Topps Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Black and White Sketch Cards is a new Star Wars trading card set released this week from Topps that has some of my artwork in it! I’ve fallen well behind on posting about the trading card projects I’ve had the fortune to work on and wanted to get back into the swing of things with this one! In all I created 35 sketch cards, all of which were in black & white or grey tones. The trading cards for this set were also in black and white and follows in line with last year’s Star Wars: A New Hope Black & White set that I also contributed artwork to. However, unlike last time, these sketch cards were all in black and white or grey tones.
I didn’t do anything too fancy on these cards. For the most part I drew all of the big characters and a few smaller characters from the film. I was limited to only drawing scenes or characters from Empire Strikes Back, which honestly isn’t that many as all the other Star Wars films are loaded with background characters and aliens. Nonetheless, Empire is one of my favourite films and the Cloud City & Hoth battle scenes are ripe with great imagery.
Support an artist!
Below are my artist proofs, which are $115 each if you purchase them here. Just send me a message with which one(s) you would like and I can send you a PayPal invoice. That price also includes your shipping & a free art print of one of my drawings! If you would like more than one, then I will drop the price to $100 each as well.
More samples of my artwork
The images below are the cards that I created which were randomly inserted into packs. In addition to the regular 2.5×3.5″ sketch cards are shaped sketch cards and panel (double and triple) sketch cards.
It’s been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to post anything on my website! Last year I was incredibly busy with numerous trading card projects, along with a book cover and a few other projects that will hopefully be released later this year!
Every so often between the licensed card sets I also create sketch cards for charity raffles or for artist exchanges. More and more lately I’ve begun steering away from non-licensed sketch card commissions as I feel I spend enough time as it is drawing on these tiny pieces of paper for the trading card sets, so when a commission pops up I opt to draw on bigger pieces of paper. However, there have been a few charity raffles where I offered a custom sketch card created on plain paper. There are also a number of artists who like to exchange sketch card artwork; these sketch cards are drawn on plain paper that is the size of a sketch card, 2.5×3.5″.
The Princess Leia sketch card shown here was from a charity raffle last year, the Princess Leia in her Boushh disguise from Return of the Jedi was from a sketch card exchange, and the TMNT, Walter White & Bruce Lee sketch cards were all from a raffle I was invited to on Blowout Cards Forum. That last set of raffle sketch cards was held by a few collectors who commissioned sketch cards from a few artists and then they held a raffle for them.
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)!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Please contact me if you are interested in buying one or more of my artists!
Late last year I had the fantastic opportunity to create sketch cards for the 2018 Baseball Series 1 from Topps. I still need to post examples of my artwork from that set here but I’ve been so darn busy! Case in point, Series 2 from the 2018 Topps Baseball set was released about a month ago and I had, again, sketch cards in it!
I have a mix of styles in the set and tried to draw a player from every team but I think I accidentally forgot about one or two. I also had the chance to draw a few retired players, going all the back to Honus Wagner! One of my favourite retired players was also in the mix, a Mr. Ozzie Smith!
These sketches are incredibly rare to find in the packs of cards. If I’m not mistaken, I believe the odds of finding one is about one per every 2 or 3 cases of cards! That’s not packs, or boxes, but cases!
Check out what I have listed on ebay and if you don’t see it there, contact me here and commission an original from me! I often have a month or two long waiting list, so please make sure to contact me early for commissions. I also have some blank official artist proofs from companies like Leaf available, but they may not be available for long!
Up next for my project release calendar is Topps 2018 MLB Museum Collection. This was released in the last week of June. Coming up in July is a horror trading card set for MNS Cards and Lost in Space series 2 from Rittenhouse. I have a few commissions and other non sketch card projects I’m working on this month that I am also excited about sharing! Hoping to have much of that posted on Twitter and Instagram, so make sure to follow me there!
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:
Topps 2018 Star Wars: A New Hope Black and White Sketch Cards is a new trading card set that features imagery strictly from the first Star Wars movie (read more about the set here). For my part, I created 35 unique sketch cards but chose to do them all in colour. I somewhat wish I had decided to create them in black and white but perhaps if Topps decides to do another set like this I’ll go with black and white.
This set is my fifteenth Star Wars set that I’ve had the pleasure of working on for Topps; check out the full list of my projects here! Even though I’ve previously drawn all of the major and many of the minor characters in these projects, I still find new scenes, new characters, and new ways of depicting Star Wars imagery. It really is a blast and easily one of my favourite properties to work on in sketch cards.
Puzzle Sketch Cards
For the first time I tried puzzle cards for a Topps Star Wars set. Puzzle cards are when multiple sketch cards connect to create one larger image. For Topps, these puzzle cards are packed separately so a collector would have to track down the other cards of the puzzle. This is unlike Upper-Deck who packs all of the puzzle cards together into a single pack of cards. Because Topps packs the puzzle cards separately, I made sure that each piece of the puzzle would stand on their own. Each card has the full image of a character or ship on it, but the background is what connects the cards together. I also did this for two of my artist returns, which I think worked out well for depicting the Cantina scene where Luke, Obi, Chewie and Han all meet for the first time.
Different from other Star Wars sets was the inclusion of die-cut sketch cards in the shape of Vader and a Stormtrooper’s helmet. Previously, Topps had recently released bb-8 and bb-9e shaped cards. I loved the idea of vader and trooper shaped cards and while I was sticking with simple portraits I wanted to create something that was interesting to have inside these shapes. For the Vader shaped cards I drew Luke and Leia and for the Stormtrooper helmets I drew a sandtrooper and Tarkin.
Currently my puzzle artist proofs have already sold, but please check my ebay postings for the others. If they’re not listed, contact me about them or a commission!
These past few weeks I’ve been playing catch-up on pretty much everything, including posting on my website. One thing I’ve been meaning to post about is that I was interviewed twice recently about my sketch card artwork. I was both surprised and flattered that I was asked for such interviews. I was also happy that I could show off some of my artwork to a few new eyeballs!
I often have blinders on when I get busy, such as the past few months where all I do is focus on meeting art deadlines. It amazes me that people out there like my art and collect it. It’s something I never really expected to have happen five or so years ago and I truly appreciate hearing from people who collect this or that drawing I made!
The first interview was on That Sports Card Podcast back in October of last year. This interview was really cool as I was able to talk about a few different topics that ranged from who I am personally, what I collect, and about the artwork I create. Hopefully I came across OK on the podcast and at some level am interesting to listen to!
The second interview came from the online magazine, Collection Connections. I was sent a few questions which again were about my sketch card artwork and my own collecting hobby. I’m not sure how many other artists collect but I am a big card collector (mainly hockey) along with Lego and comic books. Again, this interview was a lot of fun to do. Like most people, it’s hard not to enjoy talking about yourself and what you do.
Another cool bit of news is that Steve over at the Star Wars Everything website has been kind enough to highlight some of the sketch card artists on new Star Wars trading card sets produced from Topps. Myself and a handful of other artists have been able to post examples of our sketch cards on his website, where he also talks more in depth about that particular Star Wars trading card product that is coming up. Really appreciate an opportunity to post some more of my artwork!
If you would like to ask me a question directly or interview me for your website or podcast, please drop me a line here!