Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mouse Guard BOSTON COMIC CON 2015 Auction piece

 This weekend I'll be a guest at the Baltimore Comic Con. I'll be donating this new 16" x 20" Mouse Guard watercolor to their art auction. After Bob Shaw, art dealer and co-organizer of the Boston Con, saw my HEROES auction piece, he asked if I could fit something special in for their auction too. This piece follows a similar process to the HEROES piece, though on a more reasonable scale, and today's blogpost is all about sharing that process.

The first step was coming up with a composition. I had some 16" x 20" matboard already cut and in the studio, so that pre-determined the size of this new piece. Looking through the Mouse Guard books, I flipped past the end chapters of Winter 1152 and decided to do a painting of a hare riding mouse. The sketch was done on copy paper, scanned in and enlarged to fit a 16" x 20" format. I used a border pattern I found online and then applied a grid to the file to help me with the next step.

Because this piece needs to be printed at the same 16" x20" size of my matboard, I had to print the file out over the course of several sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper. Then using the grid to help realign the pieces, I trimmed and taped together the sheets into a patchwork of the full image at actual size. I learned this method of printing large format images on standard size paper printers when I worked at the antique store Materials Unlimited and needed to make affordable new signs for sales or products that could be read at a distance.

When I normally work on an image that I digitally manipulated, I then move over to the lightbox to start work on bristol with the printout taped to the back...but since this painting is on matboard, I needed to do a different kind of transfer. On the backside, I rubbed graphite all over the areas where lines appeared on the front of the printout. I used a light table to help me see that I was getting coverage over the lines without wasting graphite or time and coating the entire backside.


I then taped the paper printout to the front of the matboard and traced over my lines with a ballpoint pen. Wherever I applied pressure, the graphite on the back would transfer over to the surface of the matboard. Pictured here is the 16" x 20" matboard with the entire image transferred over in graphite. It was late when I got this step done, and I hadn't thought about color choices at all yet, so instead of pushing forward and starting to paint, I went to bed and decided to tackle painting in the morning.

The next day, I decided that instead of the winter landscape from where fans saw the mice riding hares in Mouse Guard, I'd go for something warmer and more summer-ish. I started with a wash of yellow greens for the background. Then I discovered that this matboard, not thae same brand as the one I did my HEROES auction piece, would show the lamination glue streaks if the surface got too wet. I almost stopped and considered re-doing the transfer to a new sheet of board, but that would also mean a trip to the art supply store for new board. So I thought I'd push through and if got worse I'd stop.

Some more of those marks did show up, but in a way I found to be more like added texture rather than a flaw or distraction. So below you will see the many phone photos I took as I worked on this piece slowly building up the watercolor and then adding link work to punch up the illustration in the end.

Base color wash to the border.


Darker color to the pattern (detail)

Border color done

First wash to the hare's fur

More work on the Hare's Fur
& a wash to the Mouse's fur.

Cloak & Flag washes. 
Adding details to the Hare


More shading on the fabric & 
Starting on the Hare's riding tack.

Detail shot of the saddle & blanket

Finished watercolor

Inking details

The finished piece.
This will be available to bid on at the Boston Comic Con on Saturday. 


2015 Appearances:
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mouse Guard color Video #8

For this week's blogpost (the last of these for a while...) I colored a inked Mouse Guard character portrait in my normal fashion in Photoshop. I recorded the process and speed up the result x8. Here is the video:



direct link to watch the video on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/112294688



Here is a better look at the original inks and the finished piece:

To see more coloring videos visit my Vimeo Video Page:





2015 Appearances:
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2015 Mouse Guard Sketchbook

Last weekend at the San Diego Comic Con I released the 2015 Mouse Guard sketchbook. Like years past, this is a 24 page collection of commissions and other misc pieces that I have colored specifically for this printing. Each book is signed and numbered (500 in the edition), and can now be purchased through my online store: http://mouseguard.bigcartel.com

Here are a few sample pages of pieces you may have seen me post as commissions now colored for the sketchbook:











