To the left you can see the final art piece for February. I wanted to have the scene to have some implied romanticism without being overly mushy. So one mouse has brought in enough little blooms to fill the room and kneels as they proclaim their affection for the other.
Below in this blogpost I'll walk through the steps to creating it.
I started with two pieces of reference (not shown here) a photo of a stone arched window nook and a photo I took of little flowers Julia was growing in our garden. I used the architecture photo as reference to pencil the background one a sheet of copy paper. On another sheet I drew my mice, and on yet a third I designed costumes for them as well as the flowers in the room (I did this last sheet on a light pad so they lined up with the figures). I scanned these three sheets and composited them together in Photoshop (tinting each a different color to help me see which lines belonged to which drawing. I also digitally added in some diagonal floor planking, the lead pattern in the glass, and two Lockhaven banners.
With the above layout all set, I printed out the image (onto two sheets of legal paper that had to be registered and taped back together). I inked this piece on my Twitch stream on a Huion lightpad. Using the lightpad I could see through the 12" x 12" Strathmore bristol to the printout below so I could use it as a pencil guide. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens.
Originally, in my mind, the windows would be flooded with sunlight, rays and streams of it coming in and lighting the characters, so I abbreviated the glass lines to suggest the light blowing out their full forms.
When the inks were done I scanned them into Photoshop and started the coloring process. In this step I am filling in each area with a flat color (no rendering, no textures)–it's like a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. At this stage I also establish the color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black), here the standing mouse's clothing embroidery and the banner emblem.
As you can see, the plan for a bright sunny day outside was still in effect at this point...
I rendered the piece using dodge and burn tools as well as a stock texture brush to add all the light, shadow, and texture. I was working on this piece on stream and when I was about half to three quarters done, I started complaining about the piece being washed out and losing focus. Someone in chat suggested the windows be revealing a night sky. I duplicated my sky layer and painted it dark blue, and then cut out a circle in it to reveal the original daytime sky colors as a full moon. I added some more digital effects on top to help sell the lighting on the figures I'd already done.
The Calendar is available in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/mouse-guard-2023-calendar