Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wind in the Willows Jacket Process

The illustrated edition of Wind in the Willows I'm doing with IDW Publishing was announced last week. The Wind in the Willows has long been a favorite of mine. I love talking animal stories and I don’t know that they get better than Kenneth Grahame’s. This has also been a bucket list project for me, something I needed to illustrate before I die. This project started in 2014, and a combination of its intensity as an illustration task and other projects & commitments has led us to a release of Oct 2016.

Pre-Order on Amazon -or- Through your Local Comic Shop using Order Code: JUN16 0571

For this week's blogpost I'm going to detail the process I used for creating the jacket cover (a wrap around, like Mouse Guard books)


Because books are often judged by their cover, I wanted to make sure Wind in the Willows is perceived as an ensemble cast book with 4 main characters, rather than just "Mr. Toad & his Wild Ride". I chose this moment from chapter 6: Mr Toad:
"They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to find, as the Badger had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, or great size, painted a bright red (Toad's favourite colour), standing in front of the house. As they neared the door it was flung open, and Mr. Toad, arrayed in goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat, came swaggering down the steps..."

The sketches for the characters were fairly straight forward. I'd drawn them a few times previously just for fun, so the only decisions I was making was getting postures right for the scene (Badger anticipating Toad's antics, Rat & Mole a bit nervous about them, and Toad strutting proud about them) and locking in on their proportions.



For the setting, I opted not to make a model of Toad Hall, but to do a front facade rough drawing (I only drew half of it and then mirrored it). It's thoroughly based on Mapledurham House, the same house E. H. Shepherd used as reference when  he illustrated Willows back in 1960.



Using my rough, I enlarged and refined the Toad Hall drawing with the motor-car drawn in that I found era-appropriate reference for.  and used the composite of all the sketches as my pencils/layout for the jacket wraparound. Having every character drawn separately allowed me to position them and resize them for scale as I needed. In this step I also planned space for the spine of the book and tested the book's title and bylines. The yellow border was my visual note for where the "trim" line and where the "bleed" are.

I printed that digitally composited layout out on several sheets of copy paper to a size of 22" x 15" and taped that to the back of a big sheet of Bristol. On my lightbox I was able to see through the surface of the Bristol to the printout underneath. I inked using Copic Multiliners. Because this jacket was to also be in color, I didn't render the textures as heavily as I may have if this had been a strictly black & white illustration. Below you can see a few photos I took with my phone as I made my way across the piece:






Once all the inking was done, I scanned the artwork. This took a few passes on may scanner (11" x 17") and some careful re-assembly back in Photoshop. Then I flatted in all the color for the piece. The term 'Flatting' in coloring refers to adding in flat color, no rendering, no effects, just color swatches. This step is like a grown-up version of coloring inside the lines (even when sometimes the lines aren't closed off...so no fill-tool here folks). I'd decided on most of my color choices for this piece before I started (I had previous character illustrations to pull from and the notes from the text as well as Mapledurham House).

I rendered the color in Photoshop using a textured brush and the Dodge (Lighten) & Burn (Darken) Tools. This is done in same way I render any Mouse Guard piece or freelance cover/pinup I've covered here on the blog. In this step, I also established a few color-holds (places where I paint the inkwork to be a color rather than just black) on the motor-car's glass parts and Toad, Rat, & Badger's clothes.


The last step was the Text...but, the Title text needed a better treatment than to just sit on the art. It could easily get lost in the details of Toad Hall above Toad's head, and I didn't want to just apply an outline or shadow behind the type for it to stand out, so I inked a wreath border the type could sit in. I found a stock border to use as inspiration, but then populated the foliage with willow leaves and cat tails. Because this is a separate piece it can be easily removed from the jacket art for use as a stand-alone illustration.



It’s been tremendously difficult to illustrate as I’m trying to live up to the spirit of the original text while living in the shadows of illustrators like E. H. Shepard, Arthur Rackham, Inga Moore, and Robert Ingpen (among many others) who have visualized this tale in ways impossible not to be influenced by. The challenge of doing this story right has lead me to push my work further than I ever have, and I think my artwork will be forever changed by it for the better.


