Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Overlay Drawings

Overlay Drawings:
As promised, I wanted to show a technique I use when I'm struggling with a complex scene or layout. I find it useful to draw parts of the scene and then place them on the lightbox to work on another portion. For example, I can draw this background inside Lockhaven and then on a different sheet of paper, be drawing the hares. This way if I don't like the hares, I can erase or start over without worrying about ruining my background drawing.

In this example, I was also having to fit in lots of mouse characters. So I used yet another sheet of paper for that. Again, this way I can draw and erase the mice until I get what I like without ever altering or disturbing the hares or background. Once this step is done, I can scan the sheets in and composite them in photoshop. Here I color coded some of the characters he help me remember which mice they were as I inked & colored them on the final art.

Another example of when I'll use this is when the perspective can be tricky and I want to really get the background just right. I can draw all sorts of perspective lines and construction lines as I build up the setting. I then use another sheet to add the characters in using the background perspective as a guide for their scale and foreshortening. Scanning the sheets separately again (but using little 'X' calibration marks in the corners to realign them) I can also tint the background to help me see and focus on the characters more.

Ultimately, the photoshop composited images, which are cropped and sized for the final page layout, is printed and lightboxed onto the final bristol page.

Long Beach Comic Con & More:I'll be 'touring' Southern California part of this week and next. In addition to the Long Beach Comic con (Golden Apple #555 & Archaia booth #265) Where I'll be signing, I'll also be doing several store signings and appearances. Here is the quick run-down:

Wednesday, September 30, 4-7 p.m.
signing at Comickaze Comics Books and More
San Diego, CA

Thursday, October 1, 7-9 p.m.
signing at Secret Headquarters
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, October 2nd, 8:30 p.m.
Live Art and Music Party, Co-Sponsored by Atomic Apple, ComicVine.com and Archaia
Room #204
Long Beach Comic Con at the Long Beach Convention Center

more details about the events can be found here

Fan Art:
Patty Barden writes: "Last year, on November 1, my son and his sweetheart's wedding featured a Mouse Guard wedding cake--see attached. True fans. . . "Awesome Patty! And Congrats to the happy couple!
(no mention as to who made the cake)

Upcoming Appearances:Comickaze Comics signing: Sept. 30 (4-7pm)
Secret Headquarters signing: Oct. 1 (7-9pm)
Long Beach Comic Con: Oct. 2-4
Baltimore Comic Con: Oct. 10-11
Big Apple Con Oct. 16-18Forbidden Planet London signing: Nov. 7
Live Reading at the Flint Public Library Dec. 8 (6:30 & 7:30pm)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FCBD 09 Print Process

Weekly Blogging:
If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to update the blog more often than I have in the past. I was posting at a 1 per month rate before, but decided to up it to 1 per week. I'm certainly no James Gurney, and can't imagine doing a daily blog, but the weekly schedule seems do-able.

FCBD '09 process:
I just sorted through a bunch of sketches I had in a drawer to find some examples of my process. I'm reluctant to share pencils usually, but I think I have a few weeks worth of stuff to share. This week I'm showing the progress on the Free Comic Book Day print from this year.

Having done a FCBD print the year before, I had established a format: 5.5" x 8.5" print with 2 panels, a scene and the letters FCBD and the year. Here is my rough sketch. It's only a few inches wide in my sketchbook. My idea was to show Saxon, Kenzie, and Rand fighting weasels (a nod of stories to come). I was concerned here with the shape of the mass of weasels and the mice as a final focus.

The next step was to scan and enlarge the thumbnail to working size (about 6" x 10" for the images). I printed out the rough at size and then using a lightbox, tightened up the pencils on a new sheet of paper. You can see the rough as yellow lines in the image here. Note that I also used a font for the layout of the text here.

Once I liked the tightened pencils, I threw a sheet of bristol on the lightbox with the pencils underneath. I inked directly on to the bristol. This way I never get any pencil on the final art. I'm finding I like using this method lately. It means being tied to my studio to ink over the lightbox, but allows me to have cleaner final artwork. As for the "FCBD" portion, using the printed font as a guide, I was able to distress the text and add stippled texture.

I then scanned the inked artwork and started coloring in Photoshop (I'm still using 7 cause I like it and "if it ain't broke..."). This stage is called 'flatting' Not only am I selecting an overall palette here (which sometimes can change again before the final colors) I'm designating which areas are broken by color. I tend to do this on multiple layers labeled things like 'mouse fur', 'clothing 1', clothing 2', 'weapons' etc.
This is also the stage where I select linework that will get a 'color hold' ie: linework that will be printed as a color as opposed to black.

