About a month ago I shared the process for the first Legends of the Guard Vol.3 cover...today I'll share the process for issue 2 of that series. I've been asked why in Mouse Guard I've never really shown other mouse-sized mammals with societies....why no chipmunks or squirrels. To be honest, I'd only left them out because of my wanting to focus on the mice...but decided that someday I'll need to fold them in and explain their absence in the books-so-far.
While I'm not ready to explain all of that in a single cover, or even reveal what the story of this covers is, all you need to know is that I thought it would be fun to show 1 mouse who joined the fray of a battle between chipmunks and squirrels (who I've now decided had some long-standing feud). Referencing photos of those species, I did drawings of the players involved on various sheets of paper. Jeremy Bastian & Jay Fosgitt helped me with a suggestion squirrel 'armor'. I'd originally sketched it in as cloth, and they mentioned using found objects like leaves would be cool.
I scanned all of these characters and, in Photoshop, arranged them into a composition. This arrangement took some time. I'd drawn several of the character imagining which counterpart they square off against...in some cases I was able to do that, but in others I couldn't puzzle piece it together that way. Also the squirrel who I thought would be on the cover, ended up being the taller one on the back cover. But it was all to serve a greater layout and composition with room for the logo and keeping in mind where the crease marking the front and back cover lay.
The composition is then printed out (on two sheets of legal paper and taped at the seam) then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. I ink the piece on a lightbox where I can see the printout through the bristol. I use Copic Multiliners for the inks. I added in the tree branch as well as the leaves (loosely in pencil 1st, then with ink) as I worked on the cover. This cover has a lit of the same kind of lines for almost every detail, so thick and think outlines and densities of those marks help establish one form from another.
After inking, the piece is scanned to begin the coloring of the piece. In Photoshop I use flat colors (not the final color choices) to establish where one figure ends and the next begins, where the clothing varies from fur and even from other adjacent clothing. Putting in these flat placeholder colors is called 'flatting' and it amounts to an exercise less bout artistic choice and more about the technical of coloring in the lines.
For the final rendering of the cover, I honed in on the final colors and started rendering. I'd not planned on making the squirrels grey squirrels...but since the chipmunks were all brown and much of the squirrel clothing was going to be earth-toned, I needed to give them some other hue to contrast. The rendering was achieved not through the paintbrush tool, but using the dodge (lighten) and burn (darken) tools.
Legends of the Guard Vol.3 #2 will have the full "legend" of this cover on the inside front cover. And will feature stories by: Dustin Nguyen, Nicole Gustafsson, & Kyla Vanderkulgt
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