This is the last of my 4 Turtle covers for IDW (though I may do some more TMNT covers & work for them in the future). I had a melancholy feeling as I was working on this one. Bittersweet to be getting the chance to draw the Turtles (something I only dreamed of doing as far back as age 11) while at the same time finishing the job (at that point I didn't know if I was going to get the opportunity to do any more). To show Leo's commitment to his "work" I thought it would be good to show him in a rotten alley full of garbage. Someplace that would be uncomfortable for him, not only because he is above ground where he could be seen, but someplace even filthier than his sewer home.
The piece started with two sketches in my sketchbook that I compiled in photoshop. One was of Leo, the other the alley. I found a photo online to use as reference for the details of buildings and fire escapes and ladders and clothes lines and sketched it out with omissions and the addition of trash (though you can see I added quite a bit more in the final art). The section missing out of Leo's leg and his one sword were altered in photoshop. The sketch was a bit off (his one leg was too short and his sword was at the wrong angle and making an unfortunate tangent line with his head). The sewer cover I lightboxed from a photo of a NYC manhole cover I distorted in photoshop to match the angle and perspective of the alley.
The folks at Nickelodeon, who have approval over the comic line, were worried about the background seeming boring (they were also the ones to point out the tangent between the sword and Leo's head). To hedge my bets with them I added a great deal more trash to the alley. I filled up both sides and made some of the items recognizable (like a small mattress or couch cushion, florescent light bulbs, garbage bags, a pallet, & fruit crates) while making the rest of the bulk just shapes that are obviously junk. This was all done in the inking stage.
I also thought the scene would have more intensity (and make Leo more miserable) if it was raining. I placed my finished inked linework on my lighbox with a sheet of drawing paper over top. On the drawing paper I inked in rain falling, splashing, and running down the various objects in the alley. The inked rain is later scanned and adjusted to become semi-transparent light colored rain in the color file. This is the same method I use when creating rain and snow in Mouse Guard.
With the inked work scanned, I started flatting in the shapes. Flatting is the part of coloring where you distinguish color areas from one another: the green of his skin stops at the edges of his body, the red bandanna is different from his eye color, etc.. I have said in the past that the color choices are not even important, and here I used the wrong colors as I was flatting the garbage on purpose. Using these garish colors it's easier for me to see as I'm going that I have all those bits differentiated from one another and that I didn't miss any or that I didn't color outside the lines.
The final color art is ready when I have done all the textures and shading and highlights. I've color corrected all the color choices, and dropped in the rain overlay.
London Super Con: Feb 25-26
Forbidden Planet London signing: March 1
Emerald City: March 30-April 1