Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Justin Pursell, who is displayed on card number 3530, from the Superstars of 2021 Collection. Justin is one of the most talented artists I have seen in a long time. His artistic precision makes all his artwork look realistic and exactly like the items he is drawing. He started drawing when he was 5 years old and never looked back. His expertise is with NES, SNES and Sega products. The Pandemic has given Justin time to draw over 200 pieces of art. His greatest time in his opinion was the 1980’s and 90’s. He gets joy out of people seeing his work and reminiscing about the good old days of gaming. You can see examples of his art at www.jpursellart.com.
How does artwork influence video games, past and present?
Games do not exist without ideas and sketching. I can remember videos of Atari and NES creators drawing out their characters on grid paper. Classic games - you had to judge a book by its cover because there was no internet or YouTube to see what a game was like or read a review. You had to run off the box art and maybe a screenshot or two on the back.
What is your favorite subject to draw and why is it so special?
Video game characters all the way. I did not have a lot of fancy things growing up and didn’t travel much. Video games were a great getaway - and quality games with exciting stories and solid characters reeled me right in.
What does it take to be a full-time artist?
It takes a lot of commitment. I have a full-time job as well as making art. There aren’t enough hours in a day. Quality supplies and paper are not cheap and don’t last very long.
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
Super Mario Bros on NES. It was all my neighbor, and I did!
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
It’s really hard for me to get attached to a lot of modern games. More often than not, there is more “watching” and less playing. I stayed with PlayStation from PS1 - PS5. There has been a bunch of great games along the way (Metal Gear series, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, etc.) - but classics such as Mega Man, Metroid, etc. - you can just pick up, play, and enjoy any time.
Do you only draw for retro gaming or do you do current games and consoles?
Really anything...I think the audience tends to attach themselves to the retro characters more and nostalgia kicks in. I’ve done some artwork for current consoles, however, including Cyberpunk 2077, Halo, Need for Speed and others.
What is your favorite portable gaming device and why?
Actually, never really got into handheld/portable gaming, but I do have a pretty legit NES emulator on my Android.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I was hooked on The Witcher III: Wild Hunt for the longest time. Ghosts of Tsushima, Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us 2 were recent games I’ve played and enjoyed.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
Area51 for sure. It was a fun shooter, it was challenging, I always loved the detail in the aliens/environment. That game could drain you of your quarters pretty easily. You just HAD to beat it.
What was the first arcade game you played and where was it located?
TMNT2 Arcade Game. Absolute classic. Used to play at Fantasy Island in Beach Haven NJ - family used to all get together for a vacation there in the summer.
What is your greatest creation and how long did it take to do?
I’m going to go with my portrait of Bucky O’Hare/NES game cover. Between the penciling, coloring, and inking - I had about 42 hours into that one.
Which console company is your favorite and why? Nintendo, Sony, Sega, or Microsoft?
I have to pick two. I fell in love with NES and had my Action Set for years (and I actually just bought a CIB with the grey Zapper last week). Sony PlayStation really pried me away from the NES though. Played after school at friends’ houses until I got my own. Games like Metal Gear Solid, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins and MidiEvil were AMAZING.What tools do you prefer to draw with, pencils, brushes, markers, etc.?
Pencil, colored pencil, and ink for details. Prismacolor all the way for my colored work.
Have you done any artwork outside the gaming genre? What is your most common theme?
Absolutely, I have done a lot of very high detailed celebrity portraits and also portraits of cars.
Do you believe some video games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
In my opinion, if a video game “makes” someone violent - the problem isn’t the video game. There is something else going on that is driving the behavior. That goes for movies and books as well.
Which company makes the best games and why?
That’s a tough question. As far as “best” - I’m going to stack that up with “best over the course of time.” I think Konami should take the cake here. You’ve got Contra, Silent Hill, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Metal Gear. That’s some heavy hitters.
What was your favorite game in the 1980’s and why?
I’m going to go with Metroid (1986). I don’t know what it is about the title screen and then the 22-second audio of Samus appearing - but wow is it powerful. The creation of planet Zebes, Samus/Kraid/Ridley/etc. and the modifications to your weapon...I think that game was pretty ahead of its time.
Who is your favorite video game character and what makes that character special?
Mega Man/Rockman. He is truly a “video game character,” not a movie or tv show character with a video game. Mega Man is a massive franchise and such a smaller, underdog-type hero. We love underdogs in the Philadelphia area.
What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘video game artwork?
I think it's something anyone can or will get into. A lot of people that can’t/don’t really draw probably tried to doodle on of their favorite video game characters on a textbook back in the day.
What is your favorite single player game and favorite multiplayer game?
Single player: Devil May Cry for PS2. I’m pretty sure my thumb has the outline of the square [shoot] button engraved in it from hours of gameplay.
Multi-player: I don’t know how anyone says anything other than Super Mario Kart.
If you can design your own game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I’d probably want to merge Blade with Cyberpunk - vampire hunting with stealth in a futuristic setting. And it would have to be 3rd person (not a big on first-person games). Main character would be a stealthy cyber-ninja with a wide variety of weapons to choose from.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a video game trading card?
No! But I can tell you I’m putting one of my trading cards in one of my large binders of trading cards I still have from the 80s and 90s! It’ll feel pretty good being in a plastic sleeve next to Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey Jr. haha.
Where can people see your work, are they able to purchase them?
I do have my own website - www.jpursellart.com. I can also be followed on Instagram @ jpursellart or followed/friended on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jpursellart.
Where do you see video gaming in the next 20 years?
To be honest, I’m not even sure I can wrap my head around that. I still can’t get used to “20 years ago” not being the 80s?
Follow on Instagram: @ jpursellart