is it to price a sketch card? And what are some of the factors that goes into the pricing?
  •   I price mostly on instinct.  I am wrong sometimes but mostly I'm pretty close to what they are worth.  Sometimes you can price using what cards have sold on other sets but not often.  Quality and amounts done can change with each set. 

7 -  How do you go about selling the sketch cards you have? Do you put cards up on ebay or do people contact you directly for them? Do you also go to card conventions to sell them?
  •   I sell them mainly on Scoundrel Art Forum and on eBay.  Paying convention fees and hotel would eat too much of my profit.  Maybe someday I can do something like that but not right now. 

8 - In your opinion (based on what you've sold), do you think collectors have a higher preference    for photo realistic sketch cards than the more comic book/cartoony style cards. Also does a        painting a card help increase the value of a card as opposed to something done with markers or color pencil?  
  •  No, I don't think so.  Some of my most valuable cards are comic style and I've seen photorealistic ones sell for relatively little.  I think detail is what sells a card, not the medium in which is used to produce it. 

9 - The hobby has grown tremendously in the last few years. Several new companies have popped up with sketch card sets. Also artists themselves are putting out independent sets. Do you think the market is being overcrowded? As a dealer, how does that affect you?
  •   Yes, the market is overcrowded.  I do my best to pick out sets that I think will do well.  If I lose money or only break even with a set, that is normally the last set of that type that I will buy.  The smaller artist sets are some of my favorites and I love seeing the artists get something back for their efforts. 

10 - Have people become more picky with what they collect due to the abundance of sets out? 
  •   Yes, they have.  It makes things much more difficult as this is happening.  The economy makes it even worse. 

11 - It must be difficult to compete for customers when the pool of collectors is so relatively small? Do you try to introduce people to sketch cards?
  •   Yes, it is difficult.  I can't compete with some of the bigger dealers but even they are having a hard time.  The lower prices are great ( especially for collectors) in the short term but in the long term, dealers are going out of business and are no longer buying.  That means a much smaller group of cases broken down.  So far, that has not really hurt the big companies but it will soon if it continues.  I do my best to introduce people to the hobby as often as possible. 

12 - With the price that people pay per box, do you think the expectations for the quality of a pulled sketch card fair? Do you think the complaint of pulling a poor quality sketch card is made by a minority of collectors?
  •   I think anytime someone gets $5 value after spending $60, they will be unhappy.  The more that happens, the more unhappy people you have.  The chase is also what makes it fun.  Unfortunately, when the value of all the cards starts dropping, even when they do get an amazing card, its much harder to be happier about it.  They've bought a case, lost money on every box but one and they have to sell that one, and hope to make some money back.  A profit is normally not even thought of.  This would be a good case that I am talking about.  Some, you lose money on every box.  So, people have less money to work with, they scrape together $120 for 2 boxes and get 2 cards worth $10.  Yes, they are going to complain.  I think the majority of collectors are looking towards just buying the cards they want rather then opening boxes.  They can only complain about prices then and prices are pretty reasonable. 

13 - Whats the highest amount you have seen someone pay for a sketch card ( not necessarily from one of your sales ) and are you surprised at some of the prices they sell for? 
  •  about $2500.  Yes and no.  These cards are beautiful pieces of art and art can so for so much.  The opposite is also true, when one sells for so little, that can be so sad. 

14 - Do you have a website people can go to if they would like to see what you have available? How can people contact you? 
  •  I can be contacted on Scoundrel as Blink AoA or by my email blink.aoa@gmail.com  Scoundrel and ebay tend to get the most views rather then a website with cards for sale.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ARTIST FEATURE: FRANKIE B WASHINGTON


  In 1991 Frankie B Washington graduated from the Boston based Butera School of Art with a certificate in Commercial Art. He worked as a storyboard artist for Miramax Films on  "Squeeze "and  "Next Stop Wonderland". He has worked in animation for Olive Jar Studios and done illustration work for Cemetery Dance Magazine. Frankie is currently working in the advertising field and drawing sketch cards.

Frankie entered the sketch card field in 2009 when he worked on the Archie March of Dimes sketch card set produced by 5FINITY Productions. Since then he's worked on sketch card projects for companies such as Bad Axe Studios, Breygent Marketing, Sadlittles and Upper Deck. Voltron, Hack/Slash, Lady Death, Thor, Marvel Beginnings, Avengers are some of the more known properties Frankie has worked on involving sketch cards.