Wind in the Willows can be Pre-Ordered on Amazon 
-or- 
Through your Local Comic Shop using Order Code JUN16 0571



2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016 Bookplate

Every year, for the last four years, I've released a new Mouse Guard bookplate. (You can look over the past years here: 20122013, 2014, & 2015). I started this tradition because fans approaching my table at a convention would be disappointed they didn't have their Mouse Guard books with them for me to sign. By making a unique bookplate every year, I not only make a fun mini-print, but since they are signed, a fan can paste one into their book when they return home and have a signed book.

This week's blogpost is going to be all about the process of creating the 2016 bookplate you see on the left.



When doing a new bookplate I need to think of two important things: The artistic technique and the subject. For the subject I decided to pay homage to Jeremy Bastian's story from Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume 1.

His story was the only one I was jealous enough of I felt I needed to weave it into Mouse Guard history not just as a legend, but as partial-history. The mouse Silfano became the subject of my bookplate for this year.


Like I said above I also needed to decide on the technique. With past years bookplates being done as embroidery, mosaic, and stained glass, I settled on a realistic rendered pencil drawing (this was also in prep for my Gotham Academy Story released last week). I drew the mouse Silfano on copy paper and the background design (based on Jeremy's panel border) on a toothier drawing paper.


Tool-wise, I used the same stuff I used for Gotham Academy (though technically I drew this first). Knolled here are my (L-R) Stick Eraser, Mechanical Pencil (0.5 w/ HB lead), a Tortillon (fancy word for a smudging stick), and a kneaded eraser. I protected the drawing from getting smudged as I drew, blended, and erased away highlights, by putting down a piece of paper under my hand.




The two drawings were combined after being scanned into Photoshop. To color the image I used the technique of placing layers over the rendered pencil set to layer mode 'color' This keeps the integrity of the value (light/dark) of the drawing, but adds the hue and saturation of what you paint on the 'color' layers to the rendered pencil.

I'll have this bookplate at my 2016 convention appearances, but it is also available in my online shop: http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/mouse-guard-2016-bookplate


2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Gwendolyn Print

Last year I introduced a matted Saxon print to my convention and online store offerings. This year, I've added Sadie. And this week I'm revealing Gwendolyn in her Matriarch Chamber. Below I'll show the full process of the new Gwendolyn print. (finished image to the left)

 The print debut at C2E2 2016, and I'll have it in my online store as well as my other convention appearances.
http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/gwendolyn-print-matted-8x10

I drew this version of Gwendolyn on copy paper. I didn't know what the background should be, but decided since Saxon & Sadie were outside, Gwendolyn would be a good mouse to have an interior architecture background.

I didn't know what interior space to use through. An existing location in Lockhaven, a cool stone arch pattern or window? I didn't go further than what you see here and decided to figure out the background in the next step after I scanned the drawing.

In Photoshop, I was able to size the drawing and crop it to suit the needs of the print. I then tried out a few stock images of arches and windows to get a feel for what would work. I ended up pulling my Matriarch Chamber model off the shelf and photographed a corner of that for the background. In this step I was also able to resize and fix the scale and angle of her pike axe head (which only just enters frame now). The last ting I did before printing this out was to add in a celtic knot pattern I've used on Gwendolyn's tunic before.


Once all that digital tweaking was set, I printed out the layout on my home printer. I taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion light pad I could see through the surface of the bristol to the printout to use as a guide as I inked without needing to re-pencil the drawing. I inked it with Copic Multiliner pens (the 0.7, 0.5, & 0.3 nibs). I avoided inking the stained glass details right up to the lead lines or the tile floor pattern right up to Gwendolyn. This makes isolating those lines for color holds easier in the coloring step.



tweeted this photo I took in-process with my phone as I worked on the piece. I try and establish the major outlines to the character before going in and doing much rendering on any area (though here I did do the cross-hatching in her ear). Before I used Multiliners, I used Uniball Vision office pens. One of the things I think improved when I switched tools is that I became more concerned with varying my line weight. And not just the heavier lines for the outer contour vs the thinner inner lines, but also the change in a given line like the fur around the face or the wrinkles in the cloak.

