10 Questions for Lily Mercado

10 Questions for Lily Mercado

Lily Mercado is a sketch artist, known for her work with Topps in Garbage Pail Kids, Star Wars, Mars Attacks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Wacky Packages, and More, including other card companies, such as Terminator2 and a whole lot of imports.

Lily Mercado

What was the first thing you remember reading?

As a child, I remember the Golden Book Series, Classic Fairy tales, Sunday News comics, Dr. Seuss, and Peanuts, but even before reading, I was fascinated with illustrations. My parents had these great encyclopedias with beautiful pictures, and a book from Audubon. It was one of those books that had tissue paper on each page and had great illustrations of birds. Unfortunately, on some of the encyclopedias, my brother and I thought it needed more “color “so we drew on some of them. Later, when my parents found out about our latest artwork, and after a huge scolding, my parents moved the books to a higher shelf, thus ending my first work of art. My second “work of art” involved sawing a brand new TV. But my parents didn’t appreciate my artistic vision, So that ended my sculpting career –for a while.

As I grew up I would read Marvel Comics because of my brothers who were addicted to them. I love the X-Men and Spiderman series, I really loved the stories. As an adult, I got into “How to Books". Currently, I have many bookcases filled with books from Multicultural Cooking, Art Books, Gardening Books, DIY, and more.

How did you get started in Art?

Hmm. If you mean as a child, then I was born with it, drawing was part of my life, to get my ideas across, If I had an idea, I drew it. I came from a family that happened to be artistic. (My brother Jeff Zapata is a well-known artist in the field, Michael Angelo Zapata (MAZ) artist, my father Miguel Zapata was a successful businessman who happened to paint, and mom was a craftsman, Christopher is a musician.)
The only training I had as an artist is from my High School Art Teacher Mrs. Klass (best art teacher ever!). She really opened our eyes to a whole new world of art. Later, when I went to college I originally wanted to major in Dramatic Arts so I can be a Broadway Singer, However, drawing was in every aspect of my life.

Besides drawing I was heavily involved with children’s writing and how-to books. It was a hobby that I discovered in high school during Creative Writing Class.

As a career, I guess it started first with my manuscripts. I wrote and illustrated my own manuscript and won a mentorship award from Harper Collins for both writing and for illustration. I was crazy enough to also go to a nearby school and arrange a meeting to create a magazine for kids by kids called Kid Zone. To my surprise, they did offer me a grant to start the project. So to all people who want to do this as a career, remember art is also a business, come up with a business plan, and don’t be afraid to set up meetings.

As For Topps, I received my first invitation to draw from the editor Colin Walton. He asked my brother Jeff Zapata (former editor for TOPPS) to do some sketches but Jeff was involved with other projects so he suggested that he look up my art. To my surprise, I got the invite to draw my first project with Topps which was Wacky Packages.

Lily Mercado
Lily Mercado
Lily Mercado

What was it like working for Topps?

Interesting… In the beginning, when I first received the invite from Topps, I was so happy, but when I received the blanks cards to sketch on I treated them like fine glass. I would open the box and you could hear the angels singing, and the bright light that came out was blinding. It was as if it was the arc from “Raiders of the Lost Arc”- Just kidding, (sort of). Now, I am not so afraid of handling these cards.

But seriously, getting in with the other group of artists is fun. The deadlines are tight but it makes you more focused and better at time management.

After that, when the cards were released, it was a great feeling. I enjoyed reading the critiques as they appeared on Facebook. These GPK groups are fantastic people to interact with and have a passion for the hobby. They are to me like my second family.

Soon my cards started showing up on eBay, Instagram, and Facebook. More Over, I started getting messages from Retail Stores, Music Industry Artist, and A Producer of a popular TV Sitcom. I also received commissions from other businesses to create their own characters.

Lily Mercado
Lily Mercado

What artist/writer inspires you the most?

