Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Beneath the Dark Crystal #11 & 12 Cover Process

For my last two covers, numbers 11 & 12 of Archaia's Beneath the Dark Crystal series, I decided to do adjoining covers of the Gelflings Kira & Jen!


With the series being 12 issues, and there only being 10 sets of Mystics & Skeksis, my editors and I knew the last 2 covers would need something different.


We talked about having Jen & Kira together on a cover and having the other cover being Augrah & a Garthim--or the new two main characters in the 'Beneath' series, but as I drew Jen on a sheet of copy paper, I drew him rather larger than I'd drawn any of the Skeksis or Mystics...And I thought, damn, I like the drawing, and I'd hate to re-size it and lose any detail or make inking him harder. So I went ahead and drew Kira at the same scale holding out hope I could find a way to cram them together on a single cover...and I suddenly realized, they were meant to be facing each other! So I re-formatted my photoshop cover template file to be two adjoining covers and layed out the cover that way. I tinted each character to help me see them better, and then drew the background of the prophecy stone (heavily helped by photo reference provided by Henson) on sheets of copy paper and added them to the composition.

With the digital collage of my pencil drawings all sized, set, and approved by Henson & Archaia, I printed it out (took 4 sheets of copy paper I had to tape back together) and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. The bristol was a sheet of 19" x 24"...the image itself is about 21" x 17". A very large piece to ink. On my lightpad, I could ink the piece with my Copic Multiliners (I used the 0.7 nib mostly with the 0.3 nib coming out for the eyes and most of Fizgig). I streamed inking this on Twitch over several sessions. 

Once the inks were finished and then also approved by everyone, I could scan them and start on the coloring. With the piece as large as it was, I had to scan it in 2 parts and then reassemble it in Photoshop. The first step in coloring a piece like this for me is establishing the color holds (where the inkwork won't be black, but a color I can paint: The background, Kira's wing edges & Jen's pants pattern) and laying in flat colors for hair, skin, leafs, wings, clothing, etc. I did myself a favor on the color holds by leaving a gap between my background ink-lines and the figures...it made them much easier to isolate.

The last step to a piece like this is to render the color. Something I also shared while streaming on Twitch over a few sessions. Most of my rendering (adding highlights, shadows, and texture) is done with a textured brush and the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop. However, in several cases on this piece with the Gelflings' skin, I had to use the paintbrush tool to more carefully control the color choices and the subtlety of the rendering. It's something I rarely do, but have found that when coloring human-esque faces it's necessary.


These will be published as separate covers #11: Kira & #12: Jen. Below are what the covers will look like cut apart.




This is kind of a full-circle moment for me. It was a decade ago in 2009 that I did a Dark Crystal promo for Archaia to announce at SDCC the Archaia partnership with Henson...and it had Kira on the left and Jen on the right with the prophecy stone as a background element. Here I am 10 years later and rounding out the 12 issue arc of Beneath the Dark Crystal the same way.  I'm also very glad to see the growth in my work in that time as a penciler, inker, colorist and in my compositions. 

I've had a blast getting to draw every Skeksis and Mystic and Jen and Kira from the 1982 film for this run of covers. Thank you to Archaia for hiring me to do so, and for the fans for being so supportive of my covers, and for you blog readers who have come along with me to see the process.


2019 Appearances
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Rosard Mouse Print Process


*NOTE: THIS WAS WRITTEN PRIOR TO DISNEY CANCELING THE MOVIE AT FOX––WE ARE STILL EXPLORING ALL OPTIONS TO BRING THE MICE OF MOUSE GUARD TO LIFE*

When the Mouse Guard Movie was given a full green light from FOX, Stephen Christy and Ross Richie came to Michigan to deliver the good news, deliver the payment, and celebrate with a meal. As a thank you for their work on Mouse Guard as a book series and on the Movie (they are involved both in publishing at BOOM! and producers on the film at the FOX lot) I drew them each as a Guardmouse and gave them the original inked piece.

