Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Legends of the Guard Vol3 Cover #1 process

Legends of the Guard Volume 3 is going to be a return to the June Alley Inn where tavern mice sit and tell tales to try and clear their bar tabs. As with the previous two volumes, those tales will be written and drawn by creators I've handpicked. However I'll still be writing and drawing the tavern scenes as well as the covers for the series. For today's blogpost I'll share with you the process for the cover art of issue #1.

The concept for this piece started with the idea of a larger animal in Mouse Guard perhaps having a mouse city or even just a single dwelling on it's back. I wondered what animal would be able to carry that load and not risk shaking the whole dwelling apart in it's rapid footfalls or writhing route through the forest: Turtles. I drew each turtle separately on paper and then on a lightbox and a new sheet of paper, drew houses to match up to their shells. I also drew the inhabitants this way. Over the course of 8 scraps of paper I had the cover assets.

I scanned each of those paper scraps, tinted them and reassembled them in Photoshop. This allowed me to make easy alterations within the framework of the template of the cover. I could rotate turtles or shift their house-loads, or re-size mice, or move entire turtle-house-mouse combos around on the cover until I found a layout I liked.

The above digitally-assembled layout was printed out on several sheets of printer paper and then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightbox I was able to follow the layout image as a guide or instead of "pencils" as I inked. For inking, I use Copic SP Multiliners mostly a 0.3 & 0.7 nib. As always, I tried to get a varying amount of grey in the piece and used different textures to get there: stippled rocks, thatched roofs, and various turtle scale patterns.

After the inks are scanned, the next step is to start the coloring process. This is refereed to as "flatting". This is to establish major color areas as being different from one another (and in Photoshop I make these each new layers: Turtle skin, shells, rocks, walls, thatch, fur, clothes 1, clothes 2, etc.). These colors are rarely even close to the final image palette, but meant to serve as easy to read placeholders.

The final step of coloring the cover is to make the final color choices, all the rendering (shadows and highlights) as well as to add any color holds (areas where I wish the inkwork to appear as color rather than black). I do all the rendering with the Dodge and Burn tools in photoshop and using a stock brush that adds texture and mottling as I work.

Legends of the Guard Vol.3 #2 will have the full "legend" of this cover on the inside front cover. And will feature stories by: Skottie Young, Mark Buckingham, & Hannah Christenson


2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mouse Guard coloring Video 2

For this week's blogpost (and 6 more to follow) I colored a inked Mouse Guard character portrait in my normal fashion in Photoshop. I recorded the process and speed up the result x8. Here is the video:


direct link to watch the video on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/111564584



Here is a better look at the original inks and the finished piece:




2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Table Titans Volume 1 pinup

I'm a big fan of Scott Kurz & Co.'s Table Titans web comic. Back in May, I did a piece of fan art purely because I enjoyed discovering the series. Well, the folks over at Table Titans are putting together their first printed collection and they wanted to use my past piece as a pin-up...but the versions of the cast I drew is from what will-be Volume 2. So I offered to not only let them use that piece when they were ready for Volume 2, but also to do a new piece for Volume 1.

Table Titans is a comic about playing Dungeons & Dragons...but it's more than that, it's about a group of friends co-authoring a fantasy adventure together through the mechanics of an RPG system. We get to see the players interact, talk about their choices for their characters as well as seeing the fantasy story cinematically come to life. For this week's blogpost I'll show the process of making this new piece.

The roughs started out like the last piece, portraits of the characters in-game. In volume 1, the players are assigned pre-made characters, and so the costumes and roles are different than the piece I already had done. Darby's character Draziw the mage was just starting out and didn't have his robes and beard. Val, normally a barbarian was crushed to learn she'd be playing a bard. For the sketches I also drew some elements from the story to try and fit in like the displacer beast, the Caraway "eyepatch" the guardsman, and their adopted pet blink dog pup. I sketched these out on a few sheets of legal sized copy paper.

I then scanned those sheets of sketches and started trying to arrange them into a composition I liked inside the format of the Volume 1 book page measurements. I tinted each character to help me distinguish them and make better sense of the layout. In this step I found that I had to lose Caraway, but my idea for the displacer beast to be a stylized looming set of eys, nose & jewel with the tentacles framing the composition was achived by playing with scale, rotation and mirroring of my sketches.




