How did you get involved in sketch cards? My first sketch card job was the first Lord of the Rings Masterpieces set for TOPPS. ...I had NO idea what I was doing. I think I owe collectors everywhere an apology form my many, many repeater sketches!
How do you feel about working on such a small surface? I don't mind it so much. I have a tendency to draw small anyway, so the transition to cards wasn't too hard. A comic panel really isn't that much bigger!
How do you feel about the entire process? Deadlines are a necessary evil in any industry. They keep you motivated and keep you from flitting your day away on facebook. Some companies are more loose than others, deadline wise, and you can have some wiggle room (which is nice when you need it).
Have you been asked or would you like to work on the larger incentive cards? I would, but I doubt I'd ever be asked to do them!
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards? I do. I love hearing from and talking to collectors. Tt's the best way to learn what they want! I accept their facebook requests, update them on twitter and really encourage them to follow and comment on my blog. I want to keep them up to date on what I'm doing and I want their feedback on it.
Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do? I'm a bad judge of what collectible as far as cards go. I like to draw things that I think are fun and that seems to make them collectible. Star Wars, for the most part, is what I'm known for so I'd say that that's much more collectible than something like Heroes Season 2.
Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work? I think so. You can get a lot more people to pay attention to you when you have a certain license in your credits list.
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? I think that would be "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". No one had seen the movie yet and we all had NO IDEA what to draw except a few pictures we were given as reference. That's no fun. I like doing cards with scenes and quotes. I can't do that when all I have is a dozen pictures and a rough idea of the plot.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of? Lately, I've been proud of a lot of my cards. I love the cards I did for TOPPS' Star Wars Galaxy 4 and the Clone Wars Widevision. When I'm allowed to take on less cards, I can concentrate on making the cards I DO do very fun and special.
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you? Nope. They are released into the wilds of the collecting world.
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets? This is a touchy question. I can see myself doing any Star Wars set that comes up, as well as the occasional comic themed set... but I want to focus on comics and children's books. I want to think that there's more for me out there in this world than sketch cards, no matter how much I like drawing them.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’? -Draw lots and lots of samples. Post them online. Art directors will find you. -Don't copy other people's styles. Be unique. -Don't copy a card or style and declare that you expect to be known as the second coming of that artist and start charging that artist's prices for cards saying "well, since she's busy with other things and isn't up for commissions, hire me instead!"... you'll just make people mad (can you tell I've had to deal with this?)
Where can people see more of your work? my sketchblog and site is www.katiecandraw.com There are also links there for my twitter, facebook, deviantart and livejournal!
How did you get involved in sketch cards? I knew a few people who did sketch cards (on official sets), and Jessica was instrumental in recommending me -- as well as letting me know who to contact, and when there was an open call. Thank you, Jess! My very first official sketch card set was Marvel Masterpieces II in 2008 after the Art Director at Upper Deck did an open call on his DeviantArt page. That was how I got my foot in the door.
How do you feel about working on such a small surface? At first it was difficult, but once I got used to it, I really liked it. I can complete a drawing much faster when I don't have to cover so much surface area, and it doesn't use as many supplies. Plus I really love drawing tiny details, and sketch cards are the perfect format for that.
How do you feel about the entire process? Oh man, like anyone else involved in sketch cards, I'm sure I could go on and on. I'll try not to. There are some things that could change to really improve the whole process for collectors and artists. If, for example, artists were paid for the quality of art on the cards instead of a flat rate, I think it'd encourage more artists to go above and beyond, and improve the product offering. Currently we get paid the same dollar or so per card whether it's a quick pencil sketch or a fully rendered and coloured card. Also, if the companies hired more artists and got each to draw fewer cards, it might encourage more people to commit to drawing them, and spend more time on the cards. The main reason I draw sketch cards is for the chance to work in an official capacity for well-known pop culture properties, and to draw their characters. The deadlines have been okay, although it is hard with working full time and running my own small business as well.
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards? Yeah, a bit! Sometimes I message the people selling my cards on eBay if they have incorrect information, or people e-mail me when they've pulled one of my cards. I love to hear about where my cards end up! Plus when I sell my return cards there is a lot of direct contact 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? I think that they should be directing that feedback directly to the sketch card companies, who have an opportunity to change their policies/practices to increase customer satisfaction. I absolutely understand how they feel -- collectors spend a lot of money to make sure they get sketch cards, and to pull one that's a quick, rushed sketch must be a huge let-down. However, they are "sketch" cards, and until the companies start compensating artists for full drawings instead of sketches, that will stay as it is. I wish complaining collectors would look at the glass as being half full. I think that quick sketches should be the norm, the expected --and that when an artist goes above and beyond to render something really beautiful out of their love of the subject matter, and kindness towards collectors, that should be praised. Not expected. Perhaps the reason collectors talk to us about this issue is because we're accessible, and our names are on the cards. However, even though we're real people instead of a faceless corporate entity, we're not really the ones to come to regarding absolutely valid customer satisfaction complaints.
