JOHN POUND : BRENT ENGSTROM : FRED HARPER
FALL 2007 - SPRING 2008
THE GPK INTERVIEW
1. What type of art background (schooling, projects, et cetera) did you have before taking on assignments at Topps? What attracted you to your earlier work with 'underground comix' and how did work find you at Topps? Was Wacky Packages your first project for the company? One of many run-on-questions...
My art background before Topps went in roughly this order: drawing comics for high school and college newspapers, volunteer work for San Diego Comic-Cons while in college, two semesters at Art Center College of Design, underground comix stories and covers, early experimental paintings, various freelance art jobs in San Diego, limited edition fantasy art portfolios for Schanes and Schanes, and some fantasy and science-fiction book covers.
I loved cartooning and comics. My dream was to do cartooning for a living, somehow. And avoid having to get a real job. Underground comix offered a way to get my early work published -- an open door. Ken Krueger, a science-fiction fan and bookstore owner, put out a little fanzine, Gory Stories Quarterly #2, with Scott Shaw! (http://www.shawcartoons.com/) and myself doing comics for it. He later took out the text pages, added more comics, and printed it as an underground comic, Gory Stories Quarterly #2 1/2. Denis Kitchen invited me to do more underground comix work for his company, Kitchen Sink, in Death Rattle, Snarf, etc. And I also did some really fun covers for Last Gasp -- No Ducks, Commies From Mars, etc. Most artists doing undergrounds were 5 to 10 years older than I was. Some, like Crumb, Rick Griffin and Robert Williams had a very personal approach, and were doing comics and art with great depth and intensity. It took me a long time to grasp how important that personal vision is for an artist.
In late 1984 Art Spiegelman called from Topps, asking if I wanted to do some Wacky Packages paintings. That sounded great, as I had realized a couple of months earlier that I wanted to do more humor art, less fantasy art. I got to do 9 Wackys for that series... they didn't print one of them.
2. Because of one unpublished Wacky
Packages final artwork piece completed by you -- a parody poking fun at
the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, Topps chose your concept artwork out
of three potential artists ,to create a whole new card product called the
Garbage Pail Kids -- in which Arthur Shorin has been stated as saying
"is the craziest thing that has ever happened at Topps". Taking
on a complete series by yourself, how daunting was this task -- and how surreal
was this period in your life once the card series craze took off?
From doing fantasy art covers and underground covers, I was used to paintings taking weeks or sometimes months to complete. Spiegelman said he wanted one artist, myself, to do all 44 cards, so that the set would have a consistent style and feeling. He asked if I thought I could do it. Topps had a 2-month deadline. I had done a sample piece, Baby Barfy, to show Topps what these little kids could look like. I realized I would have to do a painting a day to meet their deadline. I gulped and said "OK, I'll see if I can do it". I was nervous about whether I could keep up with the schedule.
(See Original Series 1 "GPK HISTORY" Section #6 For More Information)
The strategy I found for doing the first series GPKs was to break each painting down into little 1-hour tasks. I started with the layout, pencilling, and color rough. Then the painting: flesh, clothing, props, and airbrush background. Having 1 hour for each part, it was like a jigsaw puzzle, finishing one section at a time -- I had painted differently on my fantasy art pieces. I worked all over the painting at the same time, intuitively, but not methodically, in a very confusing process. Having a simple system for painting each GPK allowed me to stay sane. But sometimes revisions were needed, and a revision here or there pushed all the remaining pieces an hour or so further behind the original schedule. So the days got longer and longer toward the end of those 2 months.
The newer GPKs take much longer to draw and paint. The pencilling sometimes has to be redone, until the picture feels right. The backgrounds have more details, and the art is painted more carefully, with more blending.
AFTER THE RELEASE:
After the series 1 deadline, all went quiet from Topps. I painted a couple fantasy book cover jobs that turned out awful. Like I could no
longer paint in my older fantasy style. The main problem was, I was all worn out, from that 2-month GPK marathon. About the begining of summer, 1985, Topps called again and said that GPK sales were taking off, like a rocket, which I had never expected. They asked about starting on Series 2. By then I was glad to do it again. Making GPKs was hard work, but it was so darn fun, and so subversive!
Topps sent me all these clippings
about GPKs and the uproar they caused. They wanted to preserve their
artist's anonymity, which I was
thankful for, as I could only imagine the hundreds of calls I could have gotten from angry parents and conservative groups. And there was the lawsuit from Cabbage Patch Kids, in which I had to do a deposition, and later fly to Atlanta to wait for the court case. It was settled out of court, and Topps kept on making GPKs.