After I finished inking the piece, I scanned the inks into Photo shop to start coloring. First step of that process is called 'flatting' where you color each part that is a different color with just flat colors and stay within the lines. For the room, I already had a color palette because of the room appearing in The Black Axe. Gwendolyn had also been established color-wise, but I just did my best eyeball match for her fur and clothing colors.


The last step is to render out, shade, highlight, and texture the colors. I use the Dodge & Burn tools with a textured brush to accomplish this.

Again, I'll have this print in my online store as well as at my other convention appearances.
http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/gwendolyn-print-matted-8x10






2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

FCBD 2016

This Saturday is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!!! It's the perfect day to go down to your local comic chop and try something you've never tried before, and ALSO to take along someone in your life who has never stepped foot in a comic shop, never read a comic, or is a lapsed fan of the sequential storytelling. FCBD is such a great way to share what we comic fans love about reading comics. It's free, and most stores put on some kind of promotion, sale, or party too. So it's really fun and worthwhile for new or existing comic fans.

I'll be set up at Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, MI for the day, signing Mouse Guard books (including the FCBD offering this year), and doing free quick Mouse head doodles in anyone's sketchbook.


Like I mentioned, I'll have a new Mouse Guard story in the BOOM!/Archaia 2016 Summer Blast issue (again FREE). And for today's blogpost, I wanted to run through the process for creating the 'cover' image for the story (this image is featured on the cover of the BOOM!/Archaia 2016 Summer Blast where one of the Lumberjanes is reading a Mouse Guard issue, but the image also appears on page of its own inside before my story starts.




For the layout, I featured my main character for this story 'Piper' front and center.  I surrounded her with knotwork and animal icons with the plan of making this look like illuminated manuscript drawings (like the book of Kells) in the final art. The drawing of Piper was done on copy paper and scanned in to Photoshop where I added in the stock knot-art and some little animal drawings I did separately as well. It looks like I didn't have the stock circle knots around the animals in this saved version of the layout...but I must have added them in at some point before inking.


To ink the piece, I printed out the above layout on standard copy paper, and then taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Then, on my lightbox, I can see thorough the bristol surface to the printout to use as a guide as I ink. For my pens, I used the Copic Multiliner SP pens with 0.7 and 0.3 nibs. You will notice that the knot designs never tough Piper, this is to not only push them to the background, but also to make it easier to isolate them when I color so that I can pint the linework as a color (a color hold)



When the inks are finished I scan them and start the coloring process. The first step when digitally coloring (other than scanning and cleaning up the scan) is called 'flatting'. The purpose is to establish color shapes (the mouse's fur, the cloaks, the leaf, the animal circles, etc) so that as you render areas you can isolate the parts of the color you want to without affecting the parts you don't want to touch. When flatting, you can use any colors you want, they don't have to be anything close to the final color choices, just so long as the neighboring colors aren't too similar to one another.


Once the tedious job of flatting is done (which is grown-up coloring in the lines), it's time to render, make final color adjustments and finish the cover. To add shading and highlights and texture, I use the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush.

To the right is the finished rendered color cover.
Below you will see pencils from a few of the panels from the 8 page story and a un-lettered sample of page 1:









The Tale of Piper The Listener appears in BOOM!/Archaia's 2016 Summer Blast comic FREE this Saturday at your local comic shop.
To find a local comic shop near you:


2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sadie 5x7 print

Last year I introduced a matted Saxon print to my convention and online store offerings. This year, I'll be adding more 5x7 character prints. The first of which I'll reveal this week is Sadie with a bee companion. Below I'll show the full process of the new Sadie print. (finished image to the left)

The print debut at C2E2 2016, and I'll have it in my online store as well as my other convention appearances.
http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/sadie-bee-print-matted-8x10


To start with I sketched out Sadie on copy paper. Sadie is a guardmouse who spent a great deal of time alone in the open country. She's self-sufficient and a frontier mouse who can pathfind and star-navigate her way around the territories better than any of the other mice in Fall or Winter 1152. For this image, I decided to give Sadie a bee companion, like a ranger might have a hawk as an animal companion. It was the inclusion of the bee that led me to using clover as the background and ground cover for this image.

