Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Merek as the Black Axe piece Process

With my plan to title my forthcoming sketchbooks by theme (see this year's Legends Sketchbook where I pay homage to 24+ Legends of the Guard stories) I already have my next one's theme picked: Black Axe Wielders. I'm going to work on this sketchbook slowly, no date set for release (though it will probably coincide with a convention appearance) and I spend a few days post SDCC warming up for some freelance cover work by doing a piece of Merek, the last wielder of the Black Axe before Celanawe. To the left you can see the finished piece, but below I'll walk you through my process for creating it start to finish.

Reference material:
In the 3rd Mouse Guard book: The Black Axe, I revealed (spoiler alert) that there have been nine wielders of the Black Axe before Celanawe. In the epilogue, Lieam dreams a starry crow tells him the folly of Merek, and I give the readers the only images we see of this axe wielder (as he does not appear on the scrap of tapestry). Merek does a horrible deed on the shores of Ildur, but instead of showing that again, I opted to have him battle a creature––a fan favorite, a crab! I still had the photos I took from when I was drawing the 2nd issue of Fall. Julia went to our local fish monger and bought two cooked, but whole crabs I could use as reference.

I then did a pencil drawing of Merek on a sheet of copy paper. On another sheet, I drew the crab (with some help from my reference photo). I combined these two drawings in photoshop and tinted them different colors to help me see which lines belonged to which figure. In the background I pasted in several stock photo crows in flight. Part of the story of Merek is that the crows saw his deeds and carry the folly of Merek with them. The symbol in the upper right corner is a made-up runic number '9' (the vertical bar is just a pole to hang the roman numerals V and four I's).

Once the layout was ready, I printed it out and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol. On a Huion light pad I was able to ink the piece while seeing through the surface of the bristol. For pens I used Copic Multiliners (I think I only used the 0.7 nib here). I inked this piece entirely on my Twitch Stream.

I purposely left some gaps between the crow silhouettes and the foreground or borders so that I could more easily isolate them in the next step...

Color Flats:
I'd planned to do the coloring process on stream too, but I came down with some con-crud after SDCC and I didn't feel up to being Live on Stream while feeling crappy. The first step to coloring digitally is creating color flats. This is basically coloring in the lines with flat colors. Establishing what areas are which colors. In this step I also established my color holds (areas I want the ink to be a color rather than black) And I isolated the inks for the crows, the runic 9, and Merek's scars.

Final colors:
Using the Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush in Photoshop, I went in and rendered the final colors for the piece. Again, I'm sorry I wasn't feeling up to streaming the color process live, but there will be more piece like this down the road I can share with you all when I'm feeling better.

2019 Appearances
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

1FW Workshop 2018 & 2019!

Last year I was welcomed as a member of the faculty instructors for The Fantastic Workshop put on my the folks at 1 Fantastic Week. And I'm thrilled to announce that I'm coming back this year as a faculty instructor again!

The workshop is a five day long, intensive workshop for fantasy artists looking to improve the focus of their portfolios, up their social media presence, improve their techniques for presenting and exhibiting at conventions and galleries, and to get inspired as a working artist.

Between the small group chats, discussions at meals, work-time, or slide-show presentations, there is a lot to absorb in this workshop. Last year I really enjoyed getting to watch Justin Gerard work on a watercolor painting while talking about the techniques of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac.

The beautifully charming Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, TN is the venue for the workshop. Tuition includes lodging in private dorm rooms, 3 meals daily served in a magical dining hall, and a lovely facility space for working and learning.

This year I'll be joined by Steve ArgyleVanessa LemenRon LemenSam GuayTim Von RuedenSean Andrew MurraySam Flegal, & Peter Mohrbacher on faculty. 

My specific talks/contributions will be a slideshow about managing an IP (more about what that can become in terms of products rather than the legal wrangling...but some of that too in the Q&A if it comes up), Model Building your own references, comic storytelling, and 'Story Time with David': where I basically just have an open Q&A about anything and everything.


