The series is made up of three 4 issue arcs, and the third arc is all about the All-Maudra Mayrin when she was first crowned.
To the left you can see my finished Mayrin cover, but below I'll break down all the steps I took to create the cover artwork.
I started with several pencil drawings of the characters and elements I knew I was going to feature in the cover: Mayrin herself, a Sifa swashbuckling Gelfling she reluctantly works with, a Sifan ship in a storm, and skekSa the Mariner...a character that had only been depicted for the YA novels by J.M. Lee (and illustrated by my friend Cory Godbey). I was given in-house reference from Archaia of character designs for the gelflings and the ship, puppet reference of Mayrin as she appears in the Netflix show, a Cory Godbey drawing of skekSa, and a tapestry triangle design from the art-of Dark Crystal book by Brian Froud.
I scanned all the elements and puzzled them together. Because each character was drawn separately, it made it easy for me to make adjustments to them in scale, placement, rotation--and even to distort the drawing a bit (I always end up needing to use the liquify tool in Photoshop to smush gelfling faces around until they are 'right')
I added a quick color pass to help me visualize where the figures masses were and if tehre were any color tangent issues to worry about. This also helps when I send it off to Archaia and Henson for approval, so they know exactly what I'm planning....
...aaaaand for the first time in over 17 pieces for Henson, I was asked to revise a rough. The issue was skekSa. Having limited reference for her, I followed Cory's lead with lots of fur and feather textures--but apparently I went too far.
I was re-sent Cory's reference as well as an image of the Mariner skeksis from the interior artist with the note 'less fur/hair––especially around the mouth'.
So I re-penciled her and added in some of the costume details from the new reference.
With the new pencils drawing closer to being 'on-model', I swapped out the versions of skekSa while also making some minor placement adjustments to the geflings to accommodate.
This version was then sent back off to Archaia and Henson where it met with approval for me to move on to the next step....
I printed out the revised layout at about 10" x 15" (on two sheets of copy paper that I aligned and taped together) and then taped that printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion light pad, I'm able to see through the surface of the bristol, down to the layout to use as my pencil lines while I ink. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.3 & 0.7 nibs are my go-to's).
The lightning was inked on the back of the bristol (using that lightpad to help me see) so that I could easily isolate the lighting for the next step (shown here in grey)
As I inked this I streamed the process on my Twitch Chanel.
Archaia and Henson approved the inks and it was time to move on to starting to add digital color. That process starts with painting in all the flat colors, no rendering, no effects, no textures––just flat base colors.
A lot of the color choices had already been made thanks to reference and my color mockup at the layout stage(s).
I added several color holds: to the tapestry linework, the sea, the ship, the webbing on skekSa's hat and the skull design, and the swashbuckling gelfling's scar. Color holds are where I can choose to paint the line art color other than black.
Below you can see the final colors again. to render the image I use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to add highlights and shadows as well as texture. I streamed a lot of this process on my Twitch Chanel also.
And that's my last Dark Crystal cover for a while. This is the last freelance work I had on my plate. And I hope to be able to focus a lot more attention on Mouse Guard again.
Thanks for going to Thra with me. Working on Dark Crystal comic covers has been an absolute joy. A bucket-list treat that younger me wouldn't believe he gets to do now. I hope to come back and visit Thra again--but for now, I'm headed back to the Mouse Territories.
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 ??