For the last four days Julia and I have been visiting at my Dad & his wife's place in Ludington, MI. Ludington has long been a wellspring of inspiration for me and has served as a reference point for a great deal of Mouse Guard artwork & locations. I went for a walk yesterday along one of my favorite paths up on a wooded bluff that occasionally overlooks Lake Michigan. These photos I took then will be added to a folder at home I use to recharge the creative spark when working on my books. I wanted to share this place with my blog readers.
I love seeing these critter holes and imagining what kind of houses they would build if these were their front entryways. I suppose the tall grass acts like what would be a decorative tree or bush outside a human home.
Here is another one of those openings that could serve as a gate to a hidden city of mice, or chipmunks, or voles. I love the lumpy and organic shapes trees can have, and it's fun to imagine how that could effect the shape of the inner dwelling.
I did a spot illustration trying to capture the feel of looking up at light dancing through a canopy of leaves in the RPG hardcover. It looked odd in black & white, but started to resemble a leafy light filter when I gave it some color.
Using focused bits of nature like this not only help me set the mood and atmosphere of Mouse Guard, but it also sets up the idea of scale...instead of showing a full forest floor, I can show the details of a few berries and leaves so the audience starts to think in terms of mouse-size.
In this photo overlooking the bluff & lake, I tried to show the inspiration for the shift from water to sand to grass to dark tree cover in Black Axe issue 1 when Celanawe leads Em away from the shoreline.
Like the berries above, these mushrooms shown from the undersize go a long way to explain scale and point of view. I also think mushrooms are just visually cool.
Erroded sand has left half of this tree's root system exposed. This path is littered with them and they always remind me of Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. Not only is the setting pretty well suited for the hobbits to use this as a hiding place when they are hunted, but also the dark exploring finger-ey roots remind me of the wraiths themselves. I set Celanawe & Em's own hiding place here in Black Axe 1.
Lastly, because I'm a texture & pattern guy I like focusing on things like bark.
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of the place I retreat to when I need to get back to the soul of childhood exploration and wonder. I camped near there when I was a kid, swam right in those waves since I was three, read the first Harry Potter book to Julia outside the woods there, proposed to Julia on the beach, and have been making wonderful new memories with my nieces the past few years. It's special to me and I hope you enjoyed my indulgence in sharing it with you.
NEXT week I'll do part 2 of the Darkheather models
New York Comic Con: Oct. 13-16
London Super Con: Feb 25-26
Emerald City: March 30-April 1
Boston Comic Con: April 21-22