With the series being 12 issues, and there only being 10 sets of Mystics & Skeksis, my editors and I knew the last 2 covers would need something different.
We talked about having Jen & Kira together on a cover and having the other cover being Augrah & a Garthim--or the new two main characters in the 'Beneath' series, but as I drew Jen on a sheet of copy paper, I drew him rather larger than I'd drawn any of the Skeksis or Mystics...And I thought, damn, I like the drawing, and I'd hate to re-size it and lose any detail or make inking him harder. So I went ahead and drew Kira at the same scale holding out hope I could find a way to cram them together on a single cover...and I suddenly realized, they were meant to be facing each other! So I re-formatted my photoshop cover template file to be two adjoining covers and layed out the cover that way. I tinted each character to help me see them better, and then drew the background of the prophecy stone (heavily helped by photo reference provided by Henson) on sheets of copy paper and added them to the composition.
With the digital collage of my pencil drawings all sized, set, and approved by Henson & Archaia, I printed it out (took 4 sheets of copy paper I had to tape back together) and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. The bristol was a sheet of 19" x 24"...the image itself is about 21" x 17". A very large piece to ink. On my lightpad, I could ink the piece with my Copic Multiliners (I used the 0.7 nib mostly with the 0.3 nib coming out for the eyes and most of Fizgig). I streamed inking this on Twitch over several sessions.
Once the inks were finished and then also approved by everyone, I could scan them and start on the coloring. With the piece as large as it was, I had to scan it in 2 parts and then reassemble it in Photoshop. The first step in coloring a piece like this for me is establishing the color holds (where the inkwork won't be black, but a color I can paint: The background, Kira's wing edges & Jen's pants pattern) and laying in flat colors for hair, skin, leafs, wings, clothing, etc. I did myself a favor on the color holds by leaving a gap between my background ink-lines and the figures...it made them much easier to isolate.
The last step to a piece like this is to render the color. Something I also shared while streaming on Twitch over a few sessions. Most of my rendering (adding highlights, shadows, and texture) is done with a textured brush and the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop. However, in several cases on this piece with the Gelflings' skin, I had to use the paintbrush tool to more carefully control the color choices and the subtlety of the rendering. It's something I rarely do, but have found that when coloring human-esque faces it's necessary.
These will be published as separate covers #11: Kira & #12: Jen. Below are what the covers will look like cut apart.
This is kind of a full-circle moment for me. It was a decade ago in 2009 that I did a Dark Crystal promo for Archaia to announce at SDCC the Archaia partnership with Henson...and it had Kira on the left and Jen on the right with the prophecy stone as a background element. Here I am 10 years later and rounding out the 12 issue arc of Beneath the Dark Crystal the same way. I'm also very glad to see the growth in my work in that time as a penciler, inker, colorist and in my compositions.
I've had a blast getting to draw every Skeksis and Mystic and Jen and Kira from the 1982 film for this run of covers. Thank you to Archaia for hiring me to do so, and for the fans for being so supportive of my covers, and for you blog readers who have come along with me to see the process.
Heroes Con June 14-16
San Diego Comic Con July 17-21
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18