Tuesday, July 25, 2023

American Flagg! Baltimore Yearbook 2023

For over a decade the Baltimore Comic Con has published a convention art book called 'The Baltimore Yearbook' that usually features a creator-owned character or property, where that creator is a guest of the convention. Selected guest artists are asked to contribute a piece of fan art for the book to celebrate the creator and property. It allows us to play in someone's world, and offers a chance for attendees to meet new creators as they go around the show floor collecting autographs in their yearbook.

This year 1First Publishing is celebrating its 40th anniversary so the subjects are Nexus, Grimjack, American Flagg,  E-Man, MARS!, Jon Sable, & Starslayer. To the left you can see my final piece. Below I'll go through the steps.

Layout: I wasn't terribly familiar with the characters from these creator-owned series, but I had seen some Nexus & American Flagg comics. Knowing Steve Rude's Nexus would be getting a lot of love, I decided to go for American Flagg. I did my research about the Sci-fi political satire nature of the comic and how important TVs and messaging (subliminal hypnosis) was in it. So I drew Reuben Flagg with a TV remote pushing a 1First Comics button. The rest of the layout was just an assembly of stock photos of TVs, a flag, a cat, static, and covers from the various other 1First comics being celebrated in the Yearbook.

Wanting to get a James Bond feel to the piece, I thought it would be fun to place a sniper's scope crosshairs over Flagg––but instead make it an old TV test pattern. The only thing I really drew was Flagg himself, and I certainly used photo reference for the hand and remote.

Inks: When I was satisfied with the above layout, I printed it out (without the test pattern) and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series 14" x 17" bristol. On my Huion lightpad I was able to see the printout through the bristol and ink without transferring pencils to the board.

Inking the TV cases over and over got a bit tedious, and Reuben was so big, he was easy. The hardest part was inking in all the homages to the other 1First covers at that tiny scale. I tried to just be loose since it was all an interpretation being displayed on a screen anyhow. 

The cat on screen is another character in American Flagg, Raul, a talking tabby with mechanical gloves that lets him use his 'hands'

Overlay: To get the Test Pattern cross-hairs to look like my layout, I needed to ink it separately on another sheet of bristol. First I took a real test pattern and then cleaned it up and replaced the Indian head on top with Flagg's logo. Then I printed it out on copy paper. Not wanting to use as large of a sheet of bristol just for this effect, I shrunk the design down before printing it and taping it to the back of a sheet of 12" x 12" Strathmore 300 bristol. 

On the lightpad I inked everything as carefully as I could, but without rulers so it still looked hand drawn. I then scanned the overlay sheet at a higher resolution to make up for it being smaller than the other inks without losing line quality.

Color Flats: Once the inks were done I scanned them and started the color flatting process. This is a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines.

Many of the color choices were already decided in my layout, but as always, there's need to shift the values, hues, and saturation until it looks right with the darker ink lines.

I also established color holds (areas where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) on any linework inside the TV screens, the stripes and stars on Flagg's lapels, and the buttons and light on the remote.

Final Art: For this cover, I approached some of the rendering a little differently and painted in the shading with a paintbrush rather than my normal dodge and burn tools. I still used them, but much less than normal. I though doing such a different subject matter afforded me the room to have the final result look a little different from my Mouse Guard work.

The Overlay sheet was added and painted away in a few areas for visual clarity. 

This piece will be published in the Baltimore Yearbook. That book will be available for purchase at the convention and through the con's website afterwards. The original inked piece will also be for sale in the art auction at the con on Saturday.

Past Baltimore Yearbook pieces & blogposts:

2021: Halloween:

2018: Strangers in Paradise:

2017: Tellos:

2016: Archie:

2015: Mouse Guard:

2014: Grendel:

2012: Liberty Meadows:

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Mouse Guard Portraits for SDCC

In anticipation for SDCC 2023, I painted four Mouse Guard watercolor portraits of Saxon, Kenzie, Sadie, & Lieam. 

I had some cut-offs from trimming down the boards from my large HeroesCon watercolors of the Gummi Bears & Ducktales (http://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2023/06/heroes-con-2023-paintings.html).

