The 2017 Mouse Guard Free Comic Book Day story is one of my favorites, and I realized that unless you happened to pick up a copy of it on that day, or heard me do one of two live readings of it, you may have never read 'The Tale of the Wild Wolf'
So, I have done a reading of it for you all to enjoy and put it on YouTube for a limited time.
As a theme for my next sketchbook (which was going to debut at NYCC...but will have to wait until later this year or early next) I had the idea of doing Mouse Guard pieces based on specific characters & stories from the guest contributors in Legends of the Guard. (I did a series of these already and shared them in a previous blogpost). For those who don't know, Legends is a spinoff anthology series where guest artists write and illustrate tall tales, fables, and folklore set in the Mouse Guard world. The 3 volumes of Legends are now available in a nice boxed set.
Below I'll show a bit of the original artist's tale that I used as reference, and the inks and colors for my homage:
The Battle of the Hawk's Mouse & The Fox's Mouse:
by Jeremy Bastian
In Volume 1, Jeremy told a story about mice being the servants to larger beasts, doing their bidding as well as fighting their battles for them. The Hawk's Mouse and the Fox's mouse enter into a combat for their masters, but are halted by the Fox Mouse's son & the Hawks Mouse's wife. Legend holds them as the first two Guardmice and the wife the Guard's first Matriarch.
I've always LOVED this Legend, and I like it better than some of the origins of the Guard in the RPG. I've tried to integrate these mice into Mouse Guard lore anyhow...Faulknir & Silfano (Hawk's Mouse & Fox's Mouse) have been featured on bookplates, and they along with Sefatus (Silfano's son) were in the story: "Service to Seyan" and Feruin (Faulknir's wife) is imortalized in stained glass in the Matriarch's chamber in The Black Axe. So, for my version of this Legend, I wanted to pay homage to the battle between them were they learn the lesson "Mouse must not kill mouse".
by Guy Davis
Guy Davis did a wordless story (using pictograms in a few cases) in Volume 1, where a mouse seeing the primitive painting of an owl, gets delusions of grandeur thinking if he says something like the abstracted image he'd become a great mouse. However, when he finds a next of owls, it's a pure horror show...bones everywhere and the discovery that spooky owls are much bigger and more terrifying than the scale-less simple painting.
I wanted to show the moment of dawning realization where the mouse has seen the bones, but not the owls haunting him from behind. As an extra nod to the story (so the reference to it is clearer) I added in the pictogram speech of the owl painting.
The Thief, The Star-Gazer, The Hunter, & The Tailor:
by Cory Godbey
In Volume 2, Cory told a story of four brothers who each learn a specific trade: thieving, star-gazing, hunting, and sewing. When they are reunited they are called to aid a mouse king whose daughter has been taken by a beast and they each must use their specific skills to rescue her toegther. Because I like Cory's dragons, I bent the Mouse Guard rules for non-regional animal species (or in this case, imaginary.
For my portrait of the brothers, I wanted to include that dragon, but to bring it back into some more familiar Mouse Guard territory, I referenced the visual of a snake eating its own tail, but now with a dragon head.
The Ballad of Nettledown:
by Nate Pride
Nate's story from Volume 1 is only three pages (a restriction I had to impose on him because of a miscommunication from the other contributors in that issue) but it doesn't feel small. It tells the story of a mouse who saves the town of Nettledown from a flood by drinking the all water before it reached the village. I've referenced this tale twice in Mouse Guard, Doren can be seen in the feast in Seyan in "Service to Seyan" and the town of Nettledown works into some past Black Axe lore in "The Axe Trio".
It was hard to pick a moment in this story to draw, and I worried no one could draw Doren better as a big sloshy impossibly overfilled mouse, but I did my best while including some of the townsfolk I was drawn to.
Love of the Sea:
by Christian Slade
In Volume 2, Christian did a story about a young pirate-y mouse who rescues a female mer-mouse from a sea creature. They emotionally connect before she swims away. We watch the Pirate mouse age and return to the sea edge as an old fur..he sheds a tear and she reappears and they sit on a rock and watch the moon.
I tried to keep the muted palate and hatched linework feel of Christian's pages, and simply just redrew one of his panels (adding in the moon from the last page of the story) in my own style.
