Cynthia Cummens Interview MrCere writes: Cynthia Cummens attended the ORC 2006 show as a guest of and participated in several aspects of the show including the ‘Iron Artist’ contest and she taught a drawing workshop. She was a big hit both on stage and off, bringing enthusiasm to the show and her warmth to those who had a chance to speak with her in person.

She has been working on a line of new Lord of the Rings cards for Topps that will feature her original sketches inserted into packs of cards. Cynthia was kind enough to take some time at ORC and talk to about her projects and also included a sneak of her cards scheduled for release on March 1. Not only was TORn pleased to have her at the ORC event but was thrilled to build a relationship with such a talented and kind artist. Tell me about your artistic roots and training and I am particularly interested how you grew into such a genre (or geek) centric artist?

Cynthia Cummens: Hi Larry. Thanks for talking with me. I started drawing as a kid, about age 3, and knew at a young age it was wanted to do for the rest of my life. It seems my creative influences came from the sci-fi/fantasy TV shows that appealed to me – Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers, Godzilla, among others. Luckily, my mom supported my love for drawing, even though she herself isn’t an artist. When she took me to see Star Wars, which I don’t actually remember seeing (believe it or not), I was immediately obsessed (thanks, Mom!) and it became the subject of almost everything I drew for many years. Later, in high school and college, I went into the fine arts programs, which provided a wonderful foundation for painting and drawing. I had a variety of art jobs during and after college, and explored different subject matters in my paintings, most of which were often about very personal experiences and not at all related to sci-fi or fantasy. Then about 6 years ago, I worked as a portrait artist in a local Renaissance Faire, which empowered me to launch my career as a freelance illustrator.

TORn: And how did you get hooked into the Lucasfilm and Lord of the Rings franchises?

CC: While I worked at the Ren Faire, it was suggested that I should look into exhibiting at conventions, which until then I never knew about. The idea appealed to me, and I took the advice to get to Star Wars Celebration II in 2002 (my first convention). I spoke with some of the artists who were exhibiting there, and the advice was the same – get to San Diego Comic Con, which I attended in 2002, along with Wizard World Chicago. Both conventions provided many opportunities to get my work seen by professionals in the industry. At SDCC in 2004, Star Wars artist Randy Martinez recommended me to Topps, the trading card company, who was hiring artists to work on Star Wars trading cards. Lucas Licensing reviewed and approved my portfolio to work on the cards, and since then I’ve been involved with different projects for them. At the end of 2005, Topps also invited me to work on their LOTR sketch cards which required approval by licensing at New Line Cinema.

TORn: Lets talk about this card project. How was it working on this series?

CC: It was a very exciting project to be involved with being a fan of the books and movies. For those who might not know what sketch cards are, they are one of-a-kind, hand-drawn sketches on trading cards. Fans of the movies and trading card collectors love them because they are original pieces of art, not reproductions. For the LOTR set, I drew 350 cards, which were based on movie likenesses, not an interpretation of Tolkien characters. At times it was grueling, as I tend to work very detailed even though the cards are meant to be sketches, not highly rendered works of art. I used pencil on each card, occasionally adding some white conte for highlighting. That’s just my approach to sketching. Overall, it was a thrill for me. It was actually was kind of sad when I sent the cards back to Topps, knowing they’d never be in my hands again.

TORn: Were you able to pick subjects and scenes and moments from the films to depict or were they assigned?

CC: Since this is a character-based set, I drew portraits of the characters from the films. There were no limits to which characters I could draw, or from which films. So there was no shortage of inspiration!

TORn: Can you tell us about the working process? Did you use visuals
directly from the film?

CC: Yes, I used the DVD’s as reference, spending many hours glued to the tv, remote control in one hand, pencil and cards in the other (not a bad way to spend the day)! I also have a steadily growing stockpile of internet references and books that I used intermittently.

TORn: How much time did you allow yourself to spend on each card?

CC: At the minimum, I spent 20 minutes on a card, depending on the character. Ring Wraiths were the quickest to draw, while human likenesses require a bit more time, sometimes as much as an hour depending on how detailed I wanted the piece to be.

TORn: As an artist and/or as a fan, how did you view the films from your creative perspective?

Cynthia Cummens Interview CC: These movies re-ignited my creativity when I saw them, and even as I continue to watch them I find myself in awe, studying the lighting and composition of scenes, the color schemes and the moods they create. I really enjoy costuming (even though I can barely sew a hole in my sock!) and am inspired by the level of craftsmanship in the costumes, the attention to the smallest detail in a gown or sword, the colors and textures in the flesh of creatures like Gollum and Lurtz, not to mention the landscapes, the environments. It’s just amazing how it all connects so seamlessly. I try to borrow from that energy and creativity and bring it back into my work, whether it’s a sketch card or some painting, unrelated to the books/movies that I may for do just for myself.

TORn: Do you have a favorite illustration from the cards?

CC: I don’t necessarily have a favorite illustration, though I enjoyed drawing the hobbits, particularly Frodo, whose expressions are so amazing and challenging to capture.

TORn: How about something you wish you could have illustrated?

CC: I would have liked to have illustrated interior scenes and landscapes, or perhaps have drawn characters from the books that weren’t in the films.

TORn: What are some other projects you would like to work on?

CC: I’ve got a bunch of exciting projects lined up for 2006. Unfortunately, the way it works is that I often can’t reveal anything them until some official announcement is made about the project or product. I have a couple possible book projects in the works, one about a well-known UFO incident, which I’m looking forward to illustrating. I plan to continue working on sketch cards – anything sci-fi or fantasy related is always enjoyable! Since I do a lot of conventions, I hope to continue adding more to the line-up this year, and teach more drawing workshops like the one I taught at ORC and maybe even do another Iron Artist event if the opportunity comes up. I’ll be updating my site with news about upcoming projects and additional convention appearances.

TORn: Any artists you particularly admire?

CC: I love the work of Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum. I also enjoy the work of Roger Dean who is known for his album cover art for Yes, a prog rock band from the 70’s. Of course I think Alan Lee’s work is so elegant and delicate. There are a lot of children’s book illustrators that I enjoy, such as Patricia Polacco. The list, like the road, goes ever on…

TORn: Will you be attending any other events?

CC: Absolutely!

TORn: Anything else?

CC: Lord of the Rings: Evolution from Topps will be released March 1st. If you don’t pull one of my cards from the hobby boxes, and are still interested in owning one, you can check that well known-auction site. Or you can commission me for custom artwork through my site: