Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Fall Harvest Redux

For a Mouse Guard Calendar and perhaps a 9x12 print down the road, I decided to redraw a Fall Harvest celebration based on a print for the German edition of Fall from 2007.

Jeremy Bastian and I were talking the other day about the fun and challenge of redoing old work. We both recognize that it's a slippery slope where it's all too easy to want to redo everything and remain stagnant instead of producing new pieces build of the lessons learned from the mistakes of old pieces. But, as this was just a single print image and for a specific purpose, I went forward.

To the left you can see the finished piece and below I'll break down my process to get there.

Here's the original piece I inked and colored for the German release of Fall. They wanted a piece of art they could use as a special print for advanced orders. They eventually also reused the artwork for a big poster for a signing tour I did way back when, and again more recently for a jigsaw puzzle. 

There are lots of issues of scale in the piece, and it might not have enough compositional focus--not to mention I can draw, ink and color better than I could back then.

So I started by sketching out a layout on copy paper and then adding in more figures on separate sheets of paper. I wanted to get a better sense of depth so the figures in the front are considerably larger and the scale recedes as the depth increases. I moved around the characters within the piece, removed a few mice, decided against all the lanterns, and to show more of the harvest foods. All of my various pieces of paper were then assembled in Photoshop and I did a quick blocking in of color to help me see the forms.

My original goal (and hopefully repeated here) was to show some kind of rustic & homey party akin to Bilbo's Birthday. There's a casual familiarity with the mice and the surroundings that their guard is down, they are relaxed and just enjoying the simple pleasures of ale, cider, fruits, veggies, and nuts.

When the layout was done to my satisfaction, I printed it out at about 11x15 (on two sheets of paper I taped together after they printed). I taped that to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series smooth bristol and on my Huion lightpad started inking in the lines and details with my Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs). 

I inked most of this piece on my Twitch stream while I chatted with the audience and answered their questions.

When the inks were done, I scanned them and started the coloring process in Photoshop. In this process the goal is to color in all the color spaces with flat colors, no rendering, no texture, no lighting effects. This is so it's easy to grab any of these colors later on as you render them.

Some of my color choices were pre-determined by the quick color blocking I did in the layout stage. At this point I also added color holds (areas where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black) to the leaf veins, apple spots, lute strings, and pottery decoration. I also made a new brush to emulate my thumbprints for the pipe smoke, and painted in a nice little trail of puff.

Lastly I rendered the piece. This is where, with the dodge and burn tools and a stock texture brush in Photoshop, I add light, shadow, and texture to make the forms seem round and full. I rendered most of the background off stream, but rendered all the characters and their accessories on Twitch.

I'm pleased with the results, and as we head into Thanksgiving, let me say that I hope all of you have as warm and comfortable a harvest with friends and family as these mice are. I'm thankful for you fans who allow me to make this work as my job.

The Harvest piece will be featured in a new Calendar that I'll be opening up for pre-order tomorrow in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/. It's a 10"x7" desk calendar where as each month is torn away, you can also use the perforated line so that the art on the left becomes a framable 5" x 7" art print 

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