Interview by Mark Picirilli - Publication Date: 12/15/2008
Indiana Jones Collectors: We all draw pictures as kids—some of us better than others. When did you realize that you were actually good at it and not just drawing everyday stick figures?
Joe Corroney: I think somewhere early on in grade school…around first or second grade, I realized my artwork was catching my classmate’s attention because they’d start asking me to draw superheroes or Star Wars characters for them or they’d ask me to help out on their art class assignments. I went to a really small grade school and a really small high school too in Indiana and there wasn’t really much in terms of an art program or even competition since there were so few students.
It wasn’t until I got to art college that I realized I wasn’t the big fish in the little pond anymore, and everywhere I looked, there were other artists already miles ahead of me because they came from larger high schools with more serious art programs. It just inspired me to push myself even harder to keep up and even try to surpass my peers whereas a lot of other students just gave up and dropped out. My freshmen year at my art college was a particularly rough program for us. They really did their best at my school to weed out the less enthusiastic students, which probably saved them a lot of grief in their lives later anyway. It was really tough but I survived.
IJC: Who would your favorite character be to draw in the Star Wars universe?
Corroney: My favorite character to draw is Darth Vader because his costume is dark and dynamic and it fits my graphic, high contrast drawing style. I also enjoy that character’s story the most of anyone else in the saga—the light and dark side aspects to his nature, his fall from grace and ascension. For storytelling purposes, it makes him a great character to work with. Also, because he’s a masked character, you have to rely on body language or certain dynamic angles instead of expression when working with Vader in illustrated storytelling. It’s fun and challenging at the same time.
A second favorite would have to be Boba Fett. From a costume standpoint, there’s so much incredible detail that makes him fun to draw. And as a comic book artist, I really enjoy going over the top with detail whenever possible. And from a personality standpoint, he’s the bad boy of the Star Wars universe. He’s Han Solo with a better costume and more weapons, and he’s more mysterious. He’s the “man with no name” western character who has no real allegiances to anyone but himself. You don’t want to cross him, but at the same time you want him on your side of the fight when it comes down to it. All of that makes him really fun to work with in scenes.
IJC: And which one are you tired of drawing?
Corroney: There’s not really any Star Wars character I’m tired of drawing yet—though sometimes drawing battle droids and clone troopers over and over on sketch cards can be a little daunting at three in the morning.
IJC: You have some of the more impressive sketch cards on the market. A personal favorite has to be your color sketch card of Yoda (circa Episode III). Tell us—how does a person get started in the sketch card industry?
Corroney: These days, it seems fairly easy to break into the industry for new or amateur artists, but just because you draw sketch cards doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get other published work. It often helps to be previously published—or at the very least have a solid portfolio—to get a sketch card publisher’s attention. Sometimes, if you’re an established artist, the publisher will contact you.
However, the Internet makes direct contact with publishers easily available. It’s just a matter of doing a little research and e-mailing some of your illustration samples to an editor. It also helps to have your portfolio online or showcase your artwork on a decent website. Most publishers go to the larger comic book conventions across the country year-round too, so it’s also a matter of making the trip and approaching the editors in person.
It’s almost like an impromptu interview process. Bring your portfolio, be on your best behavior, leave them samples and a business card, and hope you made a good enough impression for them to call on you with an assignment.
IJC: On average, what kind of time do you put in to each card?
Corroney: It depends on the project and what other projects I have on my schedule concurrently. The exact definition of a “sketch” card is up for debate too. With each new project and each new group of artists coming in to prove themselves, the quality and detail can really be qualified as anything but a sketch anymore. To keep up with expectations from collectors, I might spend anywhere from half an hour to maybe an hour and a half at most per sketch card, which is probably about the amount of time I put into each card for the Topps Indiana Jones sets. That includes the latest one for Indiana Jones Masterpieces.
IJC: You've been drawing Star Wars for a while now—the Dark Horse Comics, the Celebration 3 poster and program, and sketch cards. Now you’ve crossed over into another fan favorite franchise—Indiana Jones. What was that like for you?
Corroney: Working on Indiana Jones is real dream come true for me. Star Wars and Indy were my biggest influences as a child and an artist growing up. Before this past year, there weren’t many opportunities to work with Indy because he kinda disappeared from the entertainment spotlight for number of years [unlike Star Wars]. Luckily, through my long term association with Lucasfilm as a Star Wars artist for the last twelve years or so—working on lots of Star Wars projects before and after my short run at Dark Horse—I was able to get approved to work on Indiana Jones without a problem. I felt really fortunate to be able to contribute the Indy legacy after all of these years finally.
