Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Runners Bad Goods Pinup Process

Since Sean Wang's Runners: The Big Snow Job just wrapped it's first issue over at runnersunivers.com, I thought I'd show the process on how I did the pinup piece for him (an exchange for the pinup he did for Mouse Guard Winter #5). I started with my sketchbook and the section from the first Runners Arc I wanted to tackle (the old crew's hijinks...see inset panel). At this point I'm doing some rough layout ideas, but also getting a feel for the characters and their poses.

After scanning the sketches I can manipulate them separately and tone them to make it easier to keep track of what lines belong to whom. The ships they are riding were based in part on an iPod recharger. I only sketched one half of it, but was able to just mirror it in photoshop. At this stage I can also fix anatomy errors, like heads being to small or needing to be tilted. This composite technique allows me to get a final layout without having to do much (if any) redrawing.

I printed out the composite and used a lightbox to ink straight onto the bristol using my printout as a guide. As I mentioned in a previous post on lightbox use, I tend not to re-pencil, but to ink directly off my roughs. This helps keep the paper clean of pencil, and cuts out a step where I may tighten up and lose some life from my sketch. Inking is where a lot of the look of the final artwork comes into play. I focus on textures and line weights to make sure the forms are readable and that fabric is moving like fabric, fur like fur, etc.

Then after scanning it, I work with 'flatting' the colors in. This means picking rough colors and assigning where they go (where a shirt ends and an arm begins for example). Then I started adding the shading and painterly touches and light effects. Lastly I wasn't thrilled about how the palette turned out when I used the 'real' colors and since the 'old crew' were shown via flashbacks in the first Runners arc, I opted to go with a toned/muted palette for the final art.

Muppet King Arthur #1:
Due to art not being ready on time, Many fans may have seen my Muppet #1 cover solicited in Diamond on various sites online as the #2 issue cover. To my knowledge this cover will be printed on issue #1 (I'm now working on #2 so it can be in on time for it's printing). With Arthur's symbol being a dragon, I opted for Uncle Deadly to be the masthead of his boat and a small bearded dragon to be the design on his shoulder armor. Dave Alvarez (artist on the series) went with a La Choy Dragon homage for his cover.

Happy Thanksgiving:
For us here in the States, Thanksgiving is this week. I have a great deal to be thankful for, chief among them my Wife, family, & friends. However, I wouldn't have the success I do without you folks out there who are fans of my work, so Thank You. I mean it. I have a career because people enjoy my work and I don't ever want to take that for granted.

Fan Art:Should have posted this for Halloween, but better late than never. Fans of the book brought their baby dressed in a Mouse Guard costume to the Windy city con back in September. Pretty adorable!
and remember, if you have Mouse guard fan art you want to share, email me through the mouseguard.net contact info to send me your work.

Upcoming Appearances:*
Live reading: Holiday Walk at Flint Public Library: Dec. 8 (6:30 & 7:30pm)
Alaska Library Confrence: March 4-7
CGS Supershow: March 27-28
C2E2 (Archaia Booth): April 16-18
Motor City Con: May 14-16
San Diego (Artist Alley): July 22-25
Baltimore Comic Con: August 28-29
*more 2010 dates may be added

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Square Format:
When Mouse Guard first came out, one of the things people noticed about it right away was it's odd format. There were folks who loved it for being different, and folks who hated it because it was hard to store or display. And while it was an unusual decision on my part (and Archaia's willingness to publish it that way) it seems that the square format is becoming more popular with titles like Dear Dracula, Stuff of Legend, & the upcoming Archaia Fraggle Rock comic.

There have been unusual format books before Mouse Guard, so be sure I'm staking no claim on the idea. Though I had never seen another square comic until I started Mouse Guard...or so I thought...

As a kid I had a Muppet comic called Muppets at Sea. It was lost at some point and a few years ago I remembered it and tracked it down on ebay...only to find that it was an 8" x 8" square comic! The panel borders even tend to be divided on the 1/3 page lines. I have no clue if the residual memory of this book (I didn't own a copy when I started Mouse Guard and hadn't seen mine in a decade) influenced my format or not, but it was fun to see the commonality.