I scanned in my drawing so that I could resize it and make some corrections. The inked piece needed to be a certain size, so I scaled the drawing to fit inside that space and made some crops to the surroundings so that Sadie had a nice presence in the image. I also adjusted the bee's angle and scale. I like using Photoshop for this. I'm not at the point where I want to sketch digitally, I like paper and pencil too much, but making digital adjustments is a great way to speed up productivity, but also allow you to experiment and improve your composition without re-drawing or erasing.

Once I had the above layout set, I printed it out on my home printer and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion light pad I could see through the surface of the bristol to the printout to use as a guide as I inked without needing to re-pencil the drawing. I inked it with Copic Multiliner pens (the 0.7, 0.5, & 0.3 nibs). Readers of my blog know I like those pens. Even though they are felt tipped (like Microns) they stand up to all my stippling and never break or get fatter as a result.

I tweeted this photo I took in-process with my phone as I worked on the piece. I try and establish the major outlines to the character before going in and doing much rendering on any area (though here I did do the cross-hatching in her ear). Before I used Multiliners, I used Uniball Vision office pens. One of the things I think improved when I switched tools is that I became more concerned with varying my line weight. And not just the heavier lines for the outer contour vs the thinner inner lines, but also the change in a given line like the fur around the face or the wrinkles in the cloak.

After the piece is inked, it's time to scan and start the coloring process known as 'flatting'. By laying in flat colors to establish the different areas of the image (the fur color is different than the cloak is different from the sky, is different from the clover, etc.) it makes it easier to isolate and render each part in the next step. You don't always need to be placing down the right colors in this step, though here I did try to establish my final palate. I went with a yellow sky to be the natural complimentary color to Sadie's purple cloak 9something I'd already thought about when drawing the bee)


Here again is the final image after I rendered the colors using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush.

Again, I'll have this print in my online store as well as at my other convention appearances.
http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/sadie-bee-print-matted-8x10







2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Re-Run Usagi Yojimbo pinup for the Sakai Project.


With nine years of blogposts, I will continue to Re-Run past posts for the new fans or folks who may have missed a post the first time around.

Part of the reasoning is also that for various reasons (The health of my Mother, convention travel, behind on deadlines, and projects I'm not able to share yet) I see the need to revisit an old post once a month or so.
You can also go back and see any past posts using the Blog index: http://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2013/12/blog-index.html)

This week:

In 2014 Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai was in need of assistance due to his wife Sharon's health at the time. I did this two pinups to help celebrate the Usagi and Stan and raise some money with the original art for Sharon's care. Below is the link where I break down the full process from concept to colors for the pinup.


Full Usagi Yojimbo Process Post:
http://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2014/02/usagi-caps-auction-piece-process.html


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gotham Academy Short


In issue 17 of Gotham Academy, I have a 3 page short story. Rebecca 'Tay' Taylor, a former Mouse Guard editor =, now is in the Bat office at DC and knowing I was a fan of Gotham Academy, asked if I'd like to contribute a short story to the Yearbook arc (where students at GA are telling tales of past & present exploits at the school...those stories are drawn by guests, like I do with Legends of the Guard).

While still thinking about doing it (I really really wanted to, but schedule was an issue) somehow my name was announced as a contributor on a panel at New York Comic Con before I'd committed fully. I took that honest mistake (plus my desire to be a part of it) as a sign that I needed to find space to do the story.

The only reservation I had (other than time, which did play a big part in the shorter nature of the story) was that I'm not fond of the way I draw people....or I at least struggle to draw them in a way I like. The Hogwarts RPG portraits I'd done not too long ago were examples of human drawings I was pleased with, so I set to draw the story that way. And as a test, did a sample character study of Gotham Academy Student Colton Rivera.



