Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Re-Run BOOM! 2017 Holiday Card

With over ten years of blogposts, I will continue to Re-Run past posts for the new fans or folks who may have missed a post the first time around. This post originally went up Dec of 2017:

Happy Holidays Everyone! Be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, Festivus, Mid-Winter, or Yulefrost, may it be a merry time for you and yours full of live, love, and gratitude for each other.

I was asked by my publisher BOOM!/Archaia to do the artwork for their Holiday card this year. In this blogpost, I walk through the steps to creating the final image you see to the left.

I was worried about too much open sky or falling snow on a Mouse Guard Yule Frost type image. I knew I was going to have mice around a candle-lit pinecone, but felt like I needed something more formal to make it interesting and read as a card-front. I found a piece of a gothic arch in a google image search that was part of a church's woodwork. It was much taller than what I needed, so using Photoshop, I distorted it to suit my needs format-wise. I then used a printout of that to lightbox a clean pencil version with all the specific iconography removed in favor of holly, berries, and a Mouse Guard crest (Swords, Strongholds, and Diplomacy: the three main tenants of the Guard).

The other elements: each mouse & the pinecone were also drawn separately on copy paper, and then scanned in and assembled in Photoshop with the clean arch drawing to come up with this layout. The tinted colors of each element make it easier for me as I ink.

I then printed out the above layout, taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol, and on a light pad started inking. Using a light pad allows me to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout underneath.

Copic Multiliners (the refillable SP variety with 0.7 & 0.3 nibs) are my inking pen of choice.

Inking this was a bit tricky because of how tight and light all the arch linework was in my rough. With every stroke, I felt like I may be ruining it, or being too heavy-handed at the least.  To combat this mentally, I reminded myself that the piece was going to be reduced (shrunk) in scale to fit on the face of the card, so the bolder the lines, the better they'd hold up.

Color Flats:
After the inks were completed I scanned them into Photoshop and started the process of coloring known as 'flatting'. This is where you establish the areas differentiated by flat colors: The fur color is different than the cloak color, is different from the pinecone, is different from the arch, etc. Sometimes I use crazy jarring colors to do this because it helps me see mistakes if I've colored outside the lines.

Here though, I stuck with colors pretty close to the final concept and relied on tried and true fur/cloak color combinations. The pendant banners were in the red family just to warm up the background of the blue-violet sky.

Final Colors:
Once everything was flatted, I was able to render the piece. This means adding in all the shading and highlights and texture. With everything as flat colors first, it's easy to isolate an area, say the front mouse's fur, and render that independently of the cloak or inner ears or background.

For Photoshop using people, I use the dodge and burn tools with a textured brush for most of my rendering. I also use a freehand lasso with a slight feather on it to select areas and color shift them with the color balance tool to get those rosey noses and warm glows.

I added the snow digitally using a Wacom Tablet to draw in the flakes. This is different than the harder-edged and more process intensive way I did in the Winter series, and probably how I'll proceed in the future with any snow in Mouse Guard.

So, again, I wish everyone who reads this blog and all of your extended families & friends a Happy Holiday season with blessings of health, prosperity, joy, wisdom, and togetherness for us all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Beneath The Dark Crystal Variant Cover #6

Here is my sixth variant cover for Archaia's Beneath the Dark Crystal series!

To view my past Dark Crystal covers click here. 

This cover features UrAc the Mystic Scribe and skekOk the Skeksis Scroll Keeper. Like my other covers these two are the counterparts of each other and paired together facing opposite directions. To the left you can see the finished artwork for the cover, but below I'll walk through the steps I took to to get there.

On separate sheets of copy paper I drew UrAc the Mystic and skekOk the Skeksis. I was fortunate to have some great reference from Henson for both, though there's always a part you'd like to be able to see or tough on the real puppet that the photo just doesn't provide the information for––so I just interpreted it all as best as I could. I tried to get their props mimicking each other a bit, the staff for the Mystic and the scrolls for the Skeksis. On a third piece of paper I copied an existing Froud pattern found in the art book of the Dark Crystal as the background. Once I had those drawings finished, I scanned them all, and with each part on a different layer, I tinted them different colors. The color tints for the pencils helps me see where a character ends and the next begins or what are the finicky background details.

Once the layout was approved by Archaia and Henson, it was time to move on to inking the cover. I printed the above layout out onto copy paper (two sheets I had to tape together for the full image). That printout was then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol board. On my Huion lightpad I could see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and use it as a guide as I inked with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly). As ever with these Dark Crystal covers, texture is so much about how I try to honor the practical costuming and puppet building of the Henson Creature Shop. Little stippling, line weight decisions, and differences in hatching helps me create those fabrics and materials.

With the inks completed, I could move on to the coloring stage. The first step of which is the less-fun part: Flatting. Flatting is essentially a professional version of 'coloring within the lines'. No shading details are done, just flat (hence the name) colors are established. Which parts of the image are which colors.

Some of the color choice decisions are based on the photo reference I have, but I'm also eyeballing those colors and then making alterations that suit the illustration. In this stage I also establish the color holds (the areas that I want the ink to print as a color other than black) for the background Froudian circle pattern.

The final step for this cover was to render the colors adding shading, texture, and highlights. I use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to do that, with a stock textured brush to help emulate the look of something a little more natural and less airbrush-digital-slick.

Overtop of the whole piece I added in another Froudian design (one that I inked back when I was inking the cover itself) as a ghostly overlay on the entire piece.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mouse Guard Creator Commentary: Winter #2

I've made a Creator Commentary video for the second issue/chapter of Mouse Guard Winter 1152!  Please feel free to follow along in your copy of the story in either issue form of from the hardcover as I talk about the behind the scenes details, art notes, and my head-space as I go page by page and panel by panel. Enjoy!

