Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Ye Old Lore of Yore Reading

 Back in 2005 Jeremy Bastian and I released a self-published anthology comic called 'Ye Old Lore of Yore'. It has long been out of print, but recently, Jeremy and I decided to share it with fans again by performing a dramatic reading of the five stories within––a Cursed Pirate Girl story, Two Fir Darrig tales, Sir Hannibal of Ash, and a collaboration between the two of us: Gilbert Luther. Enjoy!

Direct YouTube link:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Mouse Guard: Service Print Process

In January I was inspired to do a new Mouse Guard piece. I intended it just to be for fun and for my Twitch stream audience. I'll get into the inspiration points in this post but for today's blogpost I wanted to go through the process for creating the piece––which will also be a new 8" x 8" print for ONLINECON in March (24-28).

To the left you can see the finished colored artwork for the Mouse Guard 'Service' print. And below I'll explain the steps to create it.

The main inspiration point was Amanda Gorman's poem 'The Hill We Climb' which she performed at President Biden's inauguration. It got me thinking about ideas and ideals learned in my scouting days about being of service to others. Often times, fans can think of the Mouse Guard as a band of warrior mice, when they are really more of rangers, there to do work as helpers. Sure, they at times need to do battle, but more often than not they are avoiding conflict in duties that are of pure service to others. I found this Norman Rockwell cover to Boy's Life and used it as the visual jumping off point.

I also wanted there to be some kind of insect or bird in the image to help show the scale––of what it's like to be very small in a world that is much bigger than you are, and still forging ahead to serve. I landed on a monarch butterfly as a beautiful symbol for the theme. 

To draw a cluster of flying butterflies, I made a quick model by printing out the same photo twice (once mirrored) with a twist-tie inserted across the wings as they are glued together. This way I could fold the wings to several positions and photograph it from various angles. To the left is a photo I took with my phone in one of the positions.

I did a pencil drawing of a Guardmouse on copy paper to resemble the Scout's pose from Rockwell's cover. I thought including a book and pack were important to the image, and so was keeping the sword sheathed and adding a shield to the back (sword, book, and shield echoing the ideas in the guard emblem). The cloak was tied off in front like a Scout's neckerchief. With the pencil drawing done I scanned the art and did a quick digital composition (including adding in fast colors for the mouse) dropping in the Guard emblem from my Mouse Guard enamel pins as well as lots of overlapping photos of the butterfly model.
And then I added in the text 'Service: Greater Than Self And Sword' to get the point across of being a helper rather than a combatant. 

I printed out the above digital composition and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol. On my A3 Huion Lightpad I was able to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below, which I could use as a guide while I inked. 

I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 and 0.3 nibs) to ink the piece. I think it's important to hand ink text like this when possible. I was able to get all the letterforms and spacing just as I wanted with the font, but the imperfections I can add in the inking make it look like it's part of the art instead of a digital effect. 

Once the inks were finished, I scanned them in to start the coloring process. That first step is called flatting, where I just color-in-the lines and establish where all the color areas are––which bits are which colors. At this stage I also establish color holds, areas where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black.

A lot of the color choices were already established in my layout stage, but I still had to rebalance those colors and values taking into account the sky color and the text box below.

The final piece can be seen below after I did all the rendering using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. This print will be on sale in my online store On March 24th when #ONLINECON starts on my Twitch channel

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Winged Hamhog

 Last Friday on my Twitch Stream, we did the second community draw-along event #DrawTheExtinct where I posted an image from an old block print I made with a few animal photo inspiration prompts and the idea to create an imaginary extinct animal. I worked on my piece live on my Twitch stream while viewers worked at home and then on Monday we shared our finished pieces. 

Here is my finished Winged Hamhog. And below are my steps to create it as well as the community submissions.

We started with the prompts of my original linocut print from a piece titled 'Extinct' as well as a hamster, a wild hog or boar, and a bat. I named the creature 'The Winged Hamhog'. I told the viewers that they could use any combination of the inspiration prompts––they could make their version as cute and cuddly as a pocket pet stray kitten, as monstrous and deadly as a giant kaiju destroying cities, or anything in between. I also wanted this to be an excuse to get their pencils moving. I invited all skill levels, because I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't have to be good at something or pursuing mastery of it to just simply enjoy the act of it...and art is no exception.