Wow, there are just too many, my brothers Jeff and Michael Zapata are huge inspirations, and Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny), Disney (Mickey Mouse). Charles Shultz (Snoopy), all the Garbage Pail Kids artists, because I love cartoon art,
However, later when I started painting, I found inspiration in the old masters, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Renoir, and more. I found that I wanted to tell a story in all my paintings, so I found inspiration with Norman Rockwell ( because he tells a story), Bob Ross ( For his landscape and happy little trees), and Noel Coward (loved his modern style and colors), Grandma Moses Her style was more folk art style but still told a story. Also, all the original pioneers of GPK.
I really love doing landscapes that tell a story. I visit a lot of museums in NYC and I keep falling for more artists. So, all artists are my favorite artist.

Lily Mercado

What was your favorite character to work on?

I like working on my own characters, but as far as Topps characters go, I love GPK Characters, like Mona Loser, New Wave Dave, Sappy Sarah which is one of James Warhola’s characters. Or any of the GPK art masterpieces or nature series. In regards to Science Fiction, I love Aliens, Cryptids, and Mars Attacks. But not too long ago I was involved with Teenage Ninja Turtles which now also became a favorite.

Lily Mercado

Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you create?

Everything and Everywhere is an influence... Most definitely, where I live, NYC is also a major influence. It is a melting pot with a diverse culture of people and really has influenced the way I see things when it applies to art. For example, they are doing construction near my building and noticed these tractor marks on the ground. I saw it as a beautiful pattern and had to design it, I see art in everything, My mind works more like a tv sitcom or cartoon so I tend to see things that way. Even when my husband was chasing a pigeon off a balcony I thought of it as a comic. I had imagined that the pigeon flew off to get his gang, Imagine a bunch of pigeons dressed up in military attire dive-bombing. It’s even better than my father’s war with a Squirrel which I call the “Squirrels wars of 1990” Don’t even get me started on the Raccoons.

The events of life and interaction mold the artist’s mind in a way that sometimes touches the audience’s interpretation when you create a piece of art. For example, my “Hat Ladies” art was inspired by the women of the Central Park annual luncheon. They wear hats and it is attended by Celebrities and high society.

I have a weird way of thinking and a sense of humor people may or may not understand. I guess that’s what makes me different.

Tip for all you artists out there: I am inspired by TV shows also, I watch a lot of cryptozoology shows and tend to draw what witnesses are describing, and it helps me create new characters.

Lily Mercado
Lily Mercado

Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?

Sometimes challenges are good because it pulls you away from your comfort zone, so I accept the assignment if given the opportunity. But it is better when you have the freedom to draw any way that you want.

Lily Mercado

Where do you think Art will be like in the future?

Digital art has gained some popularity and if you can master the program that you use then you can create wonderful masterpieces. Computer currency is a new thing (NFT) However, I like putting pen to paper. I also continue to sharpen up my skills whether it be sculpting, wood-burning, painting, or knitting… I want to teach people to think even more creatively by applying what they already know to unlimited possibilities. I think people may see art as a more useful thing. I can imagine a hologram Star-Trek-like art piece where you go into a room and draw four dimensionally, even 5th dimension. In NYC there is a Van Gogh digital experience where you enter a room and the ceiling, floor, and sides are all Van Gogh, so you are inside his painting. I think we will see more of those but more hologram-like.

Lily Mercado

What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your career?

I think the weirdest thing I did was my own version of what I thought Garbage Pail Kids were like. In the beginning, I saw the GPKs as kids vomiting, picking their noses, and doing so many gross things. So when I first submitted artwork I went a little too far. It was too gross. I did an elf on a mushroom using it as a toilet, reading a newspaper, with an overflowing with poop (which was mulch for the plants.) Of course, I found out later that it was too much. I researched more into the characters and figured it out. So, I am responsible for the oddest thing I drew.

Lily Mercado

What projects are you working on now?

  • I just finished Perna Studio Spell Casters Fantasy Set. Coming out late Spring 2021
  • I finished also Floydmans Rocking Dead Cards
  • The next GPK series which is coming out in Fall 2021
  • Commissions for fans/collectors. (ongoing)
  • “MY FAMILY IS NUTS” My own characters are based on everybody’s family.
  • A book or Website on Art (teaching craftspeople to use their creativity in ways they may not have thought of) my own book
  • “History we witness” book. My own book
  • Also working on my website: Mysketchies.com updating with new art
Lily Mercado

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Lily Mercado