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Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicle Clarity

In the time-honored journalistic tradition of screwing up royally on the front page and then printing a retraction 2 weeks later deep into section C in between the obituaries and the latest lingere ad from Macy's, here's an e-mail I got from artist Dave Hobrecht, who created several paintings for 2010 National Chicle, and my response. Yep, I'm just throwin' this out here while everyone else has moved on and is now outraged by pies in the face. Here's Dave's e-mail:


Just read your opinions on Topps Baseball National Chicle. I appreciate the thoughts and the time you put into it.....but have to say... you are judging the entire set on a small preview that doesn't even come close to showing what it's all about.

There are 10+ artists that worked on the project so the set would have a range of style and look. Attached is the one I did for the press release....David Wright.

One thing I love about art is that there are styles for everyone. Even though you ripped the Chipper Ruth...somewhere out there will be a guy that digs it. That same guy might think my sucks!

I just hope that guys like you...guys that other people look to for opinions and info will give it a fair chance. So my pitch to you is this...... when Topps gives me the ok to send out my 27 cards for press...I will send them to you first to look at. You can love them or rip them....but at least you will see more of a collection of work than just the one.

I have collected cards since I was a kid....the one thing I loved when opening a pack was finding my favorite player or the best card in the set....I know that the Chicle set will provide collectors that same rush...



My response:

Hi Dave,

Basically my thoughts are that either I am the worst writer ever or
that no one has actually read that post on National Chicle. I really
like National Chicle. I am very excited about this set, or at least I
was until all this unecessary drama popped up. I'm a big fan of art
cards like UD Masterpieces and Topps Gallery and I'm a big fan of
retro sets based on classic designs and this set is a combination of
the two. Chicle is even based on my favorite set from the 1930s, the
1934-1936 Diamond Stars set which was produced by the original
National Chicle gum company. The reason the post got so negative is
because I'm fed up with Topps right now. Here's part of that post
before I went all "RAAAR TOPPS BAD" where I say basically the same
thing you do in your e-mail:

"National Chicle is not just a retro set, it's an ART set.

Topps has a whole stable of artists sketching up 1/1 insert cards for
not only baseball, but all their non-sports products too. These sketch
cards are WILDLY popular. There is a great history of artistic sets
going back through card history: Upper Deck Masterpieces... Upper Deck
Checklists... Dick Perez Diamond Kings... 1953 Topps... 1935 National
Chicle... Topps has the artists working for them already, why not have
them work on a set? Now, the thing with art, see, is that it is
usually not exactly photorealistic. It is sort of... well, artsy, and
some artyness is better than others. So in the same set you can have
some fantastic art, and other art that is not so good. Since that's
just the nature of art, I would advise my fellow bloggers not to
abandon this set - or indeed the entire hobby itself - over a couple
of clunkers in the sell sheet of an art set. Give it some time, let
some more images come out, heck, Topps might even be reading all of
this stuff and ordering their design team to work weekends for the
next month to fix some of these problems, and just wait and see how
the final product turns out. You might be pleasantly surprised. Just
look at that Jackie Robinson card again and imagine an entire base set
that looks like that."

There were a couple of collectors out there that had very bad initial
reaction to the initial images and weren't giving the set a fair
chance. One guy was ready to just stop buying Topps cards altogether.
There were a couple of cards in that initial batch of images that was
released that looked pretty odd but others that looked great. That
Jackie Robinson card looks fantastic. If the rest of the base set
looks half that good this is set of the year. The Tommy Hanson card I
don't like. It's not very flattering and I don't recall Tommy having
that terrible peach fuzz beard, Bobby Cox usually doesn't let rookies
get away with that. The Chipper Ruth card is more complicated.

Whenever anyone does anything creative some of the final results are
going to be clunkers no matter if the artist is a painter, musician,
chef, architect or writer. My post on National Chicle was a clunker. I
should have focused on one topic and not tried to mix up "National
Chicle is a pretty cool art set", "That's a neat card but it sure
ain't Babe Ruth" and "Dammit Topps, you have an exclusive license now
you can stop jerking us around" all in one big mess of a post. They
should have been separate posts that were edited for clarity the next
day. As a result, I've managed a big unwanted brouhaha. I also should
not be blogging at 3:00am while wigged out on cold medicine after a
long day at work, but that's a lesson I'll never learn.