To the left you can see the finished colored version of 'Rosard' that I've released as a print available in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com



Ross Richie is head of BOOM! Studios who acquired Archaia several years ago. But even before that, Ross had always been in my and Mouse Guard's corner. Early on he'd shared with me his appreciation for my book and hired me to do covers for BOOM! titles. When Archaia had hit some hard times, he mentioned to me, with no pressure or hard sell, that if things got bad, and I ever needed a new home for Mouse Guard, he was there for me. It was BOOM!'s deal with FOX that made the movie possible (and under the favorable terms for me). He's made a lot of things possible for me and Mouse Guard.



So, how to interpret Ross as a mouse? Well, I thought of Ross as firstly a guy who needed a weapon whose sound effect would go 'BOOM!'. Ross' personality is a big presence. It's not overwhelming, or oppressive, but it has a mass to it. I wanted to add that volume to his mouse's cloak, his oversized warhammer, and a story told in his fur and his scars.

The name Rosard comes from the origin spelling of the name Ross ('Ros') and the pronunciation of the Scottish Gaelic for 'Hammer' ('√≤rd' pronounced 'Ard'). I drew the Ross-mouse and the swirly patterned stones on one sheet of copy paper, scanned it in to Photoshop to resize it for the final artwork-size.



With the layout assembled and printed on to copy paper, I started inking it. I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad, I can see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and use that as a guide to ink from. For pens I used my trusty Copic Multiliner SPs...primarily the 0.7 nib that I like so much.

It would have been easy to get carried away with the textures of the scarred mouse, his fur cloak, well-used front sash, hammer details, and stone background...but I tried to restrain myself and leave room for color.



I scanned the inks and started to lay in flat colors as well as establish the few color holds (areas where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) on his scars

Ross' colors weren't as easy to pin-down as other human-to-guardmice-inspirations. I think of some of Ross' tenacity and directness to be in the red-family for cloak colors...but I opted to make that the front accent panel color and leave his fur and cloak more in a natural cream and brown tone-range. The hammer also had to be seen...it needs to do some of its job before it's even swung...so I went with a brassy tone for that.



The last step was to render the colors by adding light and shadow as well as texture using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush. I did some color adjustments from the flat colors, punching up the fungus color to be a bit more vivid.


I've told Ross that his mouse 'Rosard' may make it into the Weasel War as a casualty...and to not take that personally. It doesn't mean there aren't stories to tell about that mouse earlier in his life...

You can buy a print of Rosard in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com


2019 Appearances
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Stjepan Mouse Print Process


*NOTE: THIS WAS WRITTEN PRIOR TO DISNEY CANCELING THE MOVIE AT FOX––WE ARE STILL EXPLORING ALL OPTIONS TO BRING THE MICE OF MOUSE GUARD TO LIFE*

Back when the Mouse Guard Movie was given a full green light from FOX, Stephen Christy and Ross Richie came to Michigan to deliver the good news, deliver the payment, and celebrate with a meal. As a thank you for their work on Mouse Guard as a book series and on the Movie (they are involved both in publishing at BOOM! and producers on the film at the FOX lot) I drew them each as a Guardmouse and gave them the original inked piece.

To the left you can see the finished colored version of 'Stjepan' that I've released as a print available in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com


Stephen Christy joined Archaia after a troubled time where due to a partner leaving and other complications, the publisher was bankrupt and unable to publish comics. Until a new owner bought the company and had Stephen as his right-hand-man. Stephen essentially worked on the re-launch from his dining room table in Chicago (this is when Archaia had been in Fort Lee, NJ and before the official move to LA). Stephen has also been there for every incarnation of Mouse Guard being approached, pitched, and *nearly* sold as a movie prior to FOX and has been instrumental in shepherding it this time.




So, how to interpret Stephen as a mouse? Well, I think of Stephen as having an elegance about him. For that reason I kept his fur simple and I wanted his cloak to have detail. Trim and perhaps an insignia. And for a weapon, he's have something more like an epee or saber fencing sword.

