Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Owlhen Caregiver Cover process

The Owlhen Caregiver is a new Mouse Guard single issue will be coming out soon. The issue collects three short stories: Piper The Listener, The Wild Wolf, and a brand new tale, The Owlhen Caregiver. You can order the issue currently through your local or online comics retailer.

The Diamond order code is MAY210942. 
The 32 page issue will be in shops: Jul 14, 2021  

For this blogpost I'll go through the steps and references for creating the cover art you see to the left.

First I should start with the reference material. The Owlhen story, like many of my short stories, adapts a visual stylization for the tale within a tale. I looked to early 20th century Russian illustrator Ivan Bilbin for my reference point. On the interior pages I emulated his work more convincingly, with his flat illustrative style focusing on detailed contours rather than rendered forms or lines for shadow. For the cover art, I wanted a more David Petersen/Mouse Guard looking version so I rendered the piece more naturally. Though I wanted to keep the elaborate flat pattern on the cloak of the mouse character––and I borrowed that design from this piece of Bilbin's titled The Island of Buyan from 1905.

The next piece of reference is the owl's nest, which I wanted to be more of an architectural location than a natural rendering of a nest made of sticks (this is a fairy tale story after all). To keep in the theme of Russia, I researched their history of wooden stave churches and found this location: The Church of the Nativity of our Lady of Peredki, which has been moved to an open air heritage museum Vitoslavlitsy in Veliky Novgorod, Russia.

Luckily because it's a historic site that is easily accessible, there are lots of photos available online from different angles that would help me use it page after page. In the Mouse Guard version, I turned several of the turret sections from a log-cabin timber construction to a woven bird's nest look.

The last reference I gathered was for the owl. I'd featured a Great Horned Owl in the Winter 1152 storyline and wanted something visually different. Researching various owl species, I landed on the Northern Hawk Owl which had the right size scale I wanted as well as some interesting feather patterning.

I penciled my characters and location on different sheets of copy paper. With each element drawn separately I could composite them together in Photoshop––this allows me to make size and position adjustment as I go to try and get the compositional layout that works best for my eye. In Photoshop I tinted each drawing a different color to help me see each one and figure out which lines belong to which thing. 

I also used Photoshops tools to warp my re-drawn Bilbin-esque fabric pattern to match the contour of the mouse's cloak.

I inked this on Strathmore 300 series bristol. First, I printed out the above layout composition onto copy paper (it took 2 sheets that I had to tape back together) and taped it to the back of the bristol. On my Huion lightpad I can see through the surface of the bristol down to the printout to use as a guide while I ink. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs)

To make the coloring step easier, I left a gap in the inks between the figures in the foreground and the architecture of the nest-building. Even in black and white, it visually helps break up the planes.

I scanned the inks back into Photoshop and started the coloring process. That first part of digital coloring is like a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines called flatting. It's where you establish all the color spaces with flat colors. I'd already colored the interior story pages, so the color choices were mostly established. 

At this step I also made all of my color holds (areas where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black). I created a color hold each for: the architecture, the owl, the owl's eyes, the fabric patterns, and the feather's stripes.

The last step was to render all the color by adding highlights, shadows, and textures. I did that with the Dodge and Burn tools and a stock textured Photoshop brush.

Here is the solicitation info for the issue, due out July 14th 2021:

Which of life's biggest lessons can be learned from the smallest amongst us? A young mouse learns that compassion and kindness are the great virtues in "The Owlhen Caregiver." "Piper the Listener" finds a brave mouse venturing into the wild country to learn the tongues of other beasts. And a grizzled oldfur shares the lesson of putting a whisker out too far in "The Wild Wolf." Three poignant tales mark creator David Petersen's return to his beloved Eisner and Harvey Award-winning series in this self-contained special. 

Order now through Diamond
MAY210942 –– $4.99

No comments:

Blog Archive