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:

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:







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 14, 2014

Thanatos Diver Variant Cover

Pals and Legends of the Guard Vol 2 contributors Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn have a new ongoing comic coming out in October from Th3rd World publishing called THANATOS DIVER. They asked me to contribute a variant cover for issue 1 (I believe Jeremy Bastian is also doing a variant for this series). And so this week I'll be sharing my cover and a few steps of the process to get the final product.

Thanatos Diver is about a young woman who is an underwater salvager in her mini submarine around the island she lives on...and it leads to underwater and island hopping adventures, which may or may not involve the mysterious Thanatos Diver himself.

Alex's designs for this comic are a bit different than his past work. He's doing something more colorful, more all-ages, and more animated in style. Obviously I'd need to reference his concepts for the Submarine, but I didn't know quite how to approach drawing the main character. I don't draw young women very often, so I don't have a go-to style for doing that. And I didn't just want to copy what Alex was doing with her. So I opted to take the spirit of the design (all-ages, anime-like, playful) and work with my interpretation of that. (I've covered the topic of how I approach drawing other people's characters in two past blogposts Part 1 & Part 2)

Here is my rough/pencils for the piece. I drew the sub, the main character Sam, and the background (complete with glowy ring) all on separate pieces of copy paper and then assembled them in photoshop. I quickly added temp colors and effects so I could get a better idea of how I needed to ink the final piece keeping in mind those effects and potential color-holds. In my original sketches here I had a heads-up display view screen of her salvaging rival. I also left the sea floor debris to add in the end. I was going to play with the printed out version of this for how much junk to add and/or if I needed fish & crabs to populate the cover as well.

This digital composite of my sketches was then printed out so I could start the inking.

I taped that printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore birstol. On my lightbox, I was able to ink the piece using the printout as a guide instead of redrawing it or using any pencil on my bristol surface (though I did rough out some of the sea junk in pencil as I went. I tried to add some of my sense of detail to the ship (rivets, vents, joints, etc.) but not too much, since I didn't want it to stylistically look too dissimilar from Sam. I was able to push the background elements though. With Mouse Guard I find that I can streamline and simplify the characters and action, but the more realistically I render/design the environments the more believable the characters are. I applied the same logic here, giving the sub and sam a sense of movement and whimsy, but grounding their adventure in a real-ish place.

Here again is the finished cover art. A lot of the color design work was done for me in the comic, so I just needed to apply it to my work and make subtle shifts so it worked as a cohesive piece. This cover is a bit special effects heavy compared to other covers of mine. I added color holds and effects to make the glowy-ring look like something, to the headlights to not just make the lamps glow, but simulate the beams they throw underwater, and to the glass bubble to make Sam look like she's inside her craft, and to the bubble stream to soften them up and make them look like sea-froth. 

Look for my cover on Issue 1 of Thanatos Diver in November

2014 Appearances:
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2
2015 appearances to be announced shortly

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mouse Guard Plush!

Israel Skelton of Skelton Crew Studios and I were chatting after the release of his Chog plush from the comic CHEW. I mentioned how I really liked how that piece turned out and lamented that the plush of Lieam that was released in 2007 from Diamond Select toys was the only one they made before dropping the license. We decided to add new Plush Mouse Guard items to the Skelton Crew line! I worked up the rough sketch to the left to illustrate the proportions and color changes & embroidery changes could easily make most of the Mouse Guard characters.

Tomorrow Skelton Crew will start taking pre-orders for the first two Guardmice in the line: Kenzie & Saxon! I was involved with adjusting photos of prototypes until the manufacturer produced what Issy and I were going for. The two photographed here are physical versions I have in my studio, and a really great and quality pieces. They are 6" from butt to crown of the head. The butt is weighted with beanbag so they want to sit on your shelf, however a doll stand could be used to have them standing in your home display.

