Sketch Artist Series – Anil Sharma aka ‘SpaceHindu’ – 12 Parsecs

Sketch Artist Series – Anil Sharma aka ‘SpaceHindu’ – 12 Parsecs

One of the best parts about collecting sketch cards is the sheer number of artists creating them. There is so much variety and style represented that collectors have dozens of avenues to collect: specific characters, scenes, movies, prequel era, ships, etc. The sketch card medium is admittedly a little restricted, mostly in terms of size, what you can draw, and the card medium itself, but artists seem to embrace the challenge and find new ways to be creative and innovative. One artist who I think particularly exemplifies this is the focus of this Sketch Artist Series post: Anil Sharma!

I was able to catch up with Anil for an interview to learn more about his work, style, and what it’s like being an artist.

26165842_10159892972985249_5584163378749531446_n2017 highlights from Anil Sharma’s Facebook page

RJ: First, thanks for doing this. I’m a big fan of your work. Your style is unique and you seem like you’re really involved in the Star Wars card community. I know that in one of our prior conversations you mentioned you collect as well as sketch. What came first, collecting or creating sketch cards? How were you introduced to Star Wars cards?

Anil: My pleasure. I have had Star Wars cards as part of my life since I was 4. I saw A New Hope in theatres way back in 1977. Before the internet if you wanted images of stuff you couldn’t just google up a JPEG, it had to be the cards. So the cards have always been a part of my life. I was re-introduced to them a few years ago when I was taking my nephews to a local card shop so that they could buy hockey cards. It was there that I noticed the Star Wars cards. The owner of the shop started showing me all of the autographs and of course the sketch cards. I have literally been drawing Star Wars stuff all of my life so this was something I was very excited to try and get involved in. By the way that same day I bought my first Star Wars autograph card, Luke’s co-pilot on Hoth: Dak Ralter.

Star Wars Masterworks Scans_Anil Sharma Artist_2_preview.jpegPortraits, landscape, famous scene, and helmets all in on release

RJ: Wow, that’s an awesome backstory. When you say you had been drawing SW your whole life, was it just a hobby? To expand on that, is your art background something you taught yourself or did you develop your talent another way?

Anil: As I mentioned, I had been drawing since I could hold a pencil or crayon. As an immigrant family we didn’t have a lot of toys or things, so to pass the time I would draw Star Wars or Godzilla battle scenes and then draw in the laser blasts and explosions. Kind of like my own live cartoons. So drawing was a way for me to entertain myself… I got good at it and then continued on all the way through high school, art school and I’ve been an art teacher now for 20 years. Its funny now that I draw Star Wars stuff since, along with art, its been the biggest thing in my life, so to combine my two loves is a huge thing for me. When I was in High School, my goal was to draw for Upper Deck as I was also a huge sports fan. Their baseball , hockey and football sets had painted images by an artist named Vernon Wells. Also the Beckett price guides always had cool art on the inside covers so initially that was one of my goals. I did go to art school but in reality I had been drawing and painting for so long that I did teach myself. That being said, going to art school was an experience that I think everyone should go through. Your skills get pushed and developed in directions that you cannot anticipate. As well, it exposes you to so much art and forces you to think about the art in ways you wouldn’t imagine.

RJ: That’s fantastic, I had no idea you were an art teacher with so much experience! I think it really shows on your cards, which consistently find ways to stand out in every set. What was the first set you created sketch cards for? Which set has been your favorite and why?

Anil: Thank you so much. The First set I worked on was Star Wars Rogue One Series 1. My favourite set to date was Star Wars Masterworks – I felt it was a great honour to work on such a prestigious set. I also know how much the boxes cost, so I felt like I really needed to do something special and unique for it. It was perfect because I had the whole Summer to work on it (yay teacher breaks!). I love the helmets and masks so I did a whole bunch of just those. The fact that we could do any characters from the movies and cartoons just really opened up the toy box. I was also able to pay tribute to the 1956 Topps baseball design, which in my opinion is the nicest set ever made, for my Artist Returns. I still think it is my best work to date. I keep a few cards from each set for my wife who puts up with all of this, and for Masterwork I made one for her that depicts the “I love you”…”I Know” scene. It was part of our wedding vows so there is a lot of reasons why that set is very special to me.

