Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Baltimore Yearbook 2016: Archie Process

The Baltimore Comic Con has an anual tradition of publishing a Yearbook, each year featuring a comic property or title, and asking the guest artists to contribute a pinup in their own style (or also mashing in their characters). Last year, I was fortunate enough for Mouse Guard to have been the focus of the Yearbook. This year that honor has gone to Archie. The book will be available at the Baltimore Convention and probably on their website afterwards.

On the left you can see my finished Archie piece, but below, I've gone through and shown the process and steps.

Rough pencils/layout: To be fair, I've skipped a step before this one, which was mentally prepping what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do a classic 40's Archie. I love listening to old time radio from that era, and it was the older Archie stuff collected in Archie Digests my sisters had that I liked the most. Would I just draw Archie, would I draw Betty or Veronica (an idea quickly nixed because I'm rubbish at drawing attractive ladies) Jughead made my mental list at one point, and so did Arch's Jaloppy...but I then honed in on Archie trying to decide which of his dates to call. To make the 40's motif more obvious, I used the old telephone exchanges you hear in OTR and old movies (Betty's in a common sounding one while Veronica's sounds exclusive) The rough pencils were layered together with a stock plaid pattern (wallpaper) and a Riverdale pendant (which I had to typeset) and the girls' handwriting.

I then printed out that rough and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore bristol. On my lightbox I drew over the outlines on the fresh bristol (using the printout as a guide) and then turned off the lightbox and gently rendered the shading. This is the same technique I used when doing my Gotham Academy short story.

All of the shading was done with a mechanical pencil with HB lead, a traditional pencil with F lead, a kneaded eraser, and a tortillon (blending stick). Getting the overall values (the lights the darks, the midtones and everything in-between) is the tricky part, something I struggled with on Gotham Academy and I still see I could work on here.

The coloring process is different on this type of piece than my traditional inked covers or Mouse Guard. Instead of the color layers going underneath the art set to layer mode 'multiply', here, the art sits at the bottom on 'normal' and the color layer(s) go on top set to mode 'color'. Photoshop will then use the hue & saturation (not the value) of what you paint and display it in the value (light/dark) of what's underneath.

Here again is the final step, all colored. The original pencils will be offered up in the Auction at Baltimore Comic Con and the Yearbook full of Archie themed pieces by the guests of the show will be available for purchase there as well.

Hope to see you in Baltimore.

2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wind in the Willows: Toad in Hiding Illustration Process

Later this year, IDW will be releasing my illustrated edition of the Kenneth Grahame classic Wind in the Willows. The book will be Grahame's original text, with over 70 illustrations by me.

For this week's blogpost, I'm going to share the process of one of the b&w illustrations from Chapter 8: Toad's Adventures:

"Toad jumped, rolled down a short embankment, picked himself up unhurt, scrambled into the woods and hid. Peeping out, he saw his train get speed again and disappear at a great pace."

It was very hard to narrow down all the moments in the book to choose to illustrate. In chapter 8 Toad has escaped from jail and is on the run from the law disguised as a washerwoman. Just before this illustration he's had the aid of a train engineer who slowed the train down to allow Toad to make a jump for it before the pursuing police catch up to the train. Many illustrators have drawn toad aboard the train shoveling coal, or the leap itself, but I chose to show the terror in Toad's eyes watching afraid he may have been seen as the surrounding wilderness eats him up visually.

The pencil rough you see above was fairly complete as-is. So, when I scanned it into photoshop to re-size for the final illustration I may have only made a slight digital tweak here or there, but mainly I wanted to add in some shading notes for myself for inking.

The digitally composited sketch was then printed out at-size (about 11" x 7") and then taped to the back of a sheet of 300 series Strathmore Bristol. On a light box I was able to see through the bristol's surface to the printout so I could ink on the bristol using the sketch as a guide. For pens, I used Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs). Here I have an in-process photo I took with my phone and posted back when I was inking this piece.

I inked this while on a trip to Alaska for a children's reading event & presentation tour. It was done at the breakfast table of a dear friend (and friend to all books & book-lovers) Greg Hill.

Because I was traveling as I worked on and off this piece, I didn't track my time very well. Like I said above, I know I finished the bulk of it in Greg Hill's kitchen. The inking trick with this piece was all the cross-hateched shading and knowing how much or little to add. It was as I was adding the lines to the eyes that I was the most nervous.

Here you can see the completed image as it will appear in the book along with 49 other B&W illustrations and 20 color.

Wind in the Willows from IDW will be available Fall of 2016 and is available to pre-order on Amazon.com:

For all my other Willows Process Posts:

2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Boston Auction Piece

Last weekend at the Boston Comic Con, I offered up this piece for their annual auction. Part of the proceeds this year went to Savannah College of Art & Design’s Mike Wieringo Fund for aspiring comic book artists, and The Canadian Cancer Society in memory of Darwyn Cooke.

To the left you can see the finished 15" x 20" watercolor piece, but below are the process shots as I worked on it in preparation for flying to Boston the week before.

The first step was to come up with a design. I chose a Mouse who's been on the covers of the RPG boxed set and Legends of the Guard Volume 3: Sextus. After a small drawing of him on copy paper, I scanned the result and put it together with a border design and a grid. The grid is there to help me register the various sheets of paper when I tape together the printout at-szie.

Once the printout is taped together, I rub graphite over the back over all the lines. This allows me to trace over the drawing on the front while the printout is taped to my final mat board. Wherever my pen pushes down on the printout the graphite on the back transfers over to the mat board.

Here is the drawing all transferred over onto the mat board and ready for watercolor.

Supplies: cup of water, a cheap tray of student watercolors, and various brushes (though I mostly used the large flat, the large sable round, and the scrubbiest of the small brushes.

With Watercolor it's all about building up slowly and either utelizing wet-on-wet blends and effects, or being patient and waiting to do wet-on-dry. First washes were the green forest background:

More buildup for some subtle pine bows in the background before starting the figure

The brown fur and light inner ear, paws and tail. In Watercolor you generally work from lightest to darkest.

I skipped a photo here. Obviosuly I did some more building up of the fur, and then here I've just put down the base for Sextus' cloak.

While waiting for the big cloak area of red to dry, I worked on some details: the eye, sword, and inner ear.

More cloak buildup, and the belt. This is the last step with the watercolor...

And then to 'ink' the piece and add some definition and line back into the fray, I used a brown prismacolor color pencil to outline Sextus.

The original sold at the auction but, if you didn't get a chance to bid, I'll be doing another piece like this for New York Comic Con.

2016 Appearances:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Toned Paper Commissions

A little over a month ago, I posted about my plan to offer toned paper commissions at HEROES con. Well the process went so well, I've decided to keep it up. This coming weekend is Boston Comic Con, and I'll be doing these at the con for $200. (first come, first served, new list every day.) Like Heroes & SDCC, I'll try and have a few pre-done as examples that will also be for sale. These are bust-only, with marker, pencil, and white. To the left you can see a few of the Heroes con samples and below examples of pieces I was commissioned to do at that show and SDCC:

Midnight with the Black Axe

A Mouse Ranger

The Worm from Labyrinth

A Bunny wearing clothes

Master Splinter

My version of Basil, the Great Mouse Detective

Trapjaw from He-Man

Koj from Tellos


A Guardmouse with a mace



Guardmouse with an Axe

Spirit of Christmas Present mouse 


Wizard Mouse

Steampunk Saxon


Boober from Fraggle Rock


Remy from Ratatouille

Mr. Fox

Hogwarts Mouse

Mouse Healer

Rocket Raccoon

Mrs. Brisby 


2016 Appearances:

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