I was flipping through my sketchbooks the other day, and it got me thinking about the experiences of getting each one. I have a lot of great memories in the years I’ve spent collecting original artwork, but there are a few that stand out not only due to the quality of the sketch itself, but also because of experience of getting it. So, I decided to put together this list of my top five favorite sketch experiences.
5) Triceraton Warrior by Kevin Eastman
I’ve been a fan of the TMNT since I was a kid, and although my fandom started with the 1987 cartoon, it was not long until I discovered the Turtles’ origins in comics with the oversized, full-color graphic novels of Eastman and Laird’s original series published by First. So when I finally got the chance to meet Kevin Eastman at Dragon*Con in 2012, I was pretty ecstatic to get the chance to talk to one of the creators of the TMNT. I waited in line for about an hour or so, as Kevin was very gracious and generous to his fans, allowing himself plenty of time to chat, sign books and even do sketches for each one. When my turn finally came, I asked if he would be willing to sketch a Triceraton Warrior, the design of which I had always loved. Kevin was really excited to draw one for me, as he didn’t get too many chances to draw them these days. As he sketched for me, we discussed all things Turtles, including the 2007 animated movie, the new animated series and the latest comic series from IDW. In the end, I walked away with some signed hardcovers and this great sketch, but it was the chance to meet one of the creators of some of my favorite characters that made this a truly great experience.
4) J. Jonah Jameson by Brian Hurtt
When Shane, Popa and I first saw Brian’s table at Mid-Ohio back in 2006, we remembered that he had done some work for Greg Rucka’s espionage series Queen and Country. That evening, after getting back home from the con, I pulled out some trade paperbacks of Queen and Country and decided that I needed to get a sketch from him. I did some research, flipping through a couple of volumes of Essential Amazing Spider-man trades only to realize what I needed him to draw was J. Jonah Jameson. Brian seemed genuinely entertained by the idea to draw Jolly Jonah, and it certainly shows in the energy of the sketch. We all enjoyed meeting and talking to Brian at the show that year, as he was a very fun guy and a great artist. This of course, led to myself and the rest of the Cranboyz getting many sketches and commissions from Brian in the years to come, but it all started here with this fun sketch.
3) Starman by Adam Withers
During 2011, the Cranboyz went without a specific sketch theme for the year, but instead planned to go heavy on DC characters to honor our late friend Adam Hauenstein. I had decided pretty early on that I wanted to concentrate on getting Starman characters throughout the year, as Adam had introduced me to the series by gifting me his copies of the first 6 issues he had rescued from his flooded basement. I immediately fell in love with the series and Adam eventually asked me to contribute a Starman sketch to his own sketchbook several years later. And so, I thought this a fitting theme of my own for the year, and collected several amazing sketches of Starman characters. Our friends Comfort Love and Adam Withers had recently started doing some top-notch Copic marker sketches, and I decided to set up a couple of them, including this particular sketch of Jack Knight, as a sort of a cap to my year of Starman. It really couldn’t have felt more fulfilling to pick this sketch up from Mr. Withers… Not only is it an incredible, detailed sketch of one of my all-time favorite characters, but I feel like it perfectly represents my intent to honor JLAdam with this small series of sketches.
2) Spider-man by Mike Wieringo
In 2004, I attended my very first Heroes Convention in Charlotte, which to this day is my favorite convention. That year, I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite artists in the industry, Mike Wieringo. I was determined to get a sketch from him at the show, and was thrilled to be one of the first in line at his table on Friday morning, second only to my pal, John Popa. Popa and I waited patiently for Mike and were rewarded with the first two spots on his list. Mike himself was a genuinely great guy, very friendly and gracious to his fans. He was a pleasure to talk to and of course, he delivered some great sketches for us at that show. Popa received his legendary Shadowcat sketch, and I received this classic Spidey sketch, which is still one of my very favorite pieces of art that I own. Mike’s passing was a shock to creators and fans everywhere, and I truly feel blessed not only to own a piece of original artwork from the man, but also to have had several brief chances to meet and talk with him over the next couple of years.
1) Banshee by Paul Ryan
I don’t believe that any sketch experience will top the one I had getting this sketch. Although it wasn’t my first time at a convention, my trip with Shane Simek to the Motor City Comic Con in 1996 was the first time I had ever went to meet creators and collect original sketches. There are many great stories I could tell from that convention, but my most cherished one happened when I went to check in on the Banshee sketch I had commissioned from Paul Ryan. Shane and I went to Paul’s table to see if he had had a chance to work on our sketches, but unfortunately Paul had stepped away from his table. Paul’s wife recognized us however, and directed us to where Paul was sitting behind the curtains of Artist Alley where he was catching up on some of his sketches from that day. Paul welcomed us back and told us to grab a seat, as he was currently working on Shane’s sketch of Psylocke. So there I sat, talking comics with my best friend and Paul Ryan, one of the finest artists in the industry, as he worked on our sketches in front of us. He made sure to keep each sketch hidden from us until he finished them, so that we still got to experience the big reveal. Truly, this remains one of my favorite memories of any convention.
Runner-up: Mary Jane Watson by Cliff Chiang
I chose not to count this in my final list because I wasn’t actually there to get the sketch, but I had to at least make mention of it, since it ended up being a truly funny and memorable experience. I was unable to attend the Heroes Convention in 2007 after the birth of my son, but Shane said he would be happy to take my Spider-man sketchbook down with him to the show to get a sketch of Mary Jane from Cliff Chiang. While at work on the Friday during the show, I discovered that Cliff Chiang was scanning and posting his con sketches to his blog. I was pretty excited about the prospect of seeing my sketch before my book even got home, so I made the mistake of telling Shane what Cliff was doing. So, for the rest of the day, and the rest of the weekend, I continued to check back at Cliff’s sketch blog and check in with my friends to see if Cliff had gotten to my sketch. Finally, Cliff ended up posting a Mary Jane sketch, but when I looked at the caption, it had one sentence that caught my eye, “Andy, this is still not your Mary Jane sketch. Your friends are bastards.” Yes, Cliff. Yes they are. About a week or so later, Shane came down to Columbus for the Origins gaming convention, and I finally got to see my sketch of MJ. Cliff’s sketch turned out great of course, but it was the experience that really it stand out when flipping through my book.