Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sparrow 5x7 Print Process

For 2017 I'll be introducing a lot of new 5"x7" matted prints to my convention appearances and in my online store. Fans have been enjoying the Saxon, Gwendolyn, Sadie, and Kenzie prints in the same format, so in addition to adding more guardmouse characters for 2017, I'm also adding more animals/scenes.

In this post, I'll be sharing the process of creating the sparrow and banner artwork to the left from concept to finished colors.

Julia likes when I draw birds. So for one of the more animal-centric prints I decided to focus on a sparrow. But as I was drawing it, I really didn't want to add a mouse. So, I just kept looking at reference and doing a tight detailed pencil drawing of the sparrow.  This is much more detailed and tight than my pencils are usually, but with all the delicate feathers, the way the tuck and the different textures of them around the neck and head and belly, I wanted my sketch to have all the info I needed when I'd get to the inking stage. Somehow, adding a mouse to this just felt like a stunt, not necessary to the drawing.

In photoshop I placed the sparrow pencils in the format template for my prints and painted in the tree branches to help me visualize if the piece really did need a mouse. Turns out it needed something, but instead of a mouse, I opted for banners streaming from the branches. Are these mouse flags? are they sparrow? or some other tree-canopy animal? It's not clear...though I'd bet on mouse.

I'd also considered making some kind of tall design, text, or symbol on the flags, but again decided to let the sparrow be the focus.

I printed out the photoshop assembled layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol and inked on a lightpad. I use a Huion lightpad that allows me to see the printout through the surface of the bristol. This means that on the surface of the bristol will only be my inks, no pencil lines to erase (though sometimes, I do tighten up the pencils a bit as I work if the layout sketch is too loose). For pens I used Copic Multiliners, the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs. After finishing inking what was in the rough, I decided to silhouette more branches in the background, but was careful not to have them intersect any of the existing linework to make them easier to isolate for color holds later. .

Once the inks are scanned, I start the process of flatting the piece for color. This means laying in flat color (no concerns with shading or texture) to establish that areas like the sparrow's various feather tones, the branches and banners.

Once the flat colors are in I start rendering each area using the dodge and burn tools (lighten and darken) with a textured brush. I also added a color hold on all the branches in the background.

Here again is the finished colored artwork. This print and many more will be available at any of my convention appearances this year was well as in my online store.

For process posts on previous prints:

2017 Appearances: 
San Diego Comic Con: July 19-23
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mouse Guard Model Video: A Ship of Shell & Timber Scrap

For the fifth issue/chapter of The Black Axe, I built a model of a junk boat made of mouse-salvaged materials. With the fan excitement over the video of Adam Savage talking to me about my models on Tested.com I wanted to do some videos where I talk about a specific model, how I built it, what the materials were, and why I built it in the first place.

Below you can watch as I explain how I made the model modular to protect my initial craftwork on it:

For another Blogpost on this model : 

2017 Appearances: 
San Diego Comic Con: July 19-23
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Heroes-Con 2017 Auction 20" x 32" process

Each year HEROES Con has an art auction on Saturday night.
The proceeds go to help fund next year's HEROES CON, which is one of the last remaining independently owned comic-centric conventions. Shelton Drum & Co. Do a fantastic job of making everyone (exhibitors & attendees alike) feel at home & welcome. Some folks do their piece for the art auction up on a live art-stage at the convention (where attendees can watch the process). I prefer to do my piece at home in the studio where I can take more time, assure a level of quality, and not take away any table time for fans at the convention. For today's blogpost, I'll be sharing my process from start to finish:

Pencil sketches on copy paper of Saxon, Rand, & Kenzie. I then scanned these and arranged them into a composition on a mossy tree branch in Photoshop...

The layout is too big to print, so I break it up into single copy paper sheet segments and print those. The grid is to help align & register the 9 pieces of paper back into one image.

Close-up of the printed layout.

The final painting will be on mat board, so to transfer the drawing to mat board, I start rubbing graphite all over the back side of the taped together layout...

Mostly I just go over where all my drawn lines are, but there are so many close lines, tik marks, etc, that I end up coating most of the paper.

Here is the paper coated and ready for transfer. It's a messy job.

I then tape the layout down to the matboard and then trace over my drawing with a ball-point pen. Wherever I applied pressure the graphite on the back transfers off onto the mat board. This part is tedious.

Here is the mat board with a successful transfer!

I then started applying the lightest washes to the largest areas with watercolor.

First washes done.

Went into the mossy greens next....

Then the pale fiddly fleshy subtle bits of mouse skin...

and more mouse skin...

Then time to cover some larger ground with the fur.

Saxon & Rand's fur built up a bit.

All mouse fur done with the tree branch filled in.

Cloaks were next...

Primary color patrol cloaks blocked in with some rendering.

With a smaller brush I painted in the border detail.

Weapons, and small misc completed means that the painting part of this piece is done!

Here is my watercolor try at the end of the process (the watercolor tubes are a hodgepodge, but mostly Windsor Newtons)

I feel like my watercolor work doesn't stand well on its own without a strong line. Instead of using ink (which would be too stark & bold) I "inked" the drawing with a dark brown color pencil.

Here again is the final piece 20" x 32". It will be in the Saturday evening auction.
I believe you must be present in Charlotte to bid, I'm looking forward to seeing this go to a good home.


2017 Appearances: 
Heroes Con: Jun. 16-18
San Diego Comic Con: July 19-23
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Toned Paper Commissions

Here are some more recent Toned Paper Commissions from Emerald City, C2E2, & my livestreams. I will be taking commissions like these at HEROES-CON later this month for $200. First-come/first served.

"Nelly" a fan's dog

Robin Hood

AOA Colossus

Mr. Mole


Armored Cat

Northern Saw-Whet Owl


Armored Mouse

Cheshire Cat


Scrooge McDuck

Tin Woodsman




Weasel Warlord


Tavern Mouse

Hogwarts Owl

2017 Appearances: 
Heroes Con: Jun. 16-18
San Diego Comic Con: July 19-23
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

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