Have you had any bad experiences with collectors? Nope! Everyone I've dealt with has been wonderful.
Any bad experiences with companies? They've been okay, but all of the companies I have worked for have been pretty slow to pay. It is typical to get your cheque 4-6 months after the set is complete, well after the set has been released on shelves and you have sold all of your return cards/proofs. I don'tthink that's very good, especially since the fee for the cards is so small to begin with. Corporations move at a snail's pace, I guess.
Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do? It depends -- on how many cards I've had to do, and how familiar or interested I am in the subject matter. I try to do a really nice job on all of my cards, but time constraints mean that not every one of my cards has had the same time put in. Lots were more simple pencil sketches.
Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work? Hm, drawing is more a hobby for me, I'm not really pursuing it as a career. But meeting different people and doing lots of different commissions for people I never would have otherwise even been in touch with are all thanks to sketch cards.
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? Indiana Jones Masterpieces, without a doubt. It was hard because I had to do a minimum of 100 cards, and I signed up for 150. That was WAY too many and unfortunately the quality had to suffer in order for me to get them all done. Furthermore, I realized I just wasn't as interested in the subject matter as I was with comics characters. That made it worse.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of? Sure, plenty!
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you? I kept a couple of my Indy ones, partly because I liked them, and partly because they weren't selling very well. I'd have loved to have kept some of the Marvel Artist Proofs, but they were just too lucrative to sell to be able to keep them.
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets? Sure, but definitely not every set I have a chance to work on. Only the ones who will let me draw 50 cards or fewer, and have interesting and wide subject matter.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card 'biz'? Not really... just make sure the samples you submit (and your ability) is up to par!
How did you get involved in sketch cards? With the sound advice from Jess Hickman and Grant Gould I began sending emails and samples of my work to the bigger card companies through their on-line contact pages. I was a bit of a nuisance I'm sure. Personally, I think they both bribed someone to get me in. :)
How do you feel about working on such a small surface? It is quite an adjustment. Oy! Speaking as someone who usually over-estimates how much paper I have to begin with (resulting in a lot of sketches that are different pieces of paper taped together to accommodate a stray foot or arm.. ), it was a challenge. It was mostly trial and error for me trying to squish things into that little space, but once you get used to it, it really helps to manage bigger pieces as well .
How do you feel about the entire process? There never seems to be enough time, but that is definitely my failing. I seem to push things right to the deadline. So far, I've managed them all so I guess it works.
Have you done any of the larger incentive cards? I have not, but it certainly would be fun.
You’re a watercolor artist, correct? Have you been able to work with that media on the sketch cards? I am. I used a little bit of watercolor on the very first set of Lord of the Rings cards, since then I have stuck with markers, white ink and some colored pencil. I haven't been able to figure out how to lay down the kind of thin washes I use with the coating that some of the companies put on their cards. I will keep trying. :) Recently I discovered the wonder of Copic markers and have really enjoyed learning to use them. The colors on my most recent card set are marker.
What mediums do you prefer to use? If I had to choose one, it would still have to be watercolor. It is the first thing I started using back in the day, and remains my favorite. There is something really fun about watching the color build up the more washes you put on. I love sketching, and am growing very fond of using markers for quicker projects, but watercolor will always be my first choice.
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards? When I sell them, I try to keep a good line of communication open. Sometimes I do better than others, but I do try to let the collector know exactly what is happening with their cards.
Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do? I think it has so much to do with subject matter, unfortunately. I try to do my best work on all the cards, but if I am personally attached to the subject, I can't help but put a little more time and care into the cards.
Do you feel sketch cards are increasingly collectible as a whole? There are so many people doing great work out there, I think that it's a great way to get your hands on miniature masterpieces. I think this will only become truer over time.
Have you had any bad experiences with collectors? Everyone I have dealt with has been a rock star. I could not ask for more understanding and supportive collectors actually :)
Bad experiences with companies? Nothing that cannot be attributed to a run of bad luck. :)
Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work? Sketch cards have given me exposure in areas that I otherwise would never have gotten. The work has offered me the luxury of attaching my name to things that I've always loved, for example, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel. I don't know if I would ever have had those opportunities without this work.