2015 Appearances:
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Art Book Cover Process

This Month a Art of Mouse Guard 2005-2015 book will be released. It is a 368 page 12" x 12" book full of images and descriptions of how Mouse Guard came to be, the process to create my books, and the evolution of that process changing in the 10 years I've been drawing Mouse Guard books. It's a book I'm really proud of. You can read a previous blogpost about it's contents here, but today I'm going to be going over the process of creating the artwork for the cover.
I wanted the artwork to not be a reused piece from the past, but I didn't quite manage to fulfill that desire of mine. While thinking of an image that would work to summarize the contents of the book (art book, process, Mouse Guard, etc.) I kept coming back to the Saxon, Kenzie, Rand portion of my Weasel War teaser print from SDCC a few years back. I redrew them making modifications to each character (taking away Kenzie's uncharacteristic sword for example).

To fill the background, the editors and I wanted something design-ey. Something we could use a printing process like debossing or spot varnish on to really make the cover look classy and special. I dug through photo reference I'd taken and ran across this photo of a floor grate at Notre Dame and thought it would be perfect as it was A) already square, and B) the right density of pattern for a printing effect.

I photoshopped the pencils of the mouse characters as well as the Notre Dame grate together and printed that composite out on standard printer paper. The printout was then taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightbox I could see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and used it as a guide while I inked the piece on the surface of the bristol. This process doesn't require erasing when the piece is inked because no pencil ever touches the bristol surface. 
After scanning my inks back into Photoshop, I came up with this monochromatic mockup for Archaia to look at. The idea was that the pattern was to be printed white and debossed while the linework was going to perhaps be branded or heat pressed on. However for both technical and artistic reasons this idea was scrapped. Another go-around had the cover being white with the mouse linework printed in black and the pattern not printed at all but only used as a template for a spot varnish (which would make it only visible when light hit it just-so). 

The cover version we ended up going with was closer to my original tan one, but now with the mice having a muted and barely rendered color scheme. The pattern will be printed slightly darker than the cover color, but will also be coated with a spot varnish to make the pattern sheen in the correct light.




The Art of Mouse Guard 2005-2015 will be available at Your Local Comic Shops, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and conventions either I or Archaia/BOOM! attend this year.




2015 Appearances:
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mouse Guard color Video #7

For this week's blogpost (and 1 more to follow) I colored a inked Mouse Guard character portrait in my normal fashion in Photoshop. I recorded the process and speed up the result x8. Here is the video:



direct link to watch the video on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/112129703



Here is a better look at the original inks and the finished piece:

To see more coloring videos visit my Vimeo Video Page:





2015 Appearances:
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mouse Guard HEROES 2015 Auction Piece

This HUGE 32" x 40" Mouse Guard Watercolor was auctioned off last weekend at the Heroes Con auction. The money raised from that auction go to help fund next year's HEROES. And since they are one of the best cons out there, privately owned by folks who really care about comic creators & fans, and they always put on a great show, I was happy to do an original piece for them. Today's Blogpost will walk through the steps used to create this piece.
Usually I don't do pieces this large. The exceptions being live art donations at a show like HEROES. There I'd be up on their stage, provided with materials and an enormous sheet of mat board to create something live while fans watched so they could prepare to place their bids later that night. Well, this year, I opted to do the piece at home in my normal controlled environment where I could do something more detailed and exciting. I did a few pencil sketches (the mouse and weasel are separate drawings added together in Photoshop), with some stock border pattern dropped on the top and bottom to frame the piece.
The grid overlayed on the photoshop work up above was so I could accurately line up and tape all of it back together when I printed this 32" x 40" image out on several sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper! Yikes. I didn't have a projector available to me on short notice, so I opted to do this patchwork technique I used to use when needing to affordably make large signs in-house at my old job back at the antique store: "15% OFF ALL ANTIQUE RESTORED LIGHT FIXTURES IN JANUARY".  Here I was starting to regret not doing some image simple enough to not just be drawn out on the board directly.
To then get the image from that huge patchwork of printouts, I had to coat the back with graphite. I used a super soft (7B) Graphite stick and on the lightbox was able to make sure I was covering the backside of the image only where the lines were. This way I didn't break my hand rubbing graphite onto place that would never need it. Here, I was really starting to regret not doing something simpler that could just be drawn directly onto the board itself.
After the graphite was applied, I flipped the patchwork over, taped it to the mat board, and started tracing over my lines with a ball point pen. The pressure of the ballpoint transfers the graphite from the back of the printout to the mat board's surface wherever I've drawn over with the pen. It was very late (or early AM) when I finished this step. It too was arduous, but I was having a more positive feeling about the final piece at this point. After some sleep, I'd start tackling the painting of it.
Using a cheap tray of watercolors, I started applying washes and then building them up, letting natural splotches happen at times, while carefully controlling where the paint went at other times. Below is the progress of the washes:

