Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Inspiration photos:
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

Upcoming Appearances:
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


scruffy said...

interesting. i went for a walk last week and thought, "i love the artwork in Mouse Guard but i felt like it didn't always capture how the world must look when one is only a few inches tall. It's almost too familiar at times." i put my camera on the ground in a few provocative places and snapped some cool shots i would love to work into some fan art.

Denver Brubaker said...

I'm jealous David! I never made it up there that much this Summer...bummer. Great pics from a beautiful place--the relationship from them to MG is obvious in your artwork! Bravo!

Dave said...

Great. I spent a lot of time photographing in Pentwater and Ludington myself.
My dad got me into taking pictures and he had a technique you may want to try.
To photograph mushroom,little ferns and the like he carries a small mirror about 4 inches square. He lays the mirror on the forest floor near the mushrooms and photographs the reflection looking up under the plant. When you look at his pictures it gives the impression you are standing under the mushrooms. Just like you are a little mouse.

Keep up the interesting work,

Max West said...

I do make use of photos and plein air sketches I make of trees, branches, logs, and rock formations that I find on my trips.

That's why it's good to get inspiration and reference from nature. Many people will draw a tree as being perfectly straight - in nature, that is rare. So many forces are working against perfectly straight trees.

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