3. Fast forward to 1998. To bring
up another amazing parody card set by Comic Images, you created a wonderful
set titled Meanie Babies - a humorous approach to the popular Beanie
Babies animals at the time. Were you approached for this project based
on the GPK success? - and how different was this experience developing
61 images (including one bonus card) for the entire set, compared to the work
you did for the original 1st and 2nd series GPK for Topps in the '80's?
Meanie Babies was just like GPKs.
I knew Dave Scroggy from Pacific Comics -- They published comics and fantasy art portfolios, and pioneered new distribution methods for comics. And he was an artists' agent for several years -- I was one of the artists he found art jobs for. Dave Scroggy joined Dark Horse Comics in Portland. One day Dave called me, and said the owner of Dark Horse had the idea to do a Meanie Babies card series, like Garbage Pail Kids, only based on Beanie Babies. They knew of my work with GPKs. It sounded like a perfect card series idea. I was all for it. It turned out to be some really fun work. And another tight deadline situation, too.
One difference in making the Meanie Babies was that I came up with all the character ideas and names (except ROTO ROOSTER). I'd fax in my idea sketches, and Dave would go over them, and pick out the best ones. Whereas with the GPKs, about half the ideas I painted up came from other Topps artists, like Art Spiegelman and Mark Newgarden.
On Meanie Babies, I recommended Jay Lynch as the writer for the card backs. I love the stuff he came up with. Dark Horse then had Jay and I do a 3-page Meanie Babies comic strip for their new GUFF comic. Jay's storyboard for that was so good, so detailed, that there was nothing you could change without ruining it. I just redrew it in my style, staying as close as I could. I found that true with Jay's Wacky ideas, too -- they were so clear and well-thought out.
(See "Iron-Jaw AARON's PARODY PAGES" Meanie Babies and TCT Sections For More Information On These Sets)
4. I always hoped for another Meanie Babies card set not to mention another Trash Can Trolls or Bathroom Buddies set. Though, there exists finished pieces for the unpublished 2nd series Bathroom Buddies set, are there any unpublished Meanie Babies, TCT or other pieces of art you worked on that the public hasn't seen?
All the Meanie Babies painting
were printed. Of those three projects, only the Bathroom Buddies had
some unpublished paintings.
But when Mark Newgarden was art directing at Topps, in the early 1990's, there were several projects that never got published. Loco
Motion was one. A few of those were used in MadCaps, a pog series. And some other unpublished jobs under Mark Newgarden had Drew Friedman drawings made into paintings, by Bunk, Piggott, and myself. Besides Toxic High, which was eventually published.
(See "Iron-Jaw AARON's PARODY PAGES" Bathroom Buddies Section For Additional Unpublished Pieces)
5. Starting with the original 3rd series Garbage Pail Kids, artist Tom Bunk helped out with some of the card fronts was this help welcomed, or rather, did the workload for this franchise become too demanding where extra help was needed? Were you able to work on any non-Topps projects at the time?
I didn't know Topps had any other artists working on paintings until I saw the 3rd Series printed. At first I was a little taken aback. My ego liked the idea of being able to say I had done all the paintings. And Spiegelman had said they wanted paintings all done by one artist. But I also quickly saw that Topps needed more art, as fast as possible. And they also needed a backup plan in case I became difficult, sick, or dead. I later met Tom Bunk at a Silly CDs signing, and I liked him a lot. He's done some really amazing work, with great detail and wild humor.
During the GPK years, I did a few side jobs -- a couple comic covers, a poster (1986 Festival Of Animation), and the GROUND POUND comic collection of some of my old underground comix work. And maybe a couple personal paintings. But the GPK schedule was pretty demanding.
6. Speaking of the original 3rd series GPK -- I was able to purchase the final artwork for card 104 "silent Sandy / barren Aaron" from the Topps Vault via eBay and the pencil / ink and color rough artwork for this piece directly from you from your website (http://www.poundart.com). While I was in New York in the Fall of 2005, I had the opportunity to sift through Mark Newgarden's filing cabinet of GPK nostalgia from the time that he worked at Topps. He told me a very interesting story about this piece how the piece was accepted, but afterwards the art department made some touch-up "improvements" to lighten up the face. Do you remember this incident and has any other pieces of artwork of yours been defaced or manipulated that you're aware of?
Maybe Topps thought the GPK "receding chin" was too dark for printing, so they repainted the chin and face on the sphinx lighter. I don't like how they repainted it, but that's how it goes. Here's how it looked when I turned it in:
(Pound 'Original' and Final Artwork)
There may be other GPKs that were changed, but I can't recall just now. The one I do remember is ANS5 #34 "eye-candy Mandy / Molly pop". I did a nice hot-pink summery sky. Jeff Zapata wanted a blue sky, and had it changed in Photoshop. I prefer my version, but I can also see how the face flesh blends into the sky, which bothered Jeff.