My path to square started with the idea of mini comics (comics made by folding standard copy paper in half). To stand out, I had the idea of using legal sized copy paper (8.5" x 14") instead of the traditional letter sized paper (8.5" x 11"). This would give me something different without increasing my costs like colored paper stock or color printing would. The resulting mini comic had a heavier horizontal weight and I liked that. And though I never ended up printing a mini comic, the few sketches of panel layouts I did helped me see my horizontal bias.

Because a traditional comic page is vertical, it forces the artist to draw panels that either tend to be more vertical, or horizontal panels that are not very tall (the taller you make them, the less horizontal they feel). I like panels that feel like a David Lean movie, epic, vast, sweeping, with room to breathe. And I find that horizontal panels on square pages give me that sense more than on traditional pages. Here I have taken two pages and compared panoramic panels. The square format feels easier to read and doesn't get lost on the page. (and though the last panel on the traditional page is similar in size to the horizontal panel on the square page, I argue that it doesn't 'feel' like a panoramic panel in that format)

As I mentioned with the Muppets at Sea comic, I tend to break the panels on the 1/3 lines (or the 9 panel grid). There have only been a handful of times that I have strayed from those grid lines. I find comfort in having a set grouping of panel arrangements to work in, but still a great deal of freedom because with mirroring or rotating those panel arrangements, I have lots, and lots, and lots of options (shown here are still not every combination of readable layouts).
I'll tend to pick a moment in the page that I feel is most important, and then pick a panel shape that fits that image. I can use this sheet to help me figure out how the remaining panels could fit (if they don't I start refiguring until I get a layout that works)

Last year the folks at Strathmore Paper approached me to do illustrations for and to promote their new line of sequential paper line (with Katie Cook and Tommy Castillo). I was already using Strathmore at the time, so I was excited about the idea. While I had them there, I asked for a quote on having them cut and bind custom pads for me at 12" x 12" of their 300 series bristol. I had been buying 14" x 17" and trimming each sheet down. They offered to make it part of their new line of products for comic artists. I explained that it isn't a standard size for comic artists and doesn't really belong there, they smiled and included it anyhow. Guess they were on to something.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Home from Ireland and London!
I apologize that I'm typing this up so late in the week. I had been trying to post on Tues. each week, but after two weeks away and flying over an ocean to get home, there was no way I was going to be able to type anything of substance. The trip was wonderful. Julia and I had a lovely time and saved some money by staying with relatives and exploring Northern Ireland and London for my signing there. I got a lot of great inspiration and Irish reference for the upcoming series.

I have a wonderful batch of photos that I will reference for architecture, carved details, tile work, stained glass, library design, etc for future Mouse Guard stories. Julia acted a photojournalist for me and took a great many photos with her camera (an SLR that I'm only allowed to play with if I ask). She has been spending the day processing those photos so she can upload and share them with everyone. A few additional ideas came out of our travels for a project I plan on when I need a break from Mouse Guard (not anytime soon) called Fir Darrig, which is set in Irish folklore. The trip will be influencing my work and I hope you enjoy.

But this trip was work too, we were in London for a few days as well which allowed me to do a signing at Forbidden Planet. The folks there were amazing and I really appreciate the warm and polite welcome from my UK fans. The owners of Forbidden Planet are also the owners of Titan Books, who publish the UK editions of Mouse Guard. It was a great opportunity to talk to them and be able to chat about the book's performance as well as looking forward to future UK versions of upcoming Mouse Guard books.

