Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Bluejay House Art Process

This piece titled 'Bluejay House' was one I drew earlier this year for my Mouse Guard Sketchbook 'Dawn, Daye, & Dusk'. It's one of many pieces in that sketchbook (available in my online store) which I drew, inked, and colored on my Twitch stream

Most of the pieces in that sketchbook were my opportunity to play with lighting effects in different times of day––and while I did little light play here, there is a start-of-morning feeling in this piece I'm happy with. In this blogpost, I'll walk through the various steps to create the artwork.

The starting point for this one was to find a use for a piece of model architecture I built while doing an instructional demo at a workshop last year. The point of that session was not just to show the attendees that models are useful (because I assume every artist understands how valuable any reference is), but that it's not terribly difficult or expensive to build something––you don't need fancy tools, materials, or training, just scrap materials, printed paper, some hobby wood, and glue. At the end of the session, I photographed the model for my own future use, and then gave it to one of the other instructor's kids. So, with these model photos in hand, I started on my composition.

On copy paper, I traced over a printed photo of the model to interpret those shapes into my linework––something clearly represented in line that simplifies some of the details, while elaborating on other areas. I then drew a mouse and a bluejay on another sheet of paper. I scanned those drawings and assembled them into a photoshop file, adding some color to help me define the bulk shapes (the mouse, house, and jay). With each drawing scanned separately, I could move them around, make subtle size changes until I had a layout I liked. Lastly, I quickly digitally dashed in some branches and berries to fill in where the image needed some help.

With the last step done, I printed out my digitally composited layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol Board. Using a Huion lightpad, I could see through the bristol surface to the printout to use as a guide as I inked. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs). I tried to give myself some space around the lines that represented snow (you can see this especially around the shingles and the snow piled up on the roof) to help make the color flatting step easier when I needed to isolate those lines when I digitally colored the piece.

I scanned the original inked piece into Photoshop and started the coloring process. This first step is called 'flatting' where the goal is just to establish what base color everything is––no lighting, no textures. In this step, I also isolate areas called 'color holds'––areas where I want the inked lineart to be a color other than black--and in this case, that meant all of the snow lines.

Some of the color choices were easy on this piece because of nature---but I did have to play with the various tones for the wood, stone, shingle, and tilework on the little house (as well as the mouse and his details).

The last step was to render the color, add lighting, texture, and details. For almost all of my rendering, I use the Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush in Photoshop. I also went in and selected individual roof tiles and bricks to highlight or tint so that they read as having natural slight variations.

Again, this piece has been included in my Mouse Guard Sketchbook 'Dawn, Daye, & Dusk' and was completed almost entirely on my Twitch stream

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