Some time last year I was contacted by Cat Staggs and was very excited by the work she was doing. She has a very painterly style and her techniques give her film and comic book icons a rich presence.
From her bio:
llustrating over 130 cards for the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith card set for TOPPS, Cat joined the Star Wars / LUCAS FILM family in 2004. The highly collectible artist’s sketch cards brought Staggs into the forefront of Star Wars fandom. Having produced exclusive prints for Star Wars Celebrations III, IV, and Europe, Cat has also contributed drawing tutorials and Halloween masks articles for the kid’s section, as well as illustrating short fiction for starwars.com
Not content to only play in that galaxy far, far away, Cat’s work has also been featured on The Lord of the Rings Evolution and Masterpieces card sets and three sets featuring Indiana Jones for TOPPS.
Moreover, further cementing her reputation among collectors and fellow artists, Cat’s distinctive work can also be seen on Rittenhouse Archives’ Iron Man-The Movie, Complete Marvel Avengers, X-Men Archives and DC Legacy card sets, as well as The World’s Finest VS trading card game for Upperdeck.
See below the interview for a brief description of her process.
What is your earliest memory of drawing or making art?
I don’t remember not drawing. My mother tells me I was drawing something the second I could hold a crayon.
Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
Both. I would draw all the time but I also focused on art classes from an early age. I never wanted to do anything else. I went to a University Of Texas in San Antonio and studied fine art, obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree. That is the extent of my formal education. But to this day I am still learning something new everyday. Whether it be something I figure out on my own or learn from my peers and/or mentors.
Can you briefly describe your illustration process?
I usually come up with an idea. I Frankenstein reference together. I normally shoot my own(myself or with the help of a photographer ) as it is the only way to make sure i get exactly what I need. Then I will do my layout sketch. Once that is finished I then scan the sketch and print out a blue line version to do the coloring on. I usually start with an under drawing of the basic light and shadow. Once that is complete I go in with the color, layering until i reach the desired render. once i am “satisfied” I go in with a white acrylic to had the highlights in the final layer.
Paint vs. Markers? What is the deciding factor?
For me i really enjoy markers. I feel like I have a little more control over the media than I do with paint or a paint brush.
How did you get into doing trading cards for film and comics?
I started going out on the convention circuit and handed out portfolios. I was then contacted a few months later by Topps asking if i was interested in working on the Revenge Of The Sith trading card set. And the rest is history.
Who are some of your favorite illustrators/ artists?
I am a big Norman Rockwell fan as well as Jon Whitcomb and Robert McQuire. More recent illustrators include Adam Hughes, Phil Noto, Mitch Breitweiser, Mark Brooks, Brian Stelfreeze and Dustin Nguen to name a few. I am lucky that part of my job is going to conventions and getting to sit in the middle of some of the most talented illustrators of our time. It is really inspiring.
What advice/crit from a teacher or mentor have you received on your work that really helped you develop?
My high school art teacher told me to go with my gut and trust my line and keep the focus on one idea at a time. Continuous second guessing is never a good thing and in the end you will wish you went with your initial instinct and could lose your idea in the process. It was great advice at the time.
That being said, I have come to learn, the initial idea is not always the strongest. There are times when another set of eyes will see things that the creator does not. Things that can bring a new energy to a piece, especially if it is just not coming together. Art tends to always be evolving even within a single piece. An idea can strike right in the middle that would make it better. Inspiration can strike at anytime. I have found that most artists will never complete a piece. We are constantly seeing ways to make it better, even years later.
What’s the best part about being an illustrator?
What is the worst part about being and illustrator?
Here is a brief step-by-step of the above Batman image Cat did for a private collector. She used Copic Markers as well as white acrylic for highlights.
Top left to right
1) cleaned up sketch
5)Neutral and cool grays
6)blue violet under drawing
7)first color layer
8)second color layer