The next artist in the Sketch Artist hails from the UK: Tiffany Groves! Breaking out on the sketch card scene in 2017, Tiffany has gained many fans with her intricate artwork as well as her frequent involvement in the online community.
RJ: I think I recall that you joined our Star Wars card trading group on Facebook around the same time as me. It has been really cool to see your journey to becoming a sketch artist for SW. Can you share a little about your background as an artist? What led you to the SW card hobby?
Tiffany: I think we did! I joined just before the 40th set. Well, I used to paint and at university, I focused on giant abstract canvases. I was the smallest in the class, so it made sense to create the biggest pieces! And when I left, I carried on with them, doing commissions for companies and private individuals. But it became too much of a roller coaster emotionally. I suffer from Bipolar, so a good painting would make me ecstatic, but a bad one, would destroy me for days. So I decided to turn back to pencils. I’ve drawn since I was a child, so its a bit like riding a bike, I just picked them up and carried on. I did a few animal portraits to keep my hand in, and then decided to focus on my great love….Star Wars! And after posting some pics of Boba, Maul and a few others, on Instagram, a couple of Topps artists messaged me and told me about Topps. I sent off my portfolio and 24 hours later got accepted!
RJ: I saw some of your original artwork (and hope to see more!) prior to your work with Topps and it was fantastic. Can you go into any detail on University? Was your education art-focused?
Tiffany: Absolutely! I studied a fine arts degree and focused entirely on abstract, colourfield pieces. Rothko is one of my favourites before he became a bit cliche. But I have some pics I can send you. I studied Quantum Mechanics and Cosmology after university, so my love of space reflects in my work.
Abstract colorfield painting by Tiffany Groves – one of her favorites
Several paintings by Tiffany Groves. Approximately 6′ square
RJ: These are stunning! Thank you for sharing. I can’t help but notice that your art cards are predominantly (maybe entirely?) done using colored pencils. Subsequently, the level of fine detail you achieve on the card stands out and the colors are full and vivid in a way that seems difficult to achieve using pencils as opposed to paint. What are your thoughts on the two mediums, within or outside of sketch cards?
Commission sketch of the Millenium Falcon from The Force Awakens done in pencil – Tiffany Groves
Tiffany: Pencils are definitely easier to control and I think that’s why I use them. Whereas with the paints, they were more emotion based, so I had less control. If that makes sense? I think also because I spend so much time on each card to make it perfect, I layer a lot to make the colours and details stand out more.
RJ: I do think it makes sense. I’ve drawn and even tried painting just as a hobby, and would agree that pencils are a finer tool to work with. I’m an engineer so my drawing education was minimal and very technical. I even joke that I was born in the wrong decade, and would probably have loved a career as a pencil-and-paper drafter, So, I come to art and sketch cards from the viewpoint of someone technical trying to explore something more abstract. Coming from a background in quantum mechanics and cosmology (wow!), is there any sort of dichotomy between the technical and emotional that plays out in your artwork?
Tiffany: Oh wow, technical drawing and engineering sounds fascinating!! Absolutely. I use my art as a way to deal with my bipolar, and treat it as an absolute. I try to get every detail in a more photo-realistic way, but every now and again I try something a bit different and my emotions take over and I find myself drawing more randomly. For sketch cards, I restrict myself, but for individual pieces, I allow myself a bit more freedom to express more emotion and feeling. I drew a Vader for the 40th, where I tried to impress emotion into his mask and this was an occasion where I balanced the two together. The more technical side of things and the more expressive.
Darth Vader AP by Tiffany Groves from the 40th Anniversary release
RJ: I have seen this Vader sketch and know exactly what you’re talking about. To me, I almost feel sadness coming from him, but I can’t explain why. Did you draw this from a moment in the films?
Tiffany: I screencap and draw directly from the films normally. I think it was at the beginning when he arrived on the Tantive IV. I remember thinking at the time that it needed something more than just the mask, so I relaxed a little bit and lost myself in the mask area. I was thinking at the time about his transition into Vader and how much he had lost. I’m glad that I could achieve some of that in the card.
Other sketch cards form 40th Anniversary – Tiffany Groves
RJ: It’s an amazing card and was greeted with some renown when you posted it. Vader seems to me an interesting subject for sketch cards because his character ultimately has a depth to it that gets lost in the blackness and lines. This card, and all your cards really, are clearly the labor of love and patience! How long would you say you spent on this card? What about your cards in general?
Tiffany: It was my first set, so I went a bit bonkers with the pics, lol !! On this card, I spent 3 days. Most of the rest of them took a day each… but I work long hours, so about 15 hours I would say. I’ve gotten a bit faster with my work, but I tend to spend a lot more time on the subjects I really love. I’m drawing one at the moment that I’m particularly connecting with and this is my second day on it. That’s why I skip some sets and only take the minimum amount normally. For the 40th, I only did 11 cards including my 2 APs.
More sketch cards from 40th Anniversary – Tiffany Groves
RJ: Wow. I think the combination of time spent and limited number of cards per set makes owning a Tiffany Groves sketch extra special to collectors. Do you have a favorite set that you have worked on? Do you have any specific films or characters that you love sketching? Following up on that, what, where, or who do you draw inspiration from artistically?
