Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Sparrow and Berries

As part of the new illustrations for a 2024 Mouse Guard Calendar
I did this piece of a mouse harvesting berries and sharing them with a sparrow.

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 photograph I took outside of my in-law's home last fall of their little thicket. I'm not sure what the plant even is––closest I've going on Google is Winter Berry, but that doesn't quite match. Anyhow, I used this photo and added a mouse harvesting berries and a sparrow watching/sharing. 

Bird fans always let me know their appreciation for more birds in Mouse Guard illustrations. The drawings here of the characters as well as the branches they are standing on were done on sheets of copy paper and assembled in Photoshop. I had photo reference for the sparrow drawing.

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).

That tangle of thicket is my zen happy place to ink, but I was worried about losing the focus of the characters, so I left a little white gap around them to help separate them from all that visual mess.

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. Some of the color palette was established by the original photo––and then I just extended that to the tones of the characters as well.

Here I also established a color hold (an area where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) on all of the background that tapers off as it gets lower in the image.

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

Getting the depth of field with the tones all being so matchy-matchy was a trick and took a lot of fussing with even after I had everything rendered. In the end I'm very pleased with the result.

The colored image appears in the calendar for 2024:

No comments:

Blog Archive