Back and Forth:
by Jackson Sze
Jackson had never drawn a comic story before his Legends tale. He's an amazing concept painter for the Marvel movies, but to make up a narrative and tell it panel by panel was something new for him. I loved the concept paintings he'd done of exotic locations in his sketchbooks, so I suggested a travelogue type story, with a Guardmouse escorting a cartographer around noting things of interest/danger at each one. He added a nice tone of the Guardmouse feeling it was somehow beneath him to 'babysit' a mouse to write notes and draw maps, but in time he's won over by the adventure and usefulness of it.
For my version, I just tried my best to reinterpret Bridgeporte in my inked illustrative style to see how it would look. I included the two mice in the foreground paddling in their approach.
The Tale of Abdiel's Heart:
by Ramon K. Perez
Jackson Ramon's tale is a circular narrative in some ways. A mouse finds a scrap of paper noting a treasure as well as the perilous obstacles standing in the way (Think Dr. Henry Jones Sr.'s Grail Diary on one sheet). The mouse navigates and overcomes the dangers to find the bones of a mouse holding a heart-shaped jewel...as the would-be thief obtains the prize, a last trap reveals itself as a blood-red crow...and the paper blows away and lands at the feet of another mouse
The skeleton holding the jewel is what I most wanted to draw for my version. And it only seemed logical to include the mouse thief as well as the crow.
The Watcher's Stone:
by Ryan Lang
Ryan Lang's Legends story is one of the most shared and was and important story in terms of landing some of the pieces to get the Mouse Guard movie deal in place. Ryan has worked in animation for years, but I think this was his first published sequential comic work. Beautifully painted, The Watcher's Stone is about a mouse who stands sentry over a mink's lair to keep her town safe. But she doesn't use brute strength or her sword to keep the mink at bay, she holds it prisoner by using what it fears the most against it. And the Legend goes that she stood there so long, she eventually turned to stone, leaving an eternal landmark at the spot.
It was hard not to just recreate the last panel and reveal of Ryan's story for my homage. I tried to play up the ink textures and line to make sure it was my own. I also had the mouse's ears exposed, as I can never seem to pull off the mouse hood with the ears tucked inside without it looking wrong.
I've made a Creator Commentary video for the short story from Legends of the Guard Vol. 1: POTENTIAL. Joining me on the video are the creators of that story, writer Alex Kain, and artist Sean Rubin. Watch the video below as we go page by page and panel by panel with behind the scenes info, inspirations, art & story notes, and reference. Enjoy!
This is my third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro series cover for IDW, and it features Leonardo. Originally the order of the turtles' macro series was different, and Leo was last, but a scheduling switch at the publisher gets Leo ahead of Raph.
To the left is the finished art for the cover, and below in this blogpost, I'll go through the various steps to create the final piece.
Layout/Pencils: The first step was to come up with what the cover was going to be about. In the issue, Leo does have a battle in the woods, and though my version isn't as it happens in the issue, it felt like a way to explore Leo in a more aggressive posture while also paying homage to some old Eastman & Laird drawn story notes.
I drew Leo on a sheet of copy paper (or actually a few that I cobbled together digitally taking the parts I liked from different sheets) in a birch tree forest. He's wearing the hooded garment he wears in issue #11 of the original Mirage TMNT series. I also opted to have him wounded, paying homage to the moment in that same Mirage Run when Leo is almost killed by the foot clan (in the 1990 movie, it's Raph instead of Leo...an odd coincidence considering the issue order swap here)
The color, snow and breath were digitally done to help me see the piece as a layout, but also for my editor Bobby as well as the license holders, Nickelodeon so everyone understood what the final art was going to resemble.
With the layout approved, I started inking the cover. I printed out the above digital composite layout and taped that to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightpad I'm able to see through the surface of the bristol down to the printout to use as a pencils guide as I ink. For pens I used Copic Multiliners (my pens of choice). Here I used mostly a 0.7 other than a few details where I went down to a 0.3 nib.
Texture and hatching is very important to me, and I focused it here on the gear Leo is wearing as well as all those birch trees.
Once the inks were approved I could start on the coloring process. The first step of that is to 'flat' the piece by adding flat colors to establish the color areas...that Leo's hood is a different color than his bandanna, or his forearm wraps, or the sky, etc. I happened to use colors very close to my final piece, but I could have used any colors at this stage, purple skin, orange bandana, navy sky...it's just all about coloring within the lines so that it's easy to re-isolate those areas again when rendering.
In this step I also defined all the color holds, areas I wanted the inkwork to be a color other than black: The snow & the blood.