(Pound 'Original' Background and Final Artwork on Card)
7. There exists two "approved" artwork pieces that were not published that you painted (not including unpublished "unapproved" concepts / finals) - an original 3rd series final art for 118 "glandular Angela / half-Nelson" and an original 6th series final artwork piece for cards 248 "Hector collector / G.P. Kay" (which hangs in the house of Mark Newgarden) both pieces were redone by other artists for the two sets. Are there any other Pound pieces that met the same fate? - and can you shed any light on the story of these two pieces?
I think Topps used my version of 118 glandular Angela / half-Nelson as reference, for a "training piece", for another GPK artist to try out on. Changes were made -- a "split" background color, and arm up for a muscle -- which improved the piece. But the paint handling feels weaker on the 2nd version.
(Pound 'Original' and Mai Final Artwork)
And on 248 Hector collector / G.P. Kay, I had the GPK facing away from the viewer, looking back over a shoulder. Maybe that angle felt odd to someone at Topps. A reverse situation was with #346 (original 9th series "peeled Paul / skin Les"), a kid peels off his skin. They sent me someone's painting, to do another version of.
(Pound 'Original' and Warhola Final Artwork)
8. Were you surprised to find yourself working on GPK again in 2001? How did Topps approach you for this second GPK incarnation?
In spring 2003, John Williams at Topps called Tom Bunk and myself about each of us doing 6 new pieces to go with the unpublished Series 16 art. Topps wanted to test out GPKs. I was glad to hear from Topps again. It's great to work on a job as fun as GPKs. Who would have thought it could happen again?
Topps had to scan Series 16 color
proof sheets for the older ANS1 art, as the unpublished originals were not
found at Topps (except a
rejected "Gun and Mirror" piece, which was sold on Ebay, by Topps Vault). I'd be curious to know what happened to the other Series 16 art. I was really glad to hear the new GPKs sold well enough that Topps wanted to do more All New Series kids. John Williams had Jeff Zapata take over the art directing, I think starting with the ANS2 GPKs.
9. Like with Jeff Zapata, as previously with Mark Newgarden, your method of bouncing ideas back and forth with the art director on concepts seem to be the beginning process of you creating GPK. How different is it working on the All-New Series GPK compared to the characters you worked on in the eighties (minus the obvious lawsuit restrictions - or with)?
Actually, it was not too different. In both cases, I started by drawing up pages of rough idea sketches -- I like to do several on a page -- and send them in to Topps. They pick some of them for me to paint. And they also give me other ideas that they want me to paint. The ideas I have painted have been about half from my sketches, and half from others' ideas.
As with Spiegelman and Newgarden, working with Jeff has been a lot of fun -- great sense of humor, and his comments for revisions have been right on. One thing Jeff has said repeatedly is: let's go for gags with a story. Something that has a kind of twisted sense, as opposed to just nonsense.
One of my favorite comments from Jeff
was on revising (ANS6 #1) "orange Julius" (and "peeled Neal").
I showed Jeff a scan. It had the grass and clouds. He said it needs something
-- how about some orange trees. When I added those, it took it to another
level. It usually helps to collaborate with an editor or art director. We're
both working to make the piece stronger, and often one sees something the
other one missed. Like using two eyes instead of one.
10. At the recent Philly show in Allentown , PA - ran by the Toser's of Non-Sport Update, a question was raised during the Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids Topps panel about sketch cards being a possibility for the hopefully planned All-New Series 8 set. I know the ANS4 sketch cards, which celebrated the 20th GPK anniversary, was a tedious 'side project' for you but would you consider doing sketch cards again, maybe a lower number of cards for an upcoming set?
With ANS4, at first I didn't like the idea of doing sketch cards. I prefer to do art that will be printed. But in talking with someone, they pointed out that a sketch card could be really quick, like doing an autograph, rather than an illustration. That idea got me over my initial resistance, and then I found it was pretty easy to do them. I worked out a few basic images that I liked, and just had fun with it. I had to make sure to stop every so often, to not trash my arms. I wouldn't mind doing more sketch cards for Topps for ANS8.
