Not only do I love drawing sketch cards for trading card sets, but I also love collecting cards. Upper-Deck makes some of my favourite sets of cards from sports I love like hockey & the CFL along with non-sports franchises like Marvel Comics, Aliens, and more recently a set for the James Bond movies. Recently, Upper-Deck has expanded into the esports genre with their new Overwatch League trading cards available on their epack program.
Follow this link to find out more about Overwatch League trading cards from Upper-Deck.
Esports is where people competitively play video games, with millions of people watching them compete. People in the thousands will go to the events in person or watch online and can now collect their favourite competitors in a trading card format. As Upper-Deck has said, this is the “first-ever official esports league trading card release as well as stickers, sticker books, prints, posters and memorabilia”. I love that trading cards continue to grow into new fields and with the rise in popularity of esports it only makes sense!
What also makes sense, is that since esports is principally a digital medium that their first trading cards also be offered in a digital medium through epack. Epack is an online collectible trading card website from Upper-Deck. On this website a user may purchase, collect, and trade their cards. Numerous different Upper-Deck trading card products are offered there including hockey, football, entertainment, and now esports. In addition to buying, collecting, and trading, people can also connect with other collectors on the epack website to talk about their hobbies!
If you also prefer having your cards in hand, epack also facilitates that! You can purchase your cards online and when you’re ready to add them to your physical collection at home you can select those cards in you epack account and have them shipped to you. The cards you get in your digital account are the same ones you get shipped to you! Very cool process.
Coming October 15th is a new artbook from Printed in Blood that showcases some amazing drawings inspired by the Netflix original show, Stranger Things. I’m incredibly excited to say that one of my illustrations will be included in this book but I can’t share it until the book comes out! However, I can share a small preview (below) of my illustration and say that once the book is released I will have a limited print run of my illustration for sale! Send me a message if you are interested in purchasing one of these posters and I’ll add you to my mailing list. Also, make sure to visit Printed in Blood to order your copy of the book today!
I’ve been creating sketch cards for licensed trading card companies for over four years now. I’ve been creating sketch cards for fun and commissions for much longer than that. However, even though I’ve been drawing and collecting trading cards since I was a kid in the 80s, and despite sketch cards existing since sometime in the 90s and being picked up by trading card companies in the early 2000s, I only discovered them in the late 2000s.
Many people that I’ve met online or at conventions do not know what sketch cards are. That group of people, who are the collectors of art, comic, and everything else geeky, often really like sketch cards once they find out about them. I think the appeal is found in the wide range of subject matter, the oftentimes affordability, and that their unusually small size allows people to easily build a collection of them without sacrificing a room in your house to store them in.
What are Sketch Cards?
A sketch card is a surface that measures 2.5″x3.5”* and is used to create an original, one-of-a-kind piece of art upon.
I purposefully tried to make that definition as broad as possible as really the defining features of a sketch card is its size and its originality; however, size receives an Asterix as explained later. Some artists and collectors may disagree with me, but to me these are the defining characteristic and then you can have a multitude of sub categories after that. For instance, painted or penciled or licensed or personal sketch cards.
There are no restrictions on what medium or style can be used to create a sketch card, much like how there is also no restriction on what material the sketch card is made out of. One trading card company, Upper-Deck, has recently been making some of their sketch cards on sheets of chrome and acetate! I have seen artists use paper collages, spray paint stencils, oil paints, acrylics, and simple 2b graphite pencils to create sketch cards. These aspects of sketch cards seem limitless, like any other arena within the art world!
Origin of Sketch Cards
I may not be entirely correct, but it is my understanding that sketch cards began as ACEO’s, or Artist Cards, Editions and Originals. These were traded between fellow artists and given out to non-artists as a form of exposure. There was a strong emphasis on them not being sold, but rather an exercise in free art. ACEO’s are still common, and are still commonly freely traded, but ever since their inclusion in packs of trading cards, their
Sketch Cards and Trading Card Companies
In 1993 the first trading card product included sketch cards. These ‘Art De Bart’ cards were rare, chase cards with only 400 produced. These cards were all drawn by the show’s creator Matt Groening, but in subsequent trading card sets a variety of artists would be used. It was a mixed bag on who the artists were too. Some were experienced published professionals and some were people working on their first paid art project. This definitely produced cards of wildly differing levels of quality, but it also allowed for collectors to obtain artwork from rising stars and for said rising star artists to obtain a modicum of experience.
