Hobby Musings: Turning old cards into artwork – A few weeks ago in a interview with Mike Oz, I noted how he was one of the few people who could actually make 25-yeard-old baseball cards fun again. Someone else who has been able to do so (though they aren’t always 25 years old) is South-Carolina based artist Tim Carroll. Taking older cards, Carroll turns them into original pieces by cutting them up recreating some of sport’s most iconic cards and images. To find out more about how seeming hobby junk gets turned into hobby treasure, Mr. Carroll was kind enough to take some time and explain how he makes this happen. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: What inspired you to start your card-based artwork?
TC: Back in the spring of 2009, I was on a science conference trip with my wife in New Orleans. We stopped in at a convenience store on the way back to the hotel and I grabbed a magazine. There was a small blurb about the 100th anniversary of the T206 Wagner. I was talking with my wife about how neat it would be to trade all my commons from when I was kid for a copy of the Wagner, and explained why it would never happen. When we got back home, I pulled out all of the cards from the closet and decided to trade them anyway. I began cutting and placing the pieces together to make a crude Wagner. I began making others shortly after and I haven’t stopped since.
KS: What is the typical process from beginning to end on a piece?
TC: Card/image selection happens first. This is either a card I find aesthetically pleasing or significant to the hobby, or it is something I am commissioned to make. The underdrawing then happens. Once the image is drawn off, I make sure I am looking for the proper colors. When I first started, I would use a general color as a representation – I now try to be as close to the actual card as possible. If that means venturing outside the junk wax era, being forced to buy specific commons, etc., so be it. The cards I need are gathered, and then I begin cutting, gluing, repeat. If something isn’t right, or the anatomy/proportion is off, I have to scrape away and do rework to the section. Once I feel like I have captured the card/image to the best of my ability, I clean off the extra small card pieces that have made their way onto the art. I then sign it and return to another piece I have been working on.
TC: I’ve tried to get a decent estimate, but I work on so many different pieces at once it is now hard to get an accurate gauge. Given the amount of time I take to try to replicate the likeness (while keeping my own personal touch in there), I would guess it takes somewhere between 55-65 hours for a standard piece. Some larger or more complex pieces take much longer than that.
KS: How do you select which cards to use and do you have a favorite type?
TC: Selecting the cards pretty much comes from the experiences I have with them from both when I collected heavily and from prior artworks made. People I have met online and in person through the artwork have been amazing. They have donated almost 375K cards to me over the last few years.to the point that I have to turn down donations at the moment. Sometimes I have to look harder for specific sets, especially obscure department store sets or cards from unpopular late 90s issues. Otherwise, I have approximately 450 thousand cards I pull from. As far as a favorite set to cut, 87 Topps is a go-to, and I really like the late 80s/early 90s Donruss because of the thin card stock. Very easy on the wrists!!
KS: Have you noticed any specific cards or images that often get requested?
TC: I give quotes at least once per week on T206 Cobb (all 4 cards), Ruth 33 Goudey (3 that I have not done), 1975 Topps George Brett, and 1976 Topps Walter Payton. Goes to show exactly how popular Brett and Payton are with collectors when they are requested almost as much as Cobb and Ruth! As much as all of those cards are requested, the single card I get asked about the most is the 1986/87 Fleer Michael Jordan RC. I will get to it eventually, but with the full body pose, super busy background, fuzzy image, etc., it is going to be a beast.
TC: Thank you! I get asked this question often, and I can honestly say that there isn’t one single piece that stands out as my absolute favorite. I love specific parts from different works: the helmet on Biggio’s 88 Fleer; Ruth’s jersey on the 33 Goudey, the backdrop made from cut gloves on the 1951 Bowman Willie Mays; using 04 Cracker Jack commons as the background for the Cobb CJ card. There are so many more instances – each one is a unique journey for me. It’s pretty cool. I can look through my portfolio and as I come up on individual pieces, I can remember specific things that were going on in my life as I was working on each piece. Whether it was getting ready to make a move, in the middle of a terrible storm (or even hurricane in a couple of instances), or something as simple as what TV series was playing as background noise while I worked, all are moments in time I get to relive when I look at each finished piece.
KS: Overall, what is the reception you’ve encountered to your works?
TC: The reception has been amazing. Every now and then I get an email/concern from someone that is questioning why I would cut something that could potentially be worth a lot of money in the future. I know that cards are not their area of expertise when they question that, so I let them off easy. The other 99.999% of comments (both online and in person) are completely positive. It’s a great feeling, and not a single compliment goes unappreciated. To take a box of something that, from a monetary standpoint, is basically worthless and create something that collectors are willing to pay to hang on their wall is very humbling.
KS: You’ve told me that you’ve had athletes request pieces from you after seeing previous works. Can you elaborate more on that?
TC: Yeah, this has been a really neat perk of the art. I wasn’t talented enough to grace the field with any of the talented players/coaches that we’ve gotten to know so well. Having a chance to meet some of them, interact with them online, without going through the process of paying for their time is pretty exciting. It’s pretty cool to have my work owned by Omar Vizquel, Joe Torre, and several other current minor leaguers and college coaches. My brother and I grew up watching Cubs games on WGN with my granddad, so Andre Dawson was always someone we pretended to be in pickup games. That leads to my favorite athlete interaction: I was working with Upper Deck at the Fall Sports Expo in Toronto a couple of years ago, creating a piece live for the public. I felt a towering presence hanging over me and looked up to say hello. You’re Hawk Dawsonwas all I could get out. He smiled and told me he had heard someone was cutting cards and he had to come see for himself. He made another couple trips over there before pulling me aside and asking for commission information. We had an agreement in place before the weekend was over, and when I returned home, he called me to confirm my home address for payment. I can’t overstate how Hall of Famer Andre Dawson is one of the kindest, most down-to-earth athletes I have ever met.
TC: So many. So, so many. Most of which aren’t even popular with novice collectors. It especially comes down to cards I view as works of art, regardless of their status in the hobby. Cards like: 1951 Bowman Alex Kellner, 1935 Diamond Stars Wally Berger, 1888 Goodwin Champions Tim Keefe, 1952 Bowman Norm Van Brocklin. There are some other popular cards I want to get to as well: finish the National Chicle Nagurski, Imperial Tobacco Vezina, 1933 Goudey Lajoie. I’ve also started working on trading my cut cards in a series of some of the most famous paintings in the world, so expect to see some future works made famous by Da Vinci, Munch, Vermeer, Wood, Dali, Seurat, among others, all made from cut cards.
KS: If anyone would like to commission a piece, what is the best way for them to do it?
TC: Anyone interested in purchasing an available, existing original or commissioning their own favorite card can contact me by email: email@example.com, or they can always reach me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook: @timcarrollart.
See a complete gallery if Tim’s amazing work here.
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