Yellow/ochre buildup on the knotwork border


The large sky area wash that I left blotchy while purposely keeping the area near their faces the lightest.



Filling in the areas between the knotwork darker



Knotwork done


Weasel fur


Mouse fur & Cloak


Splotchy happy accident helmet


When I'd finished the painting, I didn't think the piece was done. This is a classic thing for me. I work the watercolor thinking that I'll make the image strong enough to not need line, but ultimately get disappointed in the lack of focus of the final piece...and add line. And for it to look more like a traditional Mouse Guard piece (to get the most of a bid out of it), I knew the line would be important. So, I let the paint really dry, and left the inking for the next day.
The last step was to add in the linework. I first considered using pencil to "ink" the lines, but found that it didn't pop enough to accomplish what I needed, especially near the darker valued areas of the painting. So I switched over to ink pens, large permanent (but archival) markers. I used a few of my stippling tricks, but for the most part left everything an even lineweight to let the watercolor rendering still do most of the talking. To the left, is the final image and below details of the Mouse & Weasel.










2015 Appearances:
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Puppet Forge & Petersen Collaboration!

Puppet builder/performer and friend Gordon Smuder and I have collaborated on a new project (or perhaps series of projects depending on how it goes...) Gordon adapted my 2014 Monsters & Dames Monster into a Puppet, we decided that we should officially collaborate and have me draw some monster designs for him to build some limited high end puppets of. The character you see to the left is the first of our collaborations. only 10 of them will be made, and they will debut at HEROES CON this weekend! The deluxe hand puppets, with live hands and full bodies sell for $400 at The Puppet Forge booth and come with a limited print that I drew. Today's post outlines my art process and several more photos of a finished puppet below.

I started by sketching out a few very different types of monsters and slapped some quick color onto them hoping that one of them would catch Gordon's eye. He liked them all, but worried the squid head was too ambitious to start with, the blue troll was too easy/predictable, and the dragon-elk was right on the cusp of being too tricky...so he went with the green pig. I don't know if we will revisit any of the remaining 3 at a later date, or if Gordon would prefer to start with new inspiration sketches next time.
Because Gordon would need more than just the head, I needed to draw out the whole creature for him to start building from. This wouldn't be the final art for the print, but still a sketch that would show the body and proportions and details of the limbs. I offered a palate change here, to avoid comparisons with certain Star Wars pig guards, and Gordon leaned toward the more natural tan colors.

For the final piece, I wanted the character to be acting a bit more, but without a busy background setting. I changed the proportions a bit again and put more detail in the expression and hair. This was all done in pencil, but I left the specifics of the fish bone pile vague for me to figure out as I inked it.
Next up were the inks. I did my usual trick of taping the original sketch to the back of a sheet of bristol board and inking on the bristol over a lightbox so I can see the pencils as a guide. The detail of the hair was lost a bit compared to my pencils, but the fish bone pile was fleshed out more thoroughly. You win some, you lose some.
And lastly I colored the piece in photoshop for the final print.

Now for more photos of Gordon's amazing work at translating my drawing into a fleece & foam puppet:












As I said at the top of the post, swing by The Puppet Forge Booth this weekend at HEROES CON to purchase one of these puppets.


2015 Appearances:
Heroes Con June 19-21
Boston Comic CoJuly 31- Aug. 2
Long Beach Comic Con: Sept. 12-13
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11
Art-Bubble Comics Festival: Copenhagen: Nov. 14-15

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