This Friday, on New Years Day (Jan. 1st 2021 4-8pm east) I'll be streaming over on my Twitch channel: twitch.tv/davidpetersen with a new monthly community draw event called #DrawTheExtinct. We'll be doing it on the theme of drawing made-up animals based on a 2001-ish print I did. On the first Friday of each month I'll provide some reference and inspiration prompts as well as a name for our fictional beastie. I'll be awarding some prizes to a few standouts of the drawings you fans do (and submit either through the discord or on social media using #DrawTheExtinct).
The first Extinct Creature up is "The Brockball Bruin"
See you in a few days at the start of the New Year, and be ready to draw!
Back in August as part of ONLINECON on my Twitch channel I invited 5 of the VFX/Concept artists: Aleksey Pollak, Darek Zabrocki, Didier Konnings, David Masson, & Hristo Chukov, who worked on the (now canceled) Mouse Guard movie. Instead of using that time to lament the cancelation, I wanted to celebrate the wonderful creative work in developing Mouse Guard as a feature film property. Below you can watch the video show and tell where they share their work and experiences.
The latest episode of The Plotmasters Project went up on the site today. It was an episode Jesse and I recorded LIVE on my Twitch stream for ONLINECON titled: R-WARS! To the left you can see my finished art for my Plotmasters update of the idea. Below in this blogpost I'll show a few steps of the process as well as a better look at the individual character re-designs.
If you haven't seen the episode, I've posted the video at the bottom of the blogpost, or you can link to it directly on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/d-qAckOx1mE
The origins of R-Wars were from our mutual friend Mike Davis (real life Rand)--he'd wanted to create a Star Wars/Wing Commander style comic. We share a lot of the old and embarrassing artwork in the episode, but here for quick reference is my mid-90's versions of the core group: (Clockwise from top) J-Man, Zubelflex, Sal, & Davis (or Mike or Hiro depending on what incarnation of the project this was)
At some point, I'd decided to keep the name R-Wars and make the 'R' stand for 'Resalvage' and theme their space exploits to be about fighting over scrap ships & debris.
The thrust behind the design choices for my Plotmasters update were to think of the characters as they would be built by the Jim Henson company as fantasy puppet characters. Lots of textures, wrinkles, layered costumes––and a variety of character shapes ranging from what would be mouth/hand puppets, to human performers with animatronic masks, to walk around full-body characters. To the left you can see my pencil drawings that lead to my final character designs.
The next step was to ink those characters. Because I wanted to have each character isolated for a nice vignette, I inked them all separately––with the plan to assemble them digitally into a group shot when they were all finished.
I inked these on a Huion light pad with printouts of my pencils taped to the back of some Strathmore 300 series bristol. I inked these all live on my twitch stream with Copic Multiliner SP pens.
Below, in the final rendered color images, I'll go into some character design choices for each one:
Let's start with the only human in the crew. At different points in the history of drawing R-Wars characters (1991-2006), I'd drawn mike as a kid, teen, and adult. For this re-design I thought making him young, but not a child was the right way to go. To help with reinforcing his youth I made sure some of the gear (belt & gloves) were too large for him--like Gully in Battle Chasers or Jarek from Tellos). I also wanted to emulate the feel of a young Luke Skywalker looking out at the twin suns of Tatooine––and perhaps I got a little too close to those aesthetics with the hair and clothing (but I tried to play with the color to shift back away from that particular pre-Jedi). Davis is the pilot of their vessel, a homage to my pal Mike Davis who came up with the original R-Wars characters and always wanted to be a pilot.
J-MAN (now JAEMAN):
The original version of him was Mike's homage to the Kilrathi from Wing Commander, and Jesse Glenn and I always drew him like a taller version of a cat from Cats Trio, but with no nose. For my update I decided to use the posture of a full-body walkaround puppet (like Big Bird, Bear in the Big Blue House, or Earl Sinclair). I also decided to give the character a role––he'd never been fleshed out as to what his character contributed. I made him the captain of the ship, and so I gave him some classic ship captain trappings with a more uniform like coat (like Captain Gloval from Robotech), a turtleneck tunic, and a pipe.
Zube was always meant to be a bit of a Han Solo character––perhaps a little more lighthearted though...so I just leaned hard into that design archetype. Most of the update was about making his original costume more interesting (giving the long vest some trim (which was based on the lining of a trench coat I wore in high school), quilting his shirt, and defining his boots). In fact, the pose is the same as a promo photo Harrison Ford took as Han back in 1977. Zube didn't have a definitive crew role, but I always described him as a crack-shot furball––so he's been given the task of security.
Sal's name came from 'Salamander' and he was always the mechanic of the crew. For my redesign I kept his basic silhouette & proportions, but played up the alien species aspect with scales, gils, and eye-stalks. The pouch bandolier is completely an homage to Chewbacca's. If R-Wars was being developed as a live action project, I'd see Sal as a hand puppet who was occasionally a little person in costume for walking sequences.
