Tuesday, March 3, 2020

2020 Bookplate

For the last eight years, I've been releasing a yearly bookplate. (Click here for a look at last years as well as a rundown of the previous ones) The purpose of my bookplates it to offer an interesting mini-print that also serves a purpose. Since the final versions are signed and numbered, even if you can't bring me your physical copy of a Mouse Guard book, this bookplate can be glued in to your book making your copy signed.

I'll have the bookplate at my 2020 conventions and in my online store soon after Emerald City Comic Con. For this blogpost, I wanted to go through the process to create the bookplate image.

For the bookplate art I'm often inspired by the craft of artistic endeavors the mice in my books would do to beautify their world. In the past I've done (or emulated) stained glass, a woodcut print, embroidery, engraving, mosaic, and painted wood. This year I wanted to do a relief carving in wood.

I'd gathered a few images in a Mouse Guard reference folder on my computer for inspiration for future drawings––but when getting ready for the 2020 bookplate, I couldn't help put want to try my paw at making a carving for real.

But before wood could be carved, I needed an image. My mother had just passed away and I had death imagery on my mind, so I looked back to the card art for the Mouse Guard Roleplaying condition cards that had stylized Día de Muertos-like skeletal mice on the borders. I printed out an enlarged one for reference, and then in the open space, did a rendered pencil drawing of a skeleton mouse holding a sword surrounded by acanthus-leaf designs and with a flower overlapping the skull in place of an ear shape. I only drew half of it, because I wanted it to be roughly symmetrical. I scanned the drawing into Photoshop and mirrored it so I had a full version of the art I wanted to carve.

I resized the art printout to match a piece of oak I had in my workshop.

I transferred the art to the wood by rubbing graphite on the back of my printout and then taping it to the block and tracing over the important shapes with a ball-point pen. Here I've already stared removing all the deepest areas.

To do the carving, I almost exclusively relied on some engraving bits and a few sanding drums for my dremel tool. While I got a little excited to start adding shape and relief on the flower and skull, I found that removing all the deepest areas first was the best place to start.

Once the deep areas were gone, I could start removing bits of elevation to the acanthus and the mouse's stole so the arm bones looked like they were in front of them.

I used the left side as a testing ground for how and when to shape forms and add details.

Here I've started to cut in the deep parts of the right flower and add depth to the acanthus background on the right side.

more progress on getting those background bits deeper into the image.

While I'd push and fine-tune the depth levels of everything more as I'd go on, here all the main elements are carved to their proper heights and it's detail work and shaping from here out.

I quickly drew back in the lines for the acanthus designs I'd lost when carving them to their proper depth.

Carving part done!

Then came sanding...LOTS of sanding with little bits of folded fine-grit sandpaper to get down into the crevices. 

A dark stain was added uniformly over the whole piece and left to dry.

To really get the shadows to look dark, I carefully pooled up more dark stain in the deeper parts of the carving using a cotton swab (and rubbed away any excess that got onto any other bits)

Last step was to VERY lightly sand the highlights with 0000 steel wool and super fine sandpaper to remove a bit of the stain from the highest points. When I was done, I sealed the piece with a few coats of paste wax.

The final piece photographed in natural light and then dropped into the bookplate template.

2020 Appearances
Emerald City Comic Con: March 12-15
FACTS-Ghent Belgium: April 4-5
Heroes Con: June 19-21
San Diego Comic Con: July 22-26
New York Comic Con: October 8-11
Baltimore Comic Con: Oct 23-25

1 comment:

Samantha_Maxwell said...

David Peterson - my husband is your biggest fan and I myself really enjoy looking at/reading your work. This however has to be the coolest and most touching thing I have seen from you to date. I am going to get this for my husband to add it to our collection. Thank you for sharing your story and art with us. :)

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