On the Friday stream I started with mechanical pencil on a sheet of copy paper. The image here is after I'd scanned my pencils, resized the image, and made some adjustments to some of the anatomy in Photoshop.

I started with the spade shape of the hog nose and decided that his overall body shape should echo that...which also is respectful of the original linoleum block print design.

With the pencils scanned and adjusted, I printed out the image and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Using a lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol as I inked the Hamhog. I used a Copic Multiliner 0.7 SP pen to ink the art. 

Most of the inking was pretty straight forward other than the texture on the wings. I'd penciled a sample of the inking technique, but when I inked it that way, I found it needed more tone and hatching to look right.

On the first #DrawTheExtint stream, I stopped at the finished inks, but I'd gotten more done in the time allotment on this one, so I scanned the inks and proceeded to the color flats.

The color selections were pretty straight forward, it was jsut a matter of using different layers to establish where those color areas started and stopped: The main fur vs the belly fur, the wing structure vs the wing flaps etc.

Below you can again see the final rendered colors with a border and type applied.

But, as this is a community event, I wanted to share all the other entries posted in the Discord (some are works-in-progress I've been told). I awarded a prize and we voted together on a few more (prize winners marked with *) on Monday's Twitch stream and we all enjoyed seeing what each other had done. I hope we get even more participants next month (first Friday!)

AU Tiger


Jesse Glenn



Wicked Goblin King *

Capt. Nemo


Nate Pride *




Serarel *

The Illustrator * 




Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Yarrow Limited Print Process

Each Year I create a new limited edition signed and numbered 11" x 11" print. The tradition started many years ago when Julia urged me to create a new print for a convention or event that was 'just pretty'. She thought that we had plenty of images of mice wielding swords and threatening snakes and owls––that the audience, especially women, appreciated when I just drew tender moments, or nature, or flowers.  I followed her advice, and for years now fans have proven her right by anticipating and purchasing the new square print I offer.

This year the piece is titled 'Yarrow' for the flower shown in the image.
Below I'll show the step-by-step of creating the art.

For the pencil drawings, they are all 0.5 mechanical HB pencil on regular copy paper. I started with the drawing of the mouse playing the harp (I'd drawn her before in a few Mouse Guard pieces), and then didn't know what to pair her with...would she just be surrounded by flowers? berries? another animal, insect, or bird? So I tried in Photoshop to place a few photos of those things next to her––a butterfly or swarm of butterflies almost won-out, but I really liked images I found of a Tufted Titmouse. On my lightpad I was able to draw the bird on another sheet of paper while lining it up with the existing drawing of the mouse. 

I'd also found images of the yarrow flower, and drew in heaps of those on the bird drawing too. And so it felt more like Mouse Guard, I also drew a spear that I could play with  placing in the next step.

I scanned in those pencil drawing into photoshop and assembled them into a composition. This included doing a rough coloring job to help block in the forms. This helped me in terms of the masses for composition (in fact I digitally added in a few more flowers, leaves, and stems where I felt they were needed) but the coloring work at this stage also helps me on the next step when I'm inking so I can see clearly what everything is, so that I ink the contour and texture of a flower petal differently than a leaf or cloth or animal.

Then I print out the above composition. Because of it's size I have to print it in two parts and then tape them together. That whole printout is then taped to the backside of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad I can ink the piece on the surface of the bristol while still seeing my 'pencil' lines on the printout below.

There was a lot of repetitive forms in the flowers, and I tried to focus on making the space in between them dark so they receded away, and much of the character space is open without a lot of texture or rendering to help give the eye a break in that sea of tight flower inks.

When the inks were done, I scanned those back into photoshop to start the coloring. The first part of that is called 'flatting' where I establish what color everything is and where those areas end with flat un-textured colors. Like, professional coloring-in-the-lines. I also established a few color-holds, areas where I want the ink work to be a color other than black (here I did it on the dress embroidery pattern, the background foliage, and on the harp strings (which were inked on the back side of the bristol on a lightpad so I could isolate those lines very easily.

I'd made most of my color choices when I was compositing the pencil drawings, so this step was rather procedural.

The last part was to render the color––to add light, shadow, and texture. I do this in Photoshop mostly with the Dodge and Burn tools and a stock textured brush.

'Yarrow' will be released and made available for purchase in my online store at the start of my March ONLINECON event (Mar. 24-28––more info coming soon)

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