This link will have the plush items listed for pre-order tomorrow: http://skeltoncrewstudio.bigcartel.com/category/mouse-guard

And Saxon and Kenzie are only the first two in what should be a great series of plush mice. And we hope to have a prototype ready for production on another two mice in January of next year!


The Skelton Crew mouse-scale weapon replica of Lieam's sword will be availble for pre-order at that same link!!!

It features a 2 tone plating and a thread-wrapped grip.

Pre-order it here:

But wait...there's MORE!?!?!

Israel is also at work on more Mouse Guard items!!

He recently sent me this prototype work-in-progress photo of the head of Gwendolyn's pike axe (which will have a braided wooden handle when completed) The head was sculpted by John Thompson, and will be further worked on by Israel once the first metal casting is made. 

A very difficult and complicated project is still underway: The Baldwin the Brave Marionette! This will be a functional marionette of the title character in the story "Baldwin the Brave" (which is being released in hardcover format November 5th). The original sculpt was something I did to use as reference for drawing the story, but Israel has gone in and added Baldwin's specific details and cleaned up the piece so that it will cast nicely. We are *fingers crossed* looking to a pre-order date in late November on this with units shipping after the new year.

All of these items will be available in the Skelton Crew Online Store along with replicas and items from Locke & Key, Chew, & Hellboy.

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


On the Mouse Guard site: mouseguard.net there has long been a FAQ page that says 'coming soon'. Well...I finally got around to getting it all typed up. Here's the most Frequently Asked Questions & their Answers:

In what order should the Mouse Guard books be read?

In the main Mouse Guard series, the first book is Fall 1152, and is followed by Winter 1152, and then the prequel book The Black Axe 3rd. The Legends of the Guard volumes are spinoff anthologies where David asked guest artists to tell the tall tales and legends of the Mouse Guard world. The anthologies can be read at any point and in any order, but the Mouse Guard books are meant to be read in order (though fans have said they happened to start with a later book and went back to find it worked for them without ruining the story.)

What age range is Mouse Guard intended?

Mouse Guard is a true all-ages book. There are just as many children fans of the series as there are adult fans. For sake of labeling, the publisher has classified it as “8 and up”, though there are fans of Mouse Guard younger than that. While Mouse Guard deals with serious ideas of loyalty, danger, love, and death, David doesn’t do gore-for-gore’s sake illustration, and focuses more on the weight of those events rather than the spectacle of them. Some vocabulary may be over the heads of younger readers, but none of it is inappropriate for them and David likes to think children will rise to the occasion of being challenged and either learn new words and meanings through context or by asking an adult for help.

How long has Mouse Guard been around?

In May of 2005 David self-published the first issue of Mouse Guard at the Motor City Comic Con (This was a black and white version of what became the first chapter in Fall). In 2006 Archaia started publishing and releasing color Mouse Guard issues & books. The idea for the Mouse Guard goes back to David’s early college days in 1996 when he first drew Saxon, Kenzie, and Rand.

Where can I purchase Mouse Guard books?

Mouse Guard books are available at your local comic shop or bookseller, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the BOOM! online store. Mouse Guard books can also be purchased through BOOM!/Archaia or David at conventions.

Why mice?

David loves animal stories and set out to make one that was as epic as the Dungeons and Dragons adventures he played when younger. For David, mice became a perfect representation of being an underdog, having the world stacked against you, and having enemies with all the advantages of size and might.

Why don’t the other animals in Mouse Guard speak or wear clothes?

Just because the other animals don’t wear clothing, or aren’t shown to have castles or swords, don’t think they don’t have a language, history and culture all their own. When Europeans first encountered Native Americans, they thought them primitive savages. But nothing could be further from the truth…and the same is true of the foxes, snakes, crabs, and wolves of Mouse Guard…the mice are just to mouse-centric to learn the subtleties of their culture and language (Though a few mice have taught themselves to speak to beasts).

How do you pronounce the names “Lieam” and “Celanawe”?

