Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RPG 2nd Edition Cover Art Process

 Luke Crane teased on his Burning Wheel Forum that one of the reasons we've been coy about a re-release for the Mouse Guard RPG (which has been out of print for a few years) is that we've been working on a SECOND EDITION of the game!!!

For this week's blogpost I'll be sharing my process for creating the cover art for the new Hardcover Rulebook (And in coming weeks, I'll share more of the new art for the game)

The original RPG cover featured a huge lineup of various mice (52 of them) to inspire the players with creating their own mice. For the 2nd Ed. I wanted to play up a bit more of the classic D&D covers with a group (a mouse patrol in this case) in a grueling battle with a dragon (or a snake here). The mice and snake were all sketched out separately and then assembled in Photoshop with a border I found online.

That composite piece was printed out (over the course of several sheets of copy paper, and then taped together) and placed behind a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol on a light table. As I inked this piece (over 23" long) I tweeted pictures A, B, C. I focused on making sure the overall silhouette of each mouse read well in the overall chaos of snake scales and border design. I also took the time to ink that border by hand instead of using the digital border image I found so that I could hand weather it and give it flaws and character, also so that the original art looked complete.

The inks were scanned (in several parts and re-assembled) so I could begin flatting in color for this cover. I went with a reddish letterbox color to get the idea of this being about a fierce battle. The mouse fur and cloak colors are a variation on what seems to work in the comics: brown fur-red cloak, grey fur-blue cloak, red fur-green cloak.

For the final render I made a few color adjustments as I added shadows and highlights and textures with the dodge and burn tools. I added a color hold to the inked border design to make it blend with the red and make it seem more old-world.

Luke, Archaia, and I do not have a firm date for the Mouse Guard RPG Second Edition, but the materials are being final-edited and proofed currently. We will update when we can.

Swords and Strongholds:
And a reminder that the Kickstarter for the Mouse Guard board game Swords & Strongholds designed by Luke Crane & I is still  going here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burningwheel/mouse-guard-swords-and-strongholds

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SDCC 2014 Info!

Bonus Blogpost this week just to give all the info I can about the biggest convention of the year: San Diego Comic Con (which starts Wednesday!)
Below is the info about where/when to find me and what I'll be doing and offering. However, the best way to keep up with my SDCC info as-it-happens is to follow me (or just bookmark) me on Twitter: @mouseguard

See you in San Diego, or please excuse any lag in email/phone replies due to this convention.

Where to Find me:
I'll be in Artist Alley for most of the 5 days of the convention. Artist Alley is in Hall G of the convention center and my Table is GG-09. Other than some signings (see below), a bit of browsing, and a few panels (see below), I should be at my table.

There I'll have Mouse Guard books, prints, bookplates, original art, and the 2014 Sketchbook (see below).

Additional signings:
I have two signings scheduled at the BOOM!/Archaia Booth who are located at 2229 (between Marvel & Sideshow):
Thursday 3-4 and Saturday 3-4.
I'll be signing at my artist alley table too, but this is another chance to catch me at the center of the convention.

I do not charge for my autograph. I'll sign anything with my work in/on it: Mouse Guard books/issues/games, TMNT issues, Muppet issues, etc. I'll also sign program guides.

I'm already booked for commissions (I do them as pre-orders and then deliver them at the convention), so unless you were one of the few, I won't be able to do a commission for you. However, I do quick FREE mouse head sketches (on you paper or in your sketchbook) at my table if the line isn't too bad (and if it is, I suggest you swing back again later). Anything more involved than that (sketch covers, busts, etc.) will be handled on a per-person basis (availability, cost, and content TBD).

2014 Sketchbook:
Every year I release a new color sketchbook collecting Mouse Guard themed commissions I've done for fans over the past year. My commissions are inked B&W images, but I go back and color them for inclusion the sketchbook. Limited to 500 copies, I release each year's book at SDCC and return home with the remainder for sale at future conventions and in my online store. The sketchbook is 24 pages, color and sells for $20. (if you see them being sold on eBay for more, just wait and save yourself the premium flippers upcharge and buy from me direct online after I return home from the convention)

I'll be on two panels this year.