Rogue One S2b - Anil Sharma_previewSketch cards from the Rogue One: Series 1 series

RJ: I’ve seen your Masterwork cards and the helmets especially are very cool. Do you have of the AP’s you’ve kept that we may not have seen yet? The Leia and Han scene is so iconic and is one of the high points of the whole series. Do you have other favorite scenes? What about favorite characters? Are there any that are particularly challenging to bring alive on the card?

Anil: I think I have posted most of them at some point, I am usually quite proud of all of my efforts so I do put them all out there. As for favourite scenes… wow, that’s a big question. My all time favourite scene is Yoda explaining the Force to Luke… “luminous beings are we…”, Tarkin saying “evacuate? in our moment of triumph?” … Twin suns of course. Order 66, the whole fall of the Jedi it’s the moment it all turns. When Obi Wan says to Anakin “You were the Chosen One”, its so intense! Luke throwing away the saber, “I’m a Jedi like my father…” I could go on but Han saying to Rey and Finn, “it’s all true, the force, the jedi, all of it”, and just recently in TLJ, Luke on the rock, I am still not over it! Favourite characters: Yoda, Luke, Finn, Ackbar, Commander Cody…. Can’t answer these because I really love it all!

Star Wars 40th Ann. -Anil SHarma _2_preview.jpegVillain’s from the 40th Anniversary set

RJ: Following that, how do you challenge yourself in your art work? What are some of the more creative methods you have used in creating sketch cards?

Anil: As far as challenging, sometimes a likeness just gets away from you… You nail it sometimes and feel great or its just off and you just can’t bring it back. I still don’t think I have done a good card of Jyn Erso, so I practiced her in my sketchbook and now I am ready for her in the next set! In terms of challenging myself, I am trying to do a unique look for every set from now on. No two sets will be the same and will have a distinct design to them. Check out my Last Jedi cards for example. Also I challenge myself to make unique cards for my Returns. I have to step them up to really make them stand out since there are so many great artists on these sets. The challenge is to make something unique that stands out. The other artists are really supportive and we all really push each other to do our best work. As for creative methods, on Last Jedi, I tried to work a little looser, with splatters and metallic ink. On the upcoming black and white set, in keeping with the theme you will see straight up pencil drawings so that they look like black and white photographs.

RJ: I really love your TLJ cards. The style with the kind of simpler and looser colors and shapes really looks cool. I don’t feel like I’ve seen them all!

The Last Jedi_Anil Sharma_3_previewVarious sketches from The Last Jedi: Series 1

I saw some of your MW17 APs posted by a member of our SWCT group. Really cool project. Were these APs done ‘after the fact’ or were they sent in to Topps ahead of time? Switching gears a little, what are some of the more creative methods – or just methods that stand out to you – that you have used in creating sketch cards? In terms of tools, mediums, techniques, etc.

Anil: Everything I do gets sent to Topps first. I will often ask the group what things they might like to see… give the people what they want after all!

As for creative methods, I am trying to incorporate more paint in my cards. Watercolours, acrylics etc… all in the desire to keep it fun, keep it new. Also experimentation with the designs. Always trying to get as much detail in them as possible, hunting for pens with even finer tips, might even start using one of those magnifying glasses that fly fisherman use to tie flies.

Star Wars Masterworks Scans_Anil Sharma Artist_10_preview.jpegFrom Masterwork 2017

RJ: A little bit of a tangent related to that last question: it seems to me that a too-common occurrence for artists is Topps’ “losing” their AP cards. Do you think this is just accidental? I feel like in any given set there’s always 2-3 artists without APs due to this issue

Anil: It hasn’t happened to me. I have had cards rejected, but that is part of the deal when working with a license holder and also part of being a professional. Ultimately the client has the right to reject your work for whatever reason. As far as losing cards, I think with any job, regardless of what it is, there is a margin for error. It’s a shame when it happens, but I also feel that the people working there are doing their best to do right by the artists.

