Thoughts and Tips for Sketch Card Artists

Professional Work sketch cards Tips

After working for several years doing sketch card sets, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to talk about some of the things I’ve learned through experience and observation.  If you’re wanting to get into doing sketch card sets, keep these in mind.

Don’t miss your deadline.

If it looks like you’re going to blow the deadline, tell your art director.   Give him/her a chance to make other arrangements.  They won’t kill you.  But if you just sit on the cards and don’t say anything, they might not be so ready to give you work the next time.

Remember that the crappiest cards you do will be the first to pop up on Ebay.

Believe me, I drew some poor cards starting out, so I know what I’m talking about here.  The cards that you draw really fast right up at the end of deadline that aren’t as good as you could have made them will end up on the internet first.  For sale.  With your name on them.  That’s bad press.  For actors any press may be good press.  For artists, bad press can mean less work.

I’m sure every artist at one time or another has procrastinated to the point that they’ve had to pull the all-nighter to get things done and their work suffers as a result.  Take your time.  Do good work even if it means taking on less cards.  It’ll help in the long run.

The more cards you do, the better you get.

I was at a party once with a bunch of fellow artists and the subject of pay rates came up.  After listening to one of the guests rant about how low rates were for a certain job, he turned to me and asked how much time I would put into a card for that amount of money.  I can’t remember exactly what I said, but thinking about it afterward  I think what I should have said was “enough time to not look stupid.” (see the previous point)

In addition to each peice of work being advertising for more work, doing sketch cards has forced me to get better at anatomy, color, rendering, marker technique, and composition.  I look at it as an opportunity to get paid while studying the craft.

Take your time.  Do something you haven’t tried before.  Push yourself.  Try a new technique or color scheme.  And think “wow, AND I’m getting paid.”

Remember your audience…and the license.

Who is the target audience for the cards?  What age?  Even though the big two comic companies have books replete with violence and sex (and increasingly graphic dipictions of each) that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for the cards you’re working on.  Stay away from nudity (unless you’re working on a set for playboy, I guess), and graphic gore.  When a few don’t play by the rules, everyone feels it.  The art director gets the heat.  They have to impose more control to make sure everything is appropriate for the consumer.  If you want to draw more graphic things, save it for the commissions you’ll get later.

There’s four things to think about.  Can any of you sketch card artists think of any more?

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