Sunday 1-2pm: All-Ages Comics Have Arrived: 
Quality all-ages comics are back and better than ever! We’re not just talking about “kids” comics, we’re talking about amazing comics that can be enjoyed by young, old, and everyone in between. Join KaBOOM!  Editor Shannon Watters as she has a lively and fun conversation with several all-ages creators, including David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Sisters), Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity), Gene Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints), and Ian McGinty (Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time: Candy Capers). Room 24ABC

but I have a more to say about my Friday panel:

Friday 5-6pm: The World of Mouse Guard:
Get updated on everything Mouse Guard, including news on upcoming projects, collectibles, and other surprises with creator, writer, and artist, David Petersen. Plus, enjoy a live reading of several Mouse Guard short stories with David and guests Hal Lublin (The Thrilling Adventure Hour), and Meredith Salenger (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Hollywood Heights)
Moderated by BOOM! Studios Marketing Manager Mel Caylo. Room 32AB

Announced last week, one of the projects we will talk about is the upcoming short story collection Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales, and to really celebrate the fans who come out to the panel, the live reading mentioned above will cover 3 of the 6 stories from the book! One of those stories will have not-yet been published anywhere and will make it's debut on screen as narrated by Meredith Salenger! I'm very excited to have Hal & Meredith on the panel, both are very talented actors and voice performers and both are fans of Mouse Guard. The third reader is unsure of scheduling and may not be able to make it, so we are working out a contingency plan.

Swords and Strongholds:
And a reminder that the Kickstarter for the Mouse Guard board game Swords & Strongholds designed by Luke Crane & I is still  going here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burningwheel/mouse-guard-swords-and-strongholds

I'll plan on having my hand-made prototype set of the game at my table if you are interested in seeing it or chatting about the game.

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales

 Since 2011 I've been doing a type of short story every year for the Archaia Free Comic Book Day release. These stories feature a character we know from the Mouse Guard books as a young mouse and is being told a morality story that shapes who they grow to become. A collection of these stories, plus two brand new shorts of the same type, is going to be released by Archaia at the end of this year or the beginning of next (tricky deadlines & turnarounds with printers) and titled Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales

In today's blogpost, I'll go through my process for creating the cover art.

The concept of this cover was to make a curio shelf of objects relating to the stories within. The marionette of the title character "Baldwin the Brave" (FCBD 2012) needed to be a focus, but I also surrounded him with the items used by the Wise Weaver (FCBD 2011), the ship Thane used to cross to the Isle of Venn (FCBD 2013) and the cards Rand and his father play with before the Tale of the Axe Trio (FCBD 2014). I reused an inked promo drawing of Baldwin for the rough, and then sketched the other elements and composited them together in Photoshop.

I made a printout of that composite piece and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. The inks were all done over a lightbox so I could use the printout as a guide to ink from. This piece was inked with Copic Multiliner pens (the 0.3 & 0.7 nibs) It was a bit of a trick getting texture and detail onto all of the items and the shelf and wall without losing some of those items in a field of grey. I tried to make sure there was enough in the inks to distinguish each item from one another, but also knew I could help the clarity when it came time to color.

The inks were scanned and I started the coloring process by filling in large areas with flat color. This is the tedious part of coloring. You aren't making final color choices, or doing anything cool with lighting or shadows...nope flatting is just about establishing color zones. I had rough ideas of what colors to use because I'd drawn and colored all of these items in the Free Comic Book Day stories of years gone by, but ultimately, this piece needed to work as it's own piece which could mean altering these colors to give it it's own color scheme and harmony.

Here is the final rendered color for the cover art. The highlights and shadows were all achieved using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. I added Baldwin's strings by placing a sheet of copy paper over the inks on the lighbox and inking in the lines for the strings of the copy paper. In photoshop I was able to take those isolated lines and make them white for the final composition.

Back at the top of the post you can see the art in the context of the art & text for the coverwrap.

BONUS: Here is the pagination guide (a layout of what pages go where and what they face) that I drew and submitted to my editor Rebecca Taylor at Archaia. As I said before, there are 2 new stories in this collection, at the time I drew this guide they were nicknamed "Seyan" and "Insect" (They have real titles now, I promise) And while this guide doesn't indicate anything special about the map, it is a new map of the Mouse Territories

Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales will be a great way to catch one of the FCBD stories you missed, but even if you collected them all as they came out, will have fun new content for you as well.

