Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Black Axe #5 Cover Process:

A few weeks ago, I turned in the final files for Black Axe #5 to Archaia. While that is a great milestone, I know that it is much further behind schedule than everyone (Archaia, fans, & myself) would like. I'm moving ahead with Issue #6 and wanted to take this blogpost to share the cover art to #5 and my process behind it.


Em's death is explained and given meaning in issue 5, so I wanted the cover to feature her and show respect to the passing of the character. I showed a mouse funeral in Winter 1152, and for Black Axe, I wanted & needed to do something different with the ceremony. My two big visual cues came from various paintings (but mostly the one shown here) of Hamlet's Ophelia and Padme from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Celanawe, a weathered & grizzled mouse, recieved a funeral by fire. Em's more gentle nature needed something more calming, a sea/river burial. The flowers from Padme's casket-sled translated directly to this cover and the scene in the book, they also gave the ever-important mouse-scale to the imagery.

I sketched a floating Em surrounded by flower pedals (based on a daisey native to Denmark...since Denmark was an influence on the creation of the isle of Ildur). Em is holding a crow's feather, and (this isn't a spoiler) I don't explain why when it's shown in the funeral scene.Her kinship with birds gives Celanawe & Conrad the idea to send her off with a feather Once I had a floating Em sketched, I didn't need to do much more drawing since most of the work of this cover was going to be in the trick of getting transparent water on the submerged items & making the surrounding water interesting.

I scanned the sketch, made some resizing adjustments and then printed it out in-scale with the final cover art dimensions. Using a lightbox to see my printout as a guide, I inked in the figure of Em and the flowers. There wasn't much need to shade or render anything on this cover, so it looks a bit stark in comparison to some of the past covers. To get some transparency for the water's flow I inked water-ripple lines on an overlay sheet (using the lighbox so I could keep the lines in registration with the cover art). The lines shown here are pink only for illustrative purposes for the blog, they are black on the real overlay sheet. Having them on separate paper makes it easier for me when coloring to isolate and manipulate those lines.

Last step was coloring. The color choice for the water was directly related to the color of Em's dress. I wanted to take advantage of a blue/orange contrast and used a muted blue green that still played off of Em's muted red-orange dress. I set the water overlay lines on a layer which has some transparency to it. This allows the ink and color work underneath those lines to be seen. To get the parts of Em, her dress, and the flowers that are submerged to look so, I made a photoshop layer to affect those areas and desaturate, tint, and darken them.

Fan Art:
This piece comes from Kal Siagian who writes:

I did this fanart to get a laugh out of my friends who play kendo (Japanese fencing)...Adapting the helmet to the mouse head shapes was surprisingly tricky, and there was so much going on behind the mice with tails and armor cords that the cloaks were just too much, so I moved the identifying cloak colors to the plate of their torso protectors.
I wrote Kal back saying that the attention to detail with the costume is much more interesting than a guard's standard cloak. Well done Kal!

2012 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 11-15
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept 8-9
New York Comic Con: Oct 11-14
Detroit Fanfare: Oct 26-28
Thought Bubble: Nov 17-18


Anonymous said...

David, how does one go about sending you fan art? Do people scan and email art to you, or can you send anything snail mail? Is there an address or email address we can send fan art?

DPetersen said...

You can either scan & email, or send it snail mail to the address under the contact section of mouseguard.net

Peter Robbins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Robbins said...

Awesome fan pic. And they got the length of the "Men Himo" (the cords leading off the helment) properly drawn too! (yes, I practice Kendo). They even got the proper "bend" of the Shinai (bamboo sword) properly drawn. Very nice.

k siagian said...

Peter Robbins: I've been told the left hand is too high, though. :P

Peter Robbins said...

About an inch or so (in scale), but darnit, everything else looks good :)

Peter Robbins said...

Hey. At least you didn't do this to the 'art' of Kendo:

MK Buike said...

On the subject of mouse armor.... did you see this?


Such tiny, delicate work that mice could never wear, even if you could get them to hold still!

Katie Timko Bath said...

I have the "Ophelia" in mythe living room. When I first saw your beautiful rendering of Em, I was very much reminded of it. Classic, elegant work. Bravo!

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