Be the Artist: Art Today! Sketch Cards and Art Sharing

Be the Artist DIY Featured
Try your hand at making… and sharing… sketch cards, inspired by historic events and names. Image: Lisa Tate

The Art: Commissions and Art Sharing

As we end this summer’s Time Traveling “Be the Artist” series, we land back home in the age of computer generated graphics and digital drawings to find artists and art lovers still love original, hand drawn art.

From Comic Conventions to pop-up art markets, one of most wonderful art trends of today is its accessibility to the public.

This includes some of the most talented comic book artists working today including the incredibly prolific Katie Cook and Mouse Guard creator David Peterson, who have both created some amazing commission work for their fans, as well as new and lesser known artists who work to gain exposure by offering personal on-the-spot one-of-a-kind sketches of favorite characters. Cook’s small watercolor sketches are so popular, she has even offered question topic cards to guests at cons, so they can get to know one another while waiting in the long line for sketches.

Artists have been doing “commissioned” works for ages. Sometimes, it is a luxury piece for the queens and kings. Other times, “caricatures” or quick portraits is something street artist do to make a little extra money. Today, there is still something extremely fun and personal about being able to pick up original art, especially from an artist whose work we already know and love.

One thing that is always a factor is copyright, and who is allowed to sell and share original images of characters they don’t own. This is a constant topic of discussion and debate. However, when the art is shared and not sold, that isn’t an issue.

Another great trend with some artists today is so appealing: Sharing Your Art. This includes taking part in events like World Art Drop Day, always held the first Tuesday in September. This event was the creation of an illustrator, writer, and teacher named Jake Parker who has worked with such studios as Disney, Warner Brothers, and Blue Sky. Parker is hoping artists of all types, from illustrators and animators to photographers and even sculptors, will “hide” a piece of their work somewhere that day for others to find. He encourages them to take a photo of the art or hiding spot and share it on social media with the hashtag #artdropday.

One of the coolest trends of working artists today is generosity, from small scale commissions to sketch cards to surprise art drops. This makes being an art collector more accessible to fan art lovers. Image: Lisa Tate (from the “Tate Family” collection)

One of the positives of social media is that it has given artists a chance connect with fans through their own art sharing. Artists visiting different cities for events have often done their own little “art drops” for fans announcing they are leaving a little piece of original art hidden for fans, or they will take an image of a piece they have at their table or booth at an event, ready to be given to the first fan who shows up to ask about it.

In the 21st century world of computers and smart phones, when people complain about human interaction becoming less frequent, leave it to the artists to find a way to use social media to help us get out, see our communities, and connect with complete strangers through art.

“The world needs this right now,” Parker said in his explanation encouraging others to take part in Art Drop Day. “We need to feel a little more connection to each other and there’s nothing like the bond two random strangers can make through the act of creating and giving.”

Pop culture and fandom sketch cards can be found in collector card sets or created on the spot at comic conventions. Make your own inspired by your own armchair time traveling. Image: Lisa Tate

The Project: Sketch Cards Series of Days Past

Of all the original art circulating today, the “Sketch Card” size art is one of the most fun and convenient to collect and find. For this final project of the summer, we’re going to create some simple sketch cards.

Since we often take artists from another era and give them a FanArt edge, let’s take a concept of modern day artists back in time, and design a simple sketch card series. What would a sketch card series based on WWII heroes be like, or on the great inventors of the past? Try a series on scientific breakthroughs, famous poets or authors, William Shakespeare plays, or even on your own favorite artists.

To make the blank sketch cards, use an old sports or collectors’ card as a template and cut out as many as you want on a piece of cardstock. To make some slightly larger images without having to do any cutting, just use some plain 3″ x 5″ index cards.

Plain index cards or card stock can be cut to make simple sketch cards. What you put on them is up to you.

The actual sketches will be the easiest part. Since sketch cards range from simple pencil drawings to full color images using felt tip pens, colored pencils, or other media, you can try anything you want. Use your own style, or a favorite style from another artist.

A simple series should have about five cards or six cards, to get an idea for the topic, and get into your “sketching” groove.

Now, here’s the hardest part… give them (or some of them) away. That’s the beauty in art sharing; your work is not just staying hidden in a sketchbook, it is going out and meeting new people.

If you are having trouble parting with an image, take a picture or make a good, printed copy to keep for yourself. But if a certain work makes you particularly happy, why not make the day of someone else by sharing it?

You can place them in friends’ pencil cases at schools (or on a teacher’s desk), leave them in high traffic areas in parks, place one between the page of a book on the same topic in a library, or leave them as a “thank you” in with a tip in “tip jar” or on a restaurant table. The options are limitless.

Don’t forget to share your work, either as a way to give art to anyone who finds it, or to surprise someone specific with a special image.


World Art Drop Day is coming up in early September, so there’s a good opportunity to share your original work. We have spent another summer trying different styles with Be the Artist. Now here’s a way to share your own artistic style with others, no matter your age or skill level.

Parker encourages everyone to get involved in this as a way to bring people together all over the world.

“Let’s connect the whole planet with art,” he says on his site.

Until next summer, let’s do just that.

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