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? Probably 'Clone Wars'. While I love the subject matter, the style is not really mine, add to that the expectations of the Star Wars fans, and it is a tall order to fill. Jeepers. I loved the challenge of it though and had the best time.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of? I would have to say the Lord of the Rings. I loved working on them so much, I was like a squealing girl (see: 'dork') everyday I worked on them and really put my heart into those cards.
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with the cards returned to you? If you ask my friends.. not nearly enough. I have to admit that I do not get all the benefits that those cards could provide by selling them. I have sold some in the past, but still have a lot of them hanging around my jungle of an art room.
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets? I do. I enjoy being able to work on all the different properties.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’? Get your name and samples of your work out there to the contacts of the sketch card companies. Use the sketch card on-line communities to introduce yourself as well, you never know who might be hanging around there. :)
What was your first sketch card job? Actually, the Clonewars widescreen set is the first one I've ever done. A friend kept directing me towards them and I was always rather in the middle of projects or I'd miss the call for artists. Fortunately, this last set came at the perfect time.
How do you feel about working on such a small surface? WOW! It's like working thumbnails. The small format allows me to be a bit looser and to choose faster but more forgiving mediums.
How do you feel about the entire sketch card process? I think my case was a little different. At the time, I was trying to get more information about the set and before I knew it, these things were in my lap with a contract and a little over two weeks to do them. That kinda took me off guard. I just wish I had a little more time to get a little more color. That and life does that thing where it likes to get in the way at the worst possible time. I had to sketch at slightly slower than lightspeed.
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards? No. . . not yet anyway. It *is* my first time. :)
Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work? I'll have to fill you in later. I do stuff on a local level but I hope that these can at least get me more exposure online.
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? Well of course it's the widescreen Clonewars set. I tried to find a nice little method to get them done. I worked through all of them in pencil, then ink and color. I needed a medium that I could work fast and comfortably. For that reason, I mainly used colored pencils and watercolors. What's the hardest thing? Just getting started.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of? I really enjoy drawing Hutts and Ashoka so I guess it would have to be those. I love drawing Kit Fisto. I just wish I could have drawn him more. He just screams "cool".
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What are you planning to do with them? That's a good question. I'm not too attached to my stuff so I guess I wouldn't really keep them unless my nieces and nephews wanted them first. Otherwise, I'm inclinded to make them available online.
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets? I had a blast with these. If given more than two weeks to do them, I would have loved to spend more time on color. It won't be my last that's for sure.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’? The best thing I could say is that this is work. It's fun and it requires patience, but once you lose it, you're going to struggle. The best thing for me was to work on one character at a time for a few cards before moving on.
What exactly are incentive cards? Cards to entice people to purchase a certain number of cases to attain the incentive card.
Do you feel any added pressure working on incentive cards? I do. I want the dealer/collector to be happy with a card that was purchased for the minimum # of cases required.
Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards? Yup. I'm accessible.
Do you feel that your cards are consistently collectible or does it depend on what set you do? My cards suck... I really have no idea. I feel that a few cards that really stand out will always remain collectible.
Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work? It didn't hurt after I first got into it. Though, I think it can only take you so far.
What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? I would have to say Wolverine Origins. Just because of everything that was going on around me at the time.
Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of? There are a few cards that worked out the way I'd really hoped. Curiously enough, some of the cards that I'm not to fond of are other people's favorites. I had a great time and felt very inspired for Indiana Jones Heritage (Topps) and had blast working on the upcoming Clone Wars Widevision set.
Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you? Never.
How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards? I don't think the (more detailed) cards should be expected. For me, I do what I can right up to the deadline. Honestly, there are usually more cards I wanted to paint but just didn't have the time.
Have you had any bad experiences with collectors? Everyone has been pretty spectacular. Especially in regards to their patience in waiting on commissions.
Bad experiences with companies? I think you're bound to come across a negative working relationship every once in a while. I'll leave it at that
Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets? Yes. But in lesser quantity. I was working on sets, back to back and overlapping for a 2 year period and it was too much. There's just too many other things I'd like to do.
How long does it usually take you to paint a card? It varies. The pencil drawing part can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2-3 hours. When I'm working on a set, I assemble-line paint so I don't have to change out my water and clean my brushes every 10 minutes. I'd say I get 5-6 cards fully painted a day (after the pencil), but I've done 8-12 in a crunch. But I'd rather not do that many as I feel rushed when that happens.
Your paintwork is laid down so beautifully. Is there a lot of prep work before you actually put paint down? Yes. Lot's of pacing around the room, pulling of the hair (someone else's if available) and staring at the card before laying down the 1st color. There is a multitude of color schemes and methods and (if I could) I'd like to do 100 repeat images so I can try most of them and come up with the 1 I'm really satisfied with....but like that's gonna happen.
Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’? Don't do it. Just say 'No.' Stranger Danger.
