Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Legends of the Guard Creator Spotlight: Jeremy Bastian

David Petersen: Was working on your Legends story different from how you normally work on Cursed Pirate Girl?

Jeremy Bastian: Not too differently. The only real difference is that with this story I did have a deadline (heh heh). I wrote out a script, then thumbnailed pages, then reworked them into full size roughs, penciled them out, and then put in the other 90% of the work with inking them.
David: When we first started batting around the idea of Legends, you had a story in mind that ended up not being the story you ultimately wrote and drew…talk about that story and why you abandoned it.

Jeremy: Well I had this idea I called the legend of the fire mouse. It was sorta a mission impossible for a team of guardsmice. They were to save a village of mice from a force of weasels that had taken over. In the group of guardsmice two were to insinuate themselves amongst the captives. One to start unchaining them and a second to act as an oracle, telling of terrible things that would befall the weasels if they remained. Whipping them up into a great fearfulness and leading them out of the cave they were held up in.

Meanwhile the other three were outside creating the setting. The leader of this team would be covered with a special bark, treated with a flammable concoction. When the weasels came out of the cave the team leader was set on fire and challenged the weasels. This is what the weasels had been warned about and they knew this supernatural mouse would be their destruction so they all fled.

I liked the story a lot. I pictured the first shot of the fire mouse coming out of a deer skull that had glowing eye sockets (due to captured fireflies). I really wanted to draw that. But when I was thinking it over, it just wasn't a Legend kinda story. There was nothing mythic behind it because it was really about cunning mice. I wanted something a bit more romantic.
David: Where did the inspiration for the final story come from? Were there specific elements you were including just to draw them?

Jeremy: Well I was brainstorming ideas for a new story and the idea came up of a mouse who worked for a hawk. I liked this idea because I like to draw armor and the idea of drawing armor that had hawk embellishments was very enticing. The idea really grabbed me from a design aspect, I would have to design the two warriors and the realms in which they lived. I had a whole bunch of fun with the Hawk's nest design and I think I came up with a good companion piece in the Fox's den.

In the world of your Mouse Guard anyone can see that there are specific details to the individual mouse settlements. Details in dress, architecture, accoutrements, and design. I wanted there to be specific things about the two factions but then make them feel really different from what you'd expect of the influence behind them. The Hawk's realm has some Aztec influences as well as Egyptian, but then mixed with medieval England. The Fox's realm comes from Roman influences mixed with a bit of barbarism. For me the look of a thing starts to tell the story and the words accompanying it finishes the story.
David: I want to share information about your artistic process. Lets start with the story break downs or thumbnails. You were not given a page count, so how did you go about figuring how many pages the story would take to tell and thumbnailing it all out.

Jeremy: When coming up with a page count I knew I couldn't go overboard. One- I would never finish it in time and two- there were other storytellers that needed room. When I write out a story I take a look after I'm done and just sorta mark off what I can imagine in a page. With this story I could take a slightly different approach, I could fit more into a page because it was a narrated tale and didn't have to be a complete panel to panel storytelling where you have to explain more visually. So once the story had been written I took the images I knew I had to have and thumbnailed the story around those.
David: Once you have those thumbnails, how do you get from rough drawing to pencil on your final page.

Jeremy: To get to the finished page I draw up a full size page rough. I write out the dialog and narration first and place it in the panels so I know what kind of room I have to deal with for the image. I always draw the word balloons to be a part of the page. This helps with managing time - I don't have to draw more than what is necessary- and design- I sometimes create balloons that almost interact with the art. Then I work on the business of the panel, the figures and action. When I've worked those up to what I want (and sometimes that can take a while) I can light box it onto bristol. I work at the printed page size so what you see is just how big I drew it. So a lot of the time the details I've come up with don't make it through the lightboxing stage and I need to do a bit of touch up. I like to do a lot of penciling before I start inking so that I can really sit down and ink for long periods of time.

David: I'm also am lucky enough to have seen you ink a page with a brush, but I know you used to use a pen, why did you switch to brush?

Jeremy: When I was using my good ol Microns they never really gave me the fine line I really longed for. I know Rapidographs can make a finer line but, I could never get one of those to work properly for me. I was working in an art supply store and thought I'd try as many different tools as possible to get interesting ink effects. When I picked up a 2/0 Escoda Sable round brush and tried it, I was overjoyed by the result. I've never gone back, except to use a Micron now and again for panel gutters and word balloons.