If you ever wanted to work along side me me and learn about the business of being an artist, please visit the website for the event and consider going––Tickets are limited, so reserve your spot now:

Sam FlegalSam FlegalTim Von RuedenTim Von Rueden
Vanessa LemenVanessa LemenVanessa Lemen

2019 Appearances
GenCon August 1-4
New York Comic Con October 3-6
Baltimore Comic Con October 18-20
The Fantastic Workshop Nov. 13-18

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Recent Commissions

At conventions I do toned paper commissions. Single figure bust/torso, on 9x12 toned paper, with ink, pencil, brown color pencil, and white gel pen for $250.

With SDCC coming up soon, I thought I'd share a few of the recent pieces as examples I did earlier this year:

Mouse Alchemist
(apologies to Edmund Dulac)

Guardmouse Elymis

A Guardmouse shield bearer 

A Mouse Bell-ringer

A Guardmouse vetran

A Guardmouse with staff & sword

Robin Hood
("oo de lally")

Donatello & a Guardmouse

Swamp Thing

A Weasel with a Warhammer

A Platypus Carpenter 

A Guardmouse on a Miniature Dachshund 

A Guardmouse with a patch & jewelry 

2019 Appearances
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

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

SDCC 2019 Info

San Diego Comic Con is just around the corner, so here is my 2019 SDCC info quick rundown with more details below:

-Location: #4901 & GG-09

-Panel: Thurs: foreign licensing & comics

-Merch: I'm bringing LOTS of stuff

-New Tees


I will have 2 locations on the show floor this year. Most of the show, I'll be at the 'Hot Chocolate' Booth #4901. But I'll also be doing signings at my usual Artist Alley location GG-09. When I'm not in artist alley, my sister Kirsten will be there with books, prints, pins, sketchbooks, and more. My booth location, where I will have more room, will also have books, prints, pins, and sketchbooks, but also games, original art, posters, and more.

Archaia/BOOM! will also have my books at Booth #2229. Feel free to purchase there and get a signature from me when you get over to #4901 or GG-09

Thursday 1PM––Room 9: "Comics Go Global: Foreign Rights Licensing"
People around the world love American comics. A dedicated cadre of individuals across the globe work in tandem to create translated editions for international audiences. Learn about this obscure additional revenue stream and vehicle for cultural exchange with Kari Torson (Dark Horse), Lance Kreiter (BOOM! Studios), Michele Foschini (BAO Publishing, Italy), Sullivan Rouaud (HiComics, France), and creators Gabriel Bá (Umbrella Academy), Matt Kindt (MIND MGMT), and David Petersen (Mouse Guard). Moderated by Amber Garza (Sequential Rights: Image/Skybound+).

Between the two locations I'll have Hardcover Books, The Swords & Strongholds Board Game, Enamel Pins, Limited Ed. Prints,  Black Axe B&W Ed., Tee Shirts, Mondo Posters, Original Artwork, The RPG Boxed Set, Commissions, Sketchbooks (a few past years as well), The Embroidered Patch, Bookplates (past years as well), Matted Prints, & The Coloring Book!

New Tees:
As I posted about a few weeks back, we plan to have two new tee shirts (same design, but different color variations). Unfortunately, due to a printing error, we are unsure if we will have the new shirts in-time for SDCC. We are working with the screen printer to see if there's still a way to get the new shirts in to San Diego in-time for the convention.

If all goes according to plan, we will have S, M, L, XL, 2X, & 3X of both colors (Gold & Sand)

As usual, I'll be taking commission requests at the convention. The commissions are on toned paper of a single figure bust/torso, on 9x12 toned paper, with ink, pencil, brown color pencil, and white gel pen for $250.

First Come--First Served--New list every day.

2019 Appearances
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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Mrs. Sredich--My Kindergarten Teacher

A few weeks ago an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line 'Did you attend Pierce Elementary School'? The daughter of my Kindergarten teacher was reaching out because her mother, after watching a movie where the subject of illustrators was brought up,  mentioned a former student becoming a comic book artist. And with some lovely emails back and forth I reconnected with Mrs. Sredich for coffee. Below I'll explain why she was such an important teacher, and how I think there is a very direct line between her class (1/2 day PM Kindergarten) and my career.

