Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bodie Troll Pinup Process:

My friend and fellow Michigander Jay Fosgitt has a new creator-owned book out through Red 5 called Bodie Troll. It's an all-ages book about a little troll who isn't big and scary (though he tries to be) so no one takes him seriously. Jay asked me to contribute a pinup for an upcoming issue, and I was glad to. Here's the process for the artwork.
After looking at Jay's first issue (the only issue available when I started the pinup)over and over for reference and to brainstorm on an idea, I decided that I really wanted to include the puppet newscaster Socko as well as an action shot of Bodie. I talked to Jay about Socko, asking what would he be made of, if Jay ever planned to show the puppeteer, if Socko should appear away from the puppeteer ever, etc. With some answers from Jay, I sketched out Bodie and Socko in my sketchbook, scanned them and placed them into a photoshop template with the bleed area marked out in yellow. I used a drawing of Jay's in my layout for the puppet theater and Socko's painted sign.To help with the layout, I quickly splashed some underpainted color onto the characters to help me see if the masses worked the way I wanted them to.

With the sketch printed out to full scale, I taped it on to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. I inked the piece on my lightbox where I was able to see the printed sketch through the bristol to use as a guide for my inks. I tried to give Bodie's varied fur types some texture and movement as well as to stitching texture to the theater's banner and Socko's wooden head. I only used Jay's version of the theater as a guide and added my own movement and embellishments to the curtains and awning.

The last step was to scan the inks and color them digitally. Jay is using a lot of color holds on Bodie Troll, so I wanted to do a similar treatment. None of the lineart is black, but different shades of brown, with the lighter browns being used to convey distance. Otherwise the colors are just kept as close to on-model for Jay's book as I could get.

The pinup will appear in Bodie Troll #4 which is in Previews now for pre-order (ask your store to get you a copy) for release in October.

Watercolor Wednesday:
Here's another look at last week's watercolors in case you missed them. The first started as an exercise to use a mirror for facial expressions. But then I played and had fun with the beard, costume, coloration, and background. In fact, both pieces last week had patterned backgrounds.

The second of last week's pieces was a dragon in a knight's helmet. The background needed to be light once I'd painted in a strong red for the flag-ribbon...but the pale yellow was too dull...so I had fun with repetition

Upcoming Appearances:
Boston Comic Con: August 3-4
Baltimore Comic Con: September 7-8
New York Comic Con: October 10-13

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Weasel War: 1149 limited print process

Weasel War: 1149 limited print process:
Last weekend at SDCC, at the Mouse Guard panel, I announced that while I'm going on a short Mouse-Break to focus on some small personal projects, the next Mouse Guard book upon my hasty return will be the Weasel War of 1149. For attendees of the panel, Archaia and I offered an exclusive print, technically, the first artwork I've done for that series. Now that the image has been revealed, I figured I could show the process of making it and my thoughts about it.

The Weasel War of 1149 is the earliest story I had ever thought of for Mouse Guard. In fact, at that time, the title of the project was 1149 and the Mouse Guard was simply the name of the group of heroic mice in the story. The three characters I wanted to focus on were Kenzie (leader, blue cloak, name means wise), Saxon (aggressive, red cloak, name means sword), and Rand (defensive, yellow cloak, name means shield) in the heat of an unevenly matched war against the weasels of Darkheather. This image is a print from my first printmaking semester of college in 1996/97.

A lot of what I wrote down back in 1996 for that story is now junk. But the idea of it, some character interactions, and the way it resolves, are still alive and well in the mental draft I have going for the next Mouse Guard book. Plus after having three other Mouse Guard books of mine published since then, I have to incorporate what Mouse Guard has become into this forthcoming volume. I started with sketches of my main characters Rand, Kenzie, and Saxon as the foreground, and then peppered the sketches of the ongoing battle with mouse characters from Fall & Winter and weasel design cues from Winter and Black Axe. The two sketches were tinted in photoshop (to make it easier for me to see where one drawing ended and the next began) and sized to fit the print's format.

I then printed out the sketch at actual size, taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol and inked on a lightbox (so I can see through the bristol and use the printout as a guide). Inking this piece could have become a visual mess. There is a lot going on here...but knowing that I was going to fade out the battle in color, allowed me to give it detail without going overboard, blood and violence without it becoming a gore-fest, and a focus on the main characters down in front. The Weasel War will have more fighting, bloodshed, and violence than past Mouse Guard books, but I hope to be able to always handle it respectfully and only as a way to meaningfully show what the characters are going through and never as a gimmick or for shock value.