David: Do you think a lot of your drawing is really done in the inking stage?

Jeremy: Yes! I like to really cover a panel with texture and detail and almost all of that is freehand with the brush.
David: When I ink a page, I think about spotting blacks (placing large dark areas around the page to help composition) and making sure different parts of a panel have some depth through texture. I can only imagine how much more must be running through your mind as you ink. What artistic decisions are you making?

Jeremy: Ha, err well when I am laying out a page sometimes I just get carried away with wanting to do textural things. This is partly bad I know. It isn't exactly artistic as it might be considered obsessive. It does give a different experience to the reader though. I like the idea of creating a page that you can come back to and keep seeing things in it. I have (as of lately) been trying to guide the eye to the important things first with different value changes. I almost never use solid black. Why use black when you could use that space for cool wood grain... right??

David: Cursed Pirate Girl is the most detailed comic I have ever seen artistically, and while the story isn’t ‘simple’ it isn’t overly complex, so that anyone can enjoy it. I think it has multiple levels, so that an adult can read more into it and find the subtlety but a younger reader can just appreciate it as a straight forward adventure story. Was this something you aimed to do and how do you maintain that balance?

Jeremy: Yeah I really wanted to do a story for me. Something I would want to read and drawn the way I would want to see something drawn. The only consideration I had for anybody else was to make it all ages, and in doing so made it even more a piece of me. As anyone of the dozen or so people who know me can atest I am a bit of a kid at heart. It just happened that there are some other people out there who seem to like the same kind of stuff. Maintaining that balance in [Cursed Pirate Girl] is really easy, I just try to write funny stuff and draw creepy stuff. It is for all ages but I put it right on the edge of "this might give your kid nightmares", cause that's what I liked when I was shorter.
David: Where can we find out more about Cursed Pirate Girl?

Jeremy: You can always order the book online at Olympianpublishing.com if you are having problems getting it through your LCBS. Or you can ask your LCBS to order it through Haven distributors instead of Previews magazine. I do have a website jeremybastian.com and I believe that will be getting some more work done on it in the near future.

Thank you very much Mister Petersen. Even if I didn't already know you and hadn't been bewitched by Julia's lemon chicken I would still love Mouse Guard and hope to have been a part of it. So I guess it's good that I do so I can make you put me in it, Hah

Jeremy's story The Battle of the Hawk's Mouse and the Fox's Mouse appears in Legends of the Guard #1 in stores June 2nd

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Muppet Snow White #4 Cover Process

Muppet Snow White #4 cover process:
The story for issue 4 spins away from the traditional telling of Snow White and leads to the Wicked Queen kidnapping Prince Charming and forcing him to marry her. While in the shower (where I get all my best ideas) I was thinking about how to layout the cover showing a tied up Kermit marring Wicked Queen Piggy. This is the rough that I came up with in the shower using my shower crayons. I snapped the photo with my phone before wiping the tub clean.

The next step was to sketch the key players in the scene in my sketchbook. I wasn't trying to draw the cover yet, just the characters. It's freeing to not draw the characters in relation to one another, but purely to get their pose, likeness, and expression. I drew a 'replacement' eye for Piggy, because the first one wasn't to my liking. Knowing that Uncle Deadly would be performing the ceremony I made a doodle of the Jim puppet to hide as a carving in the pulpit or lectern Deadly would be behind.

I also wanted to feature a stained glass window in the castle/church the scene would take place in. I have long admired and even dabbled in stained glass work, so I always want the windows I draw to be physically possible and believable (some tight cuts were not possible to make in glass until modern glass-jigsaws were available). Using a photo of some glass pieces at a local antique shop, I was able to distort, cut, paste, and draw new parts for a fully round window.

Putting the sketches and photo collage window into place in photoshop I came up with my final layout. I was able to resize characters, swap out the bad Piggy eye for the good one, and tint everything so that it was easier to see what every line belonged to. I printed the layout at full size (which involves printing in 2 parts on legal paper and taping them together) and moved over to the lightbox.