The final step is to do all of that rendering. Adding light and shadow and texture. I do this with the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop and a stock brush.
For the falling snow I pulled out my rarely used Wacom tablet to paint in some digital snow. In Mouse Guard I've always inked dots on a separate sheet of paper, but I find that creates something a bit too graphic and hard edged. Painting digitally, I was also able to add in the breath coming out of Leo's mouth.
This cover features UrIm the healer (mystic) and skekUng the Garthim Master (Skeksis). To the left you can see the finished cover art and below I go step by step to show how I created the piece.
I started with pencil drawings on copy paper. I am fortunate enough to have several folders of reference photos from various angles of the Mystics and Skeksis from Henson. Those are invaluable as I'm drawing the figures and trying to decipher details of their clothing and anatomy.
For the background image as well as the overlayed ghostly design, I am using existing Brian Froud imagery from the Art Of The Dark Crystal book and then recreating it in my linework.
I scan each piece of paper to create the layout to submit for approval. Having the drawings all scanned separately allows me to color tint each figure and then independently move them around until I like the placement of the characters in relationship to the background and the pattern overlay.
The Garthim Master's head needed a little adjustment too. So in this step I was able to cut it and rotate it to where it looked better. Speaking of the Garthim Master, I think not only is most of his armor made of Garthim carapace, but that the 'webbing' on his back is actually a female Gelfling's wing fragment.
Once the above layout was approved I was able to ink the piece. I printed out the layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightpad, I can see through the surface of the bristol and use the printout as a pencil guide to ink from. For pens I prefer to use Copic Multiliners. I mostly use the 0.7 nib, but there were certainly spots on their faces where I used a smaller 0.3 nib.
As the Dark Crystal characters demand, so much of the work is in the inking of textures. Some of their costume fabrics don't literally translate to linework, so I have to create patterns and texture to imply the same feel from the puppets to the drawing.
I also inked the overlay pattern on a separate sheet of Strathmore bristol. While the linework here is black, I used photoshop tricks and techniques to make it lighter and ghostly in the final art.
With the inks completed I scanned in the original and started flatting the color in Photoshop. Flatting is the process of establishing color areas: that the Skeksis skin is a different color than the background or than the armor, or the mystic's hair or sleeves. It's basically digital professional coloring within the lines.
In this step I also established all the color holds, the areas I didn't want the linework to be black, but instead a color: The background design and the Mystic's sleeve pattern
The last step was to render all the color and to add color texture. I do all of that in Photoshop using the Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush.
As an annual tradition at the Baltimore Comic Con the organizers put together a 'Yearbook' typically celebrating a creator owned comic property that the guests of the show pay homage to with a piece of artwork. This year (the seventh year of the tradition) The work of Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Echo, Rachel Rising, and Motor Girl) is the theme.
To the left you can see my finished piece of the main Strangers in Paradise characters playing the Mouse Guard board game Swords & Strongholds.
Below I'll walk though the steps to create the piece.
So, you may be as surprised as I was about the piece being human women. No animals in clothes, no creatures, no craggy dwarves...but pretty (I hope) ladies. I wanted to do Terry's characters justice and as they appear in his works...and I wanted to stretch my wings a bit and force myself out of my comfort zone....but again, I don't normally draw stuff like this...so I looked up reference. I had an idea to exemplify the romantic & friendship tension between the characters by having them play a board game or cards...I searched for 'women playing chess' and found this stock photo.
I then reoriented the image so it fit the book's dimensions. On my lightpad I worked out the anatomy basing it on a printout of the stock photo...but I needed it to look right in my type of linework as well as for the features & clothes to look like Katchoo & Francine. And to add in a bit of that Mouse Guard feel, I replaced the chess bits with Swords and Strongholds (and filled in some negative space with the cards strewn around).
The Swords and strongholds bits look like finished artwork because I was able to paste in my digital files for the cards as well as the diagram from the instructions sheet for the game.
With a layout drawn and digitally composited together of Mouse Guard gaming components, it was time to start inking.
I printed out the above layout and then taped that printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightpad I can see through the surface of the bristol to the printout to use as a 'pencils' guide to ink from. I used Copic Multiliner pens (the 0.7 nib mostly) and added all the lineweight and texture I could to make the piece as 'David Petersen' as possible.
Note: I did ink all the cards and board by hand instead of just digitally paste them in...this way the original art is complete (and will be up for auction at the convention) and the line quality/scale matches the rest of the piece, instead of looking like it was resized and digitally added.