I colored the scanned inkwork in Photoshop added the effects to push the battle back into the background, add the snow, tone down the violence, and focus on the main trio.

I want to answer the questions I figure many folks have about this print and the next book:

The print was an exclusive for the panel as a big Thank You to the folks who came to listen to me babble about Mouse Guard past, present and future, at SDCC. I do not believe it will be available anywhere (other than perhaps the secondary market: ebay)...but that's not to say the artwork won't get reprinted in a future sketchbook or hardcover.

I do not have a start date set for Weasel War, nor do I have a completion date yet. I have a few side projects I want to take some time to work on and publish before I dive into another Mouse Guard hardcover. I'll update on all of that through twitter and this blog, when I'm ready to share more info. And do not worry about my return to Mouse Guard, this is simply a short vacation...Mouse Guard will be the project I work on for the rest of my life.

Watercolor Wednesday:
Looking back at last week's watercolors I'd say that I was in the mood to paint some inanimate objects. The first of the two was an antique phone. I thought about this as a subject after a conversation with my nieces revealed that they had never used a payphone or a rotary dial. With the oldest only 13, it makes perfect sense, but the realization that there are objects I used as 'modern conveniences' they have never touched threw me. I've never used a phone like this, but I got to touch one in a kids hands on museum once.

The other watercolor from last week was a set of dice: a 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, & 20 sided die each with their top number showing. I titled it "polyhedral armory" since each die is used to determine the damage caused by every scale and type of weapon in roleplaying games. Next week I'll post two more.

Upcoming Appearances:
Boston Comic Con: August 3-4
Baltimore Comic Con: September 7-8
New York Comic Con: October 10-13

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

San Diego Comic Con 2013 Info

With my biggest convention starting tomorrow, I wanted to share all the info I have about where I'll be, items I'll have available, and what else I'll be doing at the convention. Lots to cover, so here we go:

Most of the five days of the show I'll be in Artist Alley GG-09. I have scheduled signing times at the Archaia booth (#2229) every day (see their schedule), but I am happy to sign anything of yours that I've worked on at either location. I'll do quick head sketches at either place so long as there isn't too much of a line. If I'm not at either of those locations, I'm most likely at a panel (see below) or taking a bathroom break.

I'll have my standard con items at my table: books (including Black Axe), prints, watercolor commissions (first come first served each day), &original art....but at SDCC I'll have a few new items:

2013 Mouse Guard Sketchbook:
A collection of commissions from the past year specifically colored for this collection (plus a few other illustrations) 24 pages, signed and numbered (500) $20. After SDCC, I'll take remaining books to my upcoming conventions, and put them in my online store once I'm back from SDCC. (and don't worry, I never sell out of them at SDCC....even if an ebay seller claims I did).
New Black Axe Tee:
With the red banner shirts almost entirely gone, and with the release of the Black Axe hardcover, it was time for a new shirt! Celanawe with the Black Axe is surrounded by illustrated depictions of the five ancient serpents who once surrounded all that was. The printing will be black and grey ink on a heather-grey shirt. At SDCC we will have Mens & Ladies sizes and make the shirts available in the online store soon after we return home.

SDCC exclusive Black Axe:
Skelton Crew released a special finish version of the Black Axe in an antique gold. These will be available at both my table and the Archaia booth for $30. I believe Skelton Crew will make any remaining available through their website after SDCC.
I'll be on three panels over the course of this weekend. Here are their descriptions, locations, and times.
MTV: Creator Pitch LIVE
MTV Comics executive editor Tom Akel conducts a live pitch competition between three of the top creators in the business. Last year's winner David Petersen (Mouse Guard) will be back to defend his crown against two new challengers. Creators are presented with a topic just a few weeks out from the convention and then develop original pitches that you, the fans, vote on to determine the winner!
Friday July 19, 2013 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Room 28DE

How and Why to Write a Great All-Ages Comic Book
Some of the biggest "kids" in comics discuss the current state of the industry and what steps are necessary for comics to secure a place in the hearts and minds of the next generation. What are the benefits and challenges involved in writing all-ages comics? How are licensed comics playing a role in our future? How might webcomics, digital publishing, emerging technologies, and self-publishing change the landscape? And how can we ensure that more young readers today become readers for life? Panelists include Andy Runton (Owly), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Katie Cook (My Little Pony), Mike Kunkel (Herobear and the Kid), Neo Edmund (Jurassic Strike Force 5), Otis Frampton (Oddly Normal), Royden Lepp (Rust), and Jimmy Gownley (creator of Amelia Rules!). Moderated by all-ages comics writer and editor Joe LeFavi (Fraggle Rock).
Sunday July 21, 2013 11:00am - 12:00pm 
Room 28DE

