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


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