Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Beneath the Dark Crystal Variant Cover #3

This is my third variant cover for the new Dark Crystal series from Archaia titled "Beneath the Dark Crystal".

You can view my past two covers here.

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.

So, that's 3 down and 9 more to go!!!

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mouse Guard Architectural Model: Shorestone Exterior

The exterior model of Shorestone was one that I made when drawing the last issue of Black Axe.

It's made of cardboard, chipboard, basswood, paper, and aluminum foil.

In the video below, I talk about building and using the model to show the height of Mouse Architectural pride.

Direct YouTube link:

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Baltimore Yearbook: Strangers In Paradise

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:

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

TMNT Macro Series Michelangelo Cover Process

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).

I've done several TMNT covers in the past and You can click here for all my past TMNT covers and the process to create them

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.

Color Flats:
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.

2018 Appearances:

Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mouse Guard Architectural Model: Lockhaven Larder

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.

Direct YouTube Link:

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Stained Glass Re-Run

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.

Note, the piece on the left was inspired by an actual window available for sale at Materials Unlimited, the Antique Architectural Salvage place I worked at when I started Mouse Guard.
My Stained Glass Work 

A post about my working in stained glass making gifts for family members and how it influenced how I draw stained glass pieces:

A Mouse Glazier at work:
A process post about the box art for the Legends of the Guard Volumes 1-3 slipcase depicting a mouse creating a stained glass window originally set to go into Shorestone that never made it:

A Matriarch in Glass: 
A post of process about the inspiration window and final art for a 2015 sketchbook piece of the Matriarch Veyga:
A ink, pencil, and digital composite used for the 2013 Mouse Guard bookplate:

2018 Appearances:

Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Creator Commentary: Fall 1152 Hardcover Extras

Here is the final Creator Commentary video for Mouse Guard Fall 1152!  For this last piece, the extras created for the hardcover collection (including the epilogue), I've gone back to including visuals to help. But please also feel free to follow along in your copy of the hardcover as I talk about the behind the scenes details, art notes, and my head-space as I go page by page and panel by panel. Enjoy!

Direct YouTube Link:

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

TMNT Macro Series cover: Donatello

For the upcoming TMNT Macro-Series, I was asked my IDW & editor Bobby Curnow to do 4 new Turtle covers, one per bandannaed brother. I've done several TMNT covers before:

You can click here for all my past TMNT covers and the process to create them

You can see the final cover artwork for the Donatello Macro Series cover to the left, but bellow I'll go through and talk step-by-step about the process to get there.

I was given an outline of what happens in the issue, but also given the freedom to do something unbound by the story in a 'classic' feel. I decided to take a theme of that issue (not a specific moment) of Donatello in his sewer workshop and then do my best version of how I see him in that environment...both in solitude, and also in his heaven. The shop here is a combination of my Dad's basement workshop when I was a kid and my own from that same time: glass jars of screws & nails, oxy-acetylene tanks for welding, broken old cabinets as shop storage, am/fm radio on it's last legs, milk crates for seating and storage...It's my childhood of being a maker all for Don to use.

The piece is a digital assembly of several pencil drawings then colored to make sense of all the shapes for myself, but also for Bobby the editor and for Nickelodeon to see as clearly as possible what I'm aiming to do. I'd rather make a change because they didn't like my idea than a change because they didn't understand my idea.

Luckily there were no changes requested! I printed out the above digital composite layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of 300 series Strathmore bristol and inked it on a light pad. Here I had to dive into all those details. The wire nuts the grime and corrosion on the pipes, the handles of the tools on the peg board...AND some easter eggs: the Mythbusters sign, a Cats Trio poster, a scissor sheath I made for conventions, a Usagi Yojimbo chop sticker, copies of the art of Mouse Guard, Locke & Key, A Brief History of Time, How Things Work, the Pocket Ref, a book with 'Eastman & Laird', then Adam Savage's custom leatherman holder, and Michelangelo's nunchucks. WHEW!!!