One little thing I wonder is why nobody seems to have the "green barf" sketch cards I did. I did 250. You'd think some would show up on Ebay. Unless those cards were never put into the GPK boxes in the first place? (author's note : Pound's "green barf" sketches along with Jay Lynch's unreleased "Adam bomb" sketches were intended to be placed in later hobby boxes for ANS4 during further printing; the cards have either been destroyed per contract with manufacturer, since no future sketch card series was planned; or if the cards survived, they could be saved for the potential ANS8 sketch card inserts -- only three "green barf" cards exist, sold outside of the hobby boxes from the artist -- who received a small stack of consolation sketches from Topps to sell on eBay, etc.) They were like this one:
(See ANS 4 "Sketch Card Page" Section For More Information)
11. What other types of work has kept you busy over the years? What future work can we anticipate?
I've been doing some panorama paintings for Monte Beauchamp's annual BLAB! magazine, featuring WOO-WOO eyeball characters, in difficult situations. And I'm working on a 32-page storybook project also, with Eyewiz, who is one of the main WOO-WOO characters. That may take a year or two more to get everything done.
12. Do you have a favorite Garbage Pail Kids character? Old or new? Or more than one?
I like some more than others, but
it's so hard to narrow it down. It'd be fun to see them all in a book on Garbage
THE GPK INTERVIEW
1. MySpace states you are 29 years of age (wonderful beard-shots by the way). As with Pound and Bunk back in the heyday of the 80s, it seems as though Topps still scoops up artists at a young age. How did work find you at Topps and what were your first assignments for the company?
Yeah, I'm 29. A few years ago a friend of mine went to the SDCC and he stopped by the Topps booth. He thought GPKs seemed like something I would be interested in, so he got Jeff Zapata's contact information. He didn't realize I was a huge fan of GPKs as a kid. I e-mailed Jeff some of my older paintings and then he sent me the model sheet and guidelines for GPKs. He also sent me a gag by Mark Pingatore -- it was "Armless AARON" (ANS5, 15a). It was more or less a test to see if I could paint a GPK. My "Armless AARON" didn't get approved, but Jeff sent me another concept -- this time it was a Jay Lynch concept. I'm a huge fan of Jay's comic and GPK work, so it was a real honor. The character's name was "ESTHER Basket" (ANS5, 7b). I then painted "PAUL Package" (ANS5, 20a), another Pingatore concept. I also painted another Pingatore concept, but it initially got rejected from the ANS5 set. It is a clown puking into pie pans (author's note : this card was initially intended as a base card on the tentative ANS5 checklist as 21a "Happy Meal NEIL" and 21b "Bozo BOB", but the card was pulled as a potential bonus card, but because of the cancelation of the third bonus box, the image was never published). So, my first job for Topps was painting GPKs. It's been a dream come true!
Jeff let me paint a Wacky Package a little after I worked on GPK ANS5 -- it was a Fred Wheaton concept (Vulture Valley : Grave-ola Bones). It would be fun to work on more Wackys. I also did quite a bit of work for the Hollywood Zombies, mainly concept work. I painted one card for the set (Killfor Sutherland). I'm a big horror movie buff, so they were great to work on. The stupider the movie, the better! I drew the title card (the history of the Hollywood Zombies story, written by Jay Lynch) and the glow-in-the-dark mug shot cards for the set as well. I did the concept work along with Jeff Zapata on those. It wasn't too hard because we took actual crimes the celebrities committed and just put a zombie twist on it. I think it would be cool if Topps did a glow-in-the-dark GPK insert set some time... I guess we'll see.
2. What type of art background
(school, etc.) do you have? What kind of projects were you working on prior
to Topps and are you working on any personal projects currently? Your
Einstein print is mind-boggingly detailed posted up on your BlogSpot.
I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I drew like a madman. Sometimes my mom would have to make me go outside and play like a normal kid. I drew a lot through my classes. The teachers hated it, but I got better and better. I went to college, but the art classes pretty much sucked. I had to draw things I didn't want to work on. I had more fun drawing on my notes in non-art classes. I drew a daily comic strip for the college newspaper for a few years. It was a great experience. I pretty much taught myself to ink with a brush while working on the strip. I got to write and draw whatever I wanted and there was a lot of feedback...mostly hate mail, but at least people were reading it. It was a comic called Monkeyboy. It's a character I made up when I was a kid. I draw monkeyboy comics whenever I have free time. Before GPKs, I was doing a lot of illustrations for children's and trade publications. I still draw for magazines. Some of the more fun stuff has been in Nickelodeon magazine and MAD Kids. The Einstein drawing was something I did while I was in college. I hated my classes, so I drew it in my spare time outside of class. I'm selling prints of it on my blog (http://monkeyboycomic.blogspot.com/) and I'll sell them on my website (http://monkeyboy.goldengoatstudios.com/)... whenever that gets done.
3. So you jumped on the
GPK bandwagon for ANS5 completing two pieces for the base set, and
completing six pieces for the ANS6 base set. It is said that there is a learning
curve to drawing GPK, based solely on the demand of hardcore GPK
were you aware of online message boards and the pressure
that was out there at the time?
