For over 25 years The Upper Deck Company has been at the forefront of quality and innovation. We are proud to maintain an award-winning portfolio of gaming and entertainment products that contain some of the industry’s best original works of art. We are excited to share exclusive interviews with some of our top artists bringing a look at the amazing people behind these amazing works. This is the Upper Deck Artist Spotlight Series.
Upper Deck: Hello Crystal, would you like to introduce yourself?
Crystal Graziano: Hi, I’m Crystal! I’m an artist from San Diego, California, and I work as a freelance illustrator and concept artist.
UD: What does “being creative” mean to you? How did you create your own style?
CG: For me, being creative just means making something! It could be art, or sewing, or even cooking, if you’ve got the right mindset. It’s figuring out what you want to make and how you plan to get there, and then having the discipline to see it through.
My art style wasn’t something consciously created, but rather a result of how I like to draw and paint. I do find it’s influenced mostly by the artists I’ve studied over the years.
UD: What made you decide to pursue a career in the art world?
CG: For a while after graduating high school, I was a bit at a loss on what I wanted to do. My grades were perfect in every subject, but I hated them all. The college classes I was taking really bored me, and none of the majors really appealed to me. Then in 2013, I started drawing regularly, and I eventually realized there was no way I’d be happy doing anything else for the rest of my life. I quit college to study life drawing, and it was the best decision I could’ve made.
UD: What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have? – or – How do you work? Is there a “process” or more of a “flow”?
CG: Most days, I have breakfast, paint for a few hours, go to the gym, have dinner, paint for a few more hours, and end the night with an hour or so of video games. The most consistent things for my creative process is a TV show or podcast in the background and a cup of tea or coffee next to me.
UD: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you?
CG: Soey Milk, Jana Schirmer, Karla Ortiz, Wes Burt, and James Jean are some of my favorites, but the full list would be miles long.
UD: Who is your favorite Marvel comic book hero or character?
CG: Lately Thor and Valkyrie have been my favorites.
UD: What were/are some of your favorite games to play?
CG: I’ve been replaying the Dragon Age and Fallout games over and over lately! Mass Effect, Metal Gear, and FF7 are all very dear to my heart too.
UD: What type of work do you most enjoy doing? (Graphic novel, advertising, comics, gaming, conceptual, fine art for galleries, etc.)
CG: I like doing card art work quite a bit! Usually there’s more freedom and the scale is smaller, so it’s less stressful.
UD: What’s your favorite piece of personal work you’ve ever created?
CG: A fun painting of an astronaut girl based on a song I like!
UD: What is your dream project?
CG: I’d really like to do some illustrations for the games I like. Outside of that, just having time for lots of personal work with fun colors!
UD: Who would be your dream collaboration with?
CG: I’ve never thought about it, to be honest. I’ve never done a collaboration, but I’d be open to working with other artists.
UD: What was your favorite part about working on this product?
CG: It was fun working on a project where I’m familiar with so many of the characters!
UD: What were some of the challenges that you faced?
CG: It was much larger in size than what I’m used to. I think my computer wanted to give up a few times while working on it! I also had to be conscious of making sure the comic characters didn’t look like their movie counterparts, which can be tricky when you’re used to seeing them a certain way.
UD: Anything else you would like to add?
CG: I really enjoyed working on this project with Upper Deck! I hope everyone enjoys the finished piece.