IJC: This one might be a loaded question, but do you enjoy doing the conventions? Or is it more of a necessary evil to get your art out there?
Corroney: I really do enjoy going to conventions actually. It’s the only time I’m really able to get out of my studio anymore these days and catch up with friends and share my work with fans and the public. It's a great feeling—getting positive feedback, signing comic books and prints, and knowing that your work is actually connecting to a real live audience besides what you may hear and read online.
IJC: At what cons will you be attending this summer?
Corroney: My schedule is usually so packed that I don’t get to do as many cons as I’d like to anymore, but the San Diego Comic Con is always on my schedule. I can’t miss that one because it’s such an incredible event. I might do some smaller shows here and there throughout the country when I’m able, and “Star Wars Fan Days” in Texas is becoming a yearly staple too. That’s a great show.
IJC: Do you have anything coming up that you’d like to discuss? Maybe the new Topps Indy Masterpiece set? Perhaps the Star Wars: The Clone Wars set?
Corroney: Actually, I just finished new sketch card artwork for both of these sets. Clone Wars was a lot of fun because it allowed me to work outside my graphic comic book, hyper-realistic style and flex some of my cartooning muscles more. It was interesting for me to translate the 3-D style of the new cartoon into a graphic 2-D style for the sketch cards. I tried to keep them loose and fun too while still being representational of the cartoon style.
For Indiana Jones Masterpieces, I kept with the same style and technique as my previous Indy art for Topps’ Indiana Jones Heritage and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sketch cards. These were a lot more intense with a lot of detail, shading, highlights and extra technique. Since my work for Indiana Jones hasn’t been as voluminous as Star Wars, I really wanted my Indy art to stand out since I’ve been such a huge fan since I was kid. I literally wore out my VHS tapes of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies by the time I got to high school.
I’m also currently working on brand new artwork for Star Wars Galaxy 4 from Topps, which comes out this February. I’ve created new base card artwork for the set along with the art for the six card foil puzzle set, which is something I’m really proud of. It connects with the other foil puzzle sets from previous Star Wars card sets by artists Jan Duursema and Walt Simonson. It was a real challenge creating something on such a small scale that encompassed and represented the entire saga in a fair and obvious sense but with imagery that could stand alone separately on each card. But I had help from my colorist Brian Miller, and I hope we pulled it off. I’m also illustrating 106 sketch cards for this set as well.
IJC: Most people reading this are collectors of either Star Wars or Indiana Jones memorabilia. Are you a collector of anything? What's your favorite Item?
Corroney: Lack of time and budget keeps me from being a hardcore collector of anything steady, but I do pick up the occasional Star Wars or Indy action figure. I also have some of the larger models from Sideshow Collectibles as well as some Gentle Giant busts too. I even pick up some of the props when I can afford it.
IJC: What’s your favorite item?
Corroney: My favorite items are probably my custom made replica props of Luke Skywalker’s Episode IV lightsaber, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Episode I lightsaber and my Han Solo Episode IV “Greedo Killer” blaster. They’re fun to show to friends and guests because they’re exact replicas of the props from the films. It feels like you’re holding a piece of history from a make believe place that feels real but never really existed.
It’s fun to watch other people’s expressions when they handle the props and see them experience that same awestruck feeling.
IJC: What about those fans who say “I would love to have a one-of-a-kind Joe Corroney” or “I'd pay anything & risk needing a Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney if it meant getting a Joe Corroney original”? Do you do commissions and how would someone contact you for it?
Corroney: Usually the best way to get an original drawing from me is to catch me at a convention where I have nothing to do but sit at a table and sketch for fans all day while I sign artwork and comic books. I do sell a lot of my original artwork through my website (www.JoeCorroney.com), so that’s another way to get a piece of original artwork from me personally or even signed prints and autographed comic books. Commission requests can also be sent through my e-mail address or “Stuff to Buy” page on my website.
However, lately, my project schedule usually precludes me from taking too many commissions unless they are full color sketch card requests. I try to answer all of my email promptly when I can. If you don’t receive a quick reply, don’t worry. I’ll give you e-mail inquiry an answer once I get caught up enough on work. Star Wars and Indiana Jones keep me really busy these days along with Star Trek, Farscape, Lord of the Rings and so forth, so please be patient until I'm able to make it back down to Planet Earth.
IJC: Thank You for your time Joe!
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