“Lieam" is pronounced just like “Liam”. David misspelled the name in his ealiest notes for Mouse Guard and liked how it looked after he discovered the mistake and decided to keep it.

“Celanawe” is pronounced “Khel-eN-awe”

Is there a Mouse Guard movie in the works?

David has spoken to several producers, agents, and studios over the years, and while there has been talk. no movie deal has been made. David wants a Mouse Guard movie to be done correctly, adding more depth and detail to his world, keeping the all-ages weight of the stories, and not losing sight of the source material. This would be a CG mouse movie, so that the detail of fur and lighting, and cloth, etc could be exploited to go beyond what David already does in the comics and make the story all the more believable.

Recently David has been talking to a studio who wants to do all those things. When/if something happens, an announcement will be made.

How do I purchase original art from Mouse Guard?

The day an issue or collection of Mouse Guard goes on sale, the artwork for it goes up for sale in the Mouse Guard online store: http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com

This is on a first-come-first-served basis and work can not be reserved or held in advance.

How do I get my Mouse Guard books signed?

David signs books at conventions or other appearance. He does not have a limit to the number of books he will sign for you, but if he’s signed one of every book and there is a line, he will ask you to step to the back of the line and let other people get a chance before he signs multiples.

Does David charge for signatures?

No. There is never any charge for signatures.

Can I mail you my book to be signed?

No. Unfortunately, we had nothing but bad luck with mail-in books and we will no longer accept them. Please do not ship us any books, issues, or memorabilia you wish to have returned.

Does David do commissions?

David takes a limited number of commissions before most conventions he attends. He offers them up as pre-order items in his online store: http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com about a week before he’s attending a show where he’ll offer commissions. The pieces MUST be picked up at the show. The pieces are inked 7” x 7” pieces on 12” x 12” bristol with the detail level of a finished Mouse Guard page and cost $500. Subject matter requests are honored at David’s discretion. 

However, David will always do a quick doodle or head sketch for you at a convention for free in your sketchbook.

Will David design a tattoo for me?

No. David is honored by the request, but the pressure of drawing something he knows will be tattooed on you forever is too daunting for him. He encourages you to use your favorite previously published Mouse Guard image to use for your tattoo. 
How do I book David for my convention/event?

David’s schedule is booked pretty far in advance at any given time, and he has several must-attend events throughout the year. To ask about booking for your event email ericebon (at) hotmail (dot) com attn: Julia:Convention

Will David look at my work/portfolio?

If you catch David at a convention or appearance where there is not too long of a line, he will review and advise you on your portfolio. He has done a blogpost about reviews here: http://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2014/01/critiques-portfolio-reviews.html 

What paper, pencil, pens, etc. does David use for Mouse Guard?

Paper: copy paper for roughs, Strathmore 300 series bristol for pages & covers
Pencil: Y&C Grip500 0.5mm mechanical pencil with HB lead
Eraser: Kneaded earaser for large work, Papermate Tuff Stuff eraser stick for small work
Pens: Copic Multi Liner pens, the 0.3 & 0.7 nibs mainly.
Color: Mouse Guard is colored & lettered in Photoshop CS5 on an iMac

For more on David’s process, follow David’s weekly blog: http://davidpetersen.blogspot.com

Can I make & sell/distribute fan made Mouse Guard work/items?

Fan Art and one-of-a-kind pieces (commissions, gifts, etc) are perfectly ok and David is flattered by seeing your passion for making them. David does not give permission for anything that is produced in a quantity of more than one (prints, printed sketchbook content, models, figures, game aides, etc) even if offered for free.

Can I get a story into a Legends of the Guard volume?

David handpicks the creators for his Legends anthology books. He chooses folks he knows the work of and trusts in his Mouse Guard sandbox. Please do not ask to you can be included, it places David a a position to perhaps have to say “no”. If David is interested, he will contact you.

