Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Recent Toned Commissions

 I've finished  all the toned paper commissions from the 2021 Black Friday Sale and events like FCBD and Baltimore Comic Con. I streamed drawing almost every one of these on my Twitch Stream.

A Guardmouse with a hand-crossbow


An Elephant Shrew Mouse in Armor

'Slashy Ashy' from Ash vs The Evil Dead TV show

Demona from Gargoyles

A Frank Quietly-esque Superman

A MI mouse showing where he lives by using his paw as a map

Logray The Ewok


Dr. Doom as a Wolf

Jei from Usagi Yojimbo

Baby Yoday/Grogu/TheChild

An Arctic Fox Squire

Mouse Black Knight

A Guardmouse 

Usagi as a Rabbit in Mouse Guard

Nausicaa & The Fox Squirrel

A fan's Cat with a Guardmouse

a Mouse Athena


A Black Cat named 'Gimalkin'

A fan's Pup as an adventurer

A Guardmouse

Kenzie, a Guardmouse

Hudson, a fan's pup

Raphael of the TMNT as a medieval warrior


Iron Tortoise

Ewok Scout




Guardmouse with a pipe

Dwarven WWI Soldier

Elven WWI Soldier

Goblin WWI Pilot

Usagi Yojimbo

Usagi Yojimbo

Rat from Wind in the Willows

A Swashbuckling Guinea Pig 

Mike Mignola's Radio Spaceman

Havok of the X-Men

Iceman of the X-Men

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Abandoned Mouse Dwelling & Mallard

Early next year I plan to release a new Mouse Guard sketchbook titled "Alone Together". The majority of that material is inked commissions I did during last year's ONLINECON event. But to round out the sketchbook sometimes I need to generate some material of my own both to fill up pages and to add certain tone or subject for a thematic through line for the work in the book

To the left you can see one of those pieces finished and colored ready for a page in that sketchbook––and in this blogpost I'll break down the process to get there.

The idea for this piece came from a photo shared on a Twitter account that shares abandoned architecture. I thought I could do something fun with this dwelling if I just added a mouse and something for scale. Somehow my thinking lead me to a duck.

And while it wasn't until after I'd done the pencils that I included a Tiger Moth, I'm sharing my photo reference here at this step.

For the pencils I placed a printout of the architecture on my lightpad and started penciling my version of it on a clean sheet of copy paper. While this seems like simply tracing, I'm certainly focusing on details I want to include and avoiding others I don't care about. I'm also moving the paper around to condense and compress elements, and include new details. 

The duck was penciled separately and added in digitally in Photoshop, where I also quickly drew in my mouse explorer (who I decided after this stage needed a moth companion)

With the pencils sorted (Though I think I did go through one more round of edits on the above image before this step), I printed them out and taped that to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad, I was able to see through the bristol to the pencils so I could use them as reference while I inked the lines. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs).

I inked the piece on my Twitch stream and answered questions as I worked.

Once the piece was inked, I scanned in the original art and started the coloring process in Photoshop. In this process the goal is to color in all the color spaces with flat colors, no rendering, no texture, no lighting effects. This is so it's easy to grab any of these colors later on as you render them.

Some of my color choices were pre-determined by the photo reference, but I definitely shifted the hues all closer to a warmer yellow area than they strictly needed to be.

Below you can see the final colors all rendered withe the Dodge and Burn tools and ready for inclusion in the sketchbook I'll release next year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Usagi Yojimbo: Lone Goat & Kid #2

I was fortunate enough to be asked by IDW and Stan Sakai to do a run of covers on the new Usagi Yojimbo reprints of short story issues that will be collectively called 'Lone Goat and Kid'. I'll be doing six in total, and for this blogpost I'll be sharing my process for the creation of the cover art for issue #2.

This issue is currently up for pre-order through Diamond with the code DEC210552. Just ask your local comic shop to order it for you, or order it though an online retailer. The issue will be in shops Feb 23, 2022

To the left you can see the finished cover, but below I'll go through the steps in creating it.

This issue features a lot of story––info about historical kite making, gambling, and a chase with Usagi being run out of town during a kite festival. I really wanted to feature all the cool kites, but also get into that story of Usagi being on the run.

With a low camera angle I could get this pose of Usagi running right towards us, with the kites in the sky being flown by people off camera as the mom just crests the hill in silhouette. I tend to go overboard on this stage roughing in color too, this helps me and the editor to really understand the goal of the final look of the piece without problems to solve in the coming stages.

Kite Designs:
I couldn't just have blank kite shapes in the sky for this cover, so I researched Edo Japan era paper kites and tried to emulate some of the themes & styles while catering them towards what would/could appear in Usagi. I used a hex template as I penciled out designs including the Kanji for "Sakai", an owl, a fish, a castle similar to the one in the Dragon Bellow Conspiracy, a Fox and Tiger based on real Japanese art, a Tokage, a rooster, a flower with the kanji for "bloom" and a Samurai version of Saxon with the Kanji for Mouse Guard (which I altered a bit in the final).

When the layout was approved by the editor and Stan, I started the inks. First step was to print the layout file onto copy paper (over two sheets that had to be taped together at the seam) and tape that to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol. On my Huion lightpad I was able to ink the cover art using the printout as my pencils lines. This way in the end the inked artwork is very crisp and clean with no need to erase pencils lines. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens to ink the art (the 0.7 and 0.3 nibs).

The trick here was to leave a white gap between Usagi and everything (kites, the mob, etc.) I also needed to use a lighter method for inking the kite designs so they felt like 2D art drawn on those surfaces. I use a trick I picked up from Mike Mignola with a double line on in-world art helps sell that idea.

Color Flats:

The inks were approved and I scanned them in to Photoshop to start the coloring process. This first part of coloring digitally is called 'flatting' and is a professional version of coloring inside the lines. Establishing what each area's color is and where it ends. This not only is a color base for the image, but also allows a quick flat color area to be able to quickly isolate to render or make adjustments on.

Most of the color choices had been made in the layout stage, but I made changes to the value structure as I worked. In this step I also added color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) to The kites, the kite art, the kite strings, the mob, and Usagi's scar

Final Colors:
Here again is the finished art (this time sans-logo). I made significant changes to the tones from the flats by adjusting color balance, brightness, & contrast. To render all of the color I mostly used the Dodge and Burn tools (Photoshop tools based on real photography techniques for purposely over or under exposing film as it develops). Burn is do darken and Dodge is to lighten. I use a stock Photoshop textured brush as I add shadows and highlights with these tools so the work looks a little more organic and less digital.

Usagi Yojimbo: Lone Goat & Kid #2 is out in stores Feb 23, 2022

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