Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Beneath the Dark Crystal #9 Cover Process

Here is my ninth variant cover for Archaia's Beneath the Dark Crystal series!


This cover features UrAmaj the Mystic Cook and skekAyuk the Skeksis Gourmand. Like my other covers these two are the counterparts of each other and paired together facing opposite directions. To the left you can see the finished artwork for the cover, but below I'll walk through the steps I took to to get there.



The first step was to draw each character in profile. I draw the characters on separate pieces of copy paper to help me arrange, position and re-size them into an overall composition. I was able to use reference photos from the original production from Henson to help me figure out all the details on the characters and their costumes. When I scanned the drawings into photoshop, I tinted each drawing a different color to help me see where one character ended and the next began.

The background circle pattern is my redrawing of a Brian Froud design found in the World of the Dark Crystal art book.


Henson and Archaia had to approve the above layout before I could start inking the cover. Luckily, they've both been great about green-lighting my Dark Crystal work so-far (knock on wood for the rest of the cover run). When the approval came through, I printed out the above layout onto copy paper, and then taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol.
On a lightpad I can ink on the surface of the bristol while still being able to see the layout underneath.

I used Copic Multiliner pens to do the inks focusing on how to play with line size and texture to get all those costume and fabric details to still read to the viewer's eye.


After the inks were approved I scanned them and started the coloring process known as 'flatting'. This is where flat colors are drawn in digitally to establish what areas of the image and the figures are which colors. A lot of the color choices were established by the reference photos, but I still handpicked the colors so that I could make some hue and value choices to get a better cohesive palate for the cover as a whole.


I only needed to establish one color hold (where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black) on this piece, and that was for the background pattern.



The final step was to render the colors using the dodge and burn tools (and a stock photoshop brush that adds texture) to add highlights, shadows, and texture to the colors.

At this stage I also dropped in another Froud-design that I inked as a ghostly overlay like the other covers in this series.

With this cover done, that leaves 3 to go!




2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)

Emerald City Comic Con March 14-17
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mouse Guard Creator Commentary: Winter #5

I've made a Creator Commentary video for the fifth issue/chapter of Mouse Guard Winter 1152!  Please feel free to follow along in your copy of the story in either issue form of from 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 link to watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Qcpr4yYGkiA



2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)


Heroes Con June 14-16
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

2019 Limited Edition Print 'TEASEL' process

For the past 8 years I've been making a limited edition 11" x 11" print that I sell at conventions and in my online store. The prints are signed and numbered (to an edition of 300) and are meant to depict something 'pretty' from the world of Mouse Guard (an edict Julia gave me in 2012 that I've listened to ever since. I tend to name the print not after the mouse depicted, but of the flora that makes up the background.

This print, titled 'Teasel' will be released at Emerald City Comic Con next week. Below are the steps I took to create the piece.



I drew the mouse in pencil on a sheet of copy paper. But since I wanted to be able to adjust her size to the background drawing and the moth, I just roughed in those elements in that drawing.

On another sheet of copy paper, I then drew more detailed versions of the moth and the teasel with some photo reference as a guide. The warhammer was also going to need to be resized and shifted around in the final composition, so I included that on the teasel/moth sheet of paper off to the side.



I think now's a good time to talk about the inspiration for these visuals. 1) I've been reading a webcomic by Minna Sundberg called 'Stand Still Stay Silent'.  Minna is Finnish and her series is set in Scandinavia and explores the languages, lore, religion, and clulture of those countries. I also love the blue/orange/brown/blush palate that often shows up in her work. 2) On our couch here at home, we have a comfy throw-blanket with a semi Norwegian patterning in a color scheme that fit feeling I was going for...and lastly the prickly burred dried plant called teasel felt like just the right visual as well as color to anchor a new Mouse Guard print and tie together the other inspirations.

