Topps 2019 Baseball Series 2 Sketch Cards

My sketch cards were included in Topps 2019 Baseball Series 2, which was released earlier this week! I tried to provide a good representation for all the teams and a mix of active and retired players, much like what I do for my previous baseball projects. I’m a baseball fan myself (Cardinals & Blue Jays being my two teams), and I know how important it is to have as many different teams and players included as possible. Also, drawing as many different players as possible keeps it interesting to draw!

I will also have artwork coming up later this month in Topps 2019 Baseball Museum Collection and another set in the fall! My artwork will also appear in more entertainment trading card sets, like Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more!

Artist Returns

Message me below to purchase these or ask about a commission, and check my ebay page for what’s currently on auction.


Pack Inserted Sketch Cards

 

Contact me to purchase or ask about commissions

#raisetheruth Charity Auction

I am trying something new by adding auctions of my sketch cards to my website, and the first of these will be a charity auction.

 

Up for auction is my hand-drawn artist proof (AP) sketch card from Journey to the Last Jedi. This is a hand-drawn sketch card I made, and is part of the small collection of APs I receive from my trading card projects. I have decided to auction this AP in support of the #raisetheruthcharity. The auction will last until 8pm Mountain Time, June 17th and the opening bid starts at $40 Canadian.

100% of the proceeds from this auction will go to #raisetheruthcharity. I will cover the cost of shipping as well.

You can also make donations directly to Dave Gaskin’s Crowdfunder page.

journey to the last jedi hux artist proof sketch card star wars hand drawn art by matt stewart
Journey to the Last Jedi, Hux, artist proof sketch card by matt stewart

What is #raisetheruth?

Dave Gaskin’s sister Ruth has been struggling with a series of chronic, degenerative and debilitating illnesses for several years. As a result, she cannot walk easily without assistance and spends her days in pain on a cocktail of medications. You can read more about it on her blog.

At the beginning of June 2019, Birmingham City Council – through a clerical error and Job Centre Plus incompetence – demanded that she pay back £5000 in allegedly ‘overpaid’ housing benefit. They want the money within 2 weeks and have cancelled her housing benefit payments.

It could take a year to contest this decision which means she potentially is at risk of being made homeless. Added to this, she’s one of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who have had to fight a Government assessment, that she’s ‘Fit For Work’.

Official UK Government figures show that over 17,000 people have died while waiting to hear from their PIP assessments. Independent testimony places the number much higher. The UN has identified that 14 million people in the UK live in poverty – unable to afford proper housing or food.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted that 1.5m people experienced destitution in 2017 – meaning they had less than £10 a day after housing costs or had to go without at least two essentials such as shelter, food, heat, light, clothing or toiletries during a one-month period.

It goes without saying that family & friends are rallying around her and plans are in place for a fundraising event in Birmingham at the end of June but we need help. Your help.

Your donation will raise money for Ruth’s living expenses and to contest the council’s demands.

Dave Gaskin’s sister needs our help and doesn’t deserve to join the thousands of other vulnerable people in the UK who’s lives are made miserable by a system that repeatedly lets them down.

Why am I Supporting this Cause?

I am supporting this cause because Dave Gaskin is a fantastic fellow artist who is consistently donating his works for charity and I want to help him out in his time of need. I also hate seeing people with health problems not be able to receive the help they should get from their local government. To not receive the basics such as affordable health care and housing is a universal problem and while this will not fix those issues, it will help raise awareness and aid on individual in need.

“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

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Stranger Things Illustration in Printed in Blood Book!

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!

 

 

Topps Star Wars Masterwork 2018

Star Wars Masterwork from Topps is a premium set of trading cards that comes out every year, for the past four years. I’ve had the pleasure of creating sketch cards for the last three of these products, and I feel that this year’s is my best work yet (See previous year’s work here)!

Star Wars Masterwork sketch card booklet by matt stewart
My one Booklet sketch card

One of the reasons why I love working on Star Wars Masterwork is that it allows me to draw from the entire film and TV universe of Star Wars. There’s other sets (like Galactic Files Reborn) that also allow for all of the Star Wars universe to be drawn from, but this one provides me thicker, higher quality sketch cards to work off of. If you were buying a top loader or one-touch protector for these cards they’d be 100pt, as opposed to regular thin trading cards from other sets. This project also has unique booklet cards, of which I was invited to draw on one of them -they are especially rare!