On the lightbox I was able to see the layout print through my bristol board (the stock I use to make the final art). Because the pencils were fairly tight on the characters and the design was solid on the window, I was able to ink directly without penciling at all while at the lightbox. The stone and steps were easy to pencil in as I worked as they are just simple lines showing where the mortar lines fall or a step ends. The real work in the background is all the stippling and rendering, but no amount of pencil can help we with that step.

Lastly the cover art is scanned and colored. I use photoshop 7 and do most of my rendering with the dodge and burn tools using a stock brush that comes with the program. As always it was a trick to make the background push back behind the characters. That depth of field is something I try very hard to create in all my work, and often most of it happens in this coloring stage.

Legends of the Guard signing:
Next week Legends of the Guard #1 comes out in stores. To celebrate, Jeremy Bastian (who has a 7 page story in Issue 1) and I will be signing at Detroit Comics in Ferndale on Wed. the 26th from 5-8pm.* So if you are in the area, stop by and see us, and pick up the first issue in the Mouse Guard anthology series. Also look out next Tuesday for a Legends of the Guard spotlight blogpost interview with Jeremy. (* LotG Will be delayed by a week due to an issue at the printer. However we do plan on having advance copies at the Detroit Comics signing)

Jim Henson: 1936-1990
Joe at Tough Pigs.com asked me to be a part of a tribute to the anniversary of Jim's death of 20 years ago. I am a very big Henson fan, and really admire what Jim was able to do in his lifetime. He was a real visionary and his creativity inspired me. I am lucky enough to be a fan who has the privilege of working on Muppet related artwork as part of my living. I am grateful and still in awe of Jim.

Motor City Comic Con:
It was good to be back on home turf for a con at the Motor City Comic Con. Sat in an aisle with a bunch of my favorite people: Jeremy Bastian, Katie Cook, Jay Fosgitt, & Eric Lynch. It was also a pleasure to reconnect with talented folks like Guy Davis, Vince Locke, Andy & Alice Price, Stan Sakai, Sergio Aragones, and Jake, Kevin, & Matt Minor. But enough namedropping & linking.

Fan Art:
This comes from one of my niece's friend's Riley. I met her while we were visiting the nieces earlier this month. Riley came over and drew with Emma and I set up a still life for us all to draw. Before she went home, Riley gave me a piece of Mouse Guard fan art. Thanks Riley!

Upcoming Appearances:*
Detroit Comics signing: May 26th
Kids Read Comics: June 12th (Sat. only)
San Diego (Artist Alley): July 22-25
Baltimore Comic Con: August 28-29
*more 2010 dates may be added

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Muppet Snow White #3 Cover process

Muppet Snow White #3 process:
With the popularity of showing the Piggy Snow White cover process. I decided to show the same for cover 3. As before, it started with a small thumbnail sketch in my sketchbook (upper right corner). The potential cast list was pretty big for the funeral scene, so I focused on just sketching out mourning Muppets, not worrying about who went next to whom. Some character sketches I didn't like and redrew, others I passed over due to lack of space.

The sketches were scanned and sliced up in Photoshop. I had each character on a separate layer (the background trees were also on their own layer). Tinting the characters helps me know what lines are associated with which Muppet. This is the stage where I try and resize things or characters that are out of proportion. I can rotate heads or arms, re-center eyes, basically any minor changes. The order of the grouping was done mostly by height and what direction I had them facing in my initial sketch. If the arrangement wasn't pleasing to the eye, I could have mirrored characters to try and reorganize them.

The layout above was printed out at full size and taped to my final bristol board. I inked the cover on my light box using the printed layout as a guide. With the character's positions and faces, I followed my layout very closely. Other areas like the flowers as the base of the casket-platform, I inked as I went, just drawing variations of the few flowers I had sketched in on the layout. The leafs on the trees were also something I spent time on in the inking stage that were rather undefined in the sketch. It's that kind of varied repetition that I like doing in ink (rocks, leafs, water droplets...)

Last step was the color. I used a palette close to what I would have used for the Muppets anyhow, but I gave it a little yellow boost at the end to give the feeling of light coming through the canopy of that dark forest. With Spamela being the focal point I played with the lighting to make her some of the lighting source. The other trick was to push the background back behind the characters and not lose it in a muddy clump.