Frankie has recently started working on his creator owned Robot God Akamatsu with collaborator  James Biggie which is now available as a web series at http:// www.robotgodakamatsu.blogspot.com
Below are samples of Frankie's work followed by his interview.
5FINITY : Moonstone Maximum

5FINITY : Voltron
Robot God Akamatsu


1 - You've done work for film, animation and advertising before getting into sketch cards. How did you find out about sketch cards and what made you decide to do sketch card work?

  • My entry into sketch cards biz, came through an email in spring 2009 from a person named Steven Frank who said he saw my online portfolio and wanted to hire me to work on a charity card set for the March Of Dimes. I thought he was full of it, just another person looking to have me do work, yet when they hear my rate they run for the hills. To my surprise, he wasn't like that and was genuine about the project. My curiosity about sketch cards, my ability to do such small art and the chance to work on a licensed brand like Archie for a charitable cause is what changed my mind and started me down this path.

2 - How did you break into sketch cards and was it something you found hard to get into? Do you think its harder for artists to break in now than when you started? Why?

  • 5Finity Productions was my entry into the sketch card business and it wasn't hard for me, since I didn't go through the process of sending samples to companies. I never knew that the sub-culture of sketch cards existed until the day I was introduced to it. I'd actually purchased some aceo cards maybe two years before from an artist because I liked her style and was impressed by how she was able to illustrate at such a small scale. It never clicked that I'd already had an encounter with the business and that 2 years later I would start working in it. My only stress was becoming comfortable working at 2.5x3.5 and really allowing myself to express what I can do.  I do believe that the standards that card companies are looking for with sketch cards has gone way up in three years. When I came in, I saw a lot more head shots and not a lot of full color work. Now you're seeing backgrounds, full body and  lots of color. Also, pros from the comic book/art industry are entering the picture with a strong resume and body of work. Definitely a new hurtle for artist trying to get on sets.

3 - Is there anything you learned about sketch cards that you wish you had known now? Why?

  • I wish that I had known in hindsight about the amount of cards being put out now. The deadlines are insane and the market seems over saturated hence many artist like myself are forced to make the hard decision to limit our involvement on sets. Pretty much the pros, of the business are that some really amazing art has now come in that is challenging everyone to push harder with their skills. That's a great thing for artist because our kryptonite is being complacent.

3 - What was it like to work on your first sketch card project. How different is working on sketch cards than on other illustration work you've done?
  • It was awesome working on characters that I remembered as a kid. A chance to add my own spin to them and just be artistic was the rush. The difference is that I had full control over the art being done and not have to worry about an art director checking and editing everything.

4 - Your sketch cards have a lot of energy to them. Do you find it hard to sometimes cram all that work into a sketch card?

  • The only way that I can do a sketch card is to see it as a storyboard frame. I need to tell some form of story to help keep my interest in it. If I was just doing static artwork, I probably wouldn't be drawing them.

5 - In June of 2010 you were voted by 5FINITY Productions and  card dealers for being the most original artist as well as being a 100% effort artist in their HIGH FIVE Awards. The first kind of award program that recognized sketch card artists. Later on Rittenhouse Archives along with ReddLife Entertainment held a Sketchy Awards for Rittenhouse's Dangerous Divas sketch card set. Recently Versicolor, Cryptozoic Entertainment and Breygent Marketing are all sponsoring the upcoming Pop Arts Convention happening on June 10, 2012 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ft. Washington, PA (outside Philadelphia). In addition Cryptozoic has also decided sponsor 2 artists ( Gary Kezele and Tim Shay ) to the event in recognition for their work. How do you think the perception of sketch card artists has changed in the last few years. And what do you think this means for artists working in this field?

  • First off, I think this is awesome for the business. I only started in 2009 and there are many  artist who've been in the game a lot longer. They should definitely be recognized for the work that they've done. I think this is an admirable step by the sketch card companies to try and help bring more serious recognition to the industry by awarding the individuals who are the driving force of it. The sponsoring of gary and Tim is an amazing gesture that I hope continues for many more artists in the coming years.

6 - As a freelance artist, you have a worked on many projects in different fields. From film production to animation work and illustration work in the advertising field. How tough is the transition from working in one field to the next? And what are the similarities of working in these various fields, if any? What advice would you have for someone looking to getting into these other fields?