I printed this layout composite and then taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. In a quick time on the lightbox I was able to copy the linework lightly in pencil so I could begin watercoloring the final artwork. I used a travel tray of Sakura watercolors (the 18 cake set) and slowly built up the layers of color (starting with the lightest tones first and working the darker areas with each revisit as areas dried). Once I had the painting where I wanted it, I went back in with Copic multiliners to ink the linework and add a bit of texture and detail. The last touch was to use a white gel pen and white correction fluid to add some texture and lighting detail over top of the watercolor and pen.

BONUS! After finding out the page format of these volumes, I went back and added a few story element borders to my original Table Titans piece so that if Scott & crew would like to use it in their eventual physical release of Volume 2, my art would fit the page dimensions properly.

The borders were done the same way as the pieces: sketch, digital manipulation, printout, lightbox pencils, watercolor, and then ink.

Both high-res files are in the hards of the Table Titans crew and I look forward to seeing them release these great stories physically...but in the meantime you can read them all online for free at www.tabletitans.com 



2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mouse Guard Coloring video #1

For this week's blogpost (and 7 more to follow) I colored a inked Mouse Guard character portrait in my normal fashion in Photoshop. I recorded the process and speed up the result x8. Here is the video:


direct link to watch the video on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/111557696


Here is a better look at the original inks and the finished piece:





2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Seyan Gatehouse Model

Last week I mentioned the model of the Seyan gatehouse I built for the story "Serive to Seyan" which appears in Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales. Most of the story takes place outside of the mythical mouse champion afterlife of Seyan...specifically at the gatehouse.

Seyan needed a royalty and majesty unlike what I'd shown of mouse architecture before in the pages of Mouse Guard. And while the gatehouse isn't going to be as grand as Seyan itself, it needed to look like it fit and belonged. In today's post I'll go through the pre-design of the model and then the model itself.


To the left is the drawing I did of the big establishing shot of Seyan (in fact, the only one I've ever drawn). I looked at a lot of royal castles and citadels..both real an imagined by other artists as well as the capitol city of Hell in Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola. I combined motifs I liked in all of these: turrets/towers with gallery arches or open columns,  domed and conical roofs, and a sense of impossible-yet-believeable stacking. I drew Seyan before I started on a design for the gatehouse, but having this drawing in hand, I was able to start...

Using the motifs I'd played with variations of all over the larger drawing of Seyan, I did a drawing of a tower perched over a bridge, its gates the only way across the bridge. Walls (which surely encase all of Seyan) also flank the tower (and seem to suggest an internal walkway of some sort). From the start I wanted there to be an arch in the bridge just before the gate. I drew all of this into my sketch and then started creating the model.



I built the model over the course of an evening. The main body of the tower is a large packing tube. The shingles and bridge are chip board..the stuff that backs a pad of bristol. I save all of mine when I go through a pack and set it to the side for projects like these. The arches, tiles, and gate details were printed and then glued on with rubber cement. Mostly the piece is glued together with rubber cement though.

Two other small details/materials are the columns for the tower gallery, which are made of ribbed wooden dowels for furniture making, and a ball bearing on the top of the spire


I tend to build models so they can be modularly assembled. This helps with getting the correct view of a model without blocked view of the model by itself. It's also very hand when it comes time to store the model and to make repairs if part of the model is damaged at some point (and I've had to make repairs on most every one of my models at some point)

Oh and this photo shows the bridge arch the best...I used a CD as a template to trace out the sides of the bridge as well as the support under the paper tile floor.


I 'skinned' the model with paper that I could draw out the slit windows on to. The arch supports under the gallery rim were achieved by glueing a paper printout to a built up rim made of more mailing tube with the back cut so its inner diameter could wrap around the outer diameter of the tower tube. I repeated this process several times for the lip the columns sit on. I cut in a section for the gate, so the gate didn't curve like the tower, but lay flat recessed inside the tower. On the side you can see a little nub sticking off. I added the details of the chipboard archway stones as a way to give this model a bit more of three dimensionality, but also as a color variance to help me see areas of the model better. That piece is what keys in the wall piece to keep it in correct alignment when the model is assembled. 

For the roof I first made a cone out of bristol board and glued it to the dowel columns. After cutting lots and lots and lots of chipboard scraps of slightly varying sized rectangles, I started gluing them on like shingles with the lowest row being glued first and each row going up slightly overlapping the prior row. The very top edge is a straight piece of chipboard I curled and wrapped around where the shingles meet the spire. I used the same shingle technique to top the roofs of the walls that abut the sides of the gatehouse tower.


