Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Stained Glass Re-Run

After creating this new piece to the left as a back cover to the later-to-be-released 2018 Mouse Guard Sketchbook, I wanted to run through several past blogposts about stained glass, my experience with it, and using it in art as a way to communicate world-building concepts.

Note, the piece on the left was inspired by an actual window available for sale at Materials Unlimited, the Antique Architectural Salvage place I worked at when I started Mouse Guard.
My Stained Glass Work 

A post about my working in stained glass making gifts for family members and how it influenced how I draw stained glass pieces:

A Mouse Glazier at work:
A process post about the box art for the Legends of the Guard Volumes 1-3 slipcase depicting a mouse creating a stained glass window originally set to go into Shorestone that never made it:

A Matriarch in Glass: 
A post of process about the inspiration window and final art for a 2015 sketchbook piece of the Matriarch Veyga:
A ink, pencil, and digital composite used for the 2013 Mouse Guard bookplate:

2018 Appearances:

Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Creator Commentary: Fall 1152 Hardcover Extras

Here is the final Creator Commentary video for Mouse Guard Fall 1152!  For this last piece, the extras created for the hardcover collection (including the epilogue), I've gone back to including visuals to help. But please also feel free to follow along in your copy of the hardcover as I talk about the behind the scenes details, art notes, and my head-space as I go page by page and panel by panel. Enjoy!

Direct YouTube Link:

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

TMNT Macro Series cover: Donatello

For the upcoming TMNT Macro-Series, I was asked my IDW & editor Bobby Curnow to do 4 new Turtle covers, one per bandannaed brother. I've done several TMNT covers before:

You can click here for all my past TMNT covers and the process to create them

You can see the final cover artwork for the Donatello Macro Series cover to the left, but bellow I'll go through and talk step-by-step about the process to get there.

I was given an outline of what happens in the issue, but also given the freedom to do something unbound by the story in a 'classic' feel. I decided to take a theme of that issue (not a specific moment) of Donatello in his sewer workshop and then do my best version of how I see him in that environment...both in solitude, and also in his heaven. The shop here is a combination of my Dad's basement workshop when I was a kid and my own from that same time: glass jars of screws & nails, oxy-acetylene tanks for welding, broken old cabinets as shop storage, am/fm radio on it's last legs, milk crates for seating and storage...It's my childhood of being a maker all for Don to use.

The piece is a digital assembly of several pencil drawings then colored to make sense of all the shapes for myself, but also for Bobby the editor and for Nickelodeon to see as clearly as possible what I'm aiming to do. I'd rather make a change because they didn't like my idea than a change because they didn't understand my idea.

Luckily there were no changes requested! I printed out the above digital composite layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of 300 series Strathmore bristol and inked it on a light pad. Here I had to dive into all those details. The wire nuts the grime and corrosion on the pipes, the handles of the tools on the peg board...AND some easter eggs: the Mythbusters sign, a Cats Trio poster, a scissor sheath I made for conventions, a Usagi Yojimbo chop sticker, copies of the art of Mouse Guard, Locke & Key, A Brief History of Time, How Things Work, the Pocket Ref, a book with 'Eastman & Laird', then Adam Savage's custom leatherman holder, and Michelangelo's nunchucks. WHEW!!!

Color Flats:
After the inks were finished and approved, it was time to add color to this compositional detail-mess. The first step of coloring digitally is to lay in flat colors for each area of the piece. Defining that the area of Don's skin is all the same color, which is a different color than his front shell, his pads, or his bandanna...as well as all the other piles of stuff I crammed into this piece. Having these areas be established as flat un-rendered color allows me to quickly isolate those areas as I do the real work in the coloring quickly. Sometimes I flatted in colors for corrosion, like on the pipes...but I didn't on the vice or drawers. That's because I knew I'd have a harder time with the pipes getting that balance just right, so being able to re-isolate them with the flats is prep work that pays off. *note: looks like I didn't save this 'flats' image before I'd already started rendering the milk crates..

