Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Blackcat Revisit

For the third episode of THE PLOTMASTERS PROJECT, Jesse Glenn & I revisited an old super-hero/vigilantly character of mine called "BLACKCAT".

Now I know some of you are yelling at your screen (and in some ways at me) "But there already IS a character named "Blackcat" in Marvel comics...

...yes. I know that, now.

To the left you can see my finished new piece for the BLACKCAT episode of THE PLOTMASTERS PROJECT, and below I'll break down who the character was, and how I created this updated image for the podcast.

Blackcat was a character I created as my teenage alter-ego vigilantly. He patrolled the rooftops of Flint, MI and kept neighborhoods safe. He was agile and nimble, and at one point had a grappling line just like Batman. He wore my same trench coat, and my same tee-shirt, and in a case of life imitating art, I made a cloth mask so I could go as my own character for halloween. Embarrassing, I know. The only thing semi-unique about the character and his name was that he could alter the luck of those around him for the worse and improve his at the same time...because "you didn't want a Blackcat to cross your path". To the right you can see my high-school drawings of him.

For the updated version, I didn't really want to change the character costume/design at all. I wanted to capture the idea of the clothes being something a teen would have access to, and having sewn that mask myself as a teen, I knew that part was doable. I looked up some parkour reference to find something that could highlight Blackcat's agility prowess (and show a teen showboating a bit). And instead of the typical rooftop backdrop of vigilantes, I opted for the marquee of a Flint, MI landmark, the Capitol Theater.

These were sketched on copy paper (with a printout of the pose already on the background drawing for reference)

I scanned the sketches and assembled them in photoshop. With each drawing having been done on separate sheets of copy paper, this allowed me to tweak each component, adjust, resize, rotate, etc until I liked the composition. It also made it easy to tine the background a different color than the character to help me see where the character's lines end and where the background begins.

At this point in creating this piece, I realized that I wasn't so much drawing Blackcat, but drawing the background around Blackcat. This piece had gotten away from me like the CATS TRIO piece.

With a printout of the above layout I was able to start inking. First I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Then on a lightpad I could see through the bristol to the printout and ink safely on the surface of the bristol. I use this method to save a step in erasing any pencil and to keep the final inks clear of even any blue-line.

I ink with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 nib mainly for this piece)

Below you can see a few photos I took in-process as I was inking on the lightpad:

With the inks finished, I scanned them and started the coloring process by flatting in the colors. Flatting is the boring part of coloring. It amounts to adult coloring within the lines, but only with flat colors--no textures, no lighting, no effects. The color selections were mostly made for me by either the old Blackcat costume design or the real Capitol Theater in Flint. Laying in these flat colors makes it easier to quickly isolate any particular area or group of areas to render them alone without affecting other part of the image.
Lastly I got in to do the fun part, all of the shading and lighting effects. for the rendering I mostly use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush. Its in this step that I add layers to help me paint in the reflected neon light as well as the glow around the letters. I had fun revisiting my old paper alter-ego Blackcat for the purposes of the Plotmasters Project episode. In the same way that familiar scents or sounds can trigger the memory into an instant flashback of a point in time, I am routinely transported by these old characters to a great moment in my life.

You can watch the BLACKCAT episode of 
The Plotmasters Project on YouTube:

And follow us on Facebook & Twitter

2017 Appearances: 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mouse Guard Model Video: Seyan Gatehouse

For my 2015 Free Comic Book Day story "Service to Seyan" (included in the short story collection Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales), I built a model of the gatehouse that leads to the mouse version of the Elysian fields.

I made a video where I talk about this 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 having the model helped frame scenes and block where the mice should stand in them:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Toned Paper Commissions

Here are some recent Toned Paper Commissions from Heroes Con & San Diego Comic Con. I will be taking commissions like these at BALTIMORE COMIC CON later this month for $200. First-come/first served.



Scarred Guardmouse

Guardmouse with Staff

Longshot of the X-Men

Nightcrawler of the X-Men

Mouse Blacksmith

 Gmork from Neverending Story

Happy Capybara

Fox Zorro

A fan's original character "Krooked"

Mouse Archeologist

Gruff Mouse Bartender

Lonepine Mouse


Mouse Composer

Dumbledore-esque Mouse

Gandalf-esque Mouse

Samurai Mouse Armor

Mr. Badger



Lieam as the Black Axe


A young Fan's RPG character "Iohn"

The Cowardly Lion of OZ

The Scarecrow of OZ

A Cockatiel as a Bard

2017 Appearances: 
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tellos: Baltimore Comic-Con Yearbook 2017 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). Two years ago, I was fortunate enough for Mouse Guard to have been the focus of the Yearbook. This year that honor has gone to Tellos. It is the 10 year anniversary of Mike Wieringo's passing. The book will be available at the Baltimore Convention and probably on their website afterwards.

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

The first issue I had was what character(s) from Tellos would I focus on or use for my piece. Obviously I wanted to draw Koj, the Tiger character, but I figured everyone for this yearbook would be drawing him as well. So I just started drawing all of the characters, Jarek the boy, Tom the turtle-wizard, Rikk the fox-theif, and Brad the dragon. Not being great at drawing human characters, I opted to draw Hawke (who's an elf) and Serra as characters further away in the distance on airships or riding dragons. All of these were drawn on copy paper separately using the Tellos Colossoal collection for reference as I went...

I then scanned all of my sketches and started assembling them into a composition. This took a lot of puzzle-work, adjusting, re-adusting, scaling, leaving out character drawings, mirroring...until I had a layout that worked for me where somehow all the characters fit, there was a focus, and their scales, relative to each other, made sense.

The background skyline & zeppelin silhouettes were drawn quickly in Photoshop based on architecture & ship designs from the first 2 page spread in Tellos.

I then printed out the above composite layout (onto two sheets of legal paper taping them together to form the entire 14x17"piece) and then taped that to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. On a light-pad (I use a Huion) I can see through the surface of the bristol to the printout and use it as a guide as I ink on the bristol. For pens I used Copic Multiliners (SP, the 0.7, 0.2, & brush nibs here).

To help the background not feel as flat, I left a gap between it and the character outlines, which also helped me in the next step isolating them as color holds...

After the inks were done, I scanned them for the start of the coloring phase, 'flatting'. This is a term that simply is about laying in flat colors (no rendering, no lighting, no effects) like a professional version of coloring within the lines. I established color holds (areas where I wanted the inkwork to be a color and not just black) for the skyline, zeppelins, and background characters, as well as a few details on Koj's sleeve.

With the flats finished, it was then just a matter of rendering everything. To add the highlights & shadows I use the Dodge & Burn tools in Photoshop using a textured brush.

Here again is the finished piece which will be included in the 2017 Tellos yearbook sold at Baltimore Comic Con

I look forward to signing these in a few weeks there.

See you in Baltimore!

Past Baltimore Yearbook process posts:
2016: Archie:

2015: Mouse Guard:

2014: Grendel:

2012: Liberty Meadows:

2017 Appearances: 
Rose City Comic Con (at the BOOM! Booth) Sept. 8-10
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

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