Models like this come in handy. They helped me figure out the finer detail designs and placements of the tower in 3d. In my rough sketch, I didn't have those details locked down, and even if I did go to the effort of doing a really tight architectural drawing, I'd only have the place from one point of view and rotation. Building a model is a great way to figure out how different shapes connect in 3 dimensions, how proportions and scale really look (especially when rotated) and so that when, if a story comes along later, you can revisit this location at any angle and not have to rely on remembering what you were thinking or rely on drawings that may not have all the details from every angle.




2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales: Service to Seyan

Tomorrow sees the release of the Short story collection Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales. This Mouse Guard book collects my last 4 Free Comic Book Day stories as well as 2 new stories written specifically for the collection. Today I'm going to share a bit about one of those stories: Service to Seyan.
Here is the title card for Service to Seyan...and it doesn't give too much away. Longtime readers of Mouse Guard probably have some understanding of the word "Seyan" as it's referenced as some sort of afterlife for Guardmice. This story is a cautionary tale about how access to that place is granted. Show in this image, the axe & the cauldron belong to two mice who arrive at the gates of that mythic afterlife and discover what it takes to get in....or at least what it takes according to this tale.
I've designed some locations and buildings in Mouse Guard that I think are pretty grand and designs I'm proud of....but if I was going to visualize an afterlife that is sought after, I needed to up my game and really design the most glorious mouse architecture I could think of. To the left you can see my rough for the page where Seyan as a whole (or mostly) is shown all at once. Unlike me, I did this without building a model (and resisting the urge the whole time) I looked at several existing castle and citadel photos and then was heavily inspired by the grandeur Mike Mignola drew into the city of Pandemonium in Hellboy in Hell. 

However, I was only able to resist building a model for so long. Most of the story takes place at the gates of Seyan rather than inside it, so I built a model of the gatehouse. I did this after drawing the first page where it's shown, so I had to retro-model it to fit what I'd already drawn. I made a few alterations even still and ended up with this piece. It's made of a cardboard mailing tube, printed paper, chipboard, and wooden dowels left over from a piece of IKEA furniture....oh and lots of hot melt glue. 
To add some fun call back reference, I made the gatekeeper of Seyan a character from one of my favorite Legends of the Guard stories: The Battle of the Hawk's Mouse & the Fox's Mouse by Jeremy Bastian. Jeremy's story dealt with a possible backstory of the first two guardmice and the first matriarch. So who better to watch over Seyan than those two mice...and the gate keeper is one of their sons, who is all grown up, but from so long ago that he too has passed on. 

I'll leave you with one last preview of this story (the "cover").
as I tell you that not only is the hardcover Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales coming out tomorrow, but also I'm selling the original art for this story, the other new story: "Oh Day Away" as well as title pieces for a few of the existing stories and the cover to the hardcover! The original art will be posted sometime online tomorrow in the original art section my online store: http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/category/original-pages


The best way to get an instant update of when it's available is to follow me on Twitter @Mouseguard


2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NYCC Recent Commissions

This week I'm sharing the four commissions I did for the New York Comic Con as well as the rough pencils.

A Frilled Lizard race:
The fan commissioned me to do something like a neck and neck horse race, but with mice riding frilled lizards. The owner of this piece spent some time in Australia, where this species of lizard is found. He also suggested that the mice could have an Aussie look to them if I wanted, but I opted not to do anything too Paul Hogan or Monty Python "Bruce" with them.

The pencils were fairly straight forward, I didn't separate out the figures like I normally do so that I can adjust the composition digitally, I just drew it on copy paper as-is and then put it behind my bristol board and used a lightbox to see the pencils as I inked.

Swedish Mice vs a Lynx:
This request came from a fan in Sweden who was coming to NYC for the comic con. The suggestion being something with snow and a male and female mouse bundled up battling a lynx.

The setup was tricky because of the size of the lynx. Anytime someone asks for a vs piece and the other animal is larger than the mice, I have to figure out if they want tiny mice, or a severely cropped predator. I drew only half the lynx so I could mirror the facial spot pattern in Photoshop. 


A Winter Solstice Celebration:
A few years ago this commissioner had me do a Fall harvest celebration piece with Saxon, Kenzie, & Lieam. This time he asked for the same crew, but in the snow for the winter solstice and perhaps decorating a tree. I opted for it to be a pinecone for scale.

Placing each mouse so their arms would be in the right spot to light a candle and their feet were solid on something, and they weren't blocking the pinecones too much was going to be a trick, so I drew each mouse separately and then assembled the sketches in Photoshop to arrange a final composition.



Sadie & Saxon reunite with Lieam as the Black Axe:
The title pretty much sums up the request. They imagined this scene differently than it will eventually play out in the books (characters, time of year, and location all subject to change), but It's a fun try out for me to think about a moment where Lieam as the Axe is able to reconnect with his former Guardmouse pals.