Why did you want to start up a sketch card company? I felt like a lot of great properties were not getting exposure, so many fans did not have cards to collect of their favorite characters. Also, sketch cards in particular are great, but pretty hard to pull. They usually only come one per box, so you have to bust open 24-36 packs or so and spend a lot of money. We want to guarantee you one sketch card per pack, at the minimum.
What, if any, major obstacles did you have to overcome in the beginning? There really hasn't been any, except for maybe choosing which properties to tackle since there are so many out there that collectors and casual fans might enjoy.
Are you finding it more challenging than you thought it would be? Not really. It has been a lot of fun.
If you could start up again, is there anything you would do differently? The card stock on Archie and Greatest American Hero was slicker than we wanted. Even though both products were popular and the artwork came out great, the glossier surface made it harder for the artists and you have to make the artists happy. We have corrected that issue with our upcoming projects.
What are the current sketch card sets you are working on? We will be releasing a sketch card series featuring Dean Yeagle's popular Playboy cartoon pin-up character, Mandy. That has a street date of November 15. In December we are releasing Moonstone Maximum, a series based on the iconic characters from titles published by Moonstone Books, such as Zorro, the Phantom, Buckaroo Banzai, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Midnight, Kolchak, and a host of others. We are also releasing Zombies vs Cheerleaders in December, the first series created for our 5FUNity line of sketch cards.
Can you talk about any future sketch card sets in the works? Our first series of 2010 will be based on Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Voltron rocks. We are in discussions with other licensors, but nothing I can comment on right now.
What do you look for in a potential sketch card set property? The most important thing is whether or not the property has enough fans to sustain the product. As much fun as it is for us to put these together and for the artists to work on them, people have to buy them. Granted, we run low production numbers, making the product collectible, but we still have to use due diligence.
How do you go about searching for artists/what do you look for in a potential artist? As you know, being a top artist yourself, there are many artists that work on sketch cards for the other companies. That talent pool, as well as recruiting new artists from online and at conventions (which I love to do; giving new artists a chance to work on a professional product), is where we find many of the artists. We strongly suggest that artists contact us if they think they would have fun and be productive as a sketch card artist. Many of the properties have great artists to work with that have never done sketch cards, Archie being a great example. We were able to collaborate with almost every Archie Comics artist, as well as many from the past. In regards to what we look for, we need artists that fit the appropriate style and feel for a series. Not every artist can do great mechanical stuff, so Voltron might not work, but they might have mad pin-up girl skills, which lends itself well on Mandy or Betty & Veronica.
Have you had any 'bad experiences' with artists? Hmm, that's a tough one, as artists typically try their best and take massive pride in their work. Except for a couple of very minor incidents, we have been blessed with the artists we have worked with so far and that number is well over 200.
What kind of feedback have you received about your sketch card sets so far? Very, very positive. Our packaging is one of a kind; serial numbered packs that are 5x8 in size and heavy card stock. I think the packaging is kind of collectible. We have had a lot of great feedback on the packaging, as well as on the cards, of course. The artist line-up for Archie, in particular, was unreal. No where else ever could you have received Archie sketch cards by artists like this year's Eisner winner for Best Artist, Guy Davis, as well as top artists like Al Rio and Billy Tan, legends like Hembeck and Breyfogle, almost every Archie artist including Stan Goldberg and Jeff Shultz, and tons of other veteran and new talent sketch card artists. But, ultimately, we have received kudos for providing the fans with one sketch card per pack at a great price. No other company does that, not even close. Throw in celebrity autographed sketch cards, sketch card commission request redemptions, original comic art redemptions, and other awesome goodies and that makes for a great, fun product. Finally, as I stated earlier, offering the fans more choices for properties besides DC, Marvel and Star Wars (which are all great, of course).
If someone approached you for advice on starting up their own sketch card set/company, what would you tell them? Enjoy it and think like a collector more than as a business person. I think about what I would want out of a pack. Value and content, no filler. The fans need more bang for their buck, especially these days. But, I would tell someone not to do it, as then they would be competition, ha ha. Just kidding.
What is the goal you have for your company? We want to release several products a year that core fans of that respective property can go after, whether it is Voltron or the Phantom, and hope the casual fan/collector picks up some packs, too. But, we also want to offer great sketches for the sketch card collector, featuring artists that would not normally do sketch cards, as well as sketch card favorites like Katie Cook and Ben Glendenning.
As a sketch card artist for the past few years, I'm very interested in the creation of artwork on such a small scale, the backgrounds of the artists chosen to work on sketch card sets, and the companies themselves. Thought I would start up a blog talking about sketch cards and interviewing the people 'behind the scenes'. -Jess