I learned pretty quickly how demanding the fans are. I'm a big fan of the OS GPKs, so I put pressure on myself to improve, but the fans will definitely let you know if they don't like something. I try to improve with each painting, sometimes the deadlines can be pretty demanding, but I always try my best. Just when I think I'm getting the hang of painting GPKs, I notice I'm doing something completely wrong! I actually just revisited one of my first GPK paintings. I had to re-touch my clown GPK I mentioned earlier for ANS7. I had one night to try and polish it up. I'm not sure I'm satisfied with it, but sometimes deadlines don't allow for perfection. It's going to be one of the bonus cards. I am pretty excited about most of my new paintings though!
4. Were you a fan of GPK or WP or any other non-sport card sets back in the 80s, and was it a surprise to be working on the All-New GPK now-a-days?
My twin brother and I were huge GPK fans when we were kids. I remember collecting them, but I never had any complete sets. I just had a bunch of random cards from every set. Some of our friends had them too. It was always cool to see a bunch of GPKs we didn't have. We kept all our cards in one of those black plastic bags that copy paper used to come in. I remember when my brother and I decided one day to take all the stickers off and stick them all over our house. That was pretty much the end of my GPK collecting...until I started working for Topps. I'm still trying to complete OS sets off of Ebay! I remember getting a couple packs of Wacky Packages as a kid too. I lived in a small town, so Topps cards were hard to find. I really liked my Wackys I had. I stuck some of them on my bed. I collected Star Wars and other movies sets too. It's been a dream come true to work on the GPKs. I would like to work on more Wacky Packages, and it was really cool to work on Hollywood Zombies from the ground up, but GPK's hold a special place in my heart.
(Engstrom Does Personal Sketches For Collecters)
5. For the ANS6 set, you
worked entirely off of your own concept pieces, how was this different from
working on the ANS5 set? And how was it having another artist (Cebollero)
working on one of your concepts? Do you feel obligated to keep the idea close
to the original drawing, or do you have freedom to mix things up a bit if
working on some else's concept?
It's really rewarding to think of a character, get it approved, and paint it. When I first started painting GPKs on ANS5, I never thought I'd be thinking up my own concepts and getting to paint them! It's been pretty amazing. I also really like to paint other people's concepts. Pingatore, Gross, Lynch and Wheaton have great ideas and theirs are always a blast to paint. One in particular I had a lot of fun painting was Wheaton's coral reef concept. It's also been great getting to know the artists. It's really cool to see someone else paint one of my concepts. John Cebolerro is the only other GPK artist to paint one of my GPK concepts, but I got to see a bunch of amazing artists paint my Hollywood Zombie concepts. A lot of artists I look up to were painting them, so it was pretty cool. When I paint someone else's concept I usually try to stick pretty true to their idea, unless Jeff tells me to change something. Some editors I've worked for have me change things just to hear themselves talk, but Jeff always has a good reason when he has me change something. He's also not afraid to tell me when something sucks and I appreciate him for it.
(Engstrom's Concept Piece by Cebollero : Puke Was Initially Blood and Human a Tattoo Artist)
6. Rumor has it that you
do a lot of work digitally
that this is a much more comfortable way
of creating art for you rather than on paper with pen, ink or paint. What
is your preferred process of creating artwork (your art style per se)? And
how will this affect selling the final artwork in the future if its
digital? Or, if its a combination of paper and digital, would you just
sell the paper product and consider selling quality prints?
For the fist two sets I painted them all by hand. It wasn't until I had to paint the "Kickin' it Old Skool" GPK overnight that I started using
Photoshop on them (author's note : this piece does make it into the new ANS7 GPK set). It was for the premier of the movie and it really had to be painted over night, so I didn't have time to wait for things to dry. It's a mixture of actual painting and Photoshop and that's pretty much it. I haven't really sold any of my GPK paintings. I wouldn't say I'm more comfortable using photoshop. Actually it's all pretty new to me and I'm sure if someone who actually knew how to use Photoshop saw me working, they would be like "What the hell is he doing?!" I still draw and ink all by hand. I usually color comic stuff and illustrations in Photoshop, unless they need to be hand painted. It definitely makes it easier to change a background color, for example, when you can just click a button, instead of masking it off and re-painting it. It really isn't any faster while initially painting the concept. It just speeds up corrections and allows for more freedom while selecting colors. You don't have to mix paint or clean out brushes.
