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Help Support Features Interviews Randy Martinez
Randy Martinez interview
by Mitchell Hallock - posted on April 29, 2008
Randy Martinez self portrait

The Los Angeles based artist/singer/musician, who’s portfolio covers a great variety in style and media. Comfortable working in both 2D and 3D mediums, Randy has done a “How to Draw” book, work for ACME Achieves, his work has been seen in magazines like Star wars Insider, games like “Sitting Duck”, movie posters (In the Blink of an Eye) and of course trading cards for Heroes and now Indiana Jones.


Mitchell Hallock: Hello Randy, and thank you for taking the time away from the drawing board to talk with me. Let’s start off, where else, but at the beginning. How did the young Randy Martinez know he wanted to be an artist?

Randy Martinez: I have been making art as long as I can remember. Both of my parents are artists so I have always been around it. I knew how to paint before I could talk. I am a Southern California Native and literally started my life in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom. My Dad was one of Caricature/portrait artists at both Disneyland and Disneyworld. To be quite honest, I don’t remember any of it, I was just too little, but something tells me it helped start my mind down a creative path. I grew up in Ventura CA, about an hour north of Los Angeles. It’s a little beach community filled to the gills with surfers. I was a very athletic kid too. I played just about everything. I was always at least a head or two taller than the rest of the kids so I always did pretty well, but especially at basketball. From the time I was about 7 years old I was obsessed with Basketball. My daily life from that point was basketball in the day, drawing at night. It made for a very interesting combination growing up. All the kids wanted me on their team at the playground and then wanted me to draw Darth Vader for them after the game.

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Darth Vader illustrated by Randy Martinez.

Making art was just something I always did, I never really thought about it to much, which I think was good because it was just fun, and expressive with no pressure to add up to anyone or judge. That is due in great part to my parents. They have always supported my art and did their best to always teach me new techniques, mediums, and introduced me to new kinds of art and artists. Things changed a little in high school. It started getting really difficult to do both art and basketball, but I was excelling at both.

Colleges were looking at me for Basketball and Art schools wanted me for the art. For the first time I started to feel pressure about my art. Started feeling like I had to outdo myself and impress everyone. I didn’t like it so I focused more on basketball by my senior year. I decided to follow my heart and attend California Lutheran University to play hoops. Figured I was only young once and I had to go with it while I had the legs.

It only took about a year and a half before art came back into my life. I had a great professor who challenged me and taught me some new philosophies that helped me regain the love of creating art and with no pressure. So I hung up the basketball shoes and focused on my art. A couple years later I transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute where I graduated with a BA in Design and Illustration. Since then I’ve been working as a professional illustrator. Lots of struggling there in the beginning, but things finally got rolling. I still play Basketball, but only to try and stay in shape.

You mentioned drawing Darth Vader and basketball – were those your main subjects as a kid?

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Jaws illustrated by Randy Martinez.

Different stages in my life brought on different subject matters. The earliest thing I can remember drawing was sharks. I was obsessed with sharks because of Spielberg’s JAWS so I never learned how to surf knowing that shark was out there waiting for me! Funny thing is JAWS was all I used to draw before Star Wars came along. My Mom still has this needlepoint I did in 1st grade. While all the other kids did flowers or teddy bears, I made a shark chomping on some poor swimmer. It was actually really good. The teacher was a little disturbed but recognized that I had some talent… and a twisted mind!

Once Star Wars came out I was obsessed with everything Star Wars. Like so many of us, it really grabbed me and opened up my imagination. I even made my Mom a Star Wars pot for her plants, because EVERYONE loves Star Wars right?

I know I love Star Wars! Hmm… you like Jaws and also Star Wars. So, it is a natural that when Lucas and Spielberg created Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, you must have started drawing that, no?

I drew a lot of Indiana Jones, He Man, and GI Joe too. Something about the adventure of it all. Heroes and Villains, and excitement! Something about it all just captivated me. Probably to help me through the rough times in my life then, but I tell you, it stuck, and I still love it all.

Once I hit junior high school I was so crazy about basketball that I started drawing Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan on everything, but I just couldn’t get the muscles correct. That is when I discovered comic books. “Wow!” I thought. Look the muscles on these guys. I figured if I could draw super heroes, I could use that to draw athletes. Then I came to find out that comic artists often used athletes as references for their art…PERFECT! So I religiously studied and drew from my comics. I really started to understand the way the body was put together. Kids started going crazy for my superheroes and I started selling copies for 25 cents each. Great for candy and soda on the way home from school!

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Star Wars gag by Randy.

Once high school hit, I was kind of all over the board, my favorite thing to draw in the world was Caricatures of anyone. But I was really trying to find myself (like everyone else) so I started to do a lot more personal things…hell I don’t even know what those things are now, but it was heavy. College brought on an obsession to learn how to paint and use every art tool I could find.
Star Wars kind of sprung back into my life and it made art fun again for me. I varied my subject matter, but it was all about finding work. Eventually, I think my love for Star Wars led me to start doing official Star Wars art professionally. Now, I do just about anything…but with a huge love for Star Wars and Indiana Jones!

Turning a passion into a profession is a great thing! Is having that fan connection make what you’re doing extra special?