Color Flats:
After the inks were finished and approved, it was time to add color to this compositional detail-mess. The first step of coloring digitally is to lay in flat colors for each area of the piece. Defining that the area of Don's skin is all the same color, which is a different color than his front shell, his pads, or his bandanna...as well as all the other piles of stuff I crammed into this piece. Having these areas be established as flat un-rendered color allows me to quickly isolate those areas as I do the real work in the coloring quickly. Sometimes I flatted in colors for corrosion, like on the pipes...but I didn't on the vice or drawers. That's because I knew I'd have a harder time with the pipes getting that balance just right, so being able to re-isolate them with the flats is prep work that pays off. *note: looks like I didn't save this 'flats' image before I'd already started rendering the milk crates..

Here again are the finished colors with all the effects added for the color holds (areas where I wanted the black inkwork to be a color other than black), the glow and lighting effects for the torch and lamp.  This piece was hard, and the most difficult TMNT cover I've ever done...but it was also very personal to me. I recreated everything I loved and remembered about my childhood basement growing up, all the tools, the resourcefulness of using junk cabinets for storage, old doors for table tops, jars for parts, and milk crates for everything.

The Donatello issue of the TMNT Macro Series will be released in September.

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Beneath the Dark Crystal Variant Cover #2

My second variant cover for Archaia's new Dark Crystal series "Beneath the Dark Crystal" is the subject of this week's blogpost. Last month I shared the process for the first cover featuring UrZah the Ritual Guardian & skekZok the Ritual Mater. To the left you can see the finished cover art with UrSol the Canter & skekSil the Chamberlain.

Below I will go through step-by-step the process for creating the cover art.

Using reference provided by Henson as well as the art book "The World of the Dark Crystal" by Brian Froud, I started by drawing the profiles of the Skeksis and Mystic for this cover. Chamberlain is my favorite design of the Skeksis, and I loved trying to capture the sly-up-to-no-good smirk sculpted and articulated in the puppet. Because the Mystic counterpart for Chamberlain is the canter, I drew his neck and head and mouth to evoke the feeling that he is sustaining a long note. Like my previous cover, the layout idea is to overlap the figures facing opposite directions to pay homage to the idea from the movie that these were once the same being. The circle design was a straight lift of one of Froud's designs, but traced over in my pencil to try get some of my linework in the background.

Once the pencil sketches were scanned, I played with them in photoshop to get the layout just right. each scan/element was tinted a different color to help me make sense of it all. At this stage I can not only move the drawings around, but also re-size them if I drew one of them too big or small. Chamberlain's neck and head needed some adjustment to get that evil look across, so I moved and rotated it a bit digitally.

The white pattern you see on top of them is another Froud design that I overlaid and would ink separately and place back on in the last step

With the layout completed, I printed out the image at cover size (roughly 10" x 15") onto two sheets of printer paper. I have to tape those piece back together to be one image, and then tape that (using painters tape this time) to the back of a sheet of Strathmore bristol board. Using a lightpad, I'm able to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout to use it as a guid as I ink.

I used art/tech pens from Copic called Multiliners and I used the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly. I streamed part of this cover live on Twitch as I worked (but did not record the process).

The inks were then scanned and imported into Photoshop where I started the coloring phase with a step called 'Flatting'.

This is where the various color areas are established: "Where does the color of the Skeksis robe end and the back cloth begin, what parts of the Mystics patterned clothing is which color and where?" It's a techincal version of adding in flat color and staying in the lines.

I also added in color holds (areas where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black) to the background circle pattern.

The last step was to render the piece. Add in all the light and shadow and subtle color-shifts. I use the dodge and burn tool with a textured brush to do most of my rendering.

The inked overlay design was also added in here with a bit of Photoshop magic to make it a bit translucent.

2018 Appearances:

Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Recent Commissions

At conventions I do toned paper commissions. I wish I had the time to have these open year-round or for people who can't make it out to my convention appearances, but when I'm home, I have other work & obligations that prevent me from doing so. Here is a look at my most recent batch:

Kameron: A Guardmouse

Gen from Usagi Yojimbo

A Fan's Cat nicknamed "Mayor"


Donatello & Celanawe

A Fox Squirrel from Studio Ghibli

A Dragon in Armor

A Guardmouse beat to hell

A Guardmouse with a sword

A Cat Archer



Mouse with Nature armor

Rocket Raccoon

A Guardmouse

Gandalf the Grey

A Guardmouse

A Death Knight Mouse

Lutheran the Ferret King

Swamp Thing

2018 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

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