7. ANS7 is right around
were you surprised to find so many of your pieces displayed
and splashed across the promotional advertising? TY DEE Knot seems
to have taken the place of mascot for this set, even taking the #1 card spot
on the pre-production sheet. Two interesting tidbits about this piece
one, it will be the first GPK with two first names in the name bar
and two, its a spitting image of your wedding picture
can you share how this concept came about?
I was very surprised when I saw that "TY DEE Knot" was on the box and wrappers. I was looking online and someone posted the new box on a message board and I think I said "holy $#!T!" out loud! Im not sure if they are going to have both names on the card. I was under the impression that one was going to be "TY The Knot" and "Tie DEE Knot", but I could be wrong. I guess Ill see when they are printed. I originally wasn't going to submit it to Topps. I was going to use it for my wedding invitations, but we decided on using a weird portrait taken at a cheap portrait studio. I had the stitched together wedding concept drawn up, so I submitted it to Jeff. He approved it and it was the first painting I did for ANS7. I actually started it the day I got back from my honeymoon. The deadlines were tight, and I wanted to get as many painted as I could. I tried to paint at least two per week for about two and half months... my eyes hurt when I was done.
8. The sheer number of
final artwork from yourself for the ANS7 GPK set has increased greatly
from your ANS6 GPK outing. And your work just keeps getting stronger
and stronger. Are you enjoying the larger workload and any hopes of working
on a potential ANS8 GPK set?
It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed it. My days were pretty much planned out. I would wake up and start working on GPK's. I'd eat and try to have a normal life, but my days pretty much consisted of painting GPKs. I also tried to fit in other side projects, like some magazine covers and whatever else came my way. During the middle of painting the ANS7 paintings I even started having GPK dreams. One night I stayed up until around 8 in the morning painting, when I finally went to sleep. I continued to paint in my sleep. I realized it was a dream and I was mad that I couldn't save my progress. It was the best GPK painting I ever did. Not really, but it just shows how into them I was. I actually sort of went through withdrawal when I was done working on the set. I couldn't focus on working on anything else. I went a couple days where I just sat around. I wanted to keep painting them! Jeff has fueled my new addiction a little, by throwing a few more paintings at me after I thought I was done. I really hope I get to work on ANS8!
9. At the last Philly show in Allentown, PA the possibility of an ANS8 set did come about during the Topps GPK and WP panel discussion and the idea of sketch cards inserts was strongly suggested. Since you missed the ANS4 (20th GPK anniversary set) sketch card craze, would you consider participating in sketch cards if this is on opportunity in the future? Can you go over other sketch card projects you have worked on in the past?
I'd draw GPK sketch cards in a heartbeat. I've worked on quite a few sketch card sets. Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings Masterpieces, Marvel Avengers, Sci-fi Horror Posters, DC legacy, Marvel Masterpieces, and I'm actually working on a couple sketch card sets right now -- an upcoming marvel set and the Lord of the Rings Masterpieces 2 for Topps. I really like working on printed cards better, but the sketch cards can be pretty fun too.
10. Where else can we find Engstrom artwork (websites, card sets, etc.)? Are there any personal projects planned for the future?
I'm always kicking around new story ideas for comics, but I haven't had time to sit down and draw a full story in awhile. Here's a link to the last full comic I wrote and drew.
I think it would be cool to draw a GPK comic. I've never asked anyone at Topps about it, but I think if it was done right it could be pretty cool! I do a lot of things for kid's magazines and I have some comic pages that will be in future issues of Nickelodeon Magazine. You'd be surprised how many Indy comic artists do stuff for them. On the wrapper of the Hollywood Zombies they mention a HZ comic in the future... That would be cool to work on!
11. Do you have a favorite ANS GPK character? And if a fan of the original series, any set that stood out stronger than any of the others, or characters?
I don't really have a favorite set or one favorite character. When I was a little kid, I remember thinking "ROY Bot" (OS 3rd, 87b) was neat. I was really into Transformers, so that was the closest thing to them in the set. I also remember looking at the shrunken head kid a lot ("Shrunken ED" OS 2nd, 65a). I just liked them all and they gave me kind of a weird feeling when I looked at them. It felt like I was doing something wrong. I got the same feeling when I watched horror movies. Comics and all that stuff had a big influence on me and made me into the person I am today. My twin brother does special effects work for movies now. We were both molded by the stuff we were into. Here's his IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1913779/
12. What's the possibility of fans and crazed GPK collectors seeing you at the San Diego Comic-Con 2008?
Pretty good. I plan on going this year, unless something comes up. I went a few years ago and met Jeff Zapapta. He's a great guy. It would be cool to meet some of the other artists and the crazed GPK fans.
13. What can we look forward to for
the ANS7 set? Are these all of your concepts and how many pieces did you complete?