The final colors get rendered and tweaked. With this composition it was important for me to make the weasels a mass, but also have each weasel 'readable'. You needed to be able to tell where one ended and the next began. I also wanted to really help the mice be the focus, so I added the lightness to the background and color hold behind them.

Next time I plan on showing more overlay/lighbox sketch/layout techniques.

Detroit Comics Book Club:
This Friday (Sept. 25th) I'll be a guest at Detroit Comics in Ferndale, MI as they discuss Mouse Guard Fall and Winter 1152 from 7PM to 9PM. The plan is to have a real conversation about the books and story and the creation of the artwork and not to wander off into various other topics. I'm excited to talk about character motivations, places I feel the book fell short, or how little story threads tie together. With that in mind, I won't be doing any drawings or sketches at this appearance, I want to focus on the book club conversation.

September Ypsi Ink & Stein:
It's that time again, the last Saturday of the month! For those unfamiliar, a group of artists and writers gather at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti the last Saturday of every month from 7pm 'till close. The idea is to come and work, make connections, bounce ideas off one another, and to inspire and be inspired. If you live in South-Eastern Michigan and want to join us, you are more than welcome!

Fan Art:
This week comes from Sandra Becker. You can check out her work by clicking her name. Thanks Sandra!

Upcoming Appearances:
Detroit Comics' Book Club: Sept. 25
Long Beach Comic Con: Oct. 2-4

Baltimore Comic Con: Oct. 10-11
Big Apple Con Oct. 16-18

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Windy City Con:

This Saturday (Sept. 19th), I'll be at the Windy City comic con with fellow South East-Michigan pals Jeremy Bastian & Katie Cook. Because this is a one day show, I will be doing free quick doodles for anyone who has a Mouse Guard hardcover or their own sketchbook for me to do it in.

Long Beach Comic Con poster exclusive:
At the Long Beach Con (Oct 2-4), I'll be signing an all-new, exclusive Mouse Guard print, with an image created specifically for Long Beach Comic Con. Available only at the Atomic Apple booth. Limited to 25 pieces per day (75 total). I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. Careful readers/fans may be able to figure out both the mouse and location featured (though it will take some extrapolation)...though if you do, there is no prize this time.

Big Apple Con: *just added*
I will be attending this year's Big Apple Con (Oct 16-18). This was a last minute addition for my schedule, but as my next NYC show wouldn't be until fall of '10 (which at best I'll only make 1 day of), it is a trip I felt was needed. Thanks to Peter Katz for making the arrangements!

NYT Best Seller Week 6:
I almost hate to keep posting on this every week because I don't know how many times I can say I'm surprised! Is is now ranked #10 (out of 10) So I suspect Winter not to be there again next week, but if it is, it's thanks to the fans! Here is the full list

Fan Art:
This week's Fan Art comes from Dominic Bercier. I met Dominic about a year ago at Baltimore and he had some cool sample pieces to show off. He just sent this Mouse Guard piece a few weeks ago, Thanks Dominic!

Upcoming Appearances:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Muppet Peter Pan #4
This may be my favorite of the Muppet covers I've done. Gonzo is my favorite Muppet and I didn't feel like I really nailed my take on him on the two other covers he's been featured on. I'm also pleased with the water (inspired by Windsor McKay) and the coloring. I think Peter Pan #1 ships soonish from Boom.

Dead Duck:
My pal Jay Fosgitt has a book coming out from Ape called Dead Duck (Previews Sept090577). Jay has a great sense of humor (a nice blend of Muppets, Monty Python, and Benny Hill) and Dead Duck is his way of pouring that funny stuff right onto the page. I warn fans of mine that it is more adult than Mouse Guard, but fun for those old enough to appreciate it. Oh, and here is My take on Dead Duck and Zombie Chick.

NYT Best Seller Week 5:Every week I figure is my last, and Winter 1152 keeps hanging on! Thanks to fans and retailers for making it happen! Here is the full list

Fan Art:
Mat Marbolo sent in two Fan pieces. I like the stylization and use of color on this one. Thanks Matt! here is the other Mouse Guard piece on his blog
Upcoming Appearances:
Windy City Con: Sept. 19
Detroit Comics' Book Club: Sept. 25
Long Beach Comic Con: Oct. 2-4

Baltimore Comic Con: Oct. 10-11
Mouse Guard Live Readings in the Michigan Area: TBA

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