Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gypsy Queen Sketch-Relic Cards

Last Saturday artist Monty Sheldon, a well-known and very talented artist, posted images of some 1/1 sketch cards that he completed for the upcoming Topps Gypsy Queen release. The detail that went in to these hand painted cards is amazing. Just look at the uniform of Ichiro, the folds of the fabric and shading is so in depth it looks almost real. The effort Sheldon took to detail every player individually takes real talent. Ozzie’s facial hair is a perfect example of the time he took to paint these cards.

With that being said I have to say that the relics added are like a blemish to these cards, almost a slap to the face of Monty Sheldon. They weaken the design and flow of the card and obscure the time and effort that the artist put in to the card. Why would Topps do this? I realize that Topps went with some amazing patches in most of the cards but in my opinion ruined a great card.

I have to ask, why would Topps use beautiful multi-colored patches in 21 of the cards but make the Red Sox (and Victor Martinez) fans endure plain jersey swatches? (I included Victor Martinez with the Sox because his swatch is from when he was with the Red Sox). Even Gaylord Perry’s plain swatch is multi-colored yellow.

I am truly saddened that Topps would do this to an amazing 1/1 sketch card. If this was the original plan why would they not have Sheldon paint 2 of each card with one being the sketch card and the other being the sketch relic card? As an artist myself I would be more content to have a complete sketch card instead of one containing a patch.


  1. Gimmick. That's the problem here. Sticking a patch on a sketch is a gimmick. Some of those patches are beautiful, but they should be on their own cards, and the sketches given their own cards too. Heck, make the sketches a whole insert set, and have 1/1 patches and 1/1 original sketches like most stuff does. (Oh, but Topps want to be innovative!) Remember Gallo's Gallery? A whole insert set in an art set devoted to one artist. (I think, isn't Gallo an artist?)

  2. Corky,

    Thanks for the kind words (and concern) that you expressed towards my artwork. As a fellow artist, you can understand how good that can make you feel when your work is admired.

    As to answer your question regarding why Topps would offer this as a product, I will tell you this, my humble opinion. I think first and foremost, Topps wanted to try something different, something that has never been done before. When you consider the 10s of thousands of designs that trading cards have had over the past 125+ years, it gets harder and harder to come up with something that has never been tried before. So with that in mind, give Topps some credit for trying something new.

    Now, if the overall look of these cards (art combined with relic) rubs you the wrong way, I have to take my part of the blame. ;)

    As the artist of these 24 cards, it was my responsibility to work within the parameters of the job that was assigned. Using the images that Topps sent me (which I had to use player-wise although I could alter the backgrounds if I wanted too — and did), I had to position each player that best fit the 2 1/2 inch by 3 inch blank space which included the piece of jersey. Here is a link to show that process applied to all 24 cards:

    When penciling each card I tried my best to position the player to work in tandem with the relic. Some images were easier to use than others. My first thought when positioning the players was to not draw any tangents, lines running parallel with the relic box itself. Once I had the pencil drawings finished, it was time to decide how the finished cards would look overall as a set.

    I took a couple days to ponder this because I only had one shot to paint it well. I normally work on very thick illustrator board when painting and what I was asked to paint on with the Gypsy Queen cards was much thinner and I was a little worried that if I screwed up I might ruin the surface of a 1/1 card in my efforts to correct the problem.

    The first painting idea I thought about left quite a bit of white space around the patch, something along the lines of this year's Topps Kimball Champions mini cards minus the action shot at the bottom. I didn't go that route because I felt it would look like half the card was painted and would leave the collector who pulled it feeling a bit gypped (no pun intended).

    The second idea I wanted to utilize was to paint all 24 cards in a sepia, antiqued, tonal way, making the patch relic stick out from the art due to their bright colors. I'll admit, if I had more time to work on this project (I had three weeks total), I might very well have tried this idea out. Although, considering the color of the printed border (beige), it might very well have conflicted with the light reddish-brown of the art and the cards could have ended up looking rather drab.

    So, since I only had one shot at painting each card, I chose a painting style that I was most comfortable with and that would allow me the best chance to meet my deadline. Overall, I was happy with the results. Are there some cards that could have used a bit more work? Sure, but that can be said for everything I have ever drawn or painted my whole life. That's something every artist struggles with, when is the drawing or painting finished.

    Either way, I am honored that Topps chose me to work on such a unique card set and I hope that when the actual cards reach the collectors hands that they will be a little happier for the experience due in some small part to its New & Different nature.

    Thanks again for your kind words and for having such a great passion about our hobby to write about it!


    Monty Sheldon

  3. Wow, thank you for taking the time to respond on my story. I can understand that Topps wanted something different and adding relics to a sketch/paint card is very original. I don't think many designers would have taken the chance with some amazing patches.

    I did not realize that you received the blank card with the relic already in it I originally thought you did the work first and then Topps added the die-cut and relic afterwards. Which is why I assumed that they had damaged your original artwork adding the die-cut but I see from your 4-panel displays that was not the case.

    I do appreciate that Topps is one of the few sports card designers that takes the time to find talented artists to add one of a kind art work to their sets. I have to say, my favorite card is the Ichiro, but I guess I am a bit biased being a Mariners fan LOL.

  4. I got one of the redemption cards last week, I'M SO STOKED! I have yet to find out which player I's going to rule! Great artwork and great cards! Good work, Monty!