I ended up completing 25 for the set. I painted two David Gross concepts ("The Kickin' It Old Skool" concept and "Dishwasher" concept were his), three Mark Pingatore concepts (The "Clown" one I painted for ANS5 and touched up, and the "Pinocchio" and "Oreo" one were his). One Fred Wheaton concept ("Coral Reef"). The remaining 19 were my own concepts. One of them I painted for ANS6, but it was rejected at the last minute and I changed a couple of things and it made it into ANS7 (author's note: this piece became card 51a "BILLY Bling" and 51b "GIL Grill"). I hope the fans like what I did for ANS7. I put a lot of work into it. I can't wait to see all the other cards!
THE GPK INTERVIEW
1. So you're pretty new to the Garbage Pail Kids scene the newest 'next generation' GPK artist. How did you jump on the GPK bandwagon at Topps and what other Topps projects have you worked on? I have seen a few Hollywood Zombies pieces by you I believe
Thanks AJ, Ray Lago turned me on to the project originally. He was a big help! He put me in touch with Jeff Zapata and I did a bunch of Hollywood Zombies cards. I dropped the originals off in person since I rarely get to meet art directors. It was a great adventure to meet the folks in the office and picking up all the free Bazooka Joe bubble gum in the reception area. Jeff's cubicle looks like a Topps museum! I was always blown away by the creativity of Jeff and the other gag artists like Jay Cutler and David Gross. At first, they weren't sure if I'd fit with the GPK style, so I got to park the last few in the driveway, so to speak.
2. How aware were you of the Topps Garbage Pail Kids line? Were you a fan of the cards back in the 80's and were you surprised to see them resurrect again in the 2000's?
I was a kid in the early 80's sticking GPK stickers all over the back of my bedroom door so my mom wouldn't see them. She'd poke her head in to make sure there were no shenanigans going on and close the door never seeing my "collection". So I'm only new to the GPK scene art wise.
(OS1 Uncut Sheet - Jeff Zapata Drawing Winning Number)
3. I have to say when I first saw the four pieces that you worked on for the ANS7 set (#'s 37, 39, B1 and B5) I was completely blown away. Jeff Zapata (art direct at Topps) had brought a GPK preliminary test sheet to the Philly Show in Allentown, PA (not to mention you won a very nice OS1 uncut sheet from the Topps drawing), Were you happy with the work you turned in?
Wow, thanks! I'm glad you liked them. The Philly show was really cool. Meeting all these artists you've known of for years and then later sharing a beer with them was a great experience. Feb. will be framing month for me and I'll be making a special frame for the uncut sheet. I was pretty happy with the work I turned in. My favorite is the KFC spoof. I did a lot of extra planning to get the logo just right on the bucket. Logo work is not my favorite thing to do normally, but this was to be part of something bigger so I enjoyed doing it.
(Card #37 - Painting In Progress Piece)
4. How did Zapata embrace your first 'test' pieces of artwork, were you coached very much? Can you share your experience delving into GPK territory?
I can't say enough good stuff about Jeff. He hooked me up with a ton of past GPK cards and stickers and I just poured through them, absorbing as much of the character as I could. The style guide helped too. By the end, I was coming up with my own ideas. I never showed any because the project was over, but they're all safe in my sketch book.
The first two 'test' pieces are what ended up in the bonus set. He saw I had a handle on it after the first one and gave me 2 more to do right after that.
5. It actually floored me to see how fast you seemed to catch on to the art of GPK most artists have a slight 'learning curve' what type of style do you enjoy painting in and what materials do you use for your work?
I guess you didn't see my learning curve since I was so jacked to be doing something I never thought I'd be doing. I did pretty tight preliminary drawings so I could fix any proportion problems etc. Jeff would weigh in on things and I'd do it as best I could. I work in gouache (watercolor) on 4 ply Bristol, so it's easy to tweak.
6. There's often a lot of pressure from fans for the ANS to be as John Pound-like as possible. Were you aware of this from message boards, or did you just study the model sheet in great detail?
In truth, I didn't realize the whole network of people who are "in" to GPK. Living near Williamsburg (Brooklyn), it isn't hard to run in to someone who would be able to produce some kind of collectible. I was at a comedy show-and-tell show one time. People brought a little thing from home to show or just get up on mike and tell a story. Some guy passed three really thick 3 ring notebooks of GPKs around the small room and nearly stole the show!
I guess John Pound is in the back of your head the whole time you work. When I think of what a GPK should look like, that's it. It'll always be there, but I really liked the subtle variations and other departures from the original style. I think it'd be a great gallery show to see all these different styles in one room.