Motor City & Ink & Stein:
This Friday, Saturday, & Sunday I will be at the Motor City comic con in Novi MI. I'll be in artist alley selling books, buttons, posters, & original art. I'll also be signing anything I worked on, and doing commissions (7" x 7" square fully inked $100). They are 1st come, 1st serve. I start a new list every day and cap it with what I can get done at the show for that day.

This weekend is also Ink & Stein, but with Motor City, we decided to move the location for this week out to the Double Tree in Novi. This will allow any of our regular artists and writers attending or exhibiting at the con to come to Ink & Stein without driving all over Southeastern MI. It also opens the door for non-regulars who are out-of-town guests of the show and may be staying nearby to attend. Meeting time is still 7pm, so feel free to grab a bite after the show or just relax at the Double Tree until 7.

Bare Chin Deal:
This weekend I will look a bit different. Some may recall I took this photo a while back after thinking it was funny to shave my chin only. Julia didn't think it was funny and so the look only lasted long enough to grab this photo. Katie Cook thinks this shaved look is hilarious and has been pushing me to do it again. Well Katie, Julia, & I struck a bargain. For Motor City I have to have my chin shaved like so...but for San Diego, Katie will wear custom made Mouse Guard Shirts (of her own design) all 5 days. I couldn't pass up the advertising space and rate.

Fan Art:Kyle Ferrin tweeted some of his fan art to me. This piece is of he and his wife as Guard Mice. Kyle has a Deviant Art page set up just for his Mouse Guard Fan Art.

Upcoming Appearances:*
Motor City Con: May 14-16
Kids Read Comics: June 12th (Sat. only)
San Diego (Artist Alley): July 22-25
Baltimore Comic Con: August 28-29
*more 2010 dates may be added

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Muppet Snow White #1 Cover Process

Muppet Cover Process:
Since last week's Snow White cover #2 post was popular, I'm going back to show you the cover to #1 with my rough sketches and inks. I stared with sketching out all the characters that needed to appear: Spamela, Zoot, Dr. Teeth, Janice, Floyd Pepper, Animal, & Lips. Knowing this was a jammed packed cover, I planned on mashing these sketches together to try and find a way to do the layout where everyone would be seen and the cover still make sense.

My first attempt at this wasn't working for me. I planned on having Spamela sitting on the piano surrounded by the 'dwarves', but it was too bottom heavy. Before going back to sketching again, I tried a different layout with the characters larger and on a hill outside the cottage. I sketched a cottage to drop in after I liked the placement of the characters. I tend to tint the characters so that it's easy to tell where one ends and the next begins. having every character on their own layer also allows me to scootch them, rezise them, rotate them etc until I like the layout.

I print out the layout at scale with the final cover art size and use a lightbox to pencil & ink on the final bristol. The inks is where I feel I do a lot of the heavy lifting. I focus on line texture and weight. The materials the Muppets were made from are important to who they are, so I try and make the hair act like it's made of feathers or cord. I pay attention to stitching and sequins on the costumes. I want my drawing to feel as Muppetish as I can and the inks are a big part of that.

The other important part of making them feel Muppet-ey is in the coloring. Again it goes back to the fleece and feathers and foam that the Muppets were made of. I try and render them that way. Placing color holds on the various stitching and clothing details also helps add to the feel that these characters are made out of real stuff and not just ink on paper. For all of my covers I tend to lean the overall palette towards a classic fairy tale look and the tones from the late 70's Muppet Show episodes.

Legends of the GuardIssue 3 of the Mouse Guard Anthology is now in previews (order code: MAY10 0747). Here is the full cover for the issue. The covers all have 1 paragraph stories associated with them that are included in each issue. But more importantly, this issue will feature stories by Katie CookGuy DavisJason Shawn Alexander, & Nate Pride!

Fan Art:
Tessa e-mailed me this fan art of characters from her Mouse Guard RPG group. I really like the hummingbird & the pommel details on the sword and dagger. Thanks Tessa!

Upcoming Appearances:*
Motor City Con: May 14-16
Kids Read Comics: June 12th (Sat. only)
San Diego (Artist Alley): July 22-25
Baltimore Comic Con: August 28-29
*more 2010 dates may be added

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