Direct link to watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/KnOUVB5_f5w

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

TMNT Macro Series Collection Cover

After I turned in my last TMNT Macro series cover (Raphael), editor Bobby Curnow asked if I'd be up for doing one more so that the trade collection had new artwork. In the past the trades collecting my Micro Series' & Turtles in Time runs reused work from those covers. So this was a nice treat to get to put all the turtles together as a tidy bow to end this run.

To the left you can see the finished cover art, but below I'll go through the steps and stages from sketch to finished colors:

As usual, I like drawing characters separately on copy paper to help me work out poses, and rework details by overlaying more sheets while working on a lightpad. I also find it hard to compose an arangemet of the Turtles where each gets a fair representation in terms of scale and face-time AND there are no odd tangents with each other OR their weapons.

So over the corse of several sheets for the four turtles and a photo referenced study of the City Hall subway platform in NYC, I had what I needed to assemble something to show Bobby.

Since each turtle was separately drawn and scanned, I could easily move, shift, resize, rotate, and tint them to help figure out the puzzle of a layout where, as I said above, there were no tangents. In this stage I did have to make an alteration to Leo's sword because it was always covering part of Mike's face until I changed it, I realized I never finished drawing one of Raph's legs, and was able to swap in a mirror of one of Leo's, and came up with a pile of garbage to justify why/how Don was standing up higher than the rest.

I picked the abandoned City Hall platform not because of it being an homage in the 2nd live action movie, but because I'm fascinated by it architecturally, and love the idea of the turtles exploring abandoned spaces in NYC as potential temporary lairs/hangouts/hide-outs.

The layout it pretty fully realized as an image. I go overboard on many work-for-hire layouts so that the editors and licensors can clearly see what I'm going for without having to do much interpreting and guesswork about the intent for the final art.

Once the layout stage was approved, I was able to move on to the inks. I printed out the digitally composited layout sketches on copy paper, and then taped that to the back of a sheet of 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad, I can see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below to use as a guide instead of traditional pencils.

For pens I used Copic Multiliner SPs...mostly the 0.7 nib, but I used some much finer sizes around the eyes.

When the inks were approved, I moved on to the boring bit of coloring known as flatting. This is where you digitally color in the lines establishing base colors for everything with a hard edged brush. The flat colors makes it easier when you do go to render the final colors to isolate areas so you can shade and texture them accordingly.

Now's also a good moment to mention that each turtle has some carry-over item from my individual Macro Series cover of them: Leo's hooded poncho, Raph's shuriken bandolier, Don's welding goggles, and Mike's bindle bandanna tied around his arm.

Final Colors:
Here again you can see the final colors for the piece. I rendered all the characters and most of the background using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush.

The tile details as well as the spot outlines on Mike's bindle bandanna were given a color hold, and area of the inks I wanted to be a painted color and not black. The lights were given some extra layers to help with the glow effect.

The TMNT Macro series Trade will be available in June of 2019.

Here's a link to all my past TMNT covers: https://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/search/label/TMNT

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Recent Commissions

At conventions I do toned paper commissions. I wish I had the time to have these open year-round or for people who can't make it out to my convention appearances, but when I'm home, I have other work & obligations that prevent me from doing so. Here is a look at my most recent batch:


Fan's Mouse Guard RPG character

A Mousey Minerva McGonnagal

A Mouse & Fan's pet Hedgehog

Mouse and a Tiger

Mouse Archiologist

Celanawe with the Black Axe and a Shield

A Guardmouse

Mousey Galadriel 

Mouse Tailor

Tomoe Ame from Usagi Yojimbo

Rocket Raccoon

Another Rocket Raccoon

Batman with a Mouse on his cowl

Gordon Shumway aka A.L.F.

Metalhead from TMNT


A Mouse Barrister 

A Princess Cat

A Hobo Cat


A Mouse Cartographer




Raphael & a Mouse

A Porg

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Gnomevember 2017 Re-Visit...

November of last year I participated in 'GNOMEVEMBER'. Not only had I never heard about it before I saw Becky Cloonan tweeting in late October of her plans to participate, but I'd never done a one-a-day for a month event like "INKTOBER' or 'DRAWTOBER'. So it was a challenge for-sure! It was also at a time when I was under a lot of personal stress and I found that making the space each day to try and get one Gnome drawn helped a lot. Sometimes I fell behind, sometimes I drew elaborate scenes or larger pieces, other times I drew something simple or small to help not bog me down and get back to the pressures of the day.

Over the last year I've been coloring my Gnomevember pieces for fun--and with the idea that we may do some type of prints/products with them (which still may happen--stay tuned). But for now, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I wanted to share these with you not just to say I'm thankful for the experience I had drawing and coloring these wee folk--but that I'm more thankful for my fans who enjoyed and supported me through their creation and the difficult times they were created in.

I've opened a little Popup Shop for my #GNOMEVEMBER pieces over on Society6 for the holidays! Prints, Coasters, Stationary Cards, Totes, Travel Mugs & More: https://society6.com/davidpetersen

A Smoking Gnome.

A Garden Gnome.

A Woodcutter Gnome.

A Cooking Gnome.

A Knight Gnome.

A Young (for a Gnome) Artist Gnome
named David.

A Harvesting Gnome on the Run.

Playing the Lute.

A Lantern Gnome.

Elder Gnome with Death's Head Moth.

Siberian Gnome.

A sprig of pine and a spot of tea.

Oaken Staffed Gnome.

Hiding in the Berries.

Royal Gnomes.

Starting a Window.


 A Gnome & Her Marionette

The End.

Not all of my GNOMEVMEBER pieces are colored, if you want a look at all of last year's Gnomes:

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