So, this might end up being a pretty boring interview— just so you know— right off the bat. Here’s what I think the answers to all the questions will be: “Whatever’s quickest, whatever’s handy.”
Case in point: one of my favorite comic book artists is John Romita, Jr. When I was young and impressionable I ran into his work on Uncanny X-Men (I think) and immediately responded to it. Fell in love with it. And then, also when I was young I took cartooning classes after school in Colorado and they brought him in one time to give, like, a master class on comic book storytelling. And at that class is probably where I decided that I wanted to make comic books for a living. This is a reasonable pursuit. I could draw cartoons for a living. So I read this book, Modern Masters: John Romita, Jr. where they interviewed him and I was psyched. Tell me your secrets. And here’s his answer to every question, “I just drew it like that because I was on deadline. Had to get it done.” That’s the whole book. Old school. Responsible.
My style is like that, mostly. I’m just trying to get it done. I’m not as great at looking at something and saying, “OK. Done,” as I’d like to be— most times I put more time into everything than I should. But mostly I’m just trying to get it done.
How did you get into drawing sketch cards?
I was a working comic book artist before I was a working sketch card artist. Not that sketch cards came looking for me, or anything. I started working in a studio with Tone Rodriguez, Chris Moreno and Mark Dos Santos— all veteran sketch card guys. We try to throw jobs each other’s way if it’s something we don’t have time to do. We’d rather pass it off to one of the studio guys than let it go to somebody we don’t know. So when the call went out for Spider-Man sketch cards for Rittenhouse Archives, I did up some samples and Tone sent them in. They didn’t need me on that set (and I might not have been good enough at that point— I dunno,) but when the call went out for the Marvel 70th set, I had some better samples, some newer commissions, and we sent those in. They sent me the cards to work on, and it was off to the races.
What is your favorite subject to draw?
I like to draw people. I like to draw emotion, so I like body language and acting. On sketch-cards however, I like to draw heads. On a lot of these sets, we have a lot of cards to do in a relatively short amount of time. So I try to find a balance between subjects that I can draw relatively quickly, but still make them look as good as I can. Head shots are a great way to give a really good look at the character, and show a lot of the character’s personality.
What is your favorite character to draw?
I guess probably Spider-Man. He’s one of my favorites, and he’s fun. Also: Batman and Deadpool. A lot of times on the Marvel sets, I’ll tend to go obscure or draw characters’ old costumes a lot of the time just because I have weird favorite issues or characters. I love guys like Mojo and Puck from Alpha Flight. If I’m reading Runaways, I’ll draw all the Runaways. With so many cards to do, it’s nice to change things up after drawing, like, a hundred Wolverines or Caps.
Do you prefer black & white sketches or color sketches?
I guess in a perfect world, black and white. They’re much quicker- when I do b&ws I usually do pencils, inks and then grey marker or greywash. But even with the greys I’m still pretty quick at Black & white. On the other hand, I can sling a little bit of marker on some color cards. Sometimes I’ll really dig on how the color stuff comes out, but I tend to spend a lot of time on the colors. In the end, it’s all worth it if the card looks good.
What kind of materials do you prefer to work with?
I use what’s handy. But I’ve got my standbys, I guess. I use the Mirado Black Warrior pencil. Cheap. Used to be able to get them at Wal-Mart, now I have to get them on Amazon. Probably too dark, they’re HB2s and sometimes I’ll go too dark, won’t be able to get them off all the way when I erase (with kneaded erasers). But I like them. I like the line.
Inks, I use the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens- brush pens and then S and Ms. Microns, or Copic for real small lines. India Ink or Sharpies for big blacks.
Markers, I use whatever, but I like TRIAs the best. Can’t find them everywhere, so I use a lot of PrismaColor, Copic and, actually, Blick brand markers. I like the Blick ones a lot. They’re the closest to TRIA as I’ve found. Not as good for covering a big area, but cheap enough that I can really pile on the color and not worry too much about having to buy new ones.
And then Pro-White. I use the shit out of Pro-White for accents and stuff.
Who is your favorite sketch card artist?
I like my guys. Chris Moreno and Tone Rodriguez and Mark Dos Santos. All 3 guys do really different stuff, but all really cool. Chris’ stuff is always fun and always tells a story. Mark’s stuff is clean and structurally perfect. And Tone’s a classic. His stuff looks like a comic character’s supposed to look. All these guys are also much faster than me.
Outside of that- I like some of the guys I’ve seen on sets I’ve done. I like the Franchize. I like Lui Antonio, Monces, Andy Price… I don’t know a lot of the guys who do sketch cards but I always like looking at these guys’ stuff when I see it.
What are you currently working on?
I’m freelance full time so that’s always a big question. I’m working on a few big things and a million smaller quicker things. I’m doing cards for the next Rittenhouse-Marvel set. I’m doing a few cards for the Bettie Page archives set for Versicolor.
Comics-wise, I’m co-writing and drawing a graphic novel for Oni-Press with Josh Fialkov (who’s one of my real-life best friends, he wrote Tumor and Elks Run and Cyblade and Vampirella and Wolverine and whatnot). We sent in the 2nd draft of that script yesterday. It’s 160 pages so I’ll be on that for a little while. And I’m writing a book that Tone Rodriguez is going to draw. 4 issues, a sort of, small town high-school horror thing with jokes and heart. We’ve been kicking it around for a long time and I’m gonna actually write the thing over Christmas. So hopefully both of those’ll be out middle to end of next year.
And then whatever storyboard, commission, design or illustration work comes in. I’m always up to something, 7-ish days a week.
Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
Sure. I mean, first of all, they pay me. So that’s the most obvious benefit. But also I’ve met people at cons or online who like my stuff now from cards who never would’ve found me doing my black and white, autobio comics or whatever off-the-beaten-path stuff I’m more known for. I’m always happy to have more people see and dig my work. Hopefully one or two of them will follow me from this stuff over to my creator-owned comics stuff.
Do you collect trading cards for yourself?
I did when I was a kid. I used to get baseball cards even though I didn’t give too much of a shit about baseball and then comic cards came along. I remember, specifically, getting the whole Jim Lee X-Men set at a comic book show for $5 when I was young. That thing blew my mind. And the Marvel Universe 2 set with all the Arthur Adams cards… I think I had the whole Youngblood card set. I bought those for a while and then eventually I didn’t. I still buy comics a lot and probably would buy a lot more if I didn’t work in comics— now I hardly have time to read all the stuff I get. Same with DVDs. I buy a bunch of DVDs and Blurays that I have absolutely no time to watch.
Do you have a website / blog / online presence where readers can find more information about you?
Do I ever! Most often updated is my Twitter— twitter.com/TonyFleecs. There’s art stuff on there sometimes, but also a bunch of other stuff. Fleecsdesign.com is my main site/blog. That’s where most of your Tony Fleecs news will show up. And there’s links to galleries and all the other sites on there. Also my studio blog, GarageArtStudios.net, that’s updated more often because it’s not just me. There’s news about all the studio guys and girls on there. I’ve got the 1 a day blog where I post up a quick commission sketch every day, and my 2 big books are available for order at TerminalPress.com. They’re the new publisher for my autobio-comedy comic book, IN MY LIFETIME. It came out in 2006, and a lot of people liked it. They published a 2nd printing of that book with a bunch of extras in it. And I wrote a crime comic one-shot for them called TELL THEM JOHNNY WADD IS HERE for them. That one was, most notably, based on a classic 1970s adult movie (but the book isn’t porno,) and it’s drawn by the great Dave Wachter.
And of course, I’m on Facebook and DeviantArt and all that stuff too. Come check me out!
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