Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales

 Since 2011 I've been doing a type of short story every year for the Archaia Free Comic Book Day release. These stories feature a character we know from the Mouse Guard books as a young mouse and is being told a morality story that shapes who they grow to become. A collection of these stories, plus two brand new shorts of the same type, is going to be released by Archaia at the end of this year or the beginning of next (tricky deadlines & turnarounds with printers) and titled Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales

In today's blogpost, I'll go through my process for creating the cover art.

The concept of this cover was to make a curio shelf of objects relating to the stories within. The marionette of the title character "Baldwin the Brave" (FCBD 2012) needed to be a focus, but I also surrounded him with the items used by the Wise Weaver (FCBD 2011), the ship Thane used to cross to the Isle of Venn (FCBD 2013) and the cards Rand and his father play with before the Tale of the Axe Trio (FCBD 2014). I reused an inked promo drawing of Baldwin for the rough, and then sketched the other elements and composited them together in Photoshop.

I made a printout of that composite piece and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. The inks were all done over a lightbox so I could use the printout as a guide to ink from. This piece was inked with Copic Multiliner pens (the 0.3 & 0.7 nibs) It was a bit of a trick getting texture and detail onto all of the items and the shelf and wall without losing some of those items in a field of grey. I tried to make sure there was enough in the inks to distinguish each item from one another, but also knew I could help the clarity when it came time to color.

The inks were scanned and I started the coloring process by filling in large areas with flat color. This is the tedious part of coloring. You aren't making final color choices, or doing anything cool with lighting or shadows...nope flatting is just about establishing color zones. I had rough ideas of what colors to use because I'd drawn and colored all of these items in the Free Comic Book Day stories of years gone by, but ultimately, this piece needed to work as it's own piece which could mean altering these colors to give it it's own color scheme and harmony.

Here is the final rendered color for the cover art. The highlights and shadows were all achieved using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. I added Baldwin's strings by placing a sheet of copy paper over the inks on the lighbox and inking in the lines for the strings of the copy paper. In photoshop I was able to take those isolated lines and make them white for the final composition.

Back at the top of the post you can see the art in the context of the art & text for the coverwrap.

BONUS: Here is the pagination guide (a layout of what pages go where and what they face) that I drew and submitted to my editor Rebecca Taylor at Archaia. As I said before, there are 2 new stories in this collection, at the time I drew this guide they were nicknamed "Seyan" and "Insect" (They have real titles now, I promise) And while this guide doesn't indicate anything special about the map, it is a new map of the Mouse Territories

Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales will be a great way to catch one of the FCBD stories you missed, but even if you collected them all as they came out, will have fun new content for you as well.

Swords and Strongholds:
And a reminder that the Kickstarter for the Mouse Guard board game Swords & Strongholds designed by Luke Crane & I is still  going here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burningwheel/mouse-guard-swords-and-strongholds

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

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