FALL 2007 - SPRING 2008


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 80’s, 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!


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 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 paintings though!

4. Were you a fan of GPK or WP or any other non-sport card sets back in the 80’s, 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 NATALIE

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 it’s digital? Or, if it’s 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 this piece… one, it will be the first GPK with two first names on the nameplate … and two, it’s a spitting image of your wedding picture … minus the rough stitching … 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! I’m 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 I’ll 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!