I drew the Stephen-mouse on one sheet of copy paper, and the tree-trunk with mushroom fungus on another and then assembled the parts in Photoshop (tinting the background a different color to help me visualize it). The thistle was also inserted digitally from a clip-art sheet of insignias (I suppose that means he's either from or has valiantly served Thistledown--the same town where Gwendolyn is from).


With the layout assembled and printed on to copy paper, I can start inking it. I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad, I can see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and use that as a guide to ink from. For pens I used my trusty Copic Multiliner SPs...primarily the 0.7 nib that I like so much.

To make sure I could separate the background lines of the forest floor, I left a white gap between the foreground inks and the sticks on the ground. That not only helps visually separate them, but also makes it easier in the next step when I have to establish the color holds.


I scanned the inks and started to lay in flat colors as well as establish all the color holds (areas where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) on the cloak details and the background floor.

Stephen's colors came to me very quickly: Brown fur, and a royal blue cloak. There is an elegance to that color that fits what I was going for, but beyond that I just associate Stephen with the color blue, so it was a natural fit. The mushrooms then get into an orangey-tan to compliment the wardrobe hues.


The last step was to render the colors by adding light and shadow as well as texture using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush. I did some color adjustments from the flat colors, punching up the fungus color to be a bit more vivid.

I've told Stephen that his mouse 'Stjepan' may make it into the Weasel War as a casualty...and to not take that personally. It doesn't mean there aren't stories to tell about that mouse earlier in his life...

You can buy a print of Stjepan in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com


2019 Appearances
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Celanawe Print Process

To have a new character print for my 2019 conventions and appearances, as well as to round out the main cast of Mouse Guard character prints, I've created a print of Celanawe (aka The Black Axe). To the left you can see the finished artwork, but for this blogpost I'll be sharing the art steps for how I got there in the post below.


Before the step-by-step though, the print is available for purchase in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com




I started with a drawing of Celanawe on copy paper (right). I didn't have a clear picture in my head of where to put him in terms of a setting...mossy rocks, ferny undergrowth, something else entirely? So I scanned the character drawing and did a quick digital painting of fern-like plants surrounding the oldfur (not pictured). Using a printout of that digital painting as a guide, I penciled on a lightbox linework for the flora. The patterns of the leaf shapes in the foreground (bottom) were getting a bit too repetitive to also use as the background shapes, so I used a new sheet of copy paper to draw out a broader leaf that felt like it was from the same family.


With all those pencil drawings done, I was able to composite together a digital layout for the print. I blocked in the color on Celanawe so I could see him as a mass, and also to make it easier to paint in the leaf shapes behind him. The colors help me see when I'm inking what area is what item so that I can get their contours right but also so I can add texture in the right places.

This is a little overboard for a 'layout', and some fans who watched the process on Twitch pointed out that this almost looks finished as a piece in it's own right...


But I like inked lines, and that's what you all know Mouse Guard to be. So, with the above layout printed and taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore Bristol 300, I started inking on my Huion lightpad with Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 for everything but around the eyes where I used a 0.3).

I streamed this part on Twitch as I built up my line weights, added texture, and tried to make sense of those lacy ferns.



The step after the inks are finished is scan them and start to add color. This part is all about flat color, no rendered effects, no shading, just establishing which parts are which colors. Since I'd done some color work on my layout, some of the color selection was already done, it was just a matter of carefully getting the new color layers to meet up with (and stay within the lines of) the inked drawing. At this stage I also established the few color holds (places where I want the ink line to be a color other than black)––in this case the cut on Celanawe's nose, the bowl opening of his pipe, and a little detail on the Ladybug shell where the white dot meets the red.


The last step was to render all the colors adding light and shadow as well as texture. I do most of that with the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop and a stock textured brush.

Another effect was I made a trail of my thumbprints on copy paper and a roller ball pen and scanned that pattern as the smoke trailing from Celanawe's pipe. I treated the thumbprints like a color hold on a separate layer where I could control the opacity over the existing scenery.



You can purchase this print (along with most of the other Mouse Guard characters) at my upcoming convention appearances as well as in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com



2019 Convention Appearances

Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20

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