Here again are the finished colors with all the effects added for the color holds (areas where I wanted the black inkwork to be a color other than black), the glow and lighting effects for the torch and lamp.  This piece was hard, and the most difficult TMNT cover I've ever done...but it was also very personal to me. I recreated everything I loved and remembered about my childhood basement growing up, all the tools, the resourcefulness of using junk cabinets for storage, old doors for table tops, jars for parts, and milk crates for everything.

The Donatello issue of the TMNT Macro Series will be released in September.

2018 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Beneath the Dark Crystal Variant Cover #2

My second variant cover for Archaia's new Dark Crystal series "Beneath the Dark Crystal" is the subject of this week's blogpost. Last month I shared the process for the first cover featuring UrZah the Ritual Guardian & skekZok the Ritual Mater. To the left you can see the finished cover art with UrSol the Canter & skekSil the Chamberlain.

Below I will go through step-by-step the process for creating the cover art.

Using reference provided by Henson as well as the art book "The World of the Dark Crystal" by Brian Froud, I started by drawing the profiles of the Skeksis and Mystic for this cover. Chamberlain is my favorite design of the Skeksis, and I loved trying to capture the sly-up-to-no-good smirk sculpted and articulated in the puppet. Because the Mystic counterpart for Chamberlain is the canter, I drew his neck and head and mouth to evoke the feeling that he is sustaining a long note. Like my previous cover, the layout idea is to overlap the figures facing opposite directions to pay homage to the idea from the movie that these were once the same being. The circle design was a straight lift of one of Froud's designs, but traced over in my pencil to try get some of my linework in the background.

Once the pencil sketches were scanned, I played with them in photoshop to get the layout just right. each scan/element was tinted a different color to help me make sense of it all. At this stage I can not only move the drawings around, but also re-size them if I drew one of them too big or small. Chamberlain's neck and head needed some adjustment to get that evil look across, so I moved and rotated it a bit digitally.

The white pattern you see on top of them is another Froud design that I overlaid and would ink separately and place back on in the last step

With the layout completed, I printed out the image at cover size (roughly 10" x 15") onto two sheets of printer paper. I have to tape those piece back together to be one image, and then tape that (using painters tape this time) to the back of a sheet of Strathmore bristol board. Using a lightpad, I'm able to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout to use it as a guid as I ink.

I used art/tech pens from Copic called Multiliners and I used the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly. I streamed part of this cover live on Twitch as I worked (but did not record the process).

The inks were then scanned and imported into Photoshop where I started the coloring phase with a step called 'Flatting'.

This is where the various color areas are established: "Where does the color of the Skeksis robe end and the back cloth begin, what parts of the Mystics patterned clothing is which color and where?" It's a techincal version of adding in flat color and staying in the lines.

I also added in color holds (areas where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black) to the background circle pattern.

The last step was to render the piece. Add in all the light and shadow and subtle color-shifts. I use the dodge and burn tool with a textured brush to do most of my rendering.

The inked overlay design was also added in here with a bit of Photoshop magic to make it a bit translucent.

2018 Appearances:

Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Recent Commissions

At conventions I do toned paper commissions. I wish I had the time to have these open year-round or for people who can't make it out to my convention appearances, but when I'm home, I have other work & obligations that prevent me from doing so. Here is a look at my most recent batch:

Kameron: A Guardmouse

Gen from Usagi Yojimbo

A Fan's Cat nicknamed "Mayor"


Donatello & Celanawe

A Fox Squirrel from Studio Ghibli

A Dragon in Armor

A Guardmouse beat to hell

A Guardmouse with a sword

A Cat Archer



Mouse with Nature armor

Rocket Raccoon

A Guardmouse

Gandalf the Grey

A Guardmouse

A Death Knight Mouse

Lutheran the Ferret King

Swamp Thing

2018 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mouse Guard Architectural Model: Haven Guildroom

Back when I was drawing Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #6, I built a modular model of the Haven Guild room. This model was made of cardboard, bristol board, paper, and basswood.

Below is a video about the model, how I made it, how it was used, and how it could come to be used again in the future.