RJ: It seems that on recent sets Topps may be limiting the number of images that artists can sketch from. Can you explain how this works?

Anil: Limited in terms of reference?

RJ: Yes… I may be presuming how the process works. Can you help expand on reference images and what artists can and can’t draw from?

Anil: Well, for a movie that hasn’t been released yet we have always been limited to what is out there. I am guessing that they don’t want us to start making things up as it might influence the public as to the actual content of an upcoming film. So yes,we are limited to only things that are officially released: Teasers, trailers, merchandising images, related stills, etc… Folks think that we might get access to tidbits for the movie prior to release, but that is simply not the case. We know just as much about a movie coming out as the rest of the public does. I would have loved to draw Phasma with her partial mask reveal (spoiler!), but the set was already completed before the release of the movie, but thats what series 2 is for!

Star Wars 40th Ann. -Anil SHarma _4_preview.jpegClassic ANH characters from Star Wars: 40th Anniversary

RJ: Ok that actually changes my perception of the process. I thought perhaps artists were given a set of images ahead of time and told to sketch specifically to those. Are there any outright restrictions in place as to what cannot be drawn? Does this change depending on the set, or is this really more an issue with just new movie releases and keeping things spoiler free?

Anil: No, not at all. Like I said, as far as spoilers go, we know just as much as you all do so we are all in the dark as far as the movies go prior to release. There are certain restrictions, such as things that are overly graphic in terms of violence. A well known taboo for example is that Han’s death scene is off limits. We can’t have blasters aimed right at the viewer. I keep hearing rumors that Leia in Jabba’s palace will be off limits, but nothing official yet.

RJ: Thanks for expanding on that it clears up a lot of my own questions. As I’ve gotten deeper into collecting sketch cards, one difference I’ve observed is that some sketches are exact duplicates of scenes or reference images, while in others the artist has taken a known character or image and recreated it in a new way. How do you approach this?

Anil: Yeah, we all pretty much have the same images to use prior to a release. That’s why for The Last Jedi I tried to do something a little different creatively, knowing that we have a limited pool of reference. I think there was only the one teaser and trailer out and we were scouring things like Entertainment Weekly or Vanity Fair for things to refer to.

As far as expanding on things, every artist is different. Some are creative with their use of medium, some are great creative with design, and others have a unique style that really stands out. Some crush it with realism. I try to use different techniques for each set to keep it interesting. I look at someone like Jamie Richards for example with his crazy precise line work. It looks so simple but it is so hard to do! Or Andrew Fry, I know that collectors crave coloured sketches but just wow! Its crazy what he does with what looks like such a loose hatching style but is still so precise and his likenesses are always spot on! Lots of incredibly diverse talent that is always inspiring.

Star Wars Masterworks Scans_Anil Sharma Artist_7_preview

RJ: I agree, the diversity is one of the best parts and, to the benefit of collectors, seems to only be increasing with new sets.

Anil: yeah and new great artists are joining up every day

RJ: Collecting sketch cards actually inspired me to do some of my own artwork. It’s fun, but I’ve also come to realize how much work really goes in to getting better. One of the cooler things I learned is that sometimes artworks have an ‘ugly stage’ before they start to blossom and you start to see the final product coming out. Has/does the ugly stage trip you up? How do you manage getting through it? Have you had any pieces where the piece never really came together?

