Shane-Michael Vidaurri and I met several years ago at the New York Comic con. He was an illustrator who was starting to dabble in sequential storytelling. I really liked what he was doing with watercolor washes and subtle pacing. We have since stayed in touch and his first book is due out from Archaia this summer: Iron, or the War After. Shane asked me to do a pinup for the collection.
Shane contributed a pinup to Mouse Guard (which will be seen in Black Axe #5) and this piece was to balance the exchange. I like how he frequently uses inset panels, open space, and muted colors. So I intended to emulate these methods into my piece for him. He specifically asked for the Officer Tiger character, Engel. Using the first chapter's imagery, I honed in on one page from the book showing Engel in his office, uniform jacket removed, suspenders showing, with his important documents and intercom-radio on his desk.
I started with a sketch or two in my sketchbook (the tiger's head was drawn on a different page and at a different scale while looking at photo reference). The sketches were assembled and adjusted in photoshop. Some of the details didn't fit into the frame (like the radio or the desk papers) the way I originally drew it, so I sliced up the image and moved bits where they needed to be for this final composition. The inset panel was saved for me to draw a tree branch in ink, and the wall paper pattern was pasted together off of a sampling of a pattern from a historic wallpaper company.
Using a printed version of the digitally adjusted layout above, I inked the final art on bristol board using a light box to see my layout as a guide. Instead of just digitally inserting the wallpaper texture, I wanted to hand ink every little bit of the pattern. This allowed me to make subtle wear marks or differences between them so that in the end, the image doesn't look hand drawn with a computer generated/pasted pattern laying on top of it. The hand inking makes it all cohesive.
Scanning the image I layed in my flat colors. This is where I establish the color areas: his face & arms being a different color from his shirt, also different from the pants, and the wall...and where all those colors start and stop. I forgot to mention above that the pocket watch was something I added to give the character an interesting pose and also to suggest something about his character...a man who believes in rules and following them. Turns out Shane liked this character detail and incorporated it into the later chapters of the book.
After my flats were established (and we took time for the pocket watch segue) I rendered the image. To add the highlights and shadows I use the dodge (lightens) & burn (darkens) tools in photoshop. The color holds on the wallpaper and the tree branch were color tweaked and rendered as well. It was a pleasure to do this pinup, not only because of knowing shane, and it being for our mutual publisher, but also because it's an interesting animal story, where the animal species are cues to the reader about what type of personality that character has, and I would love to read more stories like that.
S.M. Viduarri's Mouse Guard pinup2012 Appearances:
Heroes: June 22-24
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