Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Chameleon Guard Patrol

During OnlineCon last year and this year, I took on several inked commissions. The idea was 1) to make some fans happy (since I rarely offer these types of pieces any more) 2) Earn some income in the heights of the pandemic, and 3) build several pieces of work that I could color for an upcoming Mouse Guard sketchbook. 

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 commission request was from longtime fan Kyle Wright who asked for a patrol of Guardmice using a Chameleon as a pack animal loaded up with gear & supplies. Somewhere in the process, I got confused about chameleon species and drew a hooded chameleon instead of a panther chameleon like Kyle asked for (apologies, Kyle.)  I drew the chameleon on one sheet of copy paper, and then on a light pad, used another sheet of paper to draw all the gear (this way if I needed to erase or adjust the items, I didn't risk destroying the original drawing. I then drew the three Guardmice on a third sheet of paper, and scanned all three sheets into Photoshop where I could composite them and add in some quick digital painting for the landscape.

I printed out the above 8"x 8"layout on copy paper and taped it to the back of a sheet of 12" x 12" Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad I can see through the surface of the bristol down to the printout to use as a guide as I ink. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs). Getting the details of the Chameleon right without over-inking the details was the hard part. I knew the ink coverage would get dense in all the gear, so I used more restraint on the lizard. And in that same way I used a much lighter touch with the background foliage knowing it would help imply some depth & distance. With the inks done, the piece was sent off to Kyle. 

Before Julia shipped off the original, I got a good scan of the art so I could start the coloring process. That first step is called 'flatting' which is basically a professional task of coloring-in-the-lines and establishing what color area each thing in the piece is. I'd played with the idea of going a little crazy with the colors (going more into the range of a panther chameleon's range rather than sticking to what I drew) but started with a russet look for the lizard knowing that I could alter it as I worked.

I also took this step to establish a color hold (an area where I want the black linework to be a color other than black) on the background leaves to help push them back and add a sense of depth. I also added a few color holds to the chameleon's spots, details on the gear, and a glow on the lantern.

Here are the final colors all rendered and textured. I do most of this work only using two tools in Photoshop: Dodge and Burn. These are tools that date back to when Photoshop was a photo retouching tool and emulate part of the development process to over and under expose areas––ie: make areas darker and lighter. So with a stock textured brush I add shadows and highlights.

This piece will eventually be collected with many more in an upcoming sketchbook I plan to release in early/mid 2022.

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