So, with the pencil drawings I had on separate sheets of copy paper, I assembled a digital composition from the scans. This made it easy to reposition and rotate certain elements (like the mouse's head, the warhammer, the moth, the teasel) without having to carefully cut away from the objects around them. In Photoshop I tinted each thing a different color, and then added some stock Norwegian sweater designs to her cloak and hat. To help the illusion that the patterns are conforming to the flow and curves of the clothing, I used the warp and puppet warp tools in Photoshop to distort them believably enough.


With a printout of the above digitally corrected & layered composition taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol, I could ink the piece on a lightpad. I used a 0.7 nib Copic Multiliner pen to do my inks.

I inked most of this piece live on my twitch channel. But I did stop to ink the Norwegian pattern on the cloak off-stream after I thought about how to approach it. I debated over doing something solid black and having to avoid the contour lines of the folds and outer edge of the cloak (so I could easily isolate those areas for a color hold), or if I should do loose outlines...in the end I decided on a dark fur-like texture that I could feather as I approached the contour lines so the pattern didn't look so much like a stencil.


Once the inks were scanned in, I started the coloring process of adding in the flat colors digitally. I used a 6 color palette (3 warm browns, 3 muted blues) that I generated from looking at the throw-blanket. I did 2 different flat versions of the piece before I decided on the final base colors and where they should be placed. (I ended up going with the one on the right)



The final piece was then digitally rendered using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to add shadows and highlights. There are some instances where I painted in some colors or lassoed an area and adjusted the color balance to warm up the corner of the sky, make her nose more pink, and get some individual teasel burs to stand out.



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Past year's 11' x 11" limited print process blogposts:

2012: "Peacock":


2013: "Raspberry":


2014: "Moonflower":


2015: "Lavender":


2016: "Juniper":


2017: "Rose":


2018: "Elderberry":








2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)

Emerald City Comic Con March 14-17
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

2019 Mouse Guard Bookplate Process

Every year since 2012 I've been creating a Mouse Guard bookplate (at the bottom of the post you can see other past year's bookplates and links to blogposts about them). The idea is that, with these signed by me, even if you can't bring me your physical copy of a Mouse Guard book, this bookplate can be glued in making your copy signed.

I'll have the bookplate at my 2018 conventions and in my online store soon after Emerald City Comic Con. For this blogpost, I wanted to go through the process to create the bookplate image.



For this year's Bookplate I took an unfinished drawing of a mouse playing a lute and tightened up the linework by tracing over the old piece on a light pad. I then did a quick color study in Photoshop, and added in medieval sheet music and the Mouse Guard shield emblem (soon to be an enamel pin!).

But as each year's bookplate art is created in some alternate medium like woodcut, stained glass, embroidery, etc (whether done in real life or digitally synthesized), I needed to do something unique with this piece. And I decided to paint it in gouache!.

I have to give a HUGE thanks to Tony DiTerlizzi for inspiring me to do this, as well as generously giving me his time and information over a phone call where he walked me through materials, tricks, techniques, and pitfalls (we also got to talk D&D and golden-age illustrators). Below are the steps I followed:


Using my lightpad, I transferred the drawing in a dark brown color pencil to Strathmore 4-ply smooth bristol board. More than just trace the outlines, I added a bit of tone and sketch texture...but not too much (My first attempt at this piece ended up in me tearing up the painting partly because I'd overworked the color pencil drawing at this stage)


I then mixed up a very wet and milky wash of unbleached titanium white acrylic paint to coat the drawing. This makes the working area all a little bit more parchment colored and gives a tonal base to work off of, much like when I work on toned paper. It also seals in the color pencil and gives the acryla-gouache something to bite onto.


With various mixes of browns, blacks, and blue, I mixed up some tonal base colors to start putting in my overall value scheme for the piece. Because the gouache I was using was acrylic base, once this is dry, I can paint over it without worrying it will lift color and turn to mud when I do the next coat.