I really think it does. I mean, as a professional you always have to show up for work and do a good job. But when you are a fan, it adds some extra love to it. On the Topps Heroes Sketch cards, I knew of the show, and my girlfriend loved it. I wouldn’t say I was a fan because I had never really seen much of the show. So I started work on the cards and they were looking good, but then we bought Season one on DVD. Once I started watching the DVDs I really got in to the show, and as a result, my sketch cards started getting really cool and emotional.
I love Star Wars, and have such a personal connection with it that I can’t NOT do something from deep inside with that subject.

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Topps Heroes sketch cards by Randy Martinez.

You mentioned drawing Indiana Jones when you were younger. Were you excited when you got the call from Topps to do some of the new sketch cards for the Heritage series?

Oh yeah! I love Indiana Jones, always have. The thing with Indy though is it has been simmering in the back ground for a long time. When news of a new Indy movie came around it really brought back a lot of great old memories. I went back and watched the films again and they are such great fun. The Spielberg and Lucas connection is just magical and awesome. Topps then called out for artists to do sketch cards for both Indiana Jones Heritage (celebrating the first 3 films) and now Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I’ll tell you, it has been so much fun reliving these movies and rediscovering how much fun Indiana Jones is to draw! I’m really proud of these two sets!

I have to ask, how do you work in so much color into your Topps Indy cards working on such a tiny canvas?

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Indy sketch card by Randy Martinez.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know. It is REALLY difficult to work so small. Especially for me being a big guy with big hands. The interesting thing is it kind of forces me to stay loose. I learned early on that itty-bitty details are impossible, so I have to rely on color and value to kind of fool the eye. If you look closely at my cards you’ll see a lot of purples and blues on the oranges and yellows. It looks cool and colorful, but when you look at the whole piece it gives the illusion of space and volume. It’s based a lot of what I learned about impressionism. Degas was a master at reflective light and color in this way. Great stuff.

I use Prisma color Markers and Pencils. There are a lot of fine products out there, but I have become very comfortable with the Prisma color line of products. I use a little acrylic paint at times, but the cards are thin and I don’t like to warp them.

How do you capture the “spirit of Indy” when you are working on the sketch cards? DVDs? Movie Stills?

When I’m doing more “realistic” or representational work references are vital. The Indy 4 cards were especially fun because every artist got photos from the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. They are marked: FOR OUR EYES ONLY! All I can say is the pictures are great and movie looks amazing.

The “Indy Spirit”. Well, I always have that anyway! Personally; no I don’t put the John Williams Raiders music on. I’m a rock and roll guy. I just put my iTunes on random and rock out while I work. I recently bought the newest Lenny Kravits and Sheryl Crow Albums. Both have been awesome to listen to as Lenny has kind of returned to form (thank god) and Sheryl is making some really great music…important music! She is great.

Out of all the art you have done for the Indy Topps cards do you have certain favorite characters?

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Indy's ladies,
sketch card by Randy.

Indy is always fun, but the bad guys are great too. The new movie brings a new bad guy in Cate Blanchett. (Russian Agent Spalko) She is awesome. Probably one of the more interesting people to draw from Lord of the Rings, but now with that bob hair cut and cold eyes in Indy 4… She’s just an awesome looking character to draw.

Is there a trick in getting Harrison's famous scar right when you draw him?

Funny thing is, I don’t really focus on that. Usually just throw a line there to show its there. Harrison Ford’s REAL stand out characteristic is his nose. It’s bent, and not just a little, but some how it works on his face. If you can draw the nose, you can draw Harrison Ford.

Well, I guess the “nose knows”! You mentioned the Crystal Skull anything you can tell us on your next Topps Indiana Jones project?

Yes, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull cards and sketch cards are set to release May 1 2008. I literally just finished my cards and will be sending them off today. I wish I could show you, but it’s all very top secret. I can tell you that for the base set I took a very Warhol approach. I did 144 cards and that consists of about 10 different designs. While they are repeated images, they are different colors. It adds some collectability to it. If you have all four colors of one design… it looks really cool like the Marilyn Monroe piece Andy Warhol did.

For my return 6 (six cards that Topps returns to each artist or the artists choice) I did some highly rendered pieces that feature the main characters, and a special 2 part puzzle of the Russian villains and the Jones family. I’m really excited!

You said you had that “Indy spirit”, pretend you are now playing the academic and not the adventurer. What would you say to your students who were looking to follow in your footsteps, or rather brushstrokes?

I find that the key to it all is to have fun and be you. Strokes from fans are great, but art needs to be more than that. Art comes from your heart and is an extension of your soul. I make a point to never create anything that fans EXPECT from me, creating from my heart makes that easy. Art, music, or anything creative is so personal and to share that with people truly takes some courage, and I think people appreciate that. The more in touch with yourself you can get trough your art the stronger your art will be. Fans will come naturally, but at the heart of it the experience is yours!

Draw, draw, draw and have fun!

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More Indy art by Randy. - Right: Three cards making one illustration.

Randy, it has been a pleasure talking to you, and I know that Indy fans like myself will be feverishly ripping open packs of Indiana Jones cards to see if we can find one of your sketch cards. If fans want to see more of Randy’s art check out his website and his MySpace page to see his Indiana Jones sketch card work.

Be careful when you rip those packages of cards open, you might tear an autographed George Lucas or Harrison Ford card! Well, thank you it has been a blast to talk about my favorite things – drawing and movies!


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