Archaia Entertainment: The Year of Mouse GuardAfter its debut, Mouse Guard has become one of the most popular, beloved, and honored stories in comics, and in 2013, creator David Petersen is not slowing down! This year will see the release of the Mouse Guard Vol. 3: The Black Axe hardcover and the debut of the four-issue Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 2 miniseries (followed by the release of a hardcover that collects them). In addition, from Skelton Crew comes collectible replica Black Axes, the first in a line of Mouse Guard replica weapons! Moderated by Mel Caylo (Archaia's marketing manager), join the Eisner Award-winning Petersen and guests, including Jeremy Bastian, Israel Skelton*, and more to be announced as they give you a behind-the-scenes look at the making of all this Mouse Guard goodness, preview art from upcoming releases, and answer everything you wanted to know about Mouse Guard! Every attendee will receive a Comic-Con exclusive print of an original David Petersen drawing. Plus, one lucky audience member will win a free copy of the limited Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 Black and White Edition!
Sunday July 21, 2013 3:00pm - 4:00pm 
Room 28DE
(* Israel won't be there in-person, but will send a video message, and we will also be joined by Legends of the Guard contributor Eric Canete)

Watercolor Wednesday:
Here's another view at last week's Watercolor piece that I offered for sale. First up was a giant with a cottage on his head. I was thinking it would be fun to show a giant character using something we think of as 'big' as a small piece of attire. I think as I was painting it I realized there is a bit of Terry Gilliam/Time Bandit homage here...but a cottage instead of a ship.

The other piece I drew in the lobby of the hotel at the Albuquerque Comic Expo. I was looking at my pad of bristol that I did the art for and thought it might be fun to re-visit a gentleman Grasshopper. To make this more than just a re-dressing, I opted for him to wear no clothing and just use body language and the tea & saucer props to convey him being a gentleman.  Tomorrow (even though I'm in San Diego for Comic Con) I'll post two paintings in my online store. Watch my twitter @mouseguard for when they go live

Upcoming Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21
Boston Comic Con: August 3-4
Baltimore Comic Con: September 7-8
New York Comic Con: October 10-13

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Black Axe Hardcover!

It's been a looooong time coming, but this week, Black Axe arrives in-stores as a hardcover collection! I wanted to take this blogpost to talk about the book and its extras. To the left is the wraparound cover, which I covered in a process blogpost earlier this year. For those who didn't follow the series in issue format, Black Axe is a prequel book that takes place about 40 years before my Fall and Winter books. My rule as I went about telling this story was "the only point of a prequel is to add insight, perspective, and weight to the existing books".

Black Axe is a longer book than Fall and Winter. The issues are the same size, but I've added more hardcover extras than ever before. To bundle all the stuff together and make sure it all was in the correct order, that two-page-spreads covered the right places, and that I was on target with all the extras I had to produce, I made a pagination guide. It shows all the interior pages as two-page spreads (even numbered pages on the left, odd on the right) and came in very handy not only for myself, but also when handing all the files off to Archaia.

Black Axe will start with a Prologue...which is a reprinting of the 2010 Free Comic Book Day story. While "The Black Axe" isn't mentioned in that story, the themes and story meld well with the spirit of the prequel story. This marks the only time a Mouse Guard Free Comic Book Day story has been reprinted/republished (though when I have enough of the more recent stories like The Tale of the Wise Weaver, The Tale of Baldwin the Brave, and The Tale of Thane & Ilsa, I'd like to collect those together).

After the contents of the 6 issue story, is a new Epilogue. The epilogue is a bit shorter than the past ones, but with a different visual style than anything I've done with panel-by-panel storytelling. Obviously, I can't give much away about what the epilogue covers, but I'll say that I used it to tie up two loose ends I saw...one from a story point of view and another from a moral point of view.

Then we have the extras. In Fall and Winter there were 8 pages (four two-page-spreads)....for Black Axe, there are 22 (eleven two-page-spreads). These make up location guides, multiple maps, better looks at artifacts, and ships. Below I'll share a few examples of some of the inked original art for the guides:

All six awesome pinups will be included in the hardcover. I love seeing other artists interpretations of my mousey world. So huge thanks to the following folks for their pieces:

Mike Mignola (colors by Dave Stewart)

The last thing I'll note is also the most unusual and biggest surprise (even for me). The Foreword was written by Monty Python's own Terry Jones! When Editor in Chief Stephen Christy asked me to brainstorm about who I would like best for that task and told me to "dream big" with suggestions, Terry came up as being a big longshot. I'm a big Python Fan, but Terry seemed like a wonderful fit also because of his background in medieval history and his work in children's books. I was floored when Stephen got back to me saying that through some connections, he'd reached Terry and that he'd be pleased to write something. Thank you,
Sir Bedevere, the Nude Organist, and Mr. Creosote.

