The final Star Wars trading card set for the year released this week and it wouldn’t be 2020 if there wasn’t at least one little mishap! In this case there are two. The first is that the set was delayed a number of times and it’s now a little crazy for me to look at my artwork again after so many months!
The second mishap is that my scanner was glitchy. It created a green line that ran through the middle of a lot of my scans as you can see with the Ahsoka above. I’ve since patched the problem but the scanner is definitely on its last legs. So if you like my artwork and want to pick up some of my artist returns or commission an original, then you now know what that money will be going to! 🙂
Pack Inserted Artwork
I created 40 regular, pack inserted sketches for this project. I used some different mediums on these cards including, gouache, acrylics, and marker & inks. In addition to the regular sketch cards is one 4 card puzzle. This puzzle card is numbered on the back and I was told that all four of the cards will be packaged in the same pack. So no worries to collectors wanting to scour the internet for years trying to complete a puzzle sketch card!
While the subject matter was pretty much anything from the Star Wars universe, to make things easier on myself I went after just a few topics /movies. I drew heavily from the final season of Star Wars: Clone Wars the Animated series as the final episodes had been just released prior to me working on this project. I also drew a number of different scenes and characters from Empire Strikes Back as it’s the 30th anniversary of the movie. On top of those particular movies /series I drew some of my favourite characters and gave a little love to characters from the prequels. Overall it’s a pretty good spread of scenes and characters from the prequels, animated series, original trilogy, and the Mandalorian. Very little if anything from Solo, Rogue One, or the new trilogy though. However, if you’re following me online or here on my website you’ll now I drew a lot of Solo stuff for Masterwork!
Artist Proof Sketch Cards
I have five artist proofs from Holocron that I have already finished off. They’re all approved and ready to go to a new home! The Leia below has already found a new home, thanks to a terrific long time supporter of my art. The two sketch cards of the Child are also on hold for another terrific collector but they might become available if he decides to pick up one of my other sketch cards instead. If that happens, please let me know if you’re interested in one or both of the Child sketch cards and I’ll message you later to let you know if they become available or are sold.
My Bo Katan and Bo Katan with Ahsoka sketch card artist proofs are available and are $175US each, including tracked shipping from Canada. Please send me a message about adding either of these to your collection! You can also pay 50% upfront and 50% when it’s done, or 100% upfront.
Also, funnily I had NO idea Bo Katan and Ahsoka would be in the second season of the Mandalorian! I’m just a huge Rebels fan and figured other people are as well! 🙂
Recently, one of the biggest collectors of sketch cards I know and easily the most knowledgable person of the artform I know, Chris Mixer, asked me a few questions about being a sketch card artist. He posted that interview on his website and today I’m excited to share my interview with him here!
A Conversation with a Sketch Card Collector
What is it about sketch cards that made you want to collect them and eventually create a website about them?
I collected ComicBooks growing up. In 1998 when I graduated college and had my first full-time job, I had more disposable income so I joined eBay to look for comic books. I quickly discovered that some of my favorite comic book creators had affordable original art in the form of sketch cards (Marvel Creator’s Collection by Fleer/Skybox). I used to scan and upload every sketch card I collected online, but Microsoft Frontpage and PhotoBucket both became dated over time and I lost that work, so now I mainly blog about them. One day I hope to re-build a proper large-scale website.
What was the first sketch card you added to your collection? Was it something you found when opening a pack of cards or did you see it online /in a store and buy it or did you buy it direct from the artist?
It was 1998, so Marvel Creator’s Collection was the easiest to find on the secondary market. I don’t remember the exact card that was my first purchase, but I still own 90% of what I collected back then, so whatever it was is probably still in my possession. I only opened 1 box of Marvel Creator’s Collection back then (because I learned I could buy 3-5 sketch cards off eBay for the price of 1 box). It was a Human Torch by Mariano Nicieza.
Have you tried creating sketch cards yourself? Were you inspired by what you collect? Let’s see a photo!
LOL. No, but I have a funny story. When Upper Deck started making Marvel Masterpieces 2007, I wanted to learn and blog about the process of “trying out” to help potential artists. The only way to learn the process was to actually submit something to Upper Deck. The good news is that they graciously turned me down. I had promised myself that if I was hired, I would personally buy back every last one of my sketch cards to relieve the world and put money back in the hands of the poor people that pulled my cards.