Swords and Strongholds:
And a reminder that the Kickstarter for the Mouse Guard board game Swords & Strongholds designed by Luke Crane & I is still  going here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burningwheel/mouse-guard-swords-and-strongholds

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Swords & Strongholds Game

Luke Crane & I are making a Mouse Guard board game! In the pages of Mouse Guard, the mice play "Swords & Strongholds", Luke and I have created a ruleset for the in-world game and just launched a Kickstarter to make the game a reality (while also offering some perk rewards for early adopters): CLICK HERE FOR THE KICKSTARTER

For today's blogpost, I'll be telling you a little about the game and running through the artwork I created for it.

The Game:
I'd made a model of the game (Swords, Diplomacy & Strongholds in the comics...but shortened to Swords & Strongholds for release) for my won needs to be able to draw it consistently and with the hopes of eventually making a ruleset for it. Well, Luke Crane (Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard RPG Torchbearer) and I sat down back in February and designed a playable game using my model prototype to playtest.

The game is played on a board with a grid. Mouse pawns reside on the grid intersections (mostly) and are moved in conjunction with cards: Swords, Diplomacy, and Strongholds. Each card allows the mouse you are moving an ability beyond it's normal movement. We came up with something that is a 2 player light strategy game that is pretty easy to learn and can scale in difficulty with the skill levels of the players. The Kickstarted set will will include a wooden board, eight plastic pawns, 30 cards in a sturdy tuck box or sleeve, and a rules sheet complete with example illustrations. The game will be contained in a cardboard two piece box with a full color wrap.

Box Cover Art: 
When creating the art for the 2014 Bookplate, I had this game on my mind. And I could think of no better art-image for the game, but I needed to create artwork that looked more like my traditional Mouse Guard artwork to adorn the box. Using my rough of the bookplate art, I mocked up a tighter pencil version and added some decoration to the corners. This photoshop composite of my pencil sketches was then printed at full scale (8.5" x 8.5") on copy paper.

I taped that copy paper printout of my roughs to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. On a lightbox, I can see the rough through the bristol surface to use as a guide to ink. Unlike the 2014 Bookplate that was made to look like embroidery, I needed this piece to have my usual style of inking with textures, abbreviated, weathered, and distressed lines and text. The Box will have title text on it beyond what is in the art, but I thought it important to show the balance of these 3 tenants by including the type.

After the inks were done, I scanned those and in Photoshop started the coloring process with flatting the colors in. This stage is all about filling in large areas with flat (un-rendereed) colors. The color choices don't need to be final, it's more about making each shape of the drawing a different color to make it easier to isolate when it's time to pick final colors and do any rendering. I also established the color holds, or areas where I want my ink work be be a color instead of black.

Here is another shot of the final cover art for the game box. The shading and highlights were all done with the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop while using a textured brush.

The inks for this piece are available as a reward tier in the Kickstarter.

The Cards:
I had drawn card art for my prototype many years ago when I first made it (2009?) but felt that this cool of a release of Swords and Strongholds needed updated artwork. I kept the designs mostly the same, but made some artistic choices to tighten details or change proportions of roofs or scrolls or hilts. Below you can see the inked card art (along with the back of each card) And the color renderings that will be used for production. The 4 inked pieces of cart art are available as reward tiers in the Kickstarter.

So please take a look at the Kickstarter for the project, and also take a look at the various reward tiers (including a deluxe hardwood set with pewter pawns and a felt lined box made by Israel Skelton!)

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tower Items

Back in February, I posted about updating the portraits for my homemade board game Tower. To the left you can see each character's original starting items. In design terms, these items were thought of after the initial Tower set had been made as a way to balance out the characters...give cool items to weaker ones, and relatively innocuous items to the stronger ones. From a artistic perspective, I enjoy looking back at older artwork of mine and re-thinking how I'd tackle it now. Item art is also one of those things I really enjoy as a reader. It informs me all about the world and what the overall aesthetic is for that place.(Knolled item images are really cool. Hannah Christenson does it very well: examples 1, 2, 3

So this week, here are all 15 new Tower item paintings with info on each:

Ambidextrous Potion
Quiver Dare, the Gnomish Acrobat gets this 3 use potion which allows him to use two weapons at once and gain all the benefits from each.

Amulet of Power
Luthor Givem'ell needed a little something so as a Battle Mage he could have a more aggressive attack than the other magic users. This 3 use amulet allows him to cast two spells in the same turn.

Animal Companion
Solae Pathfinder, the Elven Ranger, starts the game with an animal companion who can take a weaker second attack for her after she fails to kill a monster. Her companion can only be used four times.

