As COVID turned the normal upside down, Luke Weaverling was another guy with more time to browse through eBay listings. Little did he know that the shutdowns were just the beginning of his career as a trading card artist.
For Weaverling, also known as Luke the Cardist on Instagram, the eye appeal of cards is especially important. From a young age, he was passionate about drawing, filling his illustrations with bright colors. As an adult, he worked on sign art for businesses, including a campaign for Trader Joe’s.
But sports are in his blood…literally. His great great uncle is Red Lucas, who pitched in the majors in the 1920s and 30s.
Browsing eBay for cards one day, he bought what he thought was a cool-looking insert from Panini, only to find out it was a custom art card. The purchase inspired him to create some card art of his own and he got to work putting his own spin on a Donruss Optic D.K. Metcalf card.
He was pleased with how it came out and worked on more cards while refining his style. Over time “Luke the Cardist” was born, a custom card artist known for bright layers of color representing a team’s iconography.
Weaverling isn’t cutting cards or adding swatches or patches to them. He uses the cards themselves as his canvas, adding brushstrokes to what the card companies have already designed, turning them into something truly unique. While the cards themselves weren’t originally 1 of 1, his work turns them into something that’s unique and definitely one-of-a-kind.
Weaverling says old-school vinyl screen prints like Yellow Submarine heavily influences his work. His art is bright and vivid, full of symmetrical shapes, leaving the card subject untouched and the focal point of his artscape. The paint is methodically layered on, frequently using a blow dryer to help dry. He also uses high-quality POSCA markers for sharp outlines that characterize his style.
“The cards, especially the chrome stock, the paint doesn’t take to cards like other surfaces,” Weaverling told SC Daily. “I might apply a coat and literally see it drip down a card. So, it’s a lot of layers. I also don’t push too hard on the markers.”
The result is a piece of artwork just as delicate as a work on canvas.
When all the layers have been applied and dried, Weaverling puts each card in a holder for protection where he says it should remain.
“It is like a piece of art,” he says. “I wouldn’t see a reason to open it. You wouldn’t want to touch the paint.”
Weaverling put some of his earliest works on eBay and quickly gained a following. But he produced just a few cards because of work commitments. After positive reviews, a small but steady stream of sales, and commission requests pouring in, Weaverling spoke to his wife and decided to go full-time.
“I got to a point where things continued to grow, but I was only able to put in 20% effort because I was doing it part-time,” Weaverling says. “I told her, ‘Imagine what I can do with 100% effort. It’s grown to something I could never imagine – it’s been absolutely mind-blowing.”
Today, his online store features athletes from various sports leagues, including UFC and WWE. Prices range from $130 – $350 per card. While his work is primarily centered around modern and ultra-modern cards, he has dabbled in vintage, including a 1954 Topps Ted Williams card remake.
Card Company Takes Notice
There were a few moments of luck, hard work, and meeting the moment in the transformation of Weaverling into Luke the Cardist.
At the end of March 2022, Weaverling showed off his art at The MINT Collective when he received his first big break. A major card company approached his table at the show, impressed with his work. A conversation with a company representative turned into negotiations about including his work in a future release.
In the coming year, Weaverling will have 25 custom cards inserted as super short prints in a major card release in a yet-to-be-disclosed product. His breakthrough in March of last year weighed heavily on leaving his job as a project manager to work full-time as an artist.
The Dallas Card Show and the LeBron Rookie
One of Weaverling’s biggest surprises came at the Beckett booth at the Dallas Card Show last November. He was happy about having a table next to the Beckett grading room, but traffic was slow.
Then, a man looking over his art pulled out four 2003 Topps Chrome LeBron James rookie cards in PSA 10 slabs. He asked Weaverling, “How would you like to paint on one of these?” The most recent comps put the card value at about $6,000.
At first, Weaverling thought the man was joking, but he soon realized he was not. The collector explained that he had just gotten into the hobby, looking at the cards purely as assets. But after looking at Weaverling’s work, he pivoted from speculator to admirer.
“It’s all subjective,” Weaverling says. “Depending on the person that looks at these cards, they could just say it’s just any other piece of cardboard.”
His client was so happy with how the LeBron commission turned out that Weaverling says he has plans to use another big card, in gem mint condition, for a future art project. His client plans to display the LeBron art card with the broken PSA slab in the same frame.
“He’s a wild man,” Weaverling says of the man with a recently acquired 1/1 LeBron art card. “But for me, it’s a great opportunity. I gained 3,000 followers in a week, and there were a ton of custom jobs gained. People were saying, ‘This guy would get paid $50 and paint on the Mona Lisa. I say, ‘It’s not your card, and it’s not my card.’”
Weaverling will be back at The MINT Collective next week, the site of his first breakthrough one year after landing a contract with a major card company. Since then, he has worked on the $6,000 LeBron canvas and used his art to help raise more than $2,000 for a local charity through the Washington Capitals.
He hopes his work can continue to benefit card artists everywhere, who have gained more awareness since the Topps Project 2020 and Project 70 cards were released.
“I take pride being able to take something that looks ordinary and then paint to where someone else might see value added to it,” Weaverling says. “I’m hoping that when my work gets released, it opens doors for custom card artists.”