Watercolor Wednesday:

Last week's pieces came from the basic principle that it's always fun to draw animals with clothes (I've made a career out of it so-far). I wondered what animal it would be fun to paint that I hadn't tackled already and I decided on parrots. I started with two, but after a friend saw them, he encouraged me to do some more. So last week saw 4 paintings.

Upcoming Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21
Boston Comic Con: August 3-4
Baltimore Comic Con: September 7-8
New York Comic Con: October 10-13

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Legends of the Guard Vol2 #4 cover

Legends of the Guard Vol 2. #4 cover process:
The second volume of Legends of the Guard will close with issue #4. The last issue is the focus of this week's blogpost...well the cover rather. This cover I think has taken the place of Winter #4 as my favorite Mouse Guard cover. My original notes for this cover were "ritual or ceremony w/ pedestal basin and chalice. interesting architecture in background". But I had already done a piece like that as a commission (which was later colored & included in the 2012 sketchbook) and couldn't figure out a new take on it and assumed I'd just repeat myself. Inspired by the Watercolor Wednesday  painting of coins, I thought "It would be fun to do mouse discovering a Smaug-esque treasure horde with a weasel skeleton atop it"...so that's the direction I went.

I started not with a sketch, but a model. I wanted to keep the bit from my original notes about interesting architecture. I've drawn from Moorish architectural cues before when drawing Weasel dwellings. and this time I replicated (in chip board, basswood, & paper) a column salvaged from a Masonic Temple that is now at Materials Unlimited. I had seen the column in person when I worked there, but I refreshed my memory by looking it up again online. The remaining elements were the mouse & weasel skeleton. I looked at reference online for the skeleton, but made some of it up as I went. I also couldn't decide which way I preferred the dislocated mandible to point, so I drew it both directions.

With my camera on a tripod and a grid on a table, I was able to take several photos of the single column in multiple locations and arrangements. I Photoshopped these together until I had a layout for the columns I liked (a few were too dense, a few too sparse). The sketches were dropped in and I did some tweaking of the weasel skeleton sketch (shifting the head and arm a bit, and elimination the one version of the mandible). And piled in the shape of the coins with a quick custom brush.

Once I had the layout all digitally adjusted and ready, I printed it out at 8.25" x 16.25" (the same size as the final original artwork). I taped this printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol and worked on a lightbox to ink the cover. This was one of those times that, as I inked, I couldn't tell if I was going too far, or not far enough. The more texture, the more dramatic the lighting, the better it seemed the piece would be, but about 1/2 way through, I started getting worried. Cory Godbey & I were exchanging in-progress work that day, and he messaged me to "push through", and so I did. The inks were all done with Copic Multiliners (even the large black areas...though I did resort to using one of their brush-tips a few times)

I knew the final color values & tones of this cover would be subtle, so to make it easier to be sure I had flatted all the colors properly, I went with eye-piercing obnoxious & garish colors at first. The object of flatting in color anyhow is to just make sure you have established all the color areas as separate from each other. Once the flats were all established, I started replacing all the ugly choices with something more like the final art to prepare for the final rendering.

Here's a look at the color cover art without the logo & text. The rendering was all done using a textured brush in Photoshop and the dodge & burn tools.
Issue #4 of Legends Vol.2 will feature stories from

Watercolor Wednesday:
Odd items were on my mind when painting last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces (paintings I offer for sale every Wednesday in my online store). The first of the two I titled "Royal, Holy, & Chivalrous" depicting a king, bishop, and knight from a carved chess set. I looked at a few carved sets for inspiration, but made each piece my own in some way.

The other item came up while I was searching for chess-set reference. I found a photo of a marionette theater in Prague (I don't know who I linked to there from chess-sets...) and thought it would be fun to paint some mis-proportioned and silly looking figure. A knight won...but I could see me doing a set of these with a king and villain...perhaps a fool as well.

Upcoming Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21
Boston Comic Con: August 3-4
Baltimore Comic Con: September 7-8
New York Comic Con: October 10-13

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