Mrs. Sredich did the perfect job of shepherding kids into their educational life. This was in an age where pre-school wasn't a common track for most kids (or at least no kids I knew) and where Kindergarten was a half day to get kids used to being at home with Mom or Dad ready for the idea of spending most of their day at school from 1st grade on. She made you feel welcome, she addressed and acknowledged the fear and sadness some of the kids felt, and just came up with a way to distract us all into some creative learning. Pierce was a 'Creative Arts' public K-6 school. We had Art and Music year round with full time teachers for both.

In Kindergarten we had Must-Do's (learning assignments) and once we were finished with those for the day, we could go to one of the many activity stations for ‘Can-Do’s’. There was a painting area, a reading area, puzzles with number learning, and more––but the one I remember the most was a book nook for making books. Mrs. Sredich had pre-stapled blank booklets at a table also full of pencils, pens, & markers. We were supposed to fill the booklet with illustrations that told a story. And when we were done drawing, she'd come and sit with each student asking them to describe to her what was happing on that page. Then she'd help that student craft a sentence or two, and she'd use her print handwriting (better than our Kindergarten scrawl letters) to add the book's text.

At the end of that process, I'd have a book that I made. This was a big deal. I'd seen (and perhaps it had even been pointed out by Mrs. Sredich or a librarian) all the copyright and publisher information in the books I'd read. Books were important things that companies made, big printing machines churned out (I think I'd seen a video of a printing machine on Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers)...But in that book nook, I could make a book. I had the power to put a story on paper. It demystified the process while also making it all the more magical.

Unfortunately, none of my Kindergarten books survive to this day. But I think we can draw a pretty clear line between my days as a 5 year old in her class being given that opportunity and when I sat down to make issue 1 of Mouse Guard in 2005.

My dad (who'd been a teacher for a while) remembers being impressed by her creativity and out of the box thinking for education. She almost always had the best teacher costume in the Halloween parade, which made her 'one of us' I think, since a few teachers didn't participate at all. The activity she lead that made the biggest impression on my Dad was the day she put a large flat sheet down on the floor. Invited us all to sit on it in a circle, and then in the center of the circle she turned on a hot air popcorn popper and let the popped kernels fly all over, encouraging us to catch them or eat them. She used the exercise not just to keep us entertained and busy...but as a metaphor for metamorphosis and change.

I lived four houses away from the school. So I used the playground like my front yard. And in the summer between Kindergarten & 1st grade, I remember being up there and seeing the lights on in the Kindergarten room. I peered in and Mrs. Sredich was there, taking care of the chicks we'd raised in class from eggs. She was cleaning the hutch and preparing to get the chicks off to Mott farm. I visited with her in the classroom that day. I remember telling her I was scared about going to 1st grade, a new teacher, a new room, and a full-day of school. She reassured me. She let me know she was just down the hall if I needed her. She gave me the peace of spirit that Mr. Rogers made a career of broadcasting. And I got to hold the baby chicks without competing with other students for time or attention (I'm lucky to have photos of that visit since my Mom had her camera in her purse when she came looking for me).

So I feel very lucky not only to have had Mrs. Sredich as my Kindergarten teacher, but also to have reconnected with her. She has the same gentle and assuring spirit--the kind that makes you feel special just because she says it's so. At 85 she's still sharp as a tack and enjoys her coffee and sweets. Julia and I gifted her a box full of my books and prints, and she was so excited to look through them all and read them, she kept re-opening the box to peek at them as we chatted over coffee. A big thank you goes out to her daughter Jana. Not only for doing some online searching to find me and reaching out, but for also being so open to my offer of meeting for coffee.

Long live the teachers who make a difference. Long live Mrs. Sredich.

2019 Appearances
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

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