The second volume of Legends of the Guard will close with issue #4. The last issue is the focus of this week's blogpost...well the cover rather. This cover I think has taken the place of Winter #4 as my favorite Mouse Guard cover. My original notes for this cover were "ritual or ceremony w/ pedestal basin and chalice. interesting architecture in background". But I had already done a piece like that as a commission (which was later colored & included in the 2012 sketchbook) and couldn't figure out a new take on it and assumed I'd just repeat myself. Inspired by the Watercolor Wednesday painting of coins, I thought "It would be fun to do mouse discovering a Smaug-esque treasure horde with a weasel skeleton atop it"...so that's the direction I went.
I started not with a sketch, but a model. I wanted to keep the bit from my original notes about interesting architecture. I've drawn from Moorish architectural cues before when drawing Weasel dwellings. and this time I replicated (in chip board, basswood, & paper) a column salvaged from a Masonic Temple that is now at Materials Unlimited. I had seen the column in person when I worked there, but I refreshed my memory by looking it up again online. The remaining elements were the mouse & weasel skeleton. I looked at reference online for the skeleton, but made some of it up as I went. I also couldn't decide which way I preferred the dislocated mandible to point, so I drew it both directions.
With my camera on a tripod and a grid on a table, I was able to take several photos of the single column in multiple locations and arrangements. I Photoshopped these together until I had a layout for the columns I liked (a few were too dense, a few too sparse). The sketches were dropped in and I did some tweaking of the weasel skeleton sketch (shifting the head and arm a bit, and elimination the one version of the mandible). And piled in the shape of the coins with a quick custom brush.
Once I had the layout all digitally adjusted and ready, I printed it out at 8.25" x 16.25" (the same size as the final original artwork). I taped this printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol and worked on a lightbox to ink the cover. This was one of those times that, as I inked, I couldn't tell if I was going too far, or not far enough. The more texture, the more dramatic the lighting, the better it seemed the piece would be, but about 1/2 way through, I started getting worried. Cory Godbey & I were exchanging in-progress work that day, and he messaged me to "push through", and so I did. The inks were all done with Copic Multiliners (even the large black areas...though I did resort to using one of their brush-tips a few times)
I knew the final color values & tones of this cover would be subtle, so to make it easier to be sure I had flatted all the colors properly, I went with eye-piercing obnoxious & garish colors at first. The object of flatting in color anyhow is to just make sure you have established all the color areas as separate from each other. Once the flats were all established, I started replacing all the ugly choices with something more like the final art to prepare for the final rendering.
Here's a look at the color cover art without the logo & text. The rendering was all done using a textured brush in Photoshop and the dodge & burn tools.
Issue #4 of Legends Vol.2 will feature stories from
Odd items were on my mind when painting last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces (paintings I offer for sale every Wednesday in my online store). The first of the two I titled "Royal, Holy, & Chivalrous" depicting a king, bishop, and knight from a carved chess set. I looked at a few carved sets for inspiration, but made each piece my own in some way.
The other item came up while I was searching for chess-set reference. I found a photo of a marionette theater in Prague (I don't know who I linked to there from chess-sets...) and thought it would be fun to paint some mis-proportioned and silly looking figure. A knight won...but I could see me doing a set of these with a king and villain...perhaps a fool as well.
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21
Boston Comic Con: August 3-4
Baltimore Comic Con: September 7-8
New York Comic Con: October 10-13
North Carolina Comic Con: November 9-10