Here at World of Superheroes we have been lucky enough to chat to one of the artists who create Topps Sketch Cards for Star Wars, Jay Manchand.
Jay, thanks for chatting to us here at World of Superheroes, we couldn’t help but get in touch and ask about your work. We have a lot of artwork similar to yours in our store of most Sci-fi and Fantasy on screen because we love the culture so much. Is it safe to say you're a proud geek yourself?
Hi, thanks for having me! Oh absolutely, I'm a huge geek - always have been. I’ve always been drawn to franchises of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy nature - I collect action figures (mostly Star Wars) and my ‘studio’ is filled with them, I love working amongst collectibles of a genre that inspires so much of my work. Part of the reason I adore attending conventions to promote my work so much, is because it feels like home - that buzz of energy and excitement from passionate fans is a wonderful culture to be a part of.
Sounds like we will get along just fine then! The work on your Instagram account is obviously stunning, have you always been an artist or is it something that was a hobby turned work opportunity?
Thank you! I’ve been drawing for as long as I have been able to hold a pencil but when I hit my early twenties, I realised that it was the path I wanted to take my career down. I put myself through University and graduated 5 years later with a Bachelors & Masters Degree in Fine Art. Towards the end of my studies, I began reaching out to companies I wanted to work for, hoping to build a professional platform to leap into once I’d graduated.
Though my Degree work was rooted in the conservation of Reptiles and Amphibians, I realised my true passion for art was inspired by the franchises I grew up with - I began making Star Wars art and building a portfolio of work for submissions.
I began producing sketch cards for Topps in 2016 and have contributed well over 1000 Star Wars sketch cards since.
That's an impressive origin story. Looks like you've worked hard getting so many out in just 5 years with such detail on each character. I can see how you used your skill of creating detail on reptiles by looking at the detail on the alien characters. Despite the obvious difficulties during the pandemic, have you found you've been able to focus more on your art?
The pandemic has been such an uncertain time for many people, whilst there have been struggles like the majority of people - I feel incredibly lucky that I managed to use the lockdowns to my advantage, I was able to fully commit to my art, and forced myself to make the decision to take it full time and make it my only source of income. Had the Pandemic not happened, I probably wouldn’t have taken the risk to focus on the career I’d always wanted, so there is a positivity in that. I feel more creative than ever and more inspired and empowered to make art for a living.
That's often the way life changes work isn't it? You said most of the officially licensed cards you've mentioned are for Star Wars, how does it feel as an artist to be involved with such big companies?
Working professionally for the franchises that inspire myself and so many others around the world, is something I don’t think I will ever quite come to terms with - I’m honoured, humbled and grateful for the opportunities. Though it began with Star Wars for Topps, I have since produced sketch card artwork for popular culture shows and movies such as Game of Thrones, Alien, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead and more.
Many great opportunities and experiences have been gained from working with these licensed properties and although I work hard and hope that I continue to grow as a professional artist in this world, I have to occasionally pinch myself as there will always be this little element of disbelief that my name is attached to some of the most influential media in history.
Star Wars is probably the biggest and longest sci-fi franchise on screen but it's great you've been able to spread your talents to more recent shows like Game of Thrones and Strangers Things which I personally love myself! Your detail is incredible and the likeness of the characters is so realistic, I just love your pieces of Natalie Portman as Padme but which are your favourite characters to work with?
Thank you, they have been a part of a fun project, I’ve loved exploring so many of her complex and intricate attire from the prequels.
As for my favourite characters, I’d actually say the more bizarre, the better. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the larger than life aliens and creatures often hidden in the background of the Star Wars movies - I’d want to know all of their names, backstories etc. Part of what I love most about working on various Topps sets, is the freedom to paint and draw so many of these obscure aliens, which often have wonderfully rich and colourful palettes to work with.
That said, I also enjoy working with light and reflections, so any armoured character or mask/helmet wearer is usually a fun subject too.
It sounds like the dream job for you then Jay! Obviously you create work of a lot of heroes, have you created any piece of Superheroes licensed or not?
Ok now that we are such good friends, I should probably confess, up until last year - I had never seen a Marvel movie (for no other reason than because I’ve been so wrapped up in my comfort zone of Star Wars, LOTR, GOT & Alien). I’ve now watched almost all of them and thoroughly enjoyed what I watched.
Ive never felt compelled to work from source material that doesn’t inspire me, even though it may be popular and sell well, it wouldn’t feel true to myself - the work I am passionate about tends to be my best work. Due to the nature of the work I post on social media, commission requests are usually from the franchises I already work with. That said, now that I’ve watched and loved so much of the MCU, there’s so many awesome characters I’d like to work with. So stay tuned!
That does sound promising! Guardians of the Galaxy have a lot of different aliens, just putting it out there! Congratulations on your success so far and Thanks so much for talking to us here at World of Superheoes Jay. Please do keep in touch and let us know about any up-coming work, we'd love to see it!
Check out Jay's Instagram Page for more of his work.