matt stewart illustrations logo
sketch card of texas rangers marcus semien

Baseball Art in the Shape of a ‘T’: Topps 2023 MLB Series 2

topps 2023 mlb series 2 logo

Topps 2023 baseball series 2 hit store shelves recently. This is part of the baseball flagship product that comes out every year in three sets: Series 1, 2, and Update. I’ve contributed artwork to this product for a few years now but this year was a bit different as I worked on anniversary diecut sketch cards in the shape of the retro Topps logo. 

Like any of the baseball projects I work on, I try to draw a player from each team. Last year was a bit of an exception as I drew a bunch of Yadi, Pujols, & Waino for their final season and in some sets I’ll draw players from a particular position, like last year’s Update series was all pitchers. For Series 2 I drew who I considered the most popular player from a given team, but if you think there’s a player I overlooked please let me know in the comments below!

Nuts & Bolts of Creating the Sketch Cards

Almost all of the sketch cards I made for this set were painted with designer gouache plus oil pencil crayons. A few of the cards were done in a slightly different style as I wanted to experiment a bit. I sketched the illustration with a pencil crayon, using a black or indigo for the linework and another colour to flush it out. In the Rafael Devers sketch card shown here, I used Indigo for the linework and a red for the shading, creating a monochromatic look. I then used a very light red gouache wash overtop of the portrait and a thicker application of green /blue for the background to make the portrait pop.

One aspect of making sketch cards I don’t often go into, although it’s probably apparent to some, is how long these take me to create. The process of working on sketch cards is not one done within a day. Outside of the time spent drawing to build up one’s skills, a specific project starts with time spent on looking up images to draw and in the case of baseball projects, figuring out which players to draw. Once I have enough reference images saved on my tablet, I start sketching out the images on the cards. A bit of time is spent figuring out what part of the reference image is to be drawn on the card, but after doing this for years I’m fairly quick on figuring out what part of an image will work best on a sketch card; for example where to crop the reference image so I’m drawing either a closeup of a face, chest up, or full figure action shot. Next, and specifically for these cards, I go over my loose pencils with a coloured pencil crayon. I often use just one colour pencil crayon and frequently it’s a colour that matches some aspect of the drawing. For example, Tommy Edmands of the St. Louis Cardinals had a red pencil crayon used overtop the graphite pencil drawing as it matches his team’s colours. I used pencil crayons not just to firm up the drawing but because it won’t be washed away from the gouache I use next, and the lines are often still showing under the painting which I quite like. 

The next step is painting. For some of the cards I used a very light, water down application of gouache. A thicker application of gouache, with further blending and defining provided by pencil crayons overtop, was used on other cards. The Max Scherzer sketch card had a thicker application of gouache and the Trout had a wash of the gouache paint applied to it. A few of the cards, like the Semien card, had the background coloured in with a marker. I also used white acrylic paint for the highlights like the reflection on helmets and eyes.

Once I had finished drawing & painting, I signed the backs of the cards and wrote the player’s name. I then sprayed the cards down with a sealer so they won’t smudge and then scanned the cards so I’d have a record of what I did. I also sent this scan off to Topps for approval before shipping them all back to Topps for usage in the product.

Time Well(?) Spent

On average I spend one to one-and-half hours drawing and painting each card. I also spend several hours prepping a project and several more to scan, spray, and package up the cards to ship back. Once the project is released to the public I then spend several more hours editing the scans so I can share them online and to use in website posts like this one here. I would estimate that this project alone took 50-60 hours to complete. That is something that I don’t think everyone realizes. These projects take A LOT of time to do. Each card represents the prep, sketching, painting, spraying, scanning, and more. Is it worth it for hand made art? Absolutely.

Let me know in the comments below if you liked this approach and would like to see more sketch cards like this!

sketch card of rafael devers painted on a topps 2023 mlb baseball series 2 card
topps 2023 mlb series 2 logo
sketch card of amed rosario painted on a topps 2023 mlb baseball series 2 card
topps 2023 mlb series 2 logo

Contact Me to Purchase or Commission an Original Baseball Painting

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *