Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Monsters & Dames 2015

Every Year the Emerald City Comic Con publishes a charity art book called Monsters & Dames to benefit the Seattle Children's Hospital. The theme of the book is pretty self-explanitory in the title, but I decided to do something a little more Mouse Guard than I have in years past. To the left you can see the finished piece and this week's blogpost will show the process for making it from concept to colors.
With this year being the 10th anniversary of Mouse Guard, I opted to depict a "monster" & "dame from Mouse Guard. Someday I'd like to do an entire book just about all the Matriarchs of the Mouse Guard and I though this would be a good test illustration for that eventual book. To the right are my sketches on copy paper of a coyote skull (because I purchased one recently on a visit to The Evolution Store) and a past Matriarch Raina (who is referenced in the 'extras' of Black Axe (I also abandoned a drawing of a fisher because I felt this "monster" needed to have more of a supernatural feel than just a beast of the wild.
With the two sketches above, all I had was the idea that somehow Raina was able to lull a living skeleton predator to not gobble her up with the beauty of her music. Unfortunately  I didn't save a file of the step where I composite my sketches in Photoshop...so excuse the lack of a visual at this step. But I put the two drawings together in a square frame (so it will be easier to re-use in Mouse Guard at a later date) and added a top and bottom border of medieval sheet music (the arrangement found online) and with the Matriarch's name. I printed out that digital composite of drawings, music notation, and text for the next step...

I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Then placing the bristol on my lightbox I was able to see the printed image and use it as my 'pencil lines' to ink from on the bristol surface. I used Copic Multiliners (a felt-tipped nib ink pen similar to Microns...but better in my opinion) to ink in all the contour lines, texture and detail. The pile of bones, spider web, & harp-magic were not roughed in, even on my photoshop composite (you'll have to trust me on that) and I just inked the bones as I went from my head or lightly penciled in some guide marks for the web and sweep of the magic dots.

The inkwork is then scanned back into Photoshop to start the digital coloring. This step is called 'flatting' because you are establishing color areas with flat un-rendereed color. For a palate, I started with the established yellow-orange wardrobe of Raina from her window in Black Axe. To compliment that orange (and add some spook) I went with a darker blue for the background, and then balanced it out with yellow parchment & orange ink details on the top & bottom borders.
The last step is to render the color with shading and textures. I use a stock brush and the dodge & burn tools in Photoshop to achieve this. For this piece I added a lot of color holds, which are like a special effect where I have the inkwork as a color instead of black line. The music notation, text, spider web, harp strings, and music-magic are all painted with color to make the piece feel lees like a filled-in coloring book, and more like an illustrated scene. 
The Monsters & Dames book will be available at the Emerald City Comic Con for purchase (as well as the original art being auctioned off there) and remaining books are usually offered for sale online through the Emerald City website after the con ends.

2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

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