Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wind In the Willows: Field Mice 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 9: Wayfarers All:

"Many were digging and tunneling busily; others, gathered together in small groups, examined plans and drawings of small flats, stated to be desirable and compact...Some were hauling out dusty trunks and dress-baskets, others were already elbow deep packing their belongings; while everywhere piles and bundles of wheat, oats, barley, beechmast, and nuts lay about ready for transport."

It was very hard to narrow down all the moments in the book to choose to illustrate. In chapter 9 Rat goes on a early fall walk to find the field mice getting ready to leave the fields, which will be soon ready for harvest, packing up all their belongings and planning for the future. One of the troubles with illustrating this book is scale. At times the animal characters seem that they could be tiny, their appropriate size in our world, while at other times they must be somewhat bigger, or even the size of tall children. With the mice pacing up all the natural harvest items, it made that job more difficult, but I opted to not include Rat, so that his size relation to them is not known. I sketched out several mice hauling, packing, and looking at plans.

I then scanned those pencil sketches and in photoshop, composited them into a layout that told the story. I tinted each mouse a different color so I could see where the mess of lines for one ended and the mess of lines for another began. Instead of redrawing the vertical bundles of wheat (or barley), I copied and pasted the sketch several times over to build up the shape of the mass I wanted behind the mice.

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 two in-process photos I took with my phone and posted back when I was inking this piece.

Drawing and inking mice for this book took a conscious brain-shift to do. I wanted them to look like my drawings, but not like Mouse Guard Guardmice. The bodies are obviously different proportions, and that was easy to get around because of the clothes, but altering the features of the eyes, inner ears, and even some of the shape of the face took some concentration.

With so much going on in this piece, I needed to focus on the textures. Not only are the natural items important to texture and give a pattern to, but so are the clothes, the variations in fabric, and the tonality of the various trunks, dress baskets, and boxes.

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:

2017 Appearances coming soon...

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