  • Well, I've been doing it for so long that it's become as natural as breathing. In my opinion, all art jobs have a point of convergence. Sketch cards in my mind are what we illustrators would call "micro or mini boards" to use in television or videos. The detail doesn't have to be crazy yet the info and transition of frames must tell a story. Same can be said for comic book frames and even spot illustrations in magazines. All the same things, yet various names and handled differently.  My suggestion for any artist is an old advice that someone once told me years ago.  "Don't put all your eggs into one basket kid, lest you want all of them to break at the same time". I've never been a fan of sticking to one avenue when there's clearly many streets you can travel. If you limit yourself to just sketch cards and your portfolio only has sketch card art in it. Don't have high expectations that Lucas,Disney, Marvel, LionsGate or Hasbro is going to want to hire you. Most companies are looking for a range of work to see your strengths and weakness. If they only see sketch cards then you've only shown them that's all you can do. Another thing is to work on your salesmanship and learn the art of communicating with clients. You never stop learning so be aware of it and never think you know it all- because you don't. I'm still schooled by my peers and elder artist and I value and all knowledge that is thrown my way. A positive attitude goes a long away and you'll be surprised how a good personality can make a client take a second look at your work. 
  • Being a FREELANCE ARTIST IS NOT EASY, yet it is a possible career decision that can work if you approach it with eyes open and a passionate heart. 

7 - You've done many projects for companies over the years. You recently started working on your very own creator owned project, Robot God Akamatsu. Can you tell us a little about it and what made you decide to finally work on it? Is this something you been thinking about for awhile but up until now haven't had the time to work on?

  • I've actually self-published stuff over the years and worked with various writers. Yet freelance work seemed to always get in the way of me really jumping in full time. In spring 2009, roughly the same time as I was starting work on Archie. An art director friend at one of the agencies, I worked at gave me a Batman script he'd written. He wanted my opinion on it, so I read it. His writing style was very reminiscent of the 80's which i enjoyed. My only critique was that I didn't understand why he was writing Batman when he clearly was a person who loved the Transformers. It was from that point that I challenged James (Biggie) to see if he and I could come up with a concept that was an amalgam of the Marvel Comics Shogun Warriors and a dozen other bot-related properties. The stipulation was that we had to do this as American guys paying homage to manga and not something that was trying to be manga.
  • Since James and I both work in advertising and understand the power of branding/licensing we began strategizing a marketing plan as well as development of the book. It took a little over 2 years and we finally decided to release it online this past February.
  • We secured a literary representation for the IP, who are currently working to try and take it to the next level (film,animation). 
  • With the workload for RGA growing and my own freelance gig. I had to make the decision to drastically skim down my involvement on various card sets.

8 - Are you planning on self publishing this or will you shop it around in hopes of it being picked up? Do you think this will this be something a casual comic book reader will get into or is it more geared towards anime or mecha fans?

  • We are planning on collecting the web series with a new original story into a graphic novel for 2013. We're both looking to push  the Robot God Akamatsu IP into the multimedia field. We have noticed a trend especially with the Transformer property whereas it has been effective in bringing in a newer younger audience as well as maintain it's older fan base. RGA is a concept based off of the earlier human pilot super mech shows that were prevalent in the 70's & 80's. But almost a mystery to many young people of the mid 90's to now. Our hope is to help reinvigorate the fires for the super robot and hopefully enlighten a newer audience to this genre.

9 - Is there a planned date you'd like to have this made available?  What have you done to promote Robot God Akamatsu?
  • Well the web series is available now for viewing with a new chapter uploaded monthly. Our promotion has been very good and actually started early in 2011 with an interview done for Black Sci-Fi.com, SciFiPulse.Net and Upper Deck Blog. In 2012 RGA was featured as the cover art on the BostonDig magazine and articles in Collection DX (also used as a banner art on the site)  and the italian magazine Japanimando. We've also done a podcast with the awesome folks of SciFi Saturday Night and planning even more in the coming weeks, so the marketing machine is still moving forward at full throttle.

10 - Do you plan to eventually produce a sketch card set for Robot God Akamatsu?

  • We've actually developed a five card con exclusive trading card set which is a limited amount of packs (Under 500).  there will be only 50+ sketch card inserts and we only plan to offer these at shows we're attending. We really want to meet the person who choses to get  a pack from us... And hopefully share an awesome collector/artist moment.