Do you have a favourite trading card set that included sketch cards and /or a favourite particular sketch card?
I have definitely had favorite sets, but eventually when the cards dried up on the second market, and I could no longer continue to grow my collection easily, I moved on to a new set. Actively collecting, trading, and organizing is what made them my favorite. The ones I collected most aggressively were MCC98, Complete Avengers 2006, and 2005 Topps Gallery Baseball.
How do you store and display your sketch card collection?
Very poorly, LOL. I used to scan every card, but now they sadly sit in two row shoeboxes stacked on top of each other like a Jenga tower. I hope to build a website and scan them all again someday, but I have too many to actually display on my walls or shelves.
Is there a property you wish would receive a trading card set /sketch cards? Is there a property that hasn’t had new trading cards /sketch cards in a long time that you wish would come back? Personally I’d love to see a new Simpsons set!
I have a boatload of ideas, but I don’t know if they’re all good. For example, if Topps is going to make another Star Wars set, why don’t they differentiate it by making it vehicles and weapons only? And why isn’t there a DC Comics Evolution set, where every sketch card is part of a 2-card puzzle … 1950s Batman on the left, 2020 Batman on the right? I am also surprised that Creator Owned Comics haven’t pooled their resources, and created a set based on 10 or 20 different independent comics. Sure, Rob Guillory’s CHEW can’t carry a set on its own, but it could be one property in a larger Image Comics set.
Is there something in the art-form that you would like to see done in sketch cards that hasn’t been done yet or rarely done? Can be style of art, medium used, or something else.
I am at the point that even a photo-realistic headshot seems a little too common even if beautifully rendered. I would much rather collect an architectural detail shot, a vehicle, or a card with word balloons. Any card the differentiates itself from the rest demands a premium from me. — I also think manufacturers need to do whatever it takes to enlist some artists with name appeal and a large following. Pay Adam Hughes or J. Scott Campbell whatever they want to get them drawing sketch cards again.
As a collector, where do you see original artwork in trading card projects heading? Do you see it slowing down, staying the same, becoming more popular, or something else?
There’s no way that Topps can continue to put out Star Wars sets at their current pace. It’s sometimes hard to tell one set from another. It looks like collectors are turning to small press, limited run, and premium packs to get something “fresh.” Those Perna sets (like Hallowe’en) seem to sell out within minutes.
Why should other collectors add sketch cards to their collections?
I hope they don’t; that’s just more competition. (Just kidding). I think there are still sports card collectors and pop-culture collectors that don’t even know sketch cards exist. For example, I remember going to a large baseball card convention couple years ago, and half the dealers didn’t even know what I was asking about. I think there are comic book collectors that don’t know their favorite artist (like Neal Adams) has drawn sketch cards in the past. There is still a lot of knowledge to be shared.
Check Out Chris’s Website!
Thanks again to Chris for joining me for this interview!
Topps 2020 Star Wars Masterwork is a premium trading card set that includes sketch cards, some of which I drew! As this is a premium set, the sketch cards are on quality paper stock that have a great texture to draw on. The cards are also stiffer and thicker than other, regular sketch cards.
This isn’t the first time I’ve contributed artwork to the Masterwork product too! I’ve previously worked on the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Masterwork sets! The 2016 set was the inaugural edition of the set and is considered by many collectors to be the finest Star Wars trading card set Topps has ever produced.
For this project, again as it’s a premium product, I also worked on a limited amount of booklet sketch cards. These cards are the size of two sketch cards (2.5×3.5″) that are connected and fold together to form a book. One of the booklets was on the thicker premium paper stock and the others were on thinner paper. Not sure why there was a difference.
Pack inserted artwork
All of the artwork I did for this set was painted with gouache or acrylic. I’ve been greatly enjoying using gouache and I think this is some of my strongest work yet with the medium.
For this set I have left all of my artist proofs blank. This way, you can commission me to draw whatever character you’d like on the card!
Use the form below to contact me about commissioning one of these artist proofs. I only have a few left!
Star Wars the Mandalorian trading cards were just released by Topps this week. Some of my original artwork can be found in packs of these cards, sold at hobby shops and retailers!