Chipper Ruth is also a clunker, but only in the context Topps forced
it into. The art by itself is pretty cool, it's a really good painting
of a modern Braves player. Tell me that's Chipper Jones, and it looks
great. Tell me it's Babe Ruth and it doesn't work at all. Painting is
a visual language. Even though the painting was based on an actual
photo of the Babe, in the final result there are no visual cues at all
in that painting to suggest that the player is Babe Ruth. The team is
wrong, the uniform is wrong, the era is wrong and Babe's face just
doesn't look enough like Babe to overcome the rest of these problems.
I know Paul Lempa worked really hard on that painting, and Babe is one
of his favorite players, and Topps gave him a really tough assignment,
but that just flat out doesn't look like Babe Ruth. It just doesn't. I
looked at Paul's other work and he's got some fantastic Ruths in his
portfolio, that one just didn't work out. And for the record I wasn't
kidding, I do like the Chipper Ruth card and I do hope to put it in my
collection one day. My Chipper Jones collection.

I could go on about why seeing a Chipper Jones card with Babe Ruth's
name on it got me so riled up, but this reply has gotten too long and
I'm frankly sick of griping about Topps' shenanigans. Just know that I
really do like the set, I don't like to trash artists' work and I am
looking forward to National Chicle. Hopefully it will be the new Allen
& Ginter style success story among card sets and becomes a yearly

Thanks for the e-mail and with your permission I'd like to post these
e-mails and your Wright card on the blog to try to set the record
straight on Chicle. I still don't quite understand how I've become the
spokesman for the "National Chicle is evil and must be destroyed"
movement when I was ripping on Topps and not the set. I'd also love to
see and post your other work on the set once you're able to send it

Dave Campbell

P.S. Sending a Braves fan a Mets card to try to win him over takes
enormous brass balls. I like the cut of your jib, sir.

Ok. So let the record show I do not hate Chicle, I'm just weary of Topps' shenanigans. And for all you poor saps who took the time to read all of that, here is your reward:

Sending me a Wright card... MASSIVE balls....

PS. I know the formatting is screwed, there's nothing I can do about it now.


Peterson said...

whoa dude. That guy wants you to like him pretty bad. That said. that Wright card is great art.

Chris Crook said...

I am looking forward to Chicle. How ever many artists working together to make a set sounds awesome. That Wright card is pretty rad, and a different style than others in the set. A great idea, even if some of the cards are clunkers.

Sooz said...

I like the idea of artists getting that their pieces are subjective. In one of the responses Chris Olds had posted from the artists, one of the artists got way too defensive.

You should have done a series of posts Chicle, breaking it down into three or four different posts.

1. Chicli is one of your old favorite sets
2. Topps needs to get it together
3. The new Chicle is an artist set and NOT a retro set.
4. What's wrong with the Chipper Ruth card.
5, possibly, Topps needs to get it together, again.

Captain Canuck said...


dayf said...

Canuck: The dude sent me Met art. I gotta play the hand I'm dealt.

AdamE said...

That is a pretty awesome picture even if it is David Wright.

JD's Daddy said...

HAHA, that Chris Crook Dude said Rad.

Goose Joak said...

Actually a really cool response. Looking forward to the set.

The Baseball Dad said...

Way to stick to your guns Dayf. Can't force people to like something. Either way, it is cool seeing people discussing it, even if it is at the expense of my artwork. Hopefully, when it comes out, the tons of time and effort put into each card will give collectors plenty to choose from and enjoy. At the very least, the Ruth card will generate some interest in seeing the rest of the artwork. You could say I took one for the team.

Paul Lempa

Anonymous said...

I'm no Mets fan, and I'm no Wright fan, but that card looks awesome. I can't wait to start seeing some Reds images from the set.