Direct link to YouTube: https://youtu.be/Bvyu7z2PnRQ

2018 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Creator Commentary: Fall 1152 Issue/Chapter 6

I've made a Creator Commentary video for the sixth and final issue/chapter of Mouse Guard Fall 1152: A Return to Honor.  For this last issue in Fall 1152, I’ll be doing the commentary as audio-only. But please feel free to follow along in your copy of the story in either issue form of from the hardcover as I talk about the behind the scenes details, art notes, and my head-space as I go page by page and panel by panel. Enjoy!

Direct YouTube Link:

2018 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Farlaine The Goblin Variant Cover Process

For the upcoming final book of 'Farlaine the Goblin' I did a variant cover! If you are unfamiliar with Farlaine, it's a fairy tale comic story in the same vein as the OZ books. It features a goblin named Farlaine who is looking for a forrest to call his own, and a place that he can plant his tree friend Ehrenwort. He's also accompanied by Drowsy a robot-like creature called a tink. To the left you can see my final cover art, but below is the full process for creating the cover.

I started by making a template in Photoshop of the existing Farlaine cover design (the border placements, the space for the issue #& price, and the stock visuals of a tree and the inset panel of an acorn-like seed, a leaf, and some vine tendrils) as well as the logo. I then drew in the elements that I needed: The tree, the inset panel, and of course, Farlaine, Ehrenwort, and Drowsy. These were all drawn separately on copy paper, and then scanned in to Photoshop and tinted to help me arrange the layout. (I'm trying not to spoil the story, but it appears Ehrenwort is wounded and in trouble)...

With the layout set, I printed it out (on copy paper) and then taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Then, on a light pad, I could ink the piece by using the printout as a guide.

I used Copic Multiliners to ink with, the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly. The goal was just to add my line style to the piece so it felt like 'me'...something always tricky to balance when drawing other people's characters

After the inks were scanned, I could start on the coloring process. The first part of that is always to establish the areas of color, where does one color end and the next start. Here I was lucky in that a lot of the color palate had already been established on the previous book covers. And while usually effects are saved for last, I did tackle some of the color holds (areas where I want to color the linework something other than black) here as well as the wound of Drowsey's that lets light pour out of him.

The final step was the rendering. Adding light and shadow to the forms as well as some texture.
The last book of Farlaine the Goblin will be out in September and is in Previews now for pre-order.

2018 Appearances:

San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Beneath the Dark Crystal Varaint Cover #1

Archaia has a new Dark Crystal comic mini-seires coming out called "Beneath the Dark Crystal". And I've been asked to do a series of variant covers for them! As a huge fan of the Jim Henson company in general, but specifically in The Dark Crystal, it was my pleasure and honor to be asked.
This is the first variant cover, with many more to come.

To the left you can see the finished variant for #1, but below I will walk you through the art process & creation of each step it took to get there.

I started with the concept of a Skeksis & urRu (Mystic) facing opposite, almost like a playing card deck's face cards...but without anything upside-down.

Throughout the film it's noted that the Skeksis & Mystics were once the same beings who split, and that they are each linked to a counterpart in the other species. I chose for this image to feature SkekZok the Ritual Master and his counterpart UrZah the Ritual Guardian. I luckilly have a lot of sources for reference with the World of the Dark Crystal book featuring Brian Froud's art, Behind the scenes photos from Henson of the puppets themselves, and the movie. Here are my sketches for SkekZok & UrZah each on different sheets of copy paper as well as a circle design of Froud's I copied for an element in the background.

Once scanned I can place the figures just right in relation to one another in Photoshop, even making some digital adjustments to proportions and rotations of heads and hands. Each element was tinted differently to help it read better in layout form. To see more of the background ring, I mirrored each figure so that the important parts of the design were visible. To add some more complexity and texture, I overlayed a subtle version of another of the cosmological magical symbols of Froud's over the entire piece.

This layout was then sent off to Archaia and Henson for approval before I could start the next step.

When the layout came back approved by both companies, I was able to get into the inks. I printed out the layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. I inked the piece on a light pad with Copic Miltiliner SPs (I think I used the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs here). On the light pad I can see through the suface of the bristol to see the printout and use it as a guide to ink from.

The real trick in inking this piece was how to get all the texture in without over-doing it and ruining any subtlety. The overlay pattern inks (not shown) were done separately to be added in at the end.