These Mouse portraits are each 7.5" x 10" and will be for sale at my table at SDCC. In this blogpost, I'll go through several stages of the watercolor painting

I started with a pencil drawing of each of the mice. The Saxon drawing was based on a real mouse Photograph I'd planned to use for this year's Bookplate inspiration, which is why I went a little more realistic real-world mouse on the designs for these. I did a quick digital color pass over my pencil drawings to get  a sense of value and color choices.

I transferred the drawings to the thicker illustration board (suitable for watercolors) with graphite paper (pressing down while tracing a copy of the drawing on top of the illustration board transfers the image) and started with a light subtle pale wash--and then apparently started laying in fur color on Lieam.

because I knew the backgrounds were going to be more sloppy, blended, and wet, I started on those early.

Lightest tones on the mice went next, ie the bare skin of the hands, noses, ears, tails, and eyes.

more tone and depth to those lighter areas as well as some weapon details.

base fur tones for Saxon and Kenzie while Lieam is getting more definition and Sadie has her front cloak panel lightly blocked in.

Then cloaks for Saxon and Kenzie, fur for Sadie, and a background for Lieam (which I saved because of how dark I knew it was planned to be).

Unfortunately, in the second session of painting, I forgot to take any photos until I was finished––Luckily I did stream that painting session, and so I have a timelapse video that takes us to the end stage.

Here again are the paintings finished––but before I added a dark brown color pencil 'ink' line as seen below





Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Drunkard Mushroom Dragon

Last Friday on my Twitch Stream, we did the #DiscoveringDragons Community-Draw-Along! It's a fun event where I welcome all skill levels to push their pencils (or whatever tools they use to make art).

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 colored Dragon. And below are my steps to create it as well as the community submissions.

For #DiscoveringDragons, I post two or three prompt words for everyone to make into a dragon. It's a nice framework for artists of any skill level to focus some time on an 'assignment' to shake the rust off or get the pencil moving again––all while also being loose enough that there's plenty of room for individual expression and interpretation.

This month the prompt was two words: Drunkard & Mushroom.

I opened a few tabs of google image searches of various mushroom species, images of people drunk, & dragons. I also found an artist named 'Coliandre' who did a whole #Smaugust series of mushroom dragons (which inspired me, but also was hard to avoid when coming up with my own ideas)

I had several mis-starts (not pictured) of mushroom shapes with toothy mouths like The Bolete of Coliandre's. I then saw a photo of a Komodo Dragon in my 'dragon' search bar and it lead to the pencils you see on the left. It's pencil on copy paper, incorporating fly agaric caps, morel pores, enokis, and mushroom gills. 

On a separate sheet of copy paper I drew the 'wings' and then assembled the two drawings together in Photoshop and added in flat colors just to help me see the forms and know where certain textures would begin and end.

I then printed it out so I could ink it.

The printout was 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 dragon. I used Copic Multiliner 0.7 SP pen to ink the art. 

The texture of the morel pores was where I dove in and had the most fun. I was certainly inspired by the textures of my friend Nate Pride's ink work. The rest of the linework was my normal thick/thin line weights and varying densities of detail.

I was unable to get the inks finished before my stream ended but I wished the viewers all luck with their pieces and told them we'd take a look at everyone's work on Monday.

After some dinner, I came back up to the studio and finished inking the piece. The next day I started the coloring process as I listed to a live streamed concert by Joshua Lee Turner. The first step in coloring (after scanning and cleaning up the scan) is to flat in the colors––basically professional coloring-in-the-lines.

It was a fairly basic color palette I'd already established in the pencils/layout. This piece had very few color holds (areas where I want the line art to be a color other than black) only on the pupils and the roots coming off the pads of the feet.

For the final colors and all the highlights, shading, and texture I used the dodge and burn tools with a stock photoshop texture brush. Below you can again see the final rendered dragon.

But, as this is a community event, I wanted to share all the other entries posted in the Discord.





Jonathan Towry


Nate Pride



Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Recent Toned Commissions

My Commissions from Cherry Capital Con & Heroes Con

A Harvester Mouse

Slash from TMNT


A Worm With A Moustache #PUMPRULES


The Silver Surfer

A Mouse Harvester

A Dog named Freddie

A Kobold Artificer (D&D Character)

King Dok (from Bone)

Darkwing Duck

A Guardmouse with a bee

A Kraken

Darkwing Duck

The Last Unicorn

A Fan's pet rat as a Guardmouse

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