This piece of the four founders of the Haven Guild (see Mouse Guard: The Black Axe) will appear in my 2017 sketchbook. I'd depicted representations of these characters in various Mouse Guard volumes as embroidery and wooden statuary shrines, but never the real-mouse versions. So, in an attempt to deepen the lore of the world of Mouse Guard, I created this piece both for reference as well as fodder for my sketchbook (to be available at SDCC and in my online store thereafter). For today's blogpost, I walk through the steps (including a video stream) of creating this piece.
In The Black Axe volume, I'd introduced the clandestine order called the "Haven Guild", an architectural discipline group who held the secrets of creating the grandest of mouse architecture (including all the ins and outs of secret passageways for the Black Axe) as well as the most important developments for each of their trades. On copy paper, I drew out the four mice, roughly in the same posture as their wooden counterparts in Black Axe. There are two other mice who play a role in the history of the Haven Guild, one is a rejected founder, the other a later addition...but for the purposes of the lore of the Haven Guild, there are only 4 founders.
I'd always thought of these guys as my mousey versions of the Hogwarts founders, but perhaps without the drama of Salazar Slytherin exiting the group. While wanting to show real-mouse depictions of the characters, I wanted the framing of them to still show some reverence, some clout, and prestige. I found a border pattern in an online search and then squashed, stretched, chopped, condensed, and tweaked it until it became a nice frame for each Haven Guild member. I dropped in scans of the mouse sketches (tinted for clarity) as well as each's symbol from the Black Axe Hardcover extras, and a checkerboard background and some typography for their names.
I printed out the photoshop composited layout seen above onto copy paper. I then taped that printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad I can see through the bristol down to the printout and ink the piece without having to transfer it or erase any pencil lines. To ink I use Copic Multiliners (the SP aluminum bodied refillable versions) with the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs.
I streamed this part of the process on Facebook LIVE as I worked on it back in March. You can watch that video below, as I ink and take questions from the viewers:
After the inks were finished and scanned, I started the coloring process. In photoshop, I set the scan of the inks as my topmost layer and set it to 'multiply' mode (which means that everything white is treated as transparent and anything black is opaque. On layers below the inks layer I then start drawing in flat colors for all the various parts. The important thing here isn't so much the color choices as it is about just coloring everything a different color and staying within the lines. I did have a rough palate I knew to use based on color notes I'd already given the characters in the Black Axe Hardcover extras (and pulling in a little Hogwarts as well)
Here again are the final colors. Using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush, I rendered all the fur, clothing, checkers, borders, tools, and flesh of the Haven Guild.
I also added some color-holds, a term which basically amounts to painting over the inkwork so those lines become a painted color rather than flat back. This allows me to temper the checker pattern grid, the type, and the symbols.