This trading card series focuses exclusively on season one of the Mandalorian, and explores all of the characters and settings from this season. While this is the first trading card set to focus on the Mandalorian, it wasn’t the first time I could draw characters from this series. In the Women of Star Wars set that released in the spring of 2020 I was able to draw the female characters from the Mandalorian such as Cara Dune. Two other sets I’ve worked on also allowed me to draw characters from this show but these sets won’t release for another month or two (Masterwork and Holocron).
Samples of my Mandalorian artwork
I created 35 full colour sketch cards for this set. I jumped between a few different styles and mediums, which if you’ve read my previous posts you’ll see that’s common for most of the sets I work on. The sketch card below of the Mandalorian as a child was painted with designer gouache and the ice cream maker was painted with acrylic. The other three cards were coloured with Copics and pencil crayons overtop. Some of the cards for this set were done with Copic markers and inks.
Let me know if there are any characters that you loved from the show in the comments below!
Unlike many of my other projects, I don’t have any completed artists proofs for sale. Instead, my APs are blank and can be used for commissions of any character or scene from the show! Contact me below to find out more!
Last year I had the opportunity to contribute illustrations to the Topps 2019 Gallery Baseball set. This artwork was used for the insert set called Impressionists and there were 30 cards in all. As per most insert sets, the cards were not found in every pack but instead 1 in every 88 or so packs had one of these cards in them. It was a great project to work on but I had been hoping that my artwork would be found a bit more easily.
For Gallery 2020 trading cards, I contributed 26 illustrations that were used for the base cards. These are the common cards that tally up to 100 different cards that make up the “base set”. Every pack has several different base cards in it, so my cards are much easier to find in the packs this year!
The original illustrations I created for these cards measured roughly 4×6″ and then were scanned down to fit the cards when printing. The originals were used by Topps as incentives in the trading card set, with being inserted into jumbo packs they placed inside the larger boxes of cards. For the cards, they are sold in individual packs, small boxes, and what are called Mega boxes which have the jumbo packs included in them. These cards are also only sold at retail locations like Walmart.
Above are just a few examples of the artwork I created for this year’s Gallery base cards. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I’ll be sharing the rest of the cards I illustrated!
I used mixed media in illustrated the portraits. Images were provided to my by Topps and then I pencilled out the portrait. I then used markers to create a base colour and painted a thin layer of designer (or traditional) gouache overtop. I then used oil pencil crayons to create defined lines and shapes overtop the painting.
Curious about what art supplies I use? Follow the links below to purchase the same supplies I use!
Holbein Traditional Gouache Paints
Faber Castel Polychromous Pencil Crayons
Commission Your Own
I don’t have any of the original illustrations to sell as these were inserted into the Mega boxes, but you can commission a drawing of your favourite baseball player in the same style and size that I did these Gallery illustrations in! If you have a copy of one of my Gallery cards I’d also be more than happy to sign it for you (just need you to cover the return shipping though).
***Mattstewartillustrations.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Non-Sports Magazine is published once every two months and every couple of issues they post a list of ‘hot’ artists. It’s unclear as to how they create this list but some artists figure it’s based off online sales of sketch cards. Either way they do it, it’s pretty neat when you find out that you’re on that list!
For this month, the magazine has me listed at number nine! They used a photo of a sketch card I drew for the Rick & Morty Series 3 trading cards from Cryptozoic. Pretty happy with the example they chose!
Below are photos of the “Hot List”, with each of the artists included.
Commission a sketch card
Want a sketch card like the Rick & Morty one featured in the magazine? Then contact me below!
Making sketch cards is possibly far more complicated than you might think. You might assume from looking at one that it’s a simple task of just sitting down and sketching out an image, but it’s far more than just that.
What are sketch cards?
What are sketch cards is a question I went into answering in a previous blog post (read it here). I looked at the different types of sketch cards and a bit of the history of sketch cards, but not so much on the how sketch cards are made.
Here, I look at the “how” of sketch cards in two parts. One is the logistics. This is everything that occurs right up to the point of actually drawing on the paper. Second is the actual act of making the artwork. This may seem self explanatory but I would argue that sketch cards have become their own form of art with their own challenges.