Throughout the 90s and exploding in the 2000s, sketch cards began appearing in numerous non-sports trading card sets. Sets based on movies and cartoons used the sketch cards as an incentive or chase in the product. Oftentimes the sketch card would be exceedingly rare even if there were tons created. What I mean by that is that thousands of sketch cards would be created but 10 or 100 times that many boxes of cards would be produced.
The sketch cards created right up to the late 2000’s were largely simple and quick sketches done on paper trading cards. In some cases, artists were tasked to draw 1000 or more sketch cards for one project. There was no way an artist can do more than simple pencil sketches when such quantities are so high! Sometime around 2010 this all changed and sketch cards gradually became more and more detailed. Some artists were using oils, some water colours, and some markers. Bottom line though, is that sketch cards were often being done in colour and to a higher degree of detail and quality.
Trading card companies in the late 2000’s also started changing sketch cards by altering their sizes and materials. Some companies introduced Box Topper Sketch Cards that were 2, 3 or 4 times the size of a normal sketch card. Booklet sketch cards were also being introduced, where multiple regular sketch cards were attached in a way that they could be folded on top of one another to fit into a pack of cards. Different materials like plastics and metals were also introduced. The moral of the story is that not only have the artists continually changed in what they were producing but the companies also changed the types of sketch cards, ultimately enlarging the original definition of what a sketch card is.
What’s in it for the Sketch Card Artist?
Fame and glory is not something a sketch card artist receives. Every so often a sketch card artist might obtain an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have had. An example is of an artist I saw online who created sketch cards for a project was then invited by the company that owns the license to the property he was working on to then illustrate a poster for that company. That is absolutely the exception. More often, sketch card artists work on these projects for a little bit of exposure with people who may commission them for more work, to say they worked on a licensed product and to build up their portfolios.
Sketch card artists are paid for their work but it isn’t exactly life changing bags of cash. Instead, a small handful of sketch cards are provided back to the artist that they can resell. These are called either Artist Returns or Artist Proofs, frequently listed as just AR or AP’s. The images the artist draws on these cards are all licensed by that franchise like Star Wars or Marvel Comics. The artists receive only a small number of AP’s in comparison to the number of cards the produced for the project; often the ratio is 1:10.
Some companies create their artist returns differently. Topps (one of my artist returns is pictured above), does not make their artist returns look any different from the regular sketch cards. Sometimes an artist (like myself) will write AP or Artist Return on the back of the card, but otherwise it will be indistinguishable from what one can pull from a pack of cards. Some companies, like Upper-Deck will stamp their Artist Proofs with an AP on the front (see below) and other companies like Cryptozoic have stickers for the back of the cards that say AP.
Sometimes particular types of cards will not be offered as a return at all. This is common with the more unusual sketch cards such as booklets.
Check out some of the sketch card projects I’ve worked on:
Yeah, not sure how much I buy into my own title here. That’s not to say I don’t like what I created. Just that I’m not sold on how ‘solid’ of a layout design it is.
In all I believe I spent about 1-2 hours making this design, with the majority of the time spent on looking for images to use in the final version. I started this little exercise when I was exploring some different layout designs. There’s a nifty website called canva that I was exploring and they had a bunch of layout examples. Really loved some of what they were showing and was inspired to play around with some enlarged text to help frame images. Thought that this might work for redesigning the home page of this website. Currently I’m not too keen on the hero image as the only element on the home page. Thinking of redoing it to be one long scrolling page that has little snippets of what else is on my website.
Anyways, I took my inspiration from canva and then doodled a few ideas on a piece of scrap paper. I then created a few mock-ups in Illustrator. I created six different designs that all riffed off the same idea and grew from one another. The final design I created here was the one I opted to go with, which it’s somewhat funny that either I find that the very first or last design I create when experimenting is the one I end up going with for the final design.
I imported the chosen design into Photoshop and then looked through some of the images I had already put up on my Facebook page. For some reason or another I decided to just use jpg’s I could save off my Facebook page instead of using higher quality images off my external hard drive. Oh well, this was all just for practice anyways.
After pulling enough images, which would cover-up the black squares in the design, I decided the image needed some texture. With that I opted for a logical texture of art paper, which was pulled off the net. I then started combining everything in Photoshop. With the images I decided I’d go for blown up sections of them, and I think if I did this again I would create even bigger blow-ups of the images so you can see my brush strokes or pencil marks more clearly. The idea is that this is to communicate to the viewer that these are hand-drawn hence traditional pieces of art that I have created, and to entice the viewer to seek out the full images of my artwork posted here.