11 - Are there any sketch card projects or companies that you would like to work for? And why?
  • I'm really enjoying working on the Upper Deck/Marvel card sets. The characters are so endless and gives me a chance to indulge my childhood fantasies drawing them. I would have loved to have worked on some DC characters but the timing wasn't right.  My dream would be to work on a set that has giant robots and kaijus(monsters). If a card company came up with this set, I would try damn hard to make room for it. 

12- Where can people go to if they would like more information about Robot God Akamatsu? Do you have a website or fan page people can go to, to check out your work? What is the best way to get in contact with you?

The best way to get in contact with me is through my own personal web page.  http://www.frankiebwashington.com

If it's RGA related we have an email :  robotgodakamatsu@gmail.com

Here's the the others :
RGA Web Series - http://robotgodakamatsu.blogspot.com/
RGA Facebook Page -http://www.facebook.com/RGAkamatsu


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ashleigh Popplewell

My first interview is with artist Ashleigh Popplewell. Her sketch card resume includes work for 5FINITY Productions,  Breygent Marketing, Cryptozoic Entertainment, Topps Entertainment and Upper Deck. She has worked on their respective sets from properties ranging from Star Wars, Red Sonja, Vampirella to Marvel Comics.


How did you get into sketch cards? 
I was doing ACEOs at the time of non-pop culture subject matter and a friend who collects skech cards suggested I try out for some companies

Was it difficult to get into the business and how did you go about it?
It wasn't super difficult to get on my first set, but there for a while afterwards I was constantly working and sending samples and networking. I sent samples to Breygent and was accepted onto my first set

How were your ACEOs different than your set work?
My non-official work is very different. It still has an illustrative quality, but isn't based on any recognizable pop-culture figure or persona. My ACEOs were very textured and layered, focusing on a non-specific female model rather than a character like Catwoman or Harley Quinn

Because most sketch card sets are mostly based on the comic book or fantasy genre and your known for a much more photo realistic style. Was it difficult to adjust and why?
At first I thought I'd try to do something a little less realistic for card sets, but then realized that it didn't make much sense to change my style completely. I use figure references a lot, but I think a lot of artists do that, so it does add a little time to the preparation process. I'm still learning to adjust the superhero costumes to the different angles and figures.

What is your background as far as art goes? Did you go to school for art?
 I have my bachelors in art with a major in Painting and a minor in Printmaking

What art tools do you use?
 I use lots of different tools depending on what I'm drawing. Most of the time now it's Copic Markers, white gouache and some colored pencil. Sometimes I use acrylic paint as well. Copics have fabulous color and are perfect for blending and layering color.

What is it about sketch cards that you like?
 I like the scale of sketch cards. Not everyone has room for or wants a large piece of artwork...so the idea of a hand-drawn piece of art that fits in a card sleeve (or your wallet) is pretty appealing.

 How do you feel about seeing your sketch cards on Ebay?
 I go back and forth seeing my cards on Ebay. When a new set comes out, I check my cards on Ebay every day to see how they are selling and what the seller initially thinks they are worth. I just try to keep informed about how well my work is selling, and what is selling best.

Do you collect sketch cards?
I do collect from other artists I have both purchased and traded, and have gotten a fairly large collection thus far.

Has working on sketch card help improve your overall work?
Working on sketch cards has kept me busy, for sure. In drawing every day several skills have become more sharp and things move much faster.

What you think about the sketch card hobby? Do you think it changed since you joined?
 I think it has changed a lot in the relative short amount of time I've done it. Lots of small companies started up. And the collectability of the larger ones have gone down. Lots of small projects. I'm concerned that with so many sets out. They might be less valuable but I need the work, lol. So I'm ok with that

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into doing sketch card work?
I'd suggest first that they do some research into the different companies and get a portfolio of work together somewhere online. Also: a group like Sketch Card Fanatics on Facebook is a great resource for both current sketch artists and those that want to get into the genre.

What are you currently working on or what people can expect to see from you soon?
Warlord of Mars (John Carter) for Breygent Marketing, Mars Attacks by Topps, Marvel Beginnings2 by Upperdeck

Do you have a website for people who want to check more of your stuff out? Or get commissions?
http://www.ashleighmichelle.com/ 

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