Bag of Holding
Fike the Mox, the human barbarian gets a useful item that allows him to store 2 items which can not be stolen by another player or dropped if attacked by a monster.

The Drow Assassin Demtremi O'Ballas starts the game with five sets of caltrops (spikes left on the floor to wound your enemies) which can be placed on stratigic spaces to prevent other heroes from reaching the main gate with their winning treasure amount

Cloak of Darkness
Lucas Taver, the Elven Thief needed something which made him better at stealing from other players than the other heroes, so he starts the game with a cloak that hides him more easily.

Prayer of Equality
This item of Packus Shortbeard, the Dwarven Cleric, has spawned many an argument at the Petersen gaming table. It's used to redistribute everyone's treasure amongst all the players, and not by gold amount, but by the count of cards.

Holy Relic
Madalyne Chevalier, a Human Paladin starts the game with this item which gives her an all-game bonus to defend against all monsters

Hypnotic Harp
For Annice Quinn, the Human Bard, this starting item allows her twice per game to remove one type of monster from the game on her current board level. The monsters hear the tune and shuffle out of the Tower.

Ninja Rope
Rien Draak, the Gnomish Ninja, gets an item which allows him to escape from a combat situation without any penalty hit from the monster.

Pipe Weed
Dalton Mattock the Dwarven Armorer already has 3 wounds he can suffer before he dies (compared to everyone elses 2) but this starting item allows him to relax, heal, and gain back a wound twice per game.

Rune of Determination
Fisher Spaskey, the Dwarven Berzerker, and one of the most powerful characters in the game, has this small item which allows him to avoid any trapped rooms (though still giving him the option of facing the most powerful 'trap' monster in the game)

Seed Pods
These 3 use pods explode into a massive snare of vines upon impact and tangle any monster in a room allowing Tyne Mossbrook to snag the treasure without ever having to enter combat.

Spirit Scimitar
Pax Teahille, the Halfling Preist needed some offensive help, so she gets this spectral blade which has a few uses each at different combat levels.

Summon Monster
J'han Silverthatch, the Elven Mage, has the option to re-enter a cleared room and summon another monster from that level. It gives him a chance of gaining another useful treasure card.

This was purely an exercise in enjoying revamping old artwork. I still have no firm plans to rework the rest of Tower or release it. But if ever I do, I'll have this current artwork to use or base new designs from.

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Turtles in Time #4 Cover Process

In the final issue of IDW's Turtles in Time series, the four turtles arrive back in Manhattan....but is it the Manhattan they know? This is the near-future...or an alternate near-future. When my editor Bobby Curnow told me the issue would be set in the 'future' my plan was to have the turtles trying to fit in and pilot a small 2 seater flying car amidst odd tech-architecture and holograms. But then I was given more info on the script and what this specific version of the future needed to resemble. To the left you can see the final cover, but below, I'll go through each step of the process and describe how this piece came to be.

My initial rough was to sum up and force in the elements that needed to be there per the script and Bobby's request: All 4 turtles looking a bit baffled, a blend of current and future architecture, mutants milling about the streets, and some kind of billboard or jumbotron of future Shredder. This was a rough sketch done at a friend's house on scrap paper as I tried to describe to the friend how I was going to fit everything in. On a tall-format cover like this, showing the vertical trust of the buildings is easy, but fitting 4 turtles across the width and still having space to show that the crowd isn't human, was the trick.

Once I knew roughly the layout, I needed I started redrawing elements from the original sketch to tighten it up to show Bobby and in turn he could show to Nickelodeon. I drew each of the turtles separately in my sketchbook as well as drawing the background on another sheet of paper. This way I could carefully position & resize each turtle, taking advantage of the negative spaces between their shoulders, pointed arms, etc. to fit in all the info needed for the 4 to be shown while still having enough room to get my foreground and background mutants in there.

As you may notice, the jumbotron Shredder ended up being a photographed model I made. Instead of any of the billboards or the main jumbotron being fixed to anything,  I opted for them all to be free-floating techno-marvels. For the round one (the point of focus), I thought the perspective of not only a circular screen and tech, but also the shredder image mapped on to it would be easier to do with a model. The shredder drawing was scanned, had a grid applied, and then I rolled it up and glued a ticker-tape ring ("MUTANTS SERVE THE LEADER") to it and a spoke & hover-engine design to it.

The above digital composite was printed out and taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On top of a lightbox, I inked the image onto