Tuesday, November 22, 2022

August Mouse Guard 2023 Calendar Art

This year I'm releasing a Mouse Guard 2023 Calendar. I'll be taking copies with me to Baltimore and selling them through my Online Store. I created seven new pieces of artwork specifically for the calendar (even numbered months mainly). The new pieces were all drawn at 12" x 12" (the size of the Calendar itself)

To the left you can see the final art piece for August. Inspired by tomatoes growing in my back yard, I wanted something more pastoral and calm featuring plants and food.

Below in this blogpost I'll walk through the steps to creating it.

In our back yard Julia grows a few different types of tomatoes. These were growing in a raised bed and while Julia was away dog-siting for her sister for a week I was watering them this summer. Unfortunately, we only were able to enjoy a few of them before critters started taking nibbles out of each one that was even close to ripe.

Well, I was starting work on the calendar project when Julia was away, and I liked the shapes and colors, thinking every time I watered it that it would be a good backdrop for a piece. Here's a pic I grabbed on one of those watering sessions.

I started with re-drawing the photo using the reference. I needed to crop the image down and figure out how I was going to handle rendering the texture of the leaves. I then drew a farmer mouse with a wooden pitchfork(?) standing watch over his harvest. But the piece needed more, so I added a little band of musicians who I guess are celebrating the bounty. And then I still felt like it needed more, so I added three fur Karner Blue butterflies to help the scene. I do feel like this is an illustration that got away from me in terms of composition or focus, but then somehow worked itself out through no fault of my own.

With the above layout all set, I printed out the image (onto two sheets of legal paper that had to be registered and taped back together). I inked this piece on my Twitch stream on a Huion lightpad. Using the lightpad I could see through the 12" x 12" Strathmore bristol to the printout below so I could use it as a pencil guide. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens.

I inked a lot of the mice with the 0.3 nib Multiliner rather than the 0.7 I do most everything else with. This piece is all about density of detail and texture distributed within some orbs of open space.

When the inks were done I scanned them into Photoshop and started the coloring process. In this step I am filling in each area with a flat color (no rendering, no textures)–it's like a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. TSome of the colors I was able to eye-dropper from the original reference photo. The butterflies were interpreted from photo references, and the mice were colored to not clash or blend in with the scene.

At this stage I also establish the color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) on the water droplets.

I rendered the piece using dodge and burn tools as well as a stock texture brush to add all the light, shadow, and texture. Getting the the tomatoes rendered was first priority since the amound of realism & volume in them would discate how far I had to push everything else. I had some fun using a freehand lasso tool (with a slight feather) and changed the color balance several times around the butterfly wings to give more color depth and a slight iridescence. 

The Calendar is available in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/mouse-guard-2023-calendar

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