DOC (formerly CAP):
This character started out as Cap Tranfo (a character I made up when I was 13)––and not at all a part of R-Wars. But over the years, I incorporated him in. For his original incarnation he's a scientist who becomes part of the intergalactic space police after a few years of space salvaging. He had metal buckets that he'd sometimes have over his hands or legs that could transform into various tools (jet engines, saws, grappling hooks, etc.) For the update, I changed his transforming buckets into an augmented mech gauntlet. It allows him to move heavy scrap, but also a precision for any medical treatments. Because I'd given Jaeman the new role of Captain, it seemed odd to keep this character's name as Cap...so I changed it to Doc as a nod to his new science role as the medic.
Over the years of drawing the R-Wars characters, neither Jesse or I had ever drawn their ship. And since I design structures better in 3D with my hands, I made a model of a space freighter that had something very much like a shipping container/garbage truck aesthetic to the area that salvaged parts are stored. The model is amost entirely made of shipboard (the backs of bristol pads) with some rigid tubes, cardscock, and thin dowels in for details.
In the inked illustration of the ship, io get rid of the silliness pardoy-like name of 'R-Wars' as a title, I decided that the ship would have a call sign R.WOR. That way it still had some connection to the old, while bringing it firmly into new territory that could be developed for real.
Here again is the final art of all the characters and the R.WOR composited together into a single poster-like image.
I've created new pieces for almost the entire contents of the collection––mostly themed on trying to get certain lighting effects in to show time of day.
For this piece to the left, The time of day (and season) is being shown through a puppet show. Below I walk through the steps of creating this piece.
I started with a Mouse Guard puppeteer commission I did earlier this year. Instead of marionettes (mouse puppets I've drawn many times) I went with Punch and Judy style glove puppets. So I gathered more reference materials with Punch & Judy puppets, and a few different fold out puppet theaters. For the backdrop to change from night to day, I wad inspired by the moon plate on some clocks that show the phase of the moon.
I drew most of this piece in one go––the puppets and the stage. After I scanned my drawing into Photoshop, I did make some adjustments, moving the characters and elements around a bit until it was a better composition. I also added some digital elements for the pattern of the star-shaped details, the text at the top of the stage (referencing the Apple Kettle Puppet troupe mentioned in Baldwin the Brave and Legends of the Guard Vol.2), as well as the mouse-sun & moon faces that I took from a previous illustration.
After the above layout was finished, I printed it out on standard copy paper. That paper was then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. On my Huion lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol and down to the layout to use as a guide as I inked. For the inking pens, I used a Copic Multiliner SP 0.7. I inked this piece live on my Twitch stream
Once the inks were finished, I scanned them into Photoshop to begin the coloring process. The first step in digitally coloring a piece is to lay down flat colors––no rendering, no texture. It's a professional version of coloring within the lines. Establishing where every color starts and stops. Also at this stage, I added in all my color holds. These are areas where I want the ink lines to be a painted color other than black. I isolated and painted the linework of the time-of-day-and-season disk, the Apple Kettle type, the painted sword and scroll logo, and the painted features on the puppets.
I rendered the final colors using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop. I do this all with a textured brush, while also making subtle adjustments to the tools options so that I can create muted and desaturated shadows and more vibrant highlights. The final piece is included in my latest Mouse Guard sketchbook collection: Dawn, Daye, and Dusk (available now in my online store)
In the August 2020 Onlinecon, I had Archaia founder Mark Smylie on to go through his Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard story: 'Crown of Silver, Crown of Gold.' We talk about his role in Mouse Guard and Legends getting started, and go page by page of his story to get his thoughts and process. Enjoy!
Most of the pieces in that sketchbook were my opportunity to play with lighting effects in different times of day––and while I did little light play here, there is a start-of-morning feeling in this piece I'm happy with. In this blogpost, I'll walk through the various steps to create the artwork.
The starting point for this one was to find a use for a piece of model architecture I built while doing an instructional demo at a workshop last year. The point of that session was not just to show the attendees that models are useful (because I assume every artist understands how valuable any reference is), but that it's not terribly difficult or expensive to build something––you don't need fancy tools, materials, or training, just scrap materials, printed paper, some hobby wood, and glue. At the end of the session, I photographed the model for my own future use, and then gave it to one of the other instructor's kids. So, with these model photos in hand, I started on my composition.
On copy paper, I traced over a printed photo of the model to interpret those shapes into my linework––something clearly represented in line that simplifies some of the details, while elaborating on other areas. I then drew a mouse and a bluejay on another sheet of paper. I scanned those drawings and assembled them into a photoshop file, adding some color to help me define the bulk shapes (the mouse, house, and jay). With each drawing scanned separately, I could move them around, make subtle size changes until I had a layout I liked. Lastly, I quickly digitally dashed in some branches and berries to fill in where the image needed some help.