For my story though, I decided I didn't want to use any of the existing Gotham Academy cast, and thought I'd introduce four students from the school's past. I based the quartet on myself and three close friends from my younger days. These are the guys I first started making up stories with, making home movies with, and roleplaying with. Nicholas Kowalcyk became 'Wally Adams', David Petersen became 'Peter Erikson', Jesse Glenn became 'Glen Thomas', and Mike Davis became 'Davey Kurtz'. These four would be playing GA's answer to D&D 'Serpents & Spells' at the school in 1984.

Last year I visited a private academy in New Hampshire to speak to their art students (You can go back and see a whole blogpost about that trip here). It was the practical place I envisioned when I tried making up a story at Gotham Academy. And the tradition of the graduates' names being carved into the wood paneling of the hallways (which you swipe with your finger if you pass a relative's name) was something I had to incorporate into my drawn version of Gotham Academy. (Here I'm pointing at a 'Harry Potter' from a turn of the 20th century list of graduates).

To make life a bit easier, I made a little model section of the hallway at Gotham Academy (c.1984) where we first meet our four S&S playing students. It looks rather complicated of a model, but it's really just two pieces of cardboard glued together with printed out images glued to them. The printouts were stock photos of tudor wood paneling, and a checkerboard, and I added tome text for the carved names and cut out some little shields to glue on along with some thin wood stock for trim.





Tay, of course, needed to see what my pages would look like, so I roughed out my story with something more detailed than thumbnails, but rougher than I'd pencil a Mouse Guard page. I won't share any full page's thumbnails, because with only 3 pages, I don't want to share too much of anything. I also wrote the script as I roughed out my story beats and panel shapes. To the right is a few panels from page 2.

Rendered pencil can be messy, and if you make a mistake, erasing can be tricky. Because of this, I opted to draw each panel separately. This is a technique suggested to me by Cory Godbey. Cory also sometimes draws the characters apart from the background, but I only did that on two of my panels and didn't take to it as much. On the left is an example of me tightening up the pencil outlines on bristol, while my rough/layout is underneath as a guide on my Huion light pad.

After I have solid outlines, I can start adding all the subtlety of tone and texture. I re-used the first character designs when drawing this panel of the four S&S players (who've given themselves the nickname 'The Gilkey Warlocks'). I tended to render from left to right so that my hand wouldn't smudge the finished parts as I worked, but sometimes I'd lay down a sheet of paper just under my hand to protect the drawing as I worked anyhow or when I couldn't just move L-R.

Tool-wise, I'm not using anything fancy. Knolled here are my (L-R) Stick Eraser, Mechanical Pencil (0.5 w/ HB lead), a Tortillon (fancy word for a smudging stick), and a kneaded eraser. At times I did break out a softer lead pencil to make some really dark areas quickly, but most of the 3 pages was drawn and rendered with what you see here. It's also of note that I went through 3-4 Tortillons doing these pages.






I had to call Tay and ask if there was an official Serpents and Spells rulebook cover or logo. She said that no one had tackled it yet. So I went about designing my best old D&D player's handbook homage  and logo (making the S & S interlink as the focus instead of the ampersand). The book's cover is a full panel in the story and here to the right you can see it uncropped along with notes to myself for where the panel ends and where to make sure the lighter details go.


Here is one more finished rendered pencil panel of the characters in the hallway. I scanned all these panel pieces made some adjustments to get the right light/dark balance and then re-assembled them all in Photoshop according to my layouts. For the panel borders, I drew those in with the line tools in Photoshop.



Color! Just like the Hogwarts drawings, these are colored in a way different from my usual method for Mouse Guard work. Here the color layer(s) all go on top of the rendered pencil and each of those is set to layer mode 'color'. This means that the brightness and darkness is determined by the rendered pencil layer, but the hue and saturation are determined by what I pain on the color layers set to 'color' mode.


Below are a few more spoiler-free panel samples from my story:





Gotham Academy #17 goes on sale TOMORROW:
It’s the final chapter of “Yearbook”! Maps and Olive now have the entire gang involved in putting together the perfect yearbook—but which story will come out on top? With art and story by Eisner Award winners Faith Erin Hicks (Adventures of Superhero Girl), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), and Michael Dialynas (The Woods)!

Cover by Mingjue Helen Chen.






2016 Appearances:

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