Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Hawk & Snake

As part of the new illustrations for a 2024 Mouse Guard Calendar, I did this piece of a Guardmouse scurrying away as two predators battle each other.

Like last year's calendar, this new one will feature half of the months featuring new-for-this-project artwork, while the other months feature existing favorite illustrations.

Below in this blogpost I'll walk through the process of creating the artwork

This piece started with a photo of a hawk attacking a pile of leaves (presumably for small hiding prey). I liked the idea of one calendar piece being about a predator battle, but thought, what if the hawk were fighting a snake and that allowed a mouse to hide or escape. 

I drew the hawk and snake on separate sheets of copy paper with the aid of photo reference. I also drew a mice high-tailing it out of there while eyeing some eggs. These were all assembled in photoshop, with each drawing being tinted a different color (to help me see the different drawings easier) and some quick blocky groundcover painted in as well as a stock mace 3D model rotated correctly to match the mouse's pose.

I printed the above digitally assembled layout onto two sheets of legal sized paper (taping them together so the image was 11" x 11") and then taped them with painter's tape onto the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol.

On my Huion Lightpapd I was able to see through the surface of the bristol down to the printout and use it as my 'pencils' as I worked. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.3 & 0.7 nibs). 

I inked this piece focused mainly on the hawk and snake and keeping them interesting, but not overly cluttered with detail (especially in the snake's scales).

With the inks finished, I scanned them into Photoshop and started the coloring process. That first step is known as 'Flatting' and essentially is professional coloring-inside-the-lines. I didn't know what the overall color palate was going to be, so I used all awful abstract colors just to make sure I had every shape established: The hawk's lighter feathers, the hawk's darker feathers, the snake, the snake's belly, the leaves, the sticks, the eggs, etc...

Here I also established color holds (areas where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) on the eggs, and then everything behind the mouse, and then another on everything behind the hawk & snake.

The final step was to render the piece. I used the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop while using a stock textured brush. 

I had to do a lot of color replacing before I could start the rendering though. I began with colors close to their real life counterparts and then started adjusting hue and saturation until the piece worked as a whole.

The colored image appears in the calendar for 2024

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