To the left you can see the final art piece for October. I didn't want to do a spooky October piece, but I did think it should have a pumpkin in it, so I came up with a lantern-lit pumpkin-cider booth...inside a pumpkin
Below in this blogpost I'll walk through the steps to creating it.
This istock photo is one of many many many pumpkin photos I looked at for reference before starting the piece. This photo helped me more with the look of the ground cover and the pumpkin leaf greenery behind the pumpkin booth. So while I did look at this image, I didn't directly reference it (or any of the other dozens of wild growing pumpkins I found photos of), but looked at it for inspiration.
The first step was the pumpkin booth. I wanted there to be a bit of an up-angle for our view so that we could see the wall thickness of the pumpkin rather than it being obscured by the canopy. Once I had the pumpkin, bar, barrels, and leaves drawn I scanned them into Photoshop and figured out where in the frame it would fit. The placement I chose meant I had to draw more greenery on top as well as all the mouse characters on a separate sheet of copy paper (using a small prinout of what I already had on a lightpad). I added in the rope lines for the lanterns digitally and drew the lanterns themselves on the same sheet as the mice.
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.
There was a lot of density of texture on the floor and in the background, so I tried to be simple with any tones I added to the barrels, mouse clothes, or pumpkin.
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. Many of the colors were obvious from nature for the scene, but it still took some time to dial in specific hues and tones for them. How light or dark, how saturated, how warm, how cool, etc. I fiddled with for a bit before starting the actual coloring
At this stage I also establish the color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) on the lanterns and cider.
I rendered the piece using dodge and burn tools as well as a stock texture brush to add all the light, shadow, and texture. There was a play of light in this piece (the light coming from inside the pumpkin as well as from the lanterns) that was a hard thing to render without also over-rendering and overworking the piece. I hope that I found the balance so that it just feels like a fun crisp air evening where there's plenty of warmth from the setting and company.
The Calendar is available in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/mouse-guard-2023-calendar