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