Mediums Used

As per usual, I utilized a few different techniques for creating my sketch cards. For some of them I used pen and ink with copic marker. This produces a comic book like style that I greatly enjoy and has been my mainstay ever since I begin drawing sketch cards. I also used my more recent method of marrying copic markers with polychromous pencil crayons, which gives the image a richer and more realistic appearance.

sketch cards by matt stewart for star wars masterwork trading cards sketch cards by matt stewart for star wars masterwork trading cards sketch cards by matt stewart for star wars masterwork trading cards

New to this project was my usage of water colours and acrylic paints. For the water colours I also used a little bit of gouache. I wanted my pencils to be visible and the water colours to be simple washes. The paper wasn’t too great for it but I think the images still look good. Unfortunately, my scanner didn’t pick up the water colours too well. They look much better in person and I now have a new scanner so future projects with water colour work will be displayed even better!

star wars masterwork sketch cards by matt stewart
Pack Inserted cards painted with water colour /gouache

Earlier this year I began dabbling with acrylic paints on my sketch cards. I’ve been inspired by other artists like Kris Penix & Jay Marchand, who create their sketch cards exclusively in acrylic paint. Painting with acrylics is an incredibly so process so I decided to do only a small batch of my cards in this medium. I feel that with every project my acrylic work is getting better and I’m definitely going to be continuing to use it! I even kept a handful of these as my artist proofs!

sketch cards by matt stewart for star wars masterwork trading cards
Examples of my sketch cards painted with acrylic paints and inserted into packs! The Ahsoka on the bottom left has already been pulled and listed on ebay.
Artist Proof Sketch Cards

I have six artist proof sketch cards available to sell from this project. The Yoda, Fett & AT-AT Driver are all painted in acrylic. The Jyn and Rey have acrylic painted backgrounds and copic/ pencil crayon portrait foregrounds. The Galen is all copic /pencil crayon.

sketch cards by matt stewart for star wars masterwork trading cards
Artist Proof Sketch Cards

Please contact me if you are interested in buying one or more of my artists!

In Places Between 2018 Book Cover

For the third year in a row I’ve been invited to create artwork for the Imaginative Fiction Writer’s Association’s annual anthology book, In Places Between: The Very Best Short Fiction of When Words Collide. This year I created the front cover illustration and the back cover graphics. I absolute love these projects and from what I heard, my illustration was very well received!
 
My concept for this year’s cover was to create an old, well lived in space that had elements of the fantastical. At the centre of this warm space is a young woman engrossed reading her book. I’m also infatuated with art nouveau, so included that type of stained glass in the background. I used a mixed media of Copic markers, polychromous pencil crayons, and gouache paint on warm press water colour paper. Some edits in Photoshop were added as well.
 
in places between book cover illustration by matt stewart
Scan of the original illustration

Back cover design for In Places Between 2018 that includes a picture frame and wallpaper.
Back cover design for In Places Between 2018
Final book cover for In Places Between 2018 book, with digital edits and artwork by matt stewart
Final book cover for In Places Between 2018 book, with digital edits and artwork by matt stewart
Check out the IFWA website to find out more about this fantastic local writer’s group!

What are Sketch Cards?

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.

A generic, blank sketch card.
A generic, blank sketch card.

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

‘Art De Bart’ Sketch Card from Skybox drawn by matt groening
‘Art De Bart’ Sketch Card from Skybox

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.

The highly talented Adam Hughes drew this sketch card for the 2008 Indiana Jones trading card set.
The highly talented Adam Hughes drew this sketch card for the 2008 Indiana Jones trading card set.

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.

Incredibly detailed sketch card by Julio Nar of the green goblin
Incredibly detailed sketch card by Julio Nar.

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.

topps 2017 the last jedi captain phasma sketch card by matt stewart
Artist Return sketch card of Captain Phasma from The Last Jedi, drawn by Matt Stewart.

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.

jay and silent bob artist proof sketch card from clerks
Jay and Silent Bob Artist Proof sketch card by Matt Stewart.

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:

Walking Dead from Topps

Star Wars 40th Anniversary from Topps

Terminator from Unstoppable

Clerks from Upper-Deck

Garbage Pail Kids from Topps

Creating Solid Graphic Layouts through Practice

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.

Let me know below what you think!