Star Trek: Skybox Cards

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I was lucky enough to purchase the big Bob Peake book last year. I’ve always loved his work and while I cannot begin to emulate his flamboyant macho drawing skills I’ve shamelessly horked some of his color schemes and compositions. (Don’t try to match illustration to illustration as I was never that successful enough in my emulation).  Mr. Peake even  managed to inspire one last time as I was reading his book. I can’t remember if the words were a quote – or if they came from his son who compiled the book. The thought was this: if Bob Peake were to try and get a start in today’s illustration market he’d have a very hard time with is particular out-of-the-box style.  When he was starting out illustrators usually dealt with just one person (the art director) while the norm now is art direction by committee …and any time you have to accommodate several opinions in one piece you end up with something much less dynamic that you’d otherwise produce.

That thought verbalized what I have been thinking about – and encountering – over the last couple of decades, ever since I first encountered the phenomenon while working the Skybox Star Trek MasterSeries II trading card line..It was the winter of 1993-1994 and I thought my work with Star Trek was all in the past. However, word through the illustrator’s grapevine was that Skybox was commissioning Trek work so I sent off packets to as many different Skybox addresses as I could find, which wasn’t easy in those pre-Internet days. I think I sent stuff to their printers, to their warehouse – maybe even to the guy who walked their dogs.  It was a shot in the dark but freelance was getting pretty thin and I wasn’t teaching enough to pay the bills.

The shot in the dark hit something because two months later I got a call from the agency that was putting the second series together. It was a dream project: nice rates, reasonable deadline and even an allowance for purchasing reference material ( i.e. toys).The images above were the two best pieces out of my particular assignment: a ten-card sub-set featuring various starships.

There was just one hitch: even though they’d hired me on the basis of my Trek covers, the committee that was overseeing the card line wasn’t  going to let me use the same strong graphic compositions as I had during the FASA , when I was just working with Jordan. I was able to work a little bit of graphic line work in the backgrounds but for the most part it was fairly straight representation work.

( It wasn’t the only speed bump in the job – I had one guy in Paramount licensing department turn back one of my cards because I didn’t have the correct number of lifeboat hatches on the ship in question.)

…and I was revising that painting and adding hatches I wondered if anyone had counted hatches on the Enterprise in Mr. Peake’s stunning Star Trek: The Motion Picture marquee poster back in 1978.

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