Above is the final version of the design. Not sure if I’m sold on how light the background is (perhaps boost the texture), and not sure if how I broke up the word Traditional is working for me. Regardless though, it brought up some ideas and that’s what the point was. One should never stop practicing and sometimes one should post their less than perfect work. They, as in ‘they’, say one should only put their best foot forward on their portfolios. Well, this website is my portfolio and while I want good artwork to be showcased here, I also want to post my steps. I want to post my progress and sometimes things that don’t work out quite so well.
This is the third segment of my recounting my trip to San Diego Comic Con in 2010. For the second segment, go here, and for the first segment, go here.
San Diego Comic Con 2010: Episode III
With the bags unpacked we ventured out from our hotel. We took a stroll down to the Gaslamp district for some shopping, supper, and to pick up some groceries. While leaving the hotel we could see Comic Con 2010 banners hung from the streetlights. These were set up throughout the city, increasing my excitement a hundred fold; the banners promoted the upcoming Tron movie. Not only were there banners, but there were also signs in almost every storefront window. These signs said that the merchants were supporting the convention. It really brought the entire city together. Previously when we had picked up our room keys, the person at the front desk asked us if we were going to dress up. We said no, but it turned out that the staff dressed up every year for the event! In addition, during the morning hours when I waited for Michelle to get ready I would watch the local news. Everyday the news would discuss what to expect for Comic Con. They would talk about how many people were flowing into the city for the event and gloss over various events happening throughout the city in support of it. It was amazing and reminded me of the influence that the Stampede has in our home city of Calgary, Alberta.
J.K. Simmons, in a scene from Spider-Man.J.K. Simmons, in a scene from Spider-Man.An outdoor mall called Horton Plaza was just a block from our hotel and screamed sophistication. There were about four floors of various shops. Many of these were high-end specialty stores and department stores. We surveyed the shops and at our final stop we walked through an upscale Nordstrom’s store, where I saw J.K. Simmons who to me is famous for his role as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies and in Thank You For Smoking. I did not ask him for an autograph or photograph as he was with his wife and two daughters, but the fact that I saw him was astounding enough. I felt it was the perfect start to the vacation!
After walking through the out-door mall we tried to find a restaurant in the Gaslamp district. We made a large loop in the district and finally decided on a pub that we had seen at the very beginning of the loop; we can be fairly indecisive. The pub was cozy and made their own beer. TV’s hung from the ceiling but was not too loud. Michelle ordered southern fried chicken and I ordered enchiladas. Both our plates had enormous portions, which turned out to be the norm in San Diego. Our food was great and Michelle had leftovers. We also ordered drinks and they too were great. My beer was one of their in-house brews, and Michelle ordered a strawberry margarita that had a healthy dose of tequila. Following supper was a trip to a grocery store and then it was off to the hotel. Coming from Canada it was a nice to see liquor sold at the grocery store. This was expected, but what was not were the prices and selection. They had everything including hard alcohol, wine, and beer. Tequila was very cheap, but we opted for a six pack of a local brew and a bottle of wine that Michelle just had to have since it was called Château de Michelle. We also picked up snacks (both healthy and not so healthy) and in particular breakfast food items. One of the keys to making any trip affordable is to immediately visit a nearby grocery store and pick up food. This cuts down on how much you will spend at restaurants (limiting it to only suppers), and allows one to try more of the local foods.
Once back at the hotel we relaxed and put the food away. Eventually we left again to visit the 7-11 across the street. While walking over there we noticed how busy the Greyhound station was that buttressed one side of the hotel. This was one of the drawbacks to The Sofia hotel as this station attracted a number of sketchy individuals and had us walking a little faster than normal. Nonetheless, we entered the 7-11 on a mission to buy some of the Farmville products as Michelle was trying to get the codes for her Facebook game. This was the end of the day for us where we flew to San Diego and managed to explore a small portion of the downtown area near the hotel and get some food for the week. I always enjoy the first day in a new city for it holds so much promise, and it is wonderful when the city lives up to this, which San Diego does in spades. The Gaslamp district is amazing at night, but the areas outside of here (past The Sofia) are not so enticing. Our day was done and we then planned our second, full day in the city where we would travel to the Zoo.