Once the inks were completed (and approved by Archaia and Henson) I started the coloring process by mapping out the flat colors. This is a process of establishing what areas are what colors in a way that when it's time to render them (shade/highlight/texture) I can isolate any different part at any time.

Very lucky to have access to all the reference because other than making adjustments for an overall color tone/gamut and value range, most of the work was dictated by photos, puppets, and art that already existed.

Knowing the circle pattern needed to be pushed back to the background I added a color-hold (area where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) to all of its linework.

The last step was to render the piece. Adding in the right amount of highlights and shadow and texture to the piece without overworking it and fighting the linework was not easy.

I found that muting everything out and lightening it helped it to read better, got those lines speaking their share of the image.

The last step was to add in the pattern overlay and adjust the transparency on it so it was visible but not fighting with the finished piece.

This cover will also be included in the Dark Crystal Artist Tribute book which features illustrations and testimonials from Jae Lee, David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Cory Godbey, Jeff Stokely, Benjamin Dewey, and the film’s original concept artist, Brian Froud.

Available from Archaia in June.

2018 Appearances:

San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Heroes Con 2018 Auction Piece

Heroes Con is this weekend in Charlotte, NC. Each year they do a huge original art auction, which is definitely a highlight of the convention. Many of the pieces in the auction are created live at the convention during the day Friday and Saturday on the Live Art Stage...but in past years, I've found it to be too much time away from the table, too much pressure, and not up to my own standard if I attempt to do a piece there. So, I do my piece ahead of time, and bring it with me. To the left you can see the final results, and below the process to get there...and how they will be available...

Instead of doing one large piece (20" x 32") I decided to cut my surface and do two smaller 16" x 20" pieces. The reason for this is that unlike past years, I did not have someone close to me driving to Heroes to transport something so large as my past pieces...the two smaller pieces fit inside my luggage I'll be flying with to the convention. I started by laying out a digital composite of two sketches (one of Saxon and one of Kenzie...both traditionally drawn on paper and scanned) inside a frame border that I interpreted from a carved wooden frame I found doing some reference searching for medieval borders.

Once I had the digital composites the way I wanted them, I printed them out to scale. This meant each piece was made up of 4 sheets of printer paper, aligned (hence the grid on the above image) and taped together. On the back side of the taped together printouts, I rubbed graphite all over them...or at least wherever there were lines I needed transferred onto the mat board.

I taped the printouts, graphite side down, to the mat board, and then traced over all my linework with a ball point pen. Wherever I applied pressure with the pen, the graphite transferred onto the surface of the mat board. When both pieces were successfully transferred, it was time to get set up for painting. Some of my fans got to watch the following steps as I broadcast on Twitch (sorry, I didn't record them). For watercolors I used mostly Windsor Newtons and mostly colors that were already dried onto the plastic palate: Cadmium red, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna...I'm forgetting the other colors...I know I used a bit of Payne's Gray too...

Over one long night I built up layers of yellows and golds and then reds and crimsons to get the border done. Fans on Twitch asked me why I started with the border, and I didn't have a great answer. Some of the reason was to get the big area wash of yellow/golds down as a light color (in watercolor you tend to work light to dark) but I think some of it was also to get the fiddly bit done so that the end of the painting was looser and more organic. At the completion of the borders of both pieces, I set them aside and went to bed.

Two days later when I was able to get back to the paintings and broadcast, I dug into painting the middle areas. I worked mostly from light to dark, building up the larger areas and then focusing down to smaller elements (Kenzie's staff, Saxon's sword) as I got closer and closer to being finished.
The last step (seen below) was to 'ink' the piece with a dark brown color pencil. I find that my paintings need a bit of linework and that inking with black ink tends to be a bit too high-contrast and heavyy handed, and the color pencil gives some structure without overbearing the piece with line.

One of these pieces will be up for auction at the convention Saturday.
The other will be privately for sale at my table on Sunday.

I have also scanned them so that I can possibly reprint them in a sketchbook or art book at some point.

2018 Appearances:
Heroes Con: June 15-17
San Diego Comic Con: July 18-22
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 28-30
New York Comic Con: Oct. 4-7

Blog Archive