The logistics of creating sketch cards, when dealing with licensed sketch cards for trading card companies begins with finding the work. Don’t go asking me for contact information from companies and instead put your work online and google companies that make trading cards. Doing the legwork yourself will take you much farther! As for putting work online, companies do search out artists on Instagram, Twitter, websites /blogs, and Deviant Art. Getting noticed or an email replied to may take months or even years, but the biggest thing to remember is to continue doing what you’re doing. If you don’t hear back from a company after a few months there is no harm in emailing them back with samples of more recent drawings, and of course post artwork online on a regular basis of 3-7 times or more a week. If you become frustrated, seek out artists like myself who’ve worked on trading card projects to ask for feedback on your artwork and advice on what you could be doing differently.
When creating work that you want to use for submissions to companies or to get noticed online, research your audience first. Look at what licenses the companies hold and what previous artists have done. The work other artists have done is stuff that’s been approved by the publisher and license holder which gives you an idea of the quality and style a trading card company would be looking for. Second, if you want to work for Upper-Deck let’s say, then look at what properties they have and create artwork based off those properties (Marvel, James Bond, hockey, etc.). Also, make sure that the artwork you are creating is on sketch cards, as again what you want to show them needs to be similar to what they would have you create for them. It makes no sense for you to make large 11×17″ pencil drawings of the Smurfs if you want to create sketch cards of Marvel comics characters that are painted in full colour.
So a company has contacted you to create sketch cards for one of their upcoming trading card sets. That’s awesome but now what? First, you’re told what the deadline is, parameters of the project, and are asked how many drawings you’d like to contribute to the project. Answer all of those questions and the company will mail you the cards that you draw on.
Once you get the cards in hand, begin looking up reference materials to draw from. If it’s a comic book based project, then I suggest writing out a list of characters you would like to draw and then googling what they look like; you have to make sure you get the costumes right! If it’s a property based on a movie or TV show, then you’ll have to google images from that property. Star Wars is always easy because you can start right away by drawing ships and storm troopers without needing much if any reference. For portraits and scenes, that can be trickier and websites with loads of screencaps is super useful.
Positioning the art
You’ve got your reference images or list ready, the invite and contract signed, and now you’ve got the sketch cards in front of you awaiting to be painted or drawn on, but now what?
You need to think about how you’ll be drawing these cards. I recommend thinking about how best to utilize the tiny space for a drawing. When doing portraits /headshots of characters, plan where to place the head in a way that it won’t intersect with the logo on the card. Second, make sure the face is centered or near centered on the card. It looks weird when this isn’t done on a sketch card and is best to break this rule only when it adds to the piece like when drawing a villain or some other shady character as placing the head close to the edge of the card adds tension to the image.
When drawing something more complex than a portrait like a full scene or sports athlete who has a complex logo or lettering on their jersey, decide if you want to try to capture all of the detail or not. I’ll often omit some of the detail as I find it actually provides better clarity to the image. Too much detail is often lost in a small drawing like a sketch card and frequently the image just becomes muddled. This is one of the aspects of drawing on sketch cards that I find lends itself to being considered its own artform.
When drawing something more complex you also need to consider whether you want to draw it in a landscape or vertical orientation and how to rejig the scene to fit the card’s dimensions. Some artists only draw an image on a card in the same orientation as how the logo is placed on the card. Personally, I’m not bothered by this and am more concerned with how best to depict what I am drawing. Once I’ve decided on the orientation, if there’s multiple people or objects in a drawing, I’ll decide if I need to move things around to better fit the space. Sometimes I’ll also redraw an arm or the position of a head, or other objects, to best fit the card space.
Steps to drawing a sketch card
Not all artists work the same. Through experience you’ll find what works best for you but I do have a particular method of creating sketch cards that I find is efficient and allows me to produce the best art I can. Also, creating artwork for trading card companies is done so within a set timeframe, so you don’t have months or years to finish something and the quicker you finish a project the better.
I begin every drawing by pencilling it out. After pencilling out the drawing I’ll use any number of mediums that are chosen based on what I feel like using, what works best on the paper stock of the card, what works best for the type of drawing I’m doing, or what I’ve been requested to do by my art director. As for paper stock, no company nore project uses the same type of paper. Not all of the paper is great for drawing on either, so having some skill in a variety of art mediums will help you as a trading card artist!
