Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Merek as the Black Axe piece Process

With my plan to title my forthcoming sketchbooks by theme (see this year's Legends Sketchbook where I pay homage to 24+ Legends of the Guard stories) I already have my next one's theme picked: Black Axe Wielders. I'm going to work on this sketchbook slowly, no date set for release (though it will probably coincide with a convention appearance) and I spend a few days post SDCC warming up for some freelance cover work by doing a piece of Merek, the last wielder of the Black Axe before Celanawe. To the left you can see the finished piece, but below I'll walk you through my process for creating it start to finish.

Reference material:
In the 3rd Mouse Guard book: The Black Axe, I revealed (spoiler alert) that there have been nine wielders of the Black Axe before Celanawe. In the epilogue, Lieam dreams a starry crow tells him the folly of Merek, and I give the readers the only images we see of this axe wielder (as he does not appear on the scrap of tapestry). Merek does a horrible deed on the shores of Ildur, but instead of showing that again, I opted to have him battle a creature––a fan favorite, a crab! I still had the photos I took from when I was drawing the 2nd issue of Fall. Julia went to our local fish monger and bought two cooked, but whole crabs I could use as reference.

I then did a pencil drawing of Merek on a sheet of copy paper. On another sheet, I drew the crab (with some help from my reference photo). I combined these two drawings in photoshop and tinted them different colors to help me see which lines belonged to which figure. In the background I pasted in several stock photo crows in flight. Part of the story of Merek is that the crows saw his deeds and carry the folly of Merek with them. The symbol in the upper right corner is a made-up runic number '9' (the vertical bar is just a pole to hang the roman numerals V and four I's).

Once the layout was ready, I printed it out and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol. On a Huion light pad I was able to ink the piece while seeing through the surface of the bristol. For pens I used Copic Multiliners (I think I only used the 0.7 nib here). I inked this piece entirely on my Twitch Stream.

I purposely left some gaps between the crow silhouettes and the foreground or borders so that I could more easily isolate them in the next step...

Color Flats:
I'd planned to do the coloring process on stream too, but I came down with some con-crud after SDCC and I didn't feel up to being Live on Stream while feeling crappy. The first step to coloring digitally is creating color flats. This is basically coloring in the lines with flat colors. Establishing what areas are which colors. In this step I also established my color holds (areas I want the ink to be a color rather than black) And I isolated the inks for the crows, the runic 9, and Merek's scars.

Final colors:
Using the Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush in Photoshop, I went in and rendered the final colors for the piece. Again, I'm sorry I wasn't feeling up to streaming the color process live, but there will be more piece like this down the road I can share with you all when I'm feeling better.

2019 Appearances
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18

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