7. What type of art school experience do you have, and can you tell us about any work or other artists that inspire(d) you and your work?
Where to start. I graduated from Columbus
College of Art and Design in 1990 with a BFA in painting. I was originally
working on an Illustration major but switched when they wanted me to do more
advertising classes instead of learning to paint better. I moved to New York
from Ohio within a year of graduating. I painted murals a few years then went
on to Marvel and DC comics. With Marvel and DC getting conservative I was
last in and first out, so I went to painting caricatures for magazines and
newspapers. I put myself through college by doing caricatures at amusement
parks and festivals, so it was an easy transition. So what I'm saying with
all this is I've worn a lot of hats in the illustration field and have had
to do a wide range of styles and subjects in the last 18 years.
As far as artists I've felt influenced by, Simon Bisley, Bill Sienkiewicz, Sabastian Krueger, N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Lucien Freud, Goya, and aspects of a ton of other artists I see.
8. When you received the four GPK concepts to work on, did you feel obligated to stay true to the original idea/theme, or did you have room to 'toy with' or experiment with the pieces? Are you even in contact with the concept artists or just with the art director?
Mostly I deal with the art director. The gags were pretty strong as they came in so I didn't think I could make it better. Sometimes Jeff would suggest something and I'd usually try t o put it all in where I could. He did encourage me to try to add more to it if I saw an opportunity.
(Card #39 - Dave Gross Concept Sketch)
(Card #B1 - Jeff Zapata Concept From Mark Pingitore Sketch)
9. I noticed that with Fred Wheaton's KFC parody sketch, you drastically changed the chicken container concept was this your idea or does the art director give a bit of direction on certain pieces?
Again Jeff instigated things. He started riffing about the idea of a chicken serving chicken parts and we eat it. I was cracking up with the images popping in to my head as a result. So I brewed an espresso and did some extra drawing to figure out the best look for the logo.
(Card #37 - Fred Wheaton Concept Sketch)
10. Two of the more 'abstract' pieces were moved from the base set and made to be 'bonus' cards for the release, the 'drinking fountain' and 'necktie' pieces (cards B1 and B5, respectively) when ANS first rolled out, the 'bonus' cards were often the "weaker" pieces or finished artwork that didn't flow with the rest of the base set. The more recent sets have some of the strongest 'bonus' cards and are very sought after even John Pound asked Zapata to have a card of his be placed as a 'bonus' card for this new set. Do you care where your artwork falls in a set?
It doesn't really bother me. I try and get in to each card, but some ideas are really hard to fully realize given the restrictions of the size and style. So there will be cards that have some nice work going in to them, but just don't "do it" for you. That's OK we'll get it on the next one.
11. I was lucky enough to meet you at the Philly Show it's not often a new GPK artist is tested and revealed so quickly. How did you find yourself already seated at the Topps table line-up and drawing sketches of your work for fans? Was this your first convention, at least behind a table?
It was the first GPK convention I've done. I did a few comic conventions in the past. The Society of Illustrators in New York is about the only place I ever felt I was part of an illustration sort of community. But there you meet other introverted artists like yourself and not so much a fan of what you do.
Meeting Jeff in person at Topps must have kept me in mind when he was finding artists to attend the show. He put me in touch with Roxanne Toser who was helping arrange the Philly Card show. She was really helpful. When I got to the show (way too early) the whole atmosphere was nice and relaxed. I took the bus there, so they hooked me up with people for rides back and forth from the hotel and show. They even found a guy who drove in from Staten Island who gave me a ride back to Brooklyn so I wouldn't damage the uncut sheet of GPK I won in the raffle.
Meeting people who were such fans for GPK was eye opening to me. You were so enthusiastic and so were a lot of the other folks that came by my table. It was a new experience for me since I usually feel like I'm doing all this stuff in a vacuum with little feedback on what I'm making. I loved meeting everybody!
(4 x 6 On Art Board - Philly 2007 Harper Sketch)
12. I must admit, I've already been hounding and pestering Zapata to showcase more of your work for the next ANS8 GPK set would you consider doing more pieces if asked by Topps and if time permitted?
Man! That's so nice of you! I think Jeff has me on his list if there is another set to do. I'd do as many as he'd let me!
13. Besides work for Topps, where else can we see your work (internet, MySpace, etc.)? What other projects keep you busy?
I'm the main cover artist for The Week Magazine in America. I freelance for a number of magazines and newspapers like New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, and many others like that. I did the art for Ozzefest '05 and designed the '06 image. I'm also starting to wedge my self into some group shows and 2 person shows for my other art that looks nothing like GPK or caricatures. It's a bit more realistic and surreal. You might say I'm pretty diversified. Things don't get stale that way.