If I’m doing comic book based artwork I often ink my drawing after pencilling them, and then go over that with Copic markers. I pencil all of my cards first (and this goes for any medium I’m using), and then ink all of them. This assembly line method is used by other artists and greatly speeds up the project. After letting the cards dry for a day or so, I go over them with Copic markers and then use either white acrylic or white pencil crayons for highlights. I’ll sometimes use pencil crayons or limited amounts of gouache if I want to render the drawing even further.
If I want a softer feel to the drawings, such as in portraits, I’ll often use Copics directly over the pencils and then pencil crayons overtop of that. The markers give the pencil crayons a base colour to work over, allowing me to focus more on smoothing out the colours and adding definition where it’s needed, like around the eyes.
Unlike inking or using markers, if I’m going to paint the cards with acrylic or gouache, I won’t spend a lot of time pencilling. Often the pencil sketch is very loose and is really just used to block out the shapes and proportions of a face. This is because the paint will fully cover the pencil lines and there’s no point in wasting time making a beautiful pencil drawing only for it to be fully obscured by the paint.
Using paint is one of the most time consuming methods of creating a sketch card. I reserve it mainly for a select handful of cards I do, if it’s an image I love like of Princess Leia (always gotta give your best to the Princess!), if I have a substantial amount of time for a project, if the cards might be reproduced (like in MLB Museum Collection), or if the paper quality is very high. Some artists will do all of their cards in paint and spend 3-4 hours per painting, but I fall somewhere in the 45 minutes to 1.5 hours per card so painting isn’t an option for every project and every card.
Finished the drawings & now what?
Once you’ve finished drawing all of your cards you sign the backs. This might seem like such a small detail but make sure your name is legible. If it isn’t legible, take the time to print your name. Collectors are constantly posting online about how they have no idea who created this or that card. It frustrates the collectors and sometimes the companies themselves. It also won’t help you getting connected to collectors who like your work and might want to commission you for more!
A final step that I highly recommend is to seal your artwork. It really only takes a minute and then you let it dry for a day, but it is absolutely worth it. Sealing your artwork with a spray will prevent your artwork from smudging during the process of it being packed in the trading card packages. It can also protect it from fading from UV light when collectors display it, and somet sprays have a matte or gloss finishes that will make the art look even better! Also, if using paint like gouache or acrylic, you absolutely have to seal it with something or it will scratch, rub off, or become sticky.
Once the cards have dried from sealing them, take a GOOD scan of your cards. Too many artists work on sets and then after the project releases they maybe have one or two photos of the artwork they did on their phones. This artwork can be used online for advertising and put in your portfolios. Use that work to get more work! Also, some companies will request you send them scans of the cards you worked on, so make sure it’s at least a high quality one you’ll want to use later on (300 DPI is usually good enough).
Once the sealer has dried, the scans have been taken, the cards are then packaged up and sent back to the publisher /company. Once there, images of the sketch cards are sent to the licence holder for their approval and then packaged in the set, being inserted into the packs whereby collectors will find them! Depending on the company, your artist proofs will either have been kept by the artist or sent to the company where depending on if they’re approved, will be sent back to the artist at the time of the product being released to the public for sale. Either way, the artist hangs on to their artist proofs until the set hits store shelves and can then try to sell them. Payment for the project also doesn’t come sometimes until the project hits shelves.
After the work is done
What do you do after you finish the project? First thing to do is advertise what you did and try to sell your artist proofs. I create digital information cards that have my artwork on them. I include my name and contact information alongside an image of the sketch card I drew in the hopes people will contact me about commissions or to purchase an artist proof. For selling artist proofs I use various Facebook pages, posting on Instagram and Twitter, and listing them on Ebay. I also use an enewsletter, which you can sign up for here on my website!
With the scans you took of the sketch cards, include them in your portfolio and email it to the companies that haven’t hired you for projects before. Also, email the company you just worked for when that project releases to thank them for bringing you on board the project and inquire about future projects. So much of it is about constant communication and polite nagging!
Let me know what you think!
Let me know if you have any questions or think I missed something on the story of how sketch cards are made for card companies. If what I wrote helps you or someone you know break into making artwork for trading card companies, and you you’ve enjoyed other posts I’ve written on my website I’d appreciate a small donation to help keep my website up and running! I’m a trading card artist myself so an extra couple of bucks would go a long ways!