Tuesday, December 6, 2022

December 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 (**SOLD OUT**). 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 December. I wanted to suggest a holiday, but without being overly blatant––so this mouse may just happen to wear red when delivering goods to mouse towns and villages in the snow.

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

This stock photo is the sled reference I used for the piece. I'd actually already drawn the mouse with their lantern when I decided I needed to dig for reference. At first, I didn't find sled designs I liked that felt rustic enough while also having space for the load of goods piled up. I was prepared to look at medieval carts with the plan to replace wheels with rails when I found this perfect sled. 

As I mentioned before, I started with the mouse in a fur lined coat holding a lantern. Then I used the above sled reference. I did bulk up most of the wooden pieces to make them a bit more fairy tale looking. I also added side walls (like on a kid's wagon). Then on a separate sheet I drew the bundle of goods. Some of those items are recognizable items (a pulley, a cauldron, sourdough bread, swords, bottles, a bolt of tartan fabric etc) but some are just boxes and odd shapes meant to imply important goods. I drew a pine bough (using a photo as reference) but when I had everything scanned and added some quick color blocking, I found that the area needed more density, and quickly painted in more shape.

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.

While the mouse and snowy ground were fairly straight forward, there was a lot to take into account in the sled's contents so they read as a mass, but also as separate objects--which also had to be different than the pine background.

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. The character and setting's colors were fairly established in the layout stage, but  getting all the items in the sled to read took a long time of color selecting.

At this stage I also establish the color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) snow and the tartan pattern and the liquid & labels in/on the bottles.

I rendered the piece using dodge and burn tools as well as a stock texture brush to add all the light, shadow, and texture. The lantern light really set the rendering for this piece, so I had to get the snow shadows and warm highlights established, then get the character lit in those same terms before I could start on the sled or goods. I added in a digital thumbprint trail for his pipe smoke, and digitally painted falling snow.

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