Illustrated Trading Cards: Interview with Mike Noren

Written by Shane Salmonson

The card community on Twitter has really opened up my eyes to the world of custom cards and sports artwork. There are some really talented artists out there, one of those being Mike Noren, AKA @gummyarts. On a daily basis I see, and appreciate, more of Mike’s card art. Mike answered some questions about his collecting, his illustrations, and his recent custom card release.

BU: Can we get a little background on you?

MN: Sure. I’ve lived in the Chicago area all my life, with the exception of four years in California for school. I’ve always been a Cubs fan, and I currently live a short walk from Wrigley Field. I work as a writer/editor during the day, and my main hobbies other than drawing are Brazilian jiu-jitsu, music, and cocktails.

The response has been really encouraging, and it’s exciting to have people actually collecting the drawings.

BU: How were you introduced to the trading card hobby?

MN: I started collecting baseball cards in 1979. My brother and I had big boxes of cards from the years 1979-1986 or so, with a few earlier ‘70s cards mixed in. My favorite card as a kid was a 1975 Hank Aaron in extremely poor condition that I got in a trade with an older kid—I was just amazed that I owed an Aaron card, and the terrible condition just made it seem cooler to me. My dad would often take me to a local card shop (Unicorn Cards and Comics in Villa Park, IL, which I think still exists) to buy older cards, and he’d tell me about players he liked when he was younger—so I got some ‘50s and ‘60s cards that way. The most expensive card I bought as a kid was a 1969 Reggie Jackson rookie. I stopped collecting around 1990 and didn’t come back to the hobby until 2013 or so, when I got on eBay and started buying cards I couldn’t afford (or didn’t know about) when I was younger.

BU: What do you collect? Any favorite pieces you’d like to share?

MN: I have a Sanella Babe Ruth, a Goudey Jimmie Foxx, a bunch of T206 Cubs, and a few Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson cards that I like a lot. Other favorite cards are 1957 Ted Kluszewski, 1969 Johnny Bench, 1971 Thurman Munson, and just about any Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Dick Allen, or Joe Torre card. Of more recent cards, my favorites are probably the 1980 Dave Kingman / Gorman Thomas HR leaders card, the Donruss “Rated Rookie” of Greg Maddux with a mustache, and anything featuring Tim Raines or Willie McGee.

BU: How did you decide to start drawing your own cards?

MN: I used to draw a lot as a kid, but I pretty much stopped until about 5 years ago. Around the time I was getting back into drawing, some friends and I had the idea for a “Cecil Cooperstown” website that would honor all the very good players who fell just short of the Hall of Fame. I set out to draw all the best players outside the Hall, and I “inducted” them into the Tumblr site at From there, I branched into other drawings of baseball players, musicians, actors, and whoever else.

BU: You recently released a 40-pack run of cards, which apparently sold out extremely quickly. What was that process like?

MN: I printed out a small run of cards just as an experiment to see whether people would be interested, and the response has been really good. I chose 52 card drawings (a mix of baseball players, musicians, movie characters, etc.), printed them up onto card stock, cut them out by hand, and then put them into packs. The first 40 packs sold out in about 45 minutes, and a second run of 20 packs just sold out in 4 minutes. The response has been really encouraging, and it’s exciting to have people actually collecting the drawings. I’m making more packs as fast as I can.

ART PRESENTATION BOOK for 8 x 10″ Formats

8 x 10″ Art Presentation Book for 8 x 10″ Art, Prints, Photos. Book size: 9-1/4 x 11-1/2 x 3/4″. Page size: 8-1/2 x 10-3/8″.

BU: Do you think you will produce another set in the future?

MN: Yeah, I already have some ideas for what cards to put in a 2019 set.

Acrylic Screwdown for Single Cards

Ultra-Pro® Single Card Screwdown. Acrylic. 4 screws. Beveled edges. 3-1/8 x 5-3/16 x 1/4″. Crystal clear. Acid-free. This recessed Screwdown holds a card up to 2-1/2 x 3-1/2″ and 32 points thick.

BU: How do you decide which subjects to create cards of?

MN: For baseball players, I draw my personal favorites and anyone who I find interesting in one way or another. Cards with colorful 1970s uniforms, big hair/mustaches, and weird poses are always fun. For non-baseball drawings, I mostly just pick my personal favorites. I like to pay tribute to old movies or music through baseball cards, often linked to the anniversaries of the release dates.

BU: Some of my favorites are your baseball fight cards. What are some of your favorite cards that you have produced?

MN: I really enjoy doing the fight cards. Some of my other personal favorite drawings are Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Evel Knievel, and the Dave Kingman / Gorman Thomas leaders card.

BU: How many different cards have you created?

MN: I have no idea. Maybe a couple thousand?

BU: Anything else you’d like to share?

MN: Not really. I’ll probably start selling more items, in addition to card packs, through my bigcartel site (, and I’ve got t-shirts and phone cases on sale through Threadless ( Thanks for your interest!

Mike Noren
Twitter: @gummyarts

World Champions, 2016 | The Gummy Arts Shop

Check out the design, World Champions, 2016, on gummyarts – available on a range of custom products