Artist Eric “Efdot” Friedensohn sets up his equipment for his next project in his Brooklyn studio. It necessitates a touch of love, as well as his signature bold and graphic art style. He settles into his desk, grabs his iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, and gets to work.
He described the iPad Pro as “very intuitive.” “It’s like an extension of my hand and brain when I use it with Apple Pencil.”
Last year, he began working on Project 2020 with Topps, the official trading card business of Major League Baseball (MLB). It was a limited-edition release of 20 baseball cards, each illustrated by a different artist, that drew in not only collectors and sports fans, but also art and culture enthusiasts.
This year, he’ll be a part of Project 70, which will recruit many more artists and tastemakers to reinterpret Topps baseball cards from the past 70 years.
Every weekday until the end of the year, new cards are published online, and each card is only valid for 70 hours.
He starts each of his cards by doing detailed research into the player’s life and career. Then, using a pencil or markers, he creates rough composites on paper.
“If I do a piece of lettering that says the team name or a player’s name and I like it — maybe there are some interesting drips or unintended textures that happen — I’ll take a picture of it with my iPad,” Efdot says. “That section of the drawing is perfect for the card.”
When he switches to his iPad Pro, he uses the Apple Pencil to draw each card in the Procreate app.
“I think the digital tools help me work quicker and in layers, so I can integrate ideas more easily,” Efdot says.
Josh Gibson, a powerhouse hitter from the Negro Leagues who never got the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues due to segregation, is featured on one of the cards Efdot is designing. Josh Gibson’s family considers it a heartfelt tribute.
“We’re really happy about it,” says Sean Gibson, Josh’s great-grandson. “It’s also great timing because there’s a lot going on right now to remember Negro League players.”
The MLB declared in December that it would grant Major League status to seven Negro Leagues that existed between 1920 and 1948.
As a result, after the MLB completes the evaluation process, 3,400 Negro League players, including Josh Gibson, will have their histories and stats written into Major League history.
Josh hit.441 in 1943, according to Gibson. “If that applies equally, he will be the all-time batting leader in the MLB for a single season. We’re hoping that this will add more attention to Josh and our initiative to get the MVP trophy renamed in his honor because it’s one of several categories where Josh’s stats would make the top five.”
Efdot relies heavily on facts to tell a narrative. It’s why the card he created features the letters MVP prominently, as well as many references to Gibson’s life, such as a catcher’s mitt to represent his position and a mention of Josh Gibson Field in Pittsburgh, where he began playing sandlot ball. The Josh Gibson Baseball Academy for young players now uses the field.
Keith Shore, a Pennsylvania artist who works out of his home studio in Bucks County, also contributed to Project 2020 and Project 70.
As he conceptualizes the idea for each of his cards, he uses an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil to draw out his initial sketches.
Shore says, “I use the iPad Pro to replace drawing on paper.” “It’s really smooth, and I’m having a good time with it.” It makes the process so much less stressful to begin.”
For the Topps ventures, both Shore and Efdot drew on their own memories of collecting sports cards and going to baseball games with their fathers.
Shore asks, “Do you know what the magic of this is?” “I received so many emails from people thanking me for reminding them of their childhood and bringing a smile to their faces during this terrible year, and it feels incredible.”
Efdot also felt a sense of connection while illustrating each card, particularly as he dug deeper into baseball history and learned more about so many legends.
Efdot says, “I wasn’t expecting this experience to be so powerful for me.”
“I’m so happy to be able to respect these legends by being able to demonstrate these players and apply my style to these cards. But the most important thing is to tell these stories, and my art is just a vehicle for doing so.”