With just under two weeks over there, we had a lot of places to see and talk about, and get reference images from, but among them some of the highlights are the Trinity College's long room, the Book of Kells, Giant's Causeway, Newgrange, Christ's Church in Dublin, Fairy Glen in Rostrevor, and damn near all of London.
I have uploaded photos from the trip to my Flickr page: here

Special thanks to Darcy & Eoin McCartan, Mat Allen, and the folks at Forbidden Planet in London for making sure we had such a good time!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Due to being in Ireland, this week is a continuation of the list from last week of artists whose work I collect:

Joao Lemos:
I found out about Joao's work when Marvel's Avengers Fairy Tales #1 came out. I met Joao in New York two years ago when he was visiting from Portugal. He showed me a journal he had kept for a year in preparation for the Peter Pan story in AFT#1. It was amazing, he had stage plans from the original Peter Pan production, he had drawn characters and settings that were not in the script, just so he got a sense of all of this version of Neverland. I loved Joao's interpretations of the other Avengers as Lost Boys, so I asked him to do this commission for me. You can check out Joao's blog here: http://sete-estrelo.blogspot.com/

Guy Davis:
I had been following the first few issues of BPRD when I first met Guy. He won an ebay auction on a sculpture I made and let me drop it off to him personally. Guy is one of the kindest people in comics you can meet (He also named Conrad in Mouse Guard). No one can out-do Guy for horrifying creatures either. I have several pieces from Guy, but wanted to share this page from Nevermen that featured an octopus-headed villain I really liked named Honshu. You can find Guy's site here: http://www.guydavisartworks.com/

Craig Rousseau:
Craig's work I discovered through the Hellboy.com forum years ago. Craig is known for his artwork on the Perhapanauts as well as his great Canson paper commissions (which I am in line for currently). A few years ago Craig and I were at the Marriot lounge at San Diego and I noticed he was just sitting there while other of us were catching up on show commissions etc. I handed him some scrap bristol and he sketched and inked this Choopie for me. You can check out more of Craig's work here: http://www.craigrousseau.com/

Alex Sheikman:
Alex's book Robotika was part of the 'first class' of books brought into Archaia. Naturally we met at one of those early Archaia booths, and Alex and I hit it off instantly. One of the things I admire the most about Alex is his constant desire to improve every part of his work. He examines others work and dissects it and then dissects his own looking to make the next story, page, panel better than the last. Alex and I did a page trade for this one. His inks are so tight and precise. I liked this page because it had some of everything: action, setting, close-ups, the works! You can follow Alex's blog here: http://sheikman.blogspot.com/

Rebecca Guay:
I knew of Rebecca's work through her Magic Cards (I played frequently back in the late 90's). At my first San Diego Comic Con I saw her pages for sale (grossly under priced) at her booth, but I had run out of money. The next year, with Julia there, we found Rebecca's table and the pages I had admired before were still available. We couldn't pick between two (the stained glass in the one on the left and the cottages on the one on the right), so we got them both. You can find Rebecca's site here: http://www.rebeccaguay.com/

Sean Wang:
After reading Sean Wang's Runners book I e-mailed him telling him how much I liked it. Sean has a real mind for detail, not just detailed linework, but detailed designs and worlds. He take great care in designing his fictional sci-fi world. Everything from clothing to customs, to ships, guns, and furniture are carefully crafted to be believable. Sean did this sketch of Grissom, one of my favorite alien designs he's done, while we were both an the New York Comic Con a few years back. You can follow Sean's current Runners series twice a week at: http://runnersuniverse.com/

Mark Smylie:
Mark's book Artesia is fully painted epic fantasy. I admired Mark's work even before he became my publisher back in '06. I had my eye on a few pages from Artesia Afire featuring some cool ghosts. It took a while for me to get over those pages being sold before I saw this page (also from Afire) that I really liked better. While Mark is known for his huge military-style armored warfare scenes (as well as Artesia's adult scenes) this page offered a nice slice of life that I think shows Mark is a skilled world-builder. You can find out more about Artesia here: http://www.artesiaonline.com/

Jason Shawn Alexander:
The first original artwork I ever purchased was from Jason. It was my first San Diego Comic Con. I had gone with Jeremy Bastian, met a lot of great people in person, and showed Mouse Guard to Archaia. I ended the trip on Sunday by getting this page. I didn't know anything about Jason but that he was rumored to be working on an Abe Sapien mini-series. The third panel on this one is what sold me. You can check out Jason's blog here: http://bloodandwhisky.blogspot.com/

Back next week with a 'fresh' (aka not pre-typed) post

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