Anil: Absolutely, I think the big thing is to draw every day. Like every skill, take a golf game; how quickly does your swing go away if you don’t play? I had devoted the last 15 years of my life to Photography and pretty much stopped drawing and painting until about a year and a half ago. I just decided I need to go back to my first love and started drawing every day, and now I am back to my art school days. That being said, I hadn’t completed a painting in 15 years so working on something big like that has really been as much mental as it is traditional skill. You have to trust in your process and know that you have the techniques to get to where you want it to go in the end. There is always a certain point in a piece where you know its going to be successful or not, sometimes things can be saved, other times it just goes so far south that its better to cut the losses and start over. There is a Rey card on eBay of mine right now that I just hate, its close… almost there, but its just off. Sometimes deadlines mean you have to put out work that isn’t always your absolute best. It really is a struggle sometimes, but the successes far outweigh the failures.

star-wars-masterworks-book_preview.jpegA two-card booklet sketch featuring Anakin Skywalker – from Masterwork 2017

RJ: That’s a great answer. You sign your cards ‘Spacehindu’! Is there a backstory on that?

Anil: Spacehindu came from a play on words of Mace Windu. It rhymed and a buddy of mine took my face and photoshopped it onto MaceWindus body and Spacehindu was born. I love all things Samuel Jackson so it started as a joke. But being Indian and raised Hindu, and also since Star Wars happens up in space, it just made sense. It was also very easy for people to remember so it kind of stuck.

RJ: I know it’s getting late so I do want to wrap things up. Is there anything else you want to share?

Anil: I just wanted to thank a few people that helped me out along the way. Kyle Babbitt early on answered a lot of my questions when I was starting out. Carlos Cabaleiro has been my sounding board and really helps me with my process on every set. Its hard to put into words how much we artists support each other along the way. Its a very collegial and supportive group. Of course, without the collectors supporting our work we wouldn’t be able to do any of this stuff. Its not just the ones that buy our APs, don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a few dollars in their pocket (which immediately goes back into supplies lol), but the enthusiasm the collectors show when they pull one of our cards is so satisfying. It really is cool to see something that we held in our hand and worked on, go all the way out into the world and often end up back in the hands of a collector that I often know and better yet I consider a friend. I have met so many great people in doing this and it all revolves around our common love for a movie that is now 40 years old and was supposed to be a huge flop! So thank you RJ for the interview, thank you to my fellow artist for continuing to support and inspire, thank you to the collectors for supporting us in so many ways, thanks to George Lucas for giving us something that continues to inspire our imaginations, and finally thanks to my wife who puts up with the late nights and is my biggest fan! (She has the largest collection of my art after all!). May the Force be with You!

Anil Sharma  _Journey To The Last Jedi_Scans_3_preview.jpeg

RJ: Your very welcome, the pleasure was definitely mine. I want to wrap things up by saying that you recently were the subject of a post by a member in our SWCT group on FB. You had two really impressive AP’s plus a special sketch added in! My favorite part of this hobby is how it brings people together. My favorite thing about sketch cards is they have helped open my eyes to a world that had always been there but I’d never really seen. I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing your future work. MTFBWY!!

Anil: YES! it was so cool to do those cards for Johannes, he is such a positive guy and we became friends through his Live Breaks. I really wanted to do something special for him and it worked out really well. I always try to do a little extra bonus art for each and every person that supports my art. His response really was priceless! As for galaxy 8, I have been painting my submission the whole time we have been talking. Its a rigorous approval project with Lucasfilm so there are no guarantees but I do think its my best work so I am pretty confident that I will be included.

The support within the group really has been incredible, so many people I consider actual friends now!

Two of Anil Sharma’s Artist Proofs (APs) from Star Wars Masterwork 2017Custom art specialized for Johannes and his son

RJ: I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing it! I am so excited to see the work of artists who I’ve been watching for so long.

You can find Anil Sharma’s work on his Facebook page Spacehindu Art & Photography. He is Spacehindu on Twitter, Spacehindu73 on Instagram, and Spacehindu on Flickr featuring photography.

Thank you for reading. If you are interested in participating in the sketch artist series please contact through the 12P blog or Facebook page.

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Author: Juan Torres