Once the inks were finished I scanned in the original art and started the coloring process by painting in flat colors.
These flat colors help in the next step when I needed to isolate one area (like the floor or Francine's dress) and render it with light and shadow independently of the other areas. So, the flatting stage is basically digitally coloring inside the lines.
I also established all the color holds here (areas where I wanted the lineart to be a color other than black) on Francine's dress & necklace, Katchoo's nose, and all the cards.
The last step was to render the color fully and add shadow, highlight, and texture. I use Photoshop's Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush to achieve this.
The finished piece (seen to the right) will be one of many artist homages to Terry's work. The Baltimore Comic Con Yearbook will be for sale at the convention (and usually online from the convention afterwards) and as I mentioned above, the original art will be auctioned off on the Saturday of the convention. For more info about the 2018 Baltimore Comic Con Yearbook: http://baltimorecomiccon.com/baltimore-comic-con-yearbook/
I have done the cover for the upcoming TMNT Macro Series issue for Michelangelo issue from IDW. I was lucky enough to be asked by series editor Bobby Curnow to do covers for the 4 issue series (this being the second of which).
You can see my finished cover art to the left, but below I'll walk through the steps to create the art.
Bobby gave me some leeway when it came to the visuals for these covers. I didn't have to do something specifically from the events of the issue and I could do something more 'classic'. After reading the outline, I decided to play on some themes rather than a literal illustration of a moment. The issue deals with Michelangelo struggling with the idea of 'home' in some ways, and wistfully idealizing his 'youth'. So I tried to do a layout that had the nostalgic feeling a Rockwell painting evokes. I wanted to have Mike on the farm, but not rely on the farmhouse architecture as visually interesting enough, and I thought of a windmill...
For the windmill, I used Google Sketch-up's library to find an already built digital model of a pump wind mill. Every photo I'd find of the type of windmill I was looking for was taken from ground level, and didn't have the details or angle I needed, so the model would be a perfect way to set the position just how I wanted it. While I was there, I also found a farmhouse model to use the geometry for. I redrew each of these elements on a light pad adding or omitting details and getting a feel for them in my own line.
I then discovered that the person who modeled the mill, didn't set up the linkage properly, and that mill wouldn't be able to spin completely around before getting hung up on itself. I had to redesign the mill's works as I was redrawing it.
Once the above layout was composited together with my drawing of Mike, the mill, and the house (and with some added color to help myself and the editor and license holder visualize what I was aiming for in the final art), I started to ink the piece. The layout was printed out and taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On a lightpad, I inked the cover with Copic Multiliners (I used the 0.7 nib mainly). On the lightpad I can see through the surface of the bristol to the printed layout and use that as a guide to ink from. This also makes the final art cleaner and with no need to erase or digitally sweep away blue-line.
After I finished the inks, I scanned them at 400 resolution on my flatbed scanner. After a little tweaking to adjust the levels of the white and black areas, I did the flats for the coloring process. Flatting is adding in flat un-rendered, un-textured color. It's about establishing color areas, that Mike's skin is a different color than his shell or the sky, and where all of those areas start and stop.
I also added in the color holds at this stage. These are areas where I painted the linework as a color rather than black. Doing this helped add depth with the house, the trees, the geese, and the clouds as well as some lighting & design effects with the patch on his bag, the polka-dots on his bindle sack, and the non-brand cola bottle.
Here again are the final colors for the cover. To render all the tones I use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush to get that pebbled look.
Oh, I forgot to mention the significance of the patch on the bag. I started out by wanting to give Mike more than just a bindle while he contemplates a life on the road or running away, and I added in that old army backpack similar to one my Dad bought for the camping excursions of his youth. That bag was still around when I was a kid, and a collapsible shovel was also inside it, so I drew it in here...and then I thought I'd add a patch of some group, and decided on the New York National Guard, thinking that wherever Mike got this, from the farmhouse, one of April or Casey's relatives, or somewhere in the city...the NY branch of the civilian soldiers.
Back when I was drawing the epilogue for Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, I built a simple model of the larder. This model was made of bristol board.
Below is a video about the model, how I made it, how it was used, and how it could come to be used again in the future.
After creating this new piece to the left as a back cover to the later-to-be-released 2018 Mouse Guard Sketchbook, I wanted to run through several past blogposts about stained glass, my experience with it, and using it in art as a way to communicate world-building concepts.