Working back to front, I got all the musical notes and the staff lines and the shield painted in their correct color scheme. With the reds and yellows out I also mixed up the skin tones for the paws, tail, nose, and ears.


I then kept building up my color tones and getting the values closer


I was getting very close here, and even stopped to take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes. And after I took this photo with my phone, I happened to do a quick filter on it to change it to b&w...and I could see where the dark values needed to be pushed further...


And finally the finished image scanned and signed.



Past year's bookplates & process blogposts:
2012:



2013:


2014:


2015:


2016:

2017:

2018:





2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)

Emerald City Comic Con March 14-17
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Beneath the Dark Crystal #8 Cover Process

Here is my eighth variant cover for Archaia's Beneath the Dark Crystal series!


This cover features UrNol the Mystic Herbalist (sometimes referred to as the Hunter) and skekNa the Skeksis Slave Master. Like my other covers these two are the counterparts of each other and paired together facing opposite directions. To the left you can see the finished artwork for the cover, but below I'll walk through the steps I took to to get there.



I started by drawing the two characters on separate sheets of copy paper. As each character was missing the same eye, I had to decide which character was more visually interesting showing their patch than the other, that would not only determine which way they faced, but as I alternate the directions of the mystics and skeksis on each cover, where it would fall in the issue numbering. I opted to show the patch of skekNa. Using reference provided by Henson, I was able to draw the two and then scan them into Photoshop and place them in a template for the cover. I tinted each character to help me see what lines were associated with which figure.



When Henson & Archaia approved the layout, I printed it out on copy paper and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. using a lightpad, I can see through the surface of the bristol to use the printout as a guide to ink from. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens to inks with. Mostly using the 0.7 nib and swapping it out for the 0.3 for some of the finer details on their faces.

These characters had a little less texture detail than some of the other covers I've done in their series, so while I still had to do some work in the inks to make the forms have some tonal definition, this cover went quicker than the others to ink.


The next step, after the inks were approved, were to start coloring the cover. That first step is called 'flatting' where flat un-rendered colors are placed in digitally. The idea is to establish what parts of the characters are what colors, and where those colors change. It's like a professional version of coloring within the lines.

At this point I also established some color-holds, where I want the inklines to be a color other than black. For this cover those were for the background design and the chains on the shoulder of the skeksis.



When the flats are established (no need to submit for approvals at that stage), the more exciting part of adding shading highlights and texture to the colors is at hand. To do that I pretty exclusively use the dodge & burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush.

Like the other covers in this series, I drop in an inked Froudian pattern overtop of the whole image as a ghostly symbol.

4 more covers to go!



2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)

Emerald City Comic Con March 14-17
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20





Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mouse Guard Creator Commentary: Winter #4

I've made a Creator Commentary video for the fourth issue/chapter of Mouse Guard Winter 1152!  Please feel free to follow along in your copy of the story in either issue form of from 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 link to watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/zVw9YRnbG5U



2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)
Heroes Con June 14-16
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Fan Art

I love that fans of the Mouse Guard books and the RPG create artwork of the existing characters and moments from the comic and their player characters and moments from their campaigns. So for this post, I wanted to share as much of it as I could and celebrate the artistic side of Mouse Guard fandom. (See past Fan Art Blogposts here)


Josh Henson





Christopher Richard

Daniel Silva






David Cuerrier


Joe Bayhe


Diletta Magretti


Donnie Chase



Ethan Hudgens





Sammy as Celanawe


Rhomni as Sienna

Elizabeth McCann

Jack

Lucy

Saxon & Sadie Halloween cosplay




Jared Blumberg





Kevin Owen


Lee Summers


Lulu Padilla







Randall Oakes

Scott Suarez





Wyndham Welch


София Луковникова



Kelly Sparks Salchi

Lucia Nanni


Miles Stock


Miles Stock (after Mignola)


Neil Schultz


Sondilyn Hollis




2019 Convention Appearances
(more may be announced)

Emerald City Comic Con March 14-17
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

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