This year's Free Comic Book Day offering by Archaia will be an 8" x 8" flipbook (like years 2010 & 2011). My contribution is a Mouse Guard cover for one side and an 8 page story. I had teased a bit of working on this on Twitter, but was told that Archaia preferred to keep it hush-hush until their official announcement last week.
This year's story of mine will follow the tradition of the last two: a morality tale being told to a younger version of a character we know from the Mouse Guard series that helps explain who they grew up to be. Sadie is the mouse who will hear a story this year.
I don't want to give too much away about the story itself, so I'll skip over that and just say that I had a picture in my head of a beautiful mouse swinging carefree on a swing held by a goose. I looked at the Rococo painting Fragonard's "The Swing" (or "The Happy Accidents of the Swing") for inspiration and to help me imagine the correct body language for the swinging mouse. I sketched the swinger, the goose, and the viewing mouse all separately in my sketchbook and then composited and resized them into this single image. I dropped in ghostly version of the logos to make sure I was keeping my composition in the view-able area.
Next step was to print out that composited rough at actual size (in this case 12" x 12") and tape it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol. On a lightbox I was able to see the printed image and use it as a guide while I inked the piece. I used Copic Multiliners for almost the entire image (the 0.7 nib mainly) other than the water ripples that I inked with a brush. knowing I planned on using a color hold on the landscape inkwork (to help it recede into the background more subtly) I carefully left a white gap between the foreground subjects and the background. That made it easier to isolate them in the next steps...
The scanned inkwork is ready to be digitally colored and have its color areas established. Laying out these flat areas of color...or coloring in the lines...is called Color Flatting. Here I kept it close to my final color choices, but since the idea here is just to make the goose's feathers a different color than the sky and the vines a different color than the goose's bill, I could have used any colors: a red feathered duck with a green bill and pink vines. The final color choices can be altered at any time easily once you've established color flats. Part of the reason to flat colors is so you can easily move between different areas when you want to render them or alter the colors without effecting the color or rendering of the part next to it.
The final color rendering is done by adding texture, shading and highlights. I use the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop for this and a textured brush to give it the right look as I go. Because this cover has more of a fairy-tale romantic feel, I also designed a new retailer-stamp area that fit the mood (and is based on some stained glass from the antique store I worked in when I started Mouse Guard.
Free Comic Book Day is the first Saturday in May each year. I've yet to announce my 2013 FCBD plans, but in any case, tell your retailer now you want the Archaia Mouse Guard flip book, and then take a friend who has never read a comic next May and introduce them to worlds of stories with a free issue of something.
Black Axe Replicas:
Skelton Crew Studio has started their Mouse Guard weapon replica line (at mouse-scale) with the Black Axe! The Axes are available for pre-order (shipping in January) for $30 through their online store. Axes come with a debossed leather pouch and the first 400 ordered have tags I signed. Israel Skelton did a fantastic job interpreting sculpting, & casting the mythic axe of black. So, as a gift for that Mouse Guard fan in your life, consider a mouse-sized replica of the Black Axe (you can print out a photo and wrap that until the axe arrives)
As Israel started working on the Axe, he asked for 'control' art, but not only did I not have a perfect & clean master drawing of the axe, I also hadn't drawn it consistently over the course of 3 series. I drew a new piece for Israel to use as a guide for his sculpt. Knowing that some of the stylistic elements of the axe in the comic would need to be more believeable as a 3d object for this project, gave me some license to push my design a bit away from past drawings. The two biggest changes were the barley-twist handle and the slightly more curvy shape of the axe's head. Israel took all of this and ran with it to make a wonderful art object for me and my fans.
Holiday Sale Reminder:
online store you can use promocode MOUSEGUARD to receive 10% off your order! The discount is good on Original art, Shirts, Non- Mouse Guard art pieces, Prints, and the Winter B&W edition. The sale runs through the end of the year, so whether you are buying a gift for a Mouse Guard fan, or something for yourself, If it's still December, you can get a discount. I'll be updating the store with more items as the sale goes on (check Twitter or Facebook for updates)
Watercolor Wednesday: In case you missed last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces, here they are for a closer look. Both are a bit fairy tale inspired (but not meant to be literal illustrations of) The Beast of Beauty and the Beast and a Sea Hag like the one in Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid.
Tomorrow I'll post a few more fairy tale inspired paintings in my online store.
Emerald City: March 1-3
Fabletown Con: March 22-24
C2E2: April 26-28
Spectrum Live: May 17-19
Heroes Con: June 7-9
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21
*more 2013 dates coming*