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 GPK 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 GPK as a kid. I e-mailed
Jeff some of my older paintings and then he sent me the model sheet
and guidelines for GPK. He also sent me a gag by Mark Pingatore
-- it was Armless AARON (editor's note: Layron DeJarnette's version;
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 (editor'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 art was pulled as a potential bonus card; due to the
cancellation of the third bonus box the image was never published for
that set). So, my first job for Topps was painting GPK. It's
been a dream come true!
NOTE: TOUCHED-UP ANS7 VERSION
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
ANS5: 20a PAUL PACKAGE - 20b TONGUE-TIED TOBY
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 collectors
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
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 Can Be Commissioned For Personal
Sketches By 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.
ANS6 Concept: 13a
TARA Too and 13b Naughy
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.
ANS7cards 44a Breakin'
BRANDON and 44b BUSTER Move
7. ANS7 is right
around the corner
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
one, it will be the first GPK with two first
names on the nameplate
and two, its a spitting image of
your wedding picture
minus the rough stitching
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
of an ANS8 set did come about during the Topps GPK and WP
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
ZOMBIES : SELF-PORTRAIT
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!