Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Model Building:
Like many artists, I find it easier to draw something, if I have a visual reference for it. Even if you have imagined a wonderful setting or room or style of architecture, it can often be complicated to imagine that same image from a different perspective or under different lighting.
When working on Issue #6 of Mouse Guard Fall 1152, I had a tricky few panels that showed the portcullis at Lockhaven's main gate crashing down. I built a model out of bristol scrap stock I had laying around. Using an x-acto, some rubber cement, tape and a pencil to sketch in some panel details, I had a nice little model of Lockhaven's gate.

The trick proved so useful that when it was time to create the town of Barkstone for the 'field guide' portion of the Fall 1152 hardcover, I found several free paper-models used by gamers to use in tabletop miniature games. Julia assembled a doze of these or so and taking multiple pictures, I was able to make a rough layout for all of Barkstone.

At the start of the Winter series, the mice arrive in Sprucetuck, which was in my mind, to be an apartment style town of Ewok technology mixed with Brian Froud's design sensibilities. I was worried about showing the perspective of the various balconies, elevators, railings, etc. without some model help. I took a day to build a multi-floor section out of cardboard, bristol, rubber cement, and pencil drawn details. Using multiple photos and rotating the model, I was able to see a more full version of Sprucetuck, without having to build much of it at all.

Knowing that Gwendolyn's office was going to be a repeated setting, I made a model of half of her office in the Fall series. It was one of the fastest I have made, and I'm really looking forward to making a better one with the full run of her office. However, even this little crude version can instantly help me visualize a scene from a different angle and give me reference for what details will also be seen or not seen.

The repeated arches in in Darkheather, seen in the Winter series, were driving me nuts. I printed out a drawing of the arch pattern and tacked it to 1/2" insulation foam board (available at any Home Depot). I cut the shapes out with a jig saw and drew in the details with a pen. I used the same technique of shooting the model several times while not moving the camera, but moving the model, to create an elaborate maze of them.

Lockhaven's Larder is proving to be another frequently used location. Unfortunately, the model is out-of-date by the way I started drawing one of the walls in issue 3 of Winter. I thought about reworking the model, but this one is pretty small, and I'm afraid I'd ruin it and have to start over if I tried altering it. I just use it for a quick "pre-viz", as the move folks call it.

For the bone chamber that Saxon falls into, I knew I wanted the architecture to be grand and spooky. For this one I took photos of an arch pattern I liked and printed it out. I glued the printout onto bristol scrap and cut the parts to form the vaulted ceiling. The dome was tricky, but I made it using a paper model plan for a globe. There is a cut-out section of the floor so I could get an up-shot view and the dome is removable for a down-shot view.

This last model was the trickiest. With some of the models, I was dealing with rooms with simple shapes, or geometry I could easily get patterns for. This one, which is part of the mouse prison/tomb of Darkheather, was built from scratch. In bed one night I was thinking about the architecture of this space and thought that the floor plan could imitate the 6 sided patterns (a stylized heather bloom in most cases) I used to decorate the weasel home. I could imagine the columns from a top down perspective, but I couldn't imagine what the space would look like, especially at mouse size. I started with the central column and worked outward.

All the models hang around my studio (with the exception of Sprucetuck witch came all apart and is mostly stored in a bag in my filing cabinet). I really find that the models help with the visualization and composition of a scene, they can help with perspective problems, and force you to stop drawing and do something else productive with your hands and time (which can be a great gear-shift to give you a break when you are stuck in a rut).

2009 Appearances:
Here is list of the confirmed shows I am doing next year.
New York Comic Con: Feb 6-8
WonderCon: Feb 27-Mar 1
Emerald City Comic Con: April 4-5
Motor City Comic Con: May 15-17
Heroes Con: June 19-21
San Diego Comic Con: July 22-26
Wizard World Chicago: August 6-9
Baltimore Comic Con: Oct. 10-11
*more to be added soon*

Fan Art:
Thanks to the wonderful Katie Cook for sending me two awesome mousey-doodles.

I really love Katie's work and how she's never afraid to mix cute with gore.


BluBoy Comics by Ryan Spencer said...

Wow! What a brilliant idea to build the stage of your comic. So cool! It makes brilliant sense. Don't how you do it... It would take me forever to try myself. I would give up.

Nice work David!

Anonymous said...

I wondered how you drew Sprucetuck without going mad. Cool stuff.


Unknown said...

i like it how you detailed the use of the models and cut outs. it gives you the right perspective and also angles for you to use on the different scenes. great details and very accurate. more to come.

Jake said...

This is one of my favorite blog posts of yours. Very creative. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jake, very creative. I always have trouble sketching from memory and this is a fantastic solution.

I was hoping some faithful reader here on the blog can point me in the direction of where to find a Mouse Guard RPG book. Barnes and Noble swear up and down that it came out in October and is now out of print, so does Amazon. Borders had a release day of the 24th but say they won't have any for 4-8 weeks. Anyone have any success finding it online?

Anonymous said...

You can find the Mouse Guard RPG for sale from Indie Press Revolution. They have a number of copies for sale right now. Here's the link:


Just look up Mouse Guard RPG or click on the title in one of the lists of what's selling on the site.

Unknown said...

Cool, you're coming to WonderCon in our home town! Let us know if you need help carrying a log.

-- Lars&Sparky

PS: nifty models -- we used to model all our attractions that way at WDI.

Ian Corse said...

I don't think I would have the patience to build models such as these. I probably should; my castles/ intricate buildings never turn out right.

I love your style...Can't wait until MG2 comes out!

Kirsty said...

I might try this. I've made computer models before (sketchup) but real models sounds like it would be more fun, and perhaps easier.

Your buildings are really interesting - a lot of thought has gone into them.

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