This is my second post that recounts my trip to San Diego Comic Con back in 2010. Go here to read the first post.
San Diego Comic Con 2010: Episode II
The week before we left for San Diego I was on another work trip. This one lasted about a week and a half and I arrived home the day before we left for San Diego. It was hectic to say the least! Despite this, Michelle and I managed to get packed and off to the airport early on a Sunday morning. The flight was about 3 hours long and was occupied by a few other people traveling to the convention. The flight was fairly uneventful, though I did geek it up by watching Doctor Who episodes on the Space Channel. When the plane came in for its approach, I was pulled away from the TV and began watching the city through the window. The approach was interesting for it takes the plane straight over the city of San Diego. The airport is situated close to the ocean so the planes (I guess) tend to land through flying low over the downtown portion of the city. We could see Balboa Park (filled with museums and the city zoo) and a fair bit of the city’s layout. Once landed, we filed through what appeared to be a small airport and grabbed a cab to our hotel. Our driver was nice, which was a trait shared by many of those who lived and worked in San Diego.
Our cab ride took us along the San Diego coast. The ride cost about $10 as the airport is very close to the downtown area. The drive was scenic as it gave us a glimpse of the U.S.S. Midway and other boats permanently moored. The cab dropped us off at our hotel –The Sofia- and we were quite pleased. It was a historic building made of red bricks with a small French bistro that had patio seating stretching onto the sidewalk. We dragged our bags into the hotel noting a life-like bronze statue of a businessman holding a magazine that stood by the front door. The entry way was classically furnished and friendly faces bustled behind the front counter. Businessmen and fellow travelers sat in the lobby with their laptops open, and later we discovered that this was the only place in the hotel that had free wireless internet. We checked in and were given Comic Con styled room cards; we received one with Tom Welling who played Superman on Smallville and one with Morena Baccarin from the recent V TV show. We had our choice of rooms, which was unexpected, but welcomed! We chose the top floor (5th). The room was incredibly tiny and had an east view, which didn’t show too much. The large windows looked out onto the downtown area, which from this angle showed only large uninteresting buildings and a Greyhound station below. The room itself was impeccably decorated in a modern style. The bathroom was memorable for it was small and had only a shower stall but without a door; only a sliding door separated the bathroom from the rest of the area. This resulted in large puddles of water spreading into the bathroom when taking a shower.
This is a reposting of my trip to San Diego Comic Con in 2010 that I originally posted on my Pickled Peanuts blog. Every so often I will be reposting some of my older stuff, beginning with my trip to San Diego Comic Con. Doing this is also making me really yearn for going back. It’s been too long!
San Diego Comic Con 2010: Episode I
The first day to Comic Con was a time of travel. My wife and I had been planning this trip for months. We purchased our tickets to the event in the first week of November, 2009. I remember that we had discussed buying the tickets online prior to me leaving for a week-long work trip as there were still plenty of tickets available. Within three or so day’s time the situation had drastically changed and the website said they were nearly sold out! The preview night was gone but you could still purchase four-day passes. I am an archaeologist, and at the time was surveying along a mountainside near Frank’s Slide, Alberta. The boss and I had just stopped for lunch when my cell phone rang and I discovered that the tickets were almost sold out, so over the phone my wife and I decided to purchase the regular four-day pass. It was very exciting and nerve racking as we were buying something that was almost nine months away, and we did not know if we would have the time off from work, be able to get plane tickets or a hotel room!
Over the next nine months we slowly organized our trip and saved money. We booked a room at The Sofia through the Comic Con organization website. We found out later that not everyone received the room they wished through the website, but we did get a good room at a hotel that was our number two choice. This system worked by the Comic Con organizers through providing you a list of the hotels that are in association with the convention. Not all of these hotels are close to the convention center, nor cheap. However, by booking through the Comic Con organization you could obtain cheaper rates than by booking it yourself. You then choose about five different hotels from the list they provide, and then on a specific day and time (I think it was about 9am on a Saturday), you log into the Comic Con website and provide them with a list of your desired hotels. After a brief period of time they let you know which hotel you get. It worked out pretty well for us. Our airfare was cheap as my wife works for an airline company that flies to San Diego, however, they only fly on certain days of the week so we had to fly there four days prior to the convention’s start and left two days following its end. This actually worked out quite well as it gave us an opportunity to sightsee and relax before and after the convention.