Every year the Baltimore Comic Con publishes an art book called the Baltimore Comic Con Yearbook where they feature a creator owned property that guests of the show can contribute a piece for honoring that series. This year, I was asked by Marc Nathan if the theme could be Mouse Guard! With this being the 10 year anniversary for Mouse Guard, it couldn't have been better planned. To the left you can see the finished cover art I created for teh book. For today's blogpost, I'll run through the steps and process to get from concept to the final art.
Concept/Sketches: I like to include another animal interacting with at least one mouse for any good Mouse Guard stand alone image. This way the sense of scale is featured, and if the other animal is a predator, establishes the tone of the Guard being brave work for such a small creature. I decided to go back to the 1st interaction ever published for Mouse Guard and drew out a snake vs mouse battle. I also drew eggs hatching little snakes to also pay homage to the offspring Saxon and Kenzie encounter in issue 1 of Fall.
Layout: I scanned the pencil sketches and started laying them out with the specifics of the cover dimensions worked up as a photoshop template (the trim, bleed, space for text, etc). Where the text would go, I dropped in a celtic knot pattern I've used before (on the funeral shroud for Celanawe in Winter). For the background I placed in a photo of a maple branch to see how detailed/minimalist I needed the background to be. I was worried with all the scales, that a detailed background could get too busy, and using this photo as a placeholder helped confirm what I wanted to do.
Inks: I printed out the digital workup for the cover and taped it to the back of a sheet of bristol board. On my lightbox I was able to see through the bristol board to the printout so I could use it as a guide to ink by. I used Copic Multiliner pens for the inks, the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly. On the right you can see the final inks, but below are some of the process shots I took and tweeted as I inked.
Flatting: I scanned the inks back into Photoshop and started to flat the colors in. This is the step of coloring where you are just establishing what areas are which colors. Not to worry about light sources, texture, or shading...just flat colors. I wanted the palate to be reminicent of Fall, and while some of the costume details and the sword are off from Lieam's first appearance, I made the mouse Lieam in every other way to harken back to that first issue in 2005. The border around the text was something I inked seprately on a different sheet of bristol so I could easily isolate it color-wise from the stippled celtic knot on the main image.
Final colors: I rendered the colors using the Dodge & Burn tools in Photoshop, but by using the paint brush tool. After I get the light and dark shading and highlights, I go through and select repetitious forms to tint and adjust so that they look a bit more natural (like the snake scales and the maple leaves).
The Baltimore Yearbook will be on sale this weekend at the Baltimore Comic Con. It will feature new Mouse Guard artwork by Jeremy Bastian, Kelly Yates, Tom Raney, Rich Woodall, Dean Haspiel, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Billy Tucci, Frank Cho, Brandon Peterson, Steve Conley, Thom Zahler, Jeremy Treece, Andy Runton, John Gallagher, Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau, Jamal Igle, Matthew Dow Smith, and many many more! More info about the book here
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15