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The end of Watercolor Wednesday

Watercolor Wednesday:
Last week I released the digital collection of my year long experiment of producing and selling small whimsical watercolor paintings (You can purchase the PDF here for just $5!: http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/watercolor-wednesday-digital-collection) But to add to that collection, last Wednesday I released 19 new paintings. That burst if the foreseeable end of Watercolor Wednesdays (though in a few years I may come back to it) So I wanted to share all those new pieces here with you this week.

Dikensian fish:
Animals in hats. It's a fun subject to paint...but this time instead of fur or feather beasts...I went with fish. And for their choices in hats and props, I leaned them towards the personalities of Holmes, Watson, and some other chap they might investigate. These were painted while I was doing a school visit in Hawaii.
Trout Sleuth: 7" x 3.25"

Chinook Gambler: 7.5" x 3.5"

Bass Roustabout 7" x 3.25"

Decorative Curios:
Giving interest to the mundane can be done just by dedicating a focus to the thing. For the 2012-2013 Watercolor Wednesdays I painted a lot of objects like scissors, a phone, a spigot, etc. These two pieces would fit into that category. Originally I was going to do a set of silverware, but opted to just do the fork. I toyed with the background color, originally it was a rusty red-brown, but I thought it was too much, so I toned it down with a lot of Payne's Grey. The soldier was just fun. I may have thought I'd do more antique kids toys...but I didn't. As a fun side note, we were still potty & puppy training Bronwyn when I painted these, and she managed to knock them (and a few others) off the table with her long curled tail as she walked by the table. She then chewed a bit on the solider, & teethmarks are still visible. 

Decorative Fork: 3.5" x 6"

 Toy Soldier: 3.5" x 6"
I'm bunching these two pieces together because I think of them as "realistic Fairy-folk" instead of the more caricature-ish pieces I'll show nest. I enjoy painting greenmen, and I saw a lot of variations of them carved into furniture and cast into objects when I worked at Materials Unlimited. These two paintings were done on an RV trip in Maine in late 2013.  

Halfling Lanternkeeper: 7" x 3.5"

Greenman: 3.5" x 7"

These two pieces were all about playing with shapes to give me more freedom to make interesting charaters instead of pushing for realism. when drawing & painting Uncle Jartholomew Q. Dud, I had in mind the idea of a cast of characters from a board game like "Clue" or "Kill Doctor Lucky", however, I never did more than Uncle Dud. The Banker I think was subtley influenced by one of the portraits for the Ticket to Ride game app.

Uncle Jartholomew Q. Dud: 3.5" x 5"

Fey Banker: 4.5" x 7"

These were an experiment from when I was getting ready to start selling my AP copies of my Brave poster from Mondo. Because I didn't want to do a drawing on the poster and blemish the printing, I opted to do little watercolor studies. I thought I'd try for a few of the wisps that lead Merida. These fell short of what I wanted for that project, but I added a lot of white gel pen to make them look more space-y
4 Nebulas: 4" x 4" each

Royal Fowl:
Animals in hats again. Painted while in Hawaii on that school visit,. The house we stayed in had wild quail running around in the yard. Then to not repeat the hat types I'd already done in past watercolors (top hats, bowlers, beanies, caps, deer stalkers, etc...) I gave him a crown and decided to fill out the royal court with other game birds.

Pheasant King: 5" x 4"

Quail Prince: 4" x 5"

Turkey Queen: 4" x 8"

Back to objects again...and keys again. In the first batch of Watercolor Wednesday paintings, I'd done 3 other keys: Faith, Hope, & Charity. This time (hoping I wasn't treading on Locke & Key territory too much) I went with Happiness, Peace, & Love. 

Happiness Key: 3.5" x 6"

Peace Key: 3.5" x 6"

Love Key: 3.5" x 6"

You can purchase a digital collection of the Watercolor Wednesday project in my online store. $5 gets you a DRM-free 90 page digital book of the year long project of whimsical paintings:

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

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