With the last step done, I printed out my digitally composited layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol Board. Using a Huion lightpad, I could see through the bristol surface to the printout to use as a guide as I inked. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs). I tried to give myself some space around the lines that represented snow (you can see this especially around the shingles and the snow piled up on the roof) to help make the color flatting step easier when I needed to isolate those lines when I digitally colored the piece.
I scanned the original inked piece into Photoshop and started the coloring process. This first step is called 'flatting' where the goal is just to establish what base color everything is––no lighting, no textures. In this step, I also isolate areas called 'color holds'––areas where I want the inked lineart to be a color other than black--and in this case, that meant all of the snow lines.
Some of the color choices were easy on this piece because of nature---but I did have to play with the various tones for the wood, stone, shingle, and tilework on the little house (as well as the mouse and his details).
The last step was to render the color, add lighting, texture, and details. For almost all of my rendering, I use the Dodge and Burn tools with a stock textured brush in Photoshop. I also went in and selected individual roof tiles and bricks to highlight or tint so that they read as having natural slight variations.
The latest episode of The Plotmasters Project went up on the site today. It was an episode Jesse and I recorded LIVE on my Twitch stream for ONLINECON titled: Psycho-Mantis! To the left you can see my finished art for my Plotmasters update of the character. Below in this blogpost I go through the process of creating that piece.
If you haven't seen the episode, I've posted the video at the bottom of the blogpost, or you can link to it directly on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/FEkO8FXYrDI
Because Jesse's original character had a strong connection to the 90's era Wildstorm artists like Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell and especially Brett Booth, I originally thought my re-design would be a homage to that style––but as I drew this design, I realized he was too stiff, that I didn't have the chops to draw in that Image style and get the movement and fluidity a character like Psycho-Mantis should have.
So, I started over. But I did keep the headgear that I added to this design--the idea that Psycho-Mantis uses some tech strapped around his head that allows him to use his powers. This had the added bonus of giving the look of eyes sticking off the side of his head like a preying mantis.
While looking for the right kind of pose via Google Image searches--I found this artwork of a character named Vane from the Granblue Fantasy game. Jesse was certainly also inspired by anime and manga art of the early 90's when he created Psycho Mantis--so referencing this artwork felt like a good way to get the movement and life into the character while also infusing a different influence into the artwork.
I'll admit--I straight up drew over top of the Vane artwork on a light pad to get the pose for Psycho-Mantis.
I did have to do a lot of work to make the pose work with a newly designed costume though--and somewhere in that redrawing, I managed to draw Psycho-Mantis with two right feet. Instead of a typical super hero tights style costume, I wanted this to feel more like martial arts clothing--where the stripes and color changes are actually different pieces of gear. The science tech that he wears on his head made it through from the previous design--but were this time based on the look of a pair of ear buds.
In Photoshop I combined the drawing of Psycho-Mantis with a drawing of a Japanese temple--where I removed all the paper windows with open cosmic space. I also did a quick flat color job to help me 'see' all the elements and shapes as I worked towards the final art.
With a printout of the above layout, I started inking. The printout was taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol and then on a light pad I could ink the piece using the printout below the bristol surface as a guide. I used Copic Multiliner pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs) to ink with.
Where Psycho-Mantis' power is around his hands, I used a lighter touch with the pens to reinforce the lighting effects I'd be adding in later steps.
To ink those powers, I flipped the bristol sheet over and inked them on the backside of the artwork. Using a light pad, I was able to make sure I was keeping the effects inks in registration with the rest of the art.
I've used photoshop here to show what it looked like as I inked the power effects around Psycho-Mantis' hands on the light pad. Once all the inks were finished, I scanned them into Photoshop and combined them (the special effects inks going on a different layer than the rest of the inks).
Then came the coloring first step known as flatting--where I paint in flat colors without worrying about any rendering, lighting or texture. Just establishing what areas are what colors (which I'd mostly established when planning my pencils/layout of the piece).
The other big task at this step was to paint in all the color holds (areas where I want the linework to be a color other than black). I put color holds on his hands where his powers are being used, as well as the entire background.
The last part of the work for my Plotmasters update was to render the final colors and add a logo. I used the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush to do most of the rendering. I also used my tablet (something I don't normally do) to add in some color line texture on the main costume as well as a galaxy of stars in the background.
The logo was just a fun exercise in playing with fonts and spacing while also adding in Jesse's signature symbol for Psycho-Mantis, the crazy smily face.
In 2017 I did a drawing-a-day for Gnomevember. I've shared these pieces inked and a few in color in the past--but here for the first time, are all 30 pieces in color. I've edited them together with some music by Kevin MacLeod. Below you can watch the video and further down this blogpost see all 30 individual colored pieces. Happy Gnomevember!
I have also made most of these pieces available as prints, mugs, greeting cards, stickers, clocks, coasters, bedding, curtains, towels, phone-cases, tote bags, credenzas, and much more through my Society6 Gnomevember page: society6.com/davidpetersen/