Interview with Card Illustrator Phil Hassewer

Written by Shane Salmonson

As you may have noticed, artist sketch cards are showing up in more and more products lately, from entertainment trading cards, to sports cards. There are some extremely gifted artists producing these cards to be included. One of those artists, whose work can be found in 2018 Topps Museum Collection Baseball, is Phil Hassewer. Phil was kind enough to tell me about his own collecting, his return to art, and where you can find his artwork on cards!

BU: Can you give us a little background on you?

PH: Hello, my name is Phil Hassewer and I am a freelance sketch card artist. I am a pop culture geek.  Growing up in the 70s and 80s with parents of eclectic tastes gave me a full reach into the past, from there, and helped me witness all the things that have come since.  I am a collector of many things.  I am that guy that gets called when someone can’t remember enough about a song, actor, title, etc. to make Google work for them. LOL!

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

PH: I can’t remember a time that they weren’t in my life.  The first cards I remember having both Topps Baseball 1978 and Wacky Packages. Oh if I could only go back and tell my former self to stop destroying them, right?  If I had any spare money from newspaper route, or doing chores, I would be down at the local Jiffy store buying some pack of cards. And that gum was lethal 

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BU: Are you a collector yourself? If so, what do you collect?

PH: I will answer that with the question I hear at least once a year from my better half…”What are you going to do with (or what is really in) all these boxes??”  I have cards and comics taking up most of my bedroom closet.  My tangible music collection is in storage thanks to digital. My movie collection dominates our living areas… along with Funko Pops, which I have decided to finally stop collecting (famous last words)

BU: How did you get into doing art for trading cards?

PH: I’ve always had a hidden passion for art.  In my youth, I would doodle and draw people, animals, band logos, etc. I got pretty good and did a few paying gigs designing logos and flyers for friends, airbrushed some shirts, nothing big. But, life happened, and art stopped. Fast forward 20 years to 2015, a good friend of mine started drawing on post-it notes and posting them on Instagram. I said “you know, I used to do art” so I started drawing on 3×3 post its too. Thanks to hashtags, I really discovered Instagram.  Some of the art I saw was phenomenal in the categories I was posting in. And I started getting a cool following of truly awesome people. Someone said I should try Artist Trading Cards. Size is about the same, and card companies are recruiting artists to work on licensed sets like Star Wars.  After seeing some of the work done by others, I said I could definitely do that! And now, I do. But I tell ya, that first email I received from Topps, inviting me to work on a Star Wars licensed set (which was Rogue One)…man…I was a kid at Christmas!!

BU: Which different sets can your work be found in?

PH: I got my first pro gig in the summer of 2016 with Upper Deck on their Captain America 75th Anniversary set. I don’t consider myself a comic style artist, so that was tough.  I like portraits and people….photo-realism, but with my take on it.  I like to try to blend the pencils into looking like paint. Sometimes it works, sometimes not… but I have fun doing it. To date, I’ve worked on over 30 sets, from Star Wars to Walking Dead to Terminator 2. I think my greatest achievement, so far, is currently being a part of a select group of artists drawing for Topps Sports division.  I had 13 cards reprinted as base inserts for the Topps Museum Collection 2018 set, with my name printed on the back. Not many “non athletes” get that honor.  Recently, Topps started featuring artists on sets with photo cards too. I think that’s next on the bucket list

BU: How long does a typical portrait card take you to complete?

PH: It’s a small space so it depends. Simple portraits can take an hour, up to high detail at 4+. And I am I one-at-a-time artist. I start and finish each card. Then, I end up going back and correcting flaws….and then correcting flaws… and then correcting…you get it

BU: Do you have any favorite cards that you have created?

PH: It may sound crazy, but I think I have drawn over 1200 cards over the last 2 years. I try to put forth the same effort on each card I do. I think my favorite sets I’ve done so far are all the Topps Baseball, and Star Wars Journey to the Last Jedi, and Terminator 2, because I really let loose on the color palette with those sets

BU: What is it like seeing collectors excited to be finding your work in their packs?

PH: It is awesome to fathom that something I drew travels around the world, and if luck should have it, stays around long after I’m gone. I’ve heard from people on 4 continents about my work. It is truly humbling.  If you would go back and tell my young self, buying packs of cards, that I would be in them in the future….:::mind blown:::

BU: Anything you can share about future card products?

PH: I’m just chugging along… besides the expected Star Wars and Baseball, there’s a few new mainstream licensed properties I’ve submitted art for that are coming out soon, but are still under wraps.

BU: Anything else you’d like to share?

PH: I’d just like to say that I am honored to get to do these cards.  Even if some think that certain companies are flooding the market with too much, for us artists, it is still a once in a lifetime opportunity to show our love for the license and our craft. Seven billion people on the planet, and out of that, 150-200 regularly work on a set like Star Wars….. and 10-15 work on Baseball yearly…. I’ll count that as a blessing!!

Phil Hassewer
Instagram: @mantis923

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