UMES art prof signs on as 'Star Warrior'

  • UMES sequential artist signs on as Star Warrior

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    A sampling of Brad Hudson's Star Wars collectible card artPRINCESS ANNE, Md. - (Oct. 8, 2015) - Bradley Hudson talks proudly of working on a farm near Laurel, Del. when he was a youngster, so it would be folly to label him a space cadet.

    Stormtrooper? Perhaps.

    “I am a Star Wars fan,” the affable Hudson said. “I think (director) George Lucas had a real good sense of what a modern myth is. It has always appealed to me.”

    The assistant professor in UMES' Department of Fine Arts  goes by the social media handle Darth Brad Hudson, with an accompanying self-styled avatar. His Twitter page features images of his unique interpretation of characters from the first six films in the series. 

    Across the third rock from the sun, 99 palm-size Hudson drawings of characters and scenes from those movies are in the hands of collectors of Star Wars' ephemera - or on retailers' shelves waiting to be purchased.

    There were 100, but Hudson already has purchased one of his original sketches of Han Solo from a seller who posted it for sale on eBay in August. (He paid $20 for it.)

    Hudson's drawings make him a bona fide contributor to the pop-culture phenomenon about to get another blaster jolt with the much-anticipated release this December of “The Force Awakens,” the seventh installment in the science fiction saga.

    Kristina Miller, one of his students, said “to know that you snagged something that big and that he's getting his name out there … I've told everyone who will listen.”

    Hudson joined the UMES faculty 15 years ago to teach art. He discovered early on some students in his classes liked drawing intricate, fictional illustrations worthy of comic book - or “graphic novel” - treatment.

    So he lobbied to teach an experimental course in  “sequential arts,”  and now there are six such classes the university offers in its course catalog. 

    “Our applied design degree is geared to prepare students to find employment,” said Chris Harrington, the fine arts department chairman. “As Mr. Hudson demonstrates, the sequential arts concentration he oversees allows students not only to enter the world of comics and cartoons, but also the billion dollar industry of Hollywood merchandising.”

    This past May, Hudson and some of his students attended a convention of artists who specialize in drawing fantasy characters and crafting stories featured in comic books when a Topps trading card company executive approached his table.

    Fine arts professor Brad Hudson“He was attracted to my work,” Hudson said. “Most companies do not take open submissions (of sequential art), so networking is really important.”

    The executive asked if Hudson might be interested in producing original drawings Topps wanted to insert in packs of mass-produced trading cards as part of a movie marketing strategy.

    Skeptical at first, Hudson exchanged contact information at Harrington's urging.

    “I was completely ignorant about sketch-card artistry,” Hudson said.

    Harrington credits Hudson with leading “by example. He demonstrated that if you hone your craft and build a professional portfolio, you will be ready when a big break presents itself.”

    Within a few weeks, Hudson signed a (modest) contract and was crafting original drawings of such iconic characters as Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, wookiees, Jabba the Hutt, R2-D2 and, of course, Darth Vader.

    “I … like doing characters that are not human,” Hudson said. “It gives me the freedom to show more of my own style.”

    Topps recruited dozens of artists like Hudson. He was obligated to produce 115 unique sketches inspired by characters or scenes from the six films as well as two cartoon shows.

    Miller, in fact, introduced Hudson to “to characters he was unfamiliar with, and now he's interested in drawing them.”

    Ironically, Hudson's mother would not allow him to see the first film when it hit theaters in 1977. She thought it was too adult for a four-year-old.

    Once Hudson the adult came up with inspiration for images he eventually sketched, he estimated it took roughly 20 minutes to convert a pencil drawing into an ink-and-color image on a 2-inch by 3-inch stock card. (Topps seals each one inside a special trading card frame to make it a “collectible.”)

    Here's where “modest” comes into play. Topps pays $2 per card. He figures he produced about three an hour, so he made less than the federal $7.25-per hour minimum wage.

    “I see this maybe as a way of getting a job down the road,” he said. “For me, I just like doing it - being associated with a big franchise.”

    Miller, a junior from Vienna, Md. who hopes to go into filmmaking, said she and other sequential arts students are aware Hudson's Star Wars work has broader implications.

    Han Solo image by Brad Hudson“It's really exciting knowing that we're being taught under a phenomenal dude with a lot of experience," Miller said. “The fact we are learning under this guy, it's all the better for us.” 

    Harrington, the fine arts department chair, agrees.

    “The jump from independent publishing to working for Lucas Films happened because (Hudson) has stayed true to his passion and has worked diligently for years.  He exemplifies the lessons we teach in the classroom,” Harrington said.

    Topps culled 100 cards from the initial 115 Hudson produced. The company returned the 15 it did not choose for him to do with as he pleases. One of his children has asked for a few, and Hudson says he'll keep several.

    “I'll sell some of them,” he said. “I'm just not sure how - yet.”

    In the past several weeks, some of Hudson's original works have popped up online priced at almost $80.

    Chris Quirk of Woodbridge, Va., recently contacted Hudson about finding one of his collectible images in a package of cards.

    “I want to complement you on your work and say I really appreciate owning it.  It is the first one of its kind that I own,” Quirk wrote. “I hope I am able to pull some more of your work out of future packs of cards. Your cards seem to pop compared to others that I have seen. Thank you for doing these and giving me an opportunity to own one.”

    Hudson hasn't had much time to let it sink in. He's currently teaching sequential art classes he helped forge nearly a decade ago. He just finished working on a second set of 115 original Star Wars cards for Topps and is about to start on the third series. 

    “I'm glad I have this opportunity to do it,” Hudson said, “but it's not that big a deal.”

    Only as big as his imagination's universe.  

    #HawkPride


      Bill Robinson,  director, Office of Public Relations, (410) 621-2355