Sketch cards from the A New Hope – Black & White 2018 release – Tiffany Groves
Tiffany: Well, I loved drawing Galactic Files as it was my first set where I could draw anything from the films, so it was my first chance to pic all my favourite characters! And I loved drawing the 40th black and white as I could go back to just graphite. I’m still fairly new to colour pencil, only been using it for about a year and a half, so doing a set in just pencil was a lot of fun! I kept my first card from the Black & White set… the Jawas! I threw everything at that card and had a lot of freedom, so it had charcoal, pastel, graphite and some paint and pen too! For my inspiration, it had to be John Howe that got me back into drawing. I just adore his work!
General Grievous from Galactic Files – Tiffany GrovesJawa AP from Black & White – Tiffany Groves
Tiffany: I love drawing Lord of the Rings too as it’s my other love! But outside of the 2 big ones, my favourite film is Interstellar and I own one piece of work that I just had to draw that I can never part with. It’s on my wall!
Artwork from Lord of the Rings – Tiffany GrovesArtwork from Interstellar – Tiffany Groves
RJ: Wow, that’s amazing because Interstellar is my favorite movie as well! (yes, even more than Star Wars). This is an amazing piece of art. I honestly thought it was a still from the film at first. Coincidentally, I just re-watched Interstellar the other day and thought “I’d really love to commission someone to do a scene from this movie” – now I know exactly where to go!
Tiffany: Aww… thank you so much!! I absolutely loved it. And if you want someone to draw it for you… absolutely love to!! I sometimes listen to the soundtrack while I’m working and it is just beautiful. An absolutely flawless film and the physics is accurate!
RJ: It really is a flawless film, especially the soundtrack. You mentioned your background in physics earlier. I loved how they explored the black hole concept in Interstellar, and the imagery itself was very cool in conveying it. Are you still involved with physics or cosmology now, or was that just while you were in school?
Tiffany: Oh absolutely. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time these days to focus on either. But I listen to a lot of lectures and pieces on Youtube and other sites to keep on top of things and read the scientific papers on the relevant subjects. So much is happening these days in the field and it’s really exciting!
Commission sketch – Tiffany Groves
RJ: Wow, I’m impressed! Do you do art work full time or is it just a hobby?
Tiffany: I draw full time. I can’t go a day without drawing otherwise I get twitchy, lol! I don’t have much time to do my own stuff, but I do have a few projects on the go which are top secret! But I love it!! Drawing full time is everything I always wanted to do! And being able to draw Star Wars is just bananas cool!!
X-wing sketch from Black & White – Tiffany Groves
RJ: Speaking of top secret projects, do you know anything about the upcoming Galaxy release this year? Topps has confirmed its coming and a few artists have commented about their involvement. Can you comment on whether we might see something by Tiffany Groves?
Tiffany: Ahh…..On the record…I couldn’t possibly comment, lol !! This is one set where I will be getting a box….. Need to collect a few cards!
RJ: *hype for galaxy intensifies*
Tiffany: Hahahahaha……I must admit…really excited by this one.
Commission sketch of Princess Leia – Tiffany Groves
RJ: Well I’m very glad to hear that! Do you have any other favorite sketch artists?
Tiffany: Well, of the well known ones, obviously Ralph McQuarrie and the other concept guys like Joe Johnston. But I still very much look at the modern artists for inspiration which sounds a bit odd as I’m a pencil artist, but I love the emotion and expression that a colour or shape can evoke. I think that’s the abstract artist in me still.
RJ: It’s a little awe-inspiring seeing how much of Star Wars original art direction is influenced by Ralph McQuarrie’s creations. Sketch cards are an excellent display of artists’ talent and creativity in capturing those images. I’m curious, are there any restrictions in place by Topps on creating an artistic interpretation (i.e. non-original image) for a SW set? Or, is this implied by the ‘photo-realistic’ guideline? Or do artists prefer using screen-captures or existing images for other reasons?
Tiffany: It really is! But for sketch cards, some sets have restrictions and require a more photo-realistic look. But those are generally the new films. The restrictions are a bit looser for the older original ones as I think they have been in the public domain for quite a while, so we can interpret them in a freer sense. But of course, the restrictions for no excess violence or guns pointing at the viewer are still there. But I think a lot of us use screen caps to make sure that we adhere to the guidelines and less chance of rejection as they still have to be approved before release.
Captain America – Tiffany Groves
RJ: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Tiffany. I think I speak for a lot of collectors when I say that we love your work and involvement in the community. Do you have anything else you want to share?
Tiffany: It’s my pleasure and been a lot of fun!! It took me ages when I first started drawing for Topps to share my work… I was terribly shy about it! But I’ve met so many wonderful people. Artists and collectors and made some great friends!
RJ: OK Tiffany, my last question is, who is your favorite Star Wars character?
Tiffany: Hmm…..not so much a character, but a species….Jawas!!! ooh…but there is one character…
Artwork of Galen Erso – Tiffany Groves
RJ: How could I forget!
Tiffany: Yeah… I think I made a bit of noise about Galen and Jawas! Fun Fact…Tiffany Kurtz, the daughter of Gary Kurtz was one of the first Jawas cast! She has a good name!
Kylo Ren – Tiffany Groves
Tiffany Groves can be reached via her Facebook page Tiffart
If you are an artist interested in participating in the Sketch Artist series, please contact me here or through the 12 Parsecs Facebook page