The Sketch was mostly about getting Lieam's reveal pose correct and adding the fall bracken and undergrowth. Then I quickly drew a Sadie & Saxon in the lower right so that I could assemble a composition of the three in photoshop before inking the piece.



2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Baltimore Recent Commissions

This week I'll be sharing recent commissions from Baltimore (I'll post about the New York commissions in a few weeks) as well as the rough pencils.



Mice with "Balloons": The request was for a mouse couple on a bench with balloons "ala UP". I had misgivings about this suggestion because of my wanting to only draw mice as they would appear in the pages of Mouse Guard or Legends of the Guard. So I did research and included an homage to a very medieval carved bench, and then used paper lanterns that float from the hot air being trapped instead of balloons since Mouse Guard era mice would not have latex balloons or helium. 

The Sketch was rather straight forward. I drew only the one edge of the bench with plans to mirror the carved portion for the other side behind the female mouse in Photoshop. I also drew the paper lanterns all separated apart from one another so in Photoshop I could arrange them in a eye pleasing mass easily.


Guard Mice on the Charles Bridge in Prague: This commission was requested by a past patron of my work who had me do a piece based in Scotland where he and his wife were married. This time, he and his wife had traveled to Prague and thought it would be cool to see guard mice on the historic and iconic statued bridge. The mice hold a flag quartet of the four Prague medieval flags that are located over an arch at one end of the bridge.



To rough this piece out I drew the mice separately from the background, then assembled in Photoshop. Originally the one mouse only had a staff, but when I assembled the two drawings, I found a void of negative space in the upper part of the piece, so the flags were drawn in to fix the problem. 

Saxon in an oak tree:
The owner of this piece requested "a Mouse Guard in nature". I've done several of these for this person already, so consulting my list, I had not drawn Saxon for her. The oak is my favorite tree species, and I like using it as a motif for Saxon (I've linked the motif of lady bugs to Celanawe & dandelions to Rand already). 



The rough sketch was not a collage piece like many of my roughs, but just a straight forward drawing of the red-cloaked mouse amongst acorns and oak leafs. Because I knew I needed to add some tonal value and contrast to the image, I shaded in the leafs planning to crosshatch them in ink.

Mouse and Bunny:
This piece is heartwarming and tragic. The fan who commissioned this is a father who tragically lost his wife and baby. He and his remaining children had a lot of tough nights and found solace in reading together as a family. Mouse Guard was one of the book series they enjoyed. The Mouse and the bunny represent the children based on stuffed toys each of them own, and the butterfly is the spirit of their mother looking over them. 

Unfortunately I've misplaced the rough, and so I can not share it.








2014 Appearances:
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bricks of the Mouse Guard Kickstarter


The fine folks at Crazy Bricks (who make custom pieces that fit LEGO®, Kre-O®, Kubrick®, Character Building®, Si-Dan® and Friends®) and I are doing a Kickstarter for Mouse Guard pieces & custom mini-figs!

You can view the Kickstarter here for all the info about the project:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crazybricks/bricks-of-the-mouse-guard-for-your-miniature-figur


This is all in preparation for an AMAZING Mouse Guard LEGO display at the 2015 Emerald City Comic Con by Washington based ArchLUG being spearheaded by Alice Finch. Alice is the very talented Lego builder who constructed Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter. I met Alice a few years ago and we started talking about Mouse Guard Legos immediately. Well in 2015, as part of the 10 year anniversary of Mouse Guard, that is becoming a reality, not only that fans get to witness, but can also own a piece of.

The full kickstarter page has the details but the overview is that the custom pieces needed for the lego display in Seattle at Emerald City (mouse heads, custom weapons, cloaks, tankards, etc) all needed to be made special. And Guy Himber at Crazy Bricks is the man to make those. Heads, Weapons & Accessories are available via the Kickstarter now, with stretch goals of full character mini figs added "fur" colors, and other items to be unlocked as the campaign continues!


Mouse w/black axe digital render example


Mouse w/Lieam's sword digital render example

Mouse w/Kenzie's lantern staff digital render example



In addition, to the brick pieces offered as rewards, I did some new character art on 6" x 6" bristol. The originals are being offered in several reward tiers. The color pieces will be available as printed material at different stretch goal levels. Below, you can see my pencil to ink to color process for each character:



Celanawe:


Gwendolyn:

Kenzie:

Lieam:

Sadie:

Saxon:










2014 Appearances:
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

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