Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Mouse Guard 'PREVAIL' Process

While creating original pieces for my upcoming Mouse Guard sketchbook: "Dawn, Daye, Dusk", I made the illustration to the left titled 'Prevail' of a Guardmouse and a pheasant mount at dawn with a bit of heraldry as the background.

While the finished 24 page sketchbook won't be available for another month or-so, for this blogpost, I'll break down the steps to creating the final art as well as the inspiration and influences.




My two inspirations were these. First, the idea of drawing a bird all geared up with saddle and rigging to be a mount, and I wanted a visually interesting bird, so I went with a pheasant. This photograph found online became my reference for one.

And second, this bit of heraldry I photographed at the Turku Cathedral when I went to visit my niece when she was an exchange student in Finland.


I started with drawing my own version of the heraldry––but with a mouse-shaped helm and 7 pointed stars (I like them over 5 or 6 pointed stars because they don't have heavily specific human patriotic or religious connotations) Knowing that the heraldry was to be symmetrical, I focused on only drawing half of it.

I then moved on to the pheasant, using the photo as reference. Once I had the bird drawn, I layed another sheet of copy paper over it on a lightpad and drew all the riding equipment. That way, if I didn't like a part of the gear, I didn't have to erase or re-drawn any part of the pheasant. I, of course, also drew the mouse (and included a helmet which I didn't end up using in the final piece)


With the pencil work done, I scanned all my sheets of paper into photoshop and started laying out my composition. I like working digitally with my pencils drawings, because I can resize, rotate, and adjust it all until the composition is just how I want it. Or, in the case of the heraldry, I can copy and mirror the drawing so that it's complete (as well as adding in the text 'PREVAIL'.

I tint the various drawings different colors to make it easier to see what lines belong to which element in the composition.

I then printed out the digital layout onto copy paper and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol.  On a light pad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol down to the printout as a guide while I did the final ink lines. To ink, I use Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly)

I inked a lot of this piece on my Twitch stream. I was focused on adding the right line weight on the pheasant so that the various feather types were all 'readable' without becoming a complete mess of black. Somewhere in between this step and the last one, I also penciled in a log shape on the printout so that the figures were standing on something.

After the inks were done, I started coloring the piece. The first step of digital coloring (after scanning the ink drawing) is to establish the color areas with flat color (also known as flatting). At this stage of the color-work I also was establishing the color holds. These are areas where I want the ink-work to be a color other than black, and it takes some time and patience. For this piece, I added color holds to the heraldry, the grass, the text, some of the pheasant's feather patterns, and the swirl design on the mouse's lance.




The last step was to do the rendered color. I used the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush to get most of the light and shadow work done.

As a fun afternote, the original of this piece was purchased by a fan of mine in Finland who was unaware of the connection of the heraldry and Turku Cathedral until after he bought it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Black Axe #3 Creator Commentary

I've made a Creator Commentary video for the third issue/chapter of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe!  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 link to watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MnTNSdoRqIs




Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Mouse Guard Berry Picker Process

I've been creating one-of illustrations for my upcoming for my upcoming sketchbook titled 'Dawn, Daye, & Dusk'. The piece to the left is one of those. I streamed a lot of the inking and coloring process on my Twitch channel as I worked.

The sketchbook's theme is loosely about me trying to work in lighting, times of day, and atmospheric effects to my Mouse Guard illustrations.

Below I'll go through the steps I took for this illustration.


For inspiration before I start a piece like this, I'll sometimes browse digital photo albums of trips I've taken. When I travel I try to take photos of architecture, historic landmarks, decorative details, and local plant life. 

In this case, I found a photo of a tree with little red berries I photographed in a park in Copenhagen Denmark. I'm not sure what the species of tree is, but I liked the look of it enough to take a photo, and again when looking back to pick this as the setting for a little Mouse Guard illustration.

To get a mouse up to off the ground to the berry height, I also google searched this photo of a woven basket.

On a light pad, I did a line drawing on a new sheet of copy paper over top of a printout of the Denmark photo. This allowed me to simplify and edit the form and structure and density of the leaf and berry chaos in my own line. On another sheet of paper, I also drew a version of the basket and suspension gear as well as a mouse reaching for harvest.


I scanned the drawings and assembled them in Photoshop.Having each bit of the drawing separate on various layers helped me to come up with a final composition that I liked. I could resize and nudge any given element until everything fit, I avoided as many tangents as possible, and the image read clearly.

The quick color work just helped me to see each bit of the illustration, to see the positive forms and the negative spaces. To see what was rope and what was branch.


After I was happy with the layout, I printed it onto copy paper and then taped that printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series smooth bristol. On my Huion light pad, I was able to see the printout through the surface of the bristol and I could use it as a guide to ink from. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 nib almost exclusively)

I streamed a great deal of the inking of this piece on my Twitch channel.



When the inks were finished I scanned the artwork and started the coloring process. That first part of coloring a piece digitally is called 'flatting' and is basically coloring within the lines with flat colors. It's where I'm establishing where all the base colors for each object start and stop. At this point I also created color holds (areas where I want the line art to be a color other than black) for the veins on the leaves and the lines on the berries.

I thought the background was looking a bit vacant between the branches, so I digitally painted in some blurry leaves to push some distance and focus in the illustration.


The last step was to render all the color. This is the step where I add shadows and highlights, texture, and lighting effects. I do most of this using the Dodge and burn tools, the freehand lasso, and the color balance sliders.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Mouse Guard Floral Festival Process

The piece of Mouse Guard artwork you see on the left is an inked commission (something I almost never do anymore) that I colored for inclusion in my next sketchbook tentatively titled 'Dawn, Daye, & Dusk'.

I was due to be at an event called FACTS in Belgium earlier this spring, but to do legitimate public health concerns, the event was canceled. Before that though, one of the organizers asked for a favor of an inked commission. In this blogpost I'll run through the process to finish the original artwork for them, and to color it for my own purposes.


Pencils:
The request was to have a mouse gathering in nature with lanterns and flowers, mice bringing in food and drink, and friends playing games. Something with the spirit of a 'Jill Barklem' illustration was also mentioned. So I started with a sheet of copy paper and pencil  ands tarted drawing mice moving game board pieces around, holding tankards, smoking pipes, hauling food, and among them I included a few flower-capped lanterns and shapes for little flower buds that would make good garlands.

Layout:
With the pencil drawing sheet scanned, in Photoshop I separated out each character or object onto a new layer, tinted it to make it easier to see, and then arranged, resized, and rotated all the bits until I reached some form of composition. With scenes like this, it's tricky to not over complicate the space, while still giving the impression of a bustling little party.

Almost every time I draw a Mouse harvest-type celebration I think back to impressions of Bilbo's Birthday from the book, animated film, and Peter Jackson version to get in the right head-space.


Inks:
When I'd settled on the placement for all the elements, I printed out the layout and taped that piece of paper to the back of a sheet of 300 series smooth Strathmore Bristol. On my Huion lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below so that I could ink using the printed lines as my 'pencils'. I inked this using Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs).

There was a lot going on here, and I tried my best not to muddy it up with too many textures and tones.


Color Flats:
The finished inks were then scanned so I could start the coloring process. The first part of which is basically a coloring-within-the-lines step called 'flatting'. I used only flat color to establish what colors the mouse fur was, where it ended and their bare skin showed, the details on their clothes, etc. I also here established a few color holds (ares where I want the ink work to be a color other than black) to give a better sense of glowy light and depth.




Rendered Color:
The final step was to do all the rendering, texture, and lighting effects. I do most of this with the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop.

I tend to stream coloring work like this on my Twitch Stream! Stop by to watch next time I'm live





Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Drawing Like Yourself Lecture Video

Last year on Twitch I gave a lecture (one that I'd given a few times at schools and colleges––but reworked specifically for a stream) about a concept I call 'Drawing Like Yourself', or––'How I stopped worrying about style and gave myself permission and time to draw naturally.'

It deals with 'style', 'artistic voice', learning from copying and knowing when and how to stop emulating your artistic heroes. Here is the lecture available to watch on my YouTube channel:







Direct Link on YouTube: 




Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Muse Guard UBERDOODLED books

Several weeks ago I offered UBERDOODLED Mouse Guard books in my online store. These are more detailed and complete drawings than the normal mouse head sketch I always do when I autograph a book. Today I wanted to share all of the Uberdoodled copies (no longer available) I did. I hope everyone enjoys their drawings!



Saxon



Kenzie



Lieam

Celanawe



Sadie

Sefatus

Lieam



Loukas



The Wise Weaver



Rand



Kenzie



Saxon



Celanawe



Sadie



Baldwin the Brave



The One Eyed Owl



Celanawe



Saxon



Isabel



Lieam



Conrad



Lieam



Midnight



Gwendolyn



Saxon



Bard mouse from Oh Day Away



Ilsa



a Hare



Kenzie



The Fall Snake



Lynea



Lieam



Sadie



Lieam



Apiary Keeper



a Darkheather Bat



Alma the Cook



Celanawe



A Guardmouse Map



Sadie



Kenzie



Saxon



Loukas' Bones



Landra



Abigail



Ragneir the Hunter

Celanawe


Conrad


Em of Appleloft


Celanawe


King Luthebon


A Fisher


Saxon

Thane



A Hawk


A Crab


A Snake


Baldwin Marionette


Celanawe


Em of Appleloft


Conrad


Em's Crow


Benn


Arkin the Archivist


Sefatus


Rand's Father


Omaira


A Guardmouse with a whip


Lieam


Gwendolyn


Kenzie


Saxon


Celanawe


Baldwin Marionette


Celanawe


The Fox


Celanawe


Saxon


Sadie


Gwendolyn


Lieam


Celanawe


King Luthebon


Celanawe



King Luthebon



Roark


Conrad



The Fox



Celanawe



Alma The Cook



Mouse Minstrel



Kenzie



Saxon



Kenzie



Em of Appleloft


Baldwin the Marionette



Midnight




Saxon in Darkheather



Celanawe



Thane


Ragnier The Hunter

Carwyn

Em of Appleloft Funeral

A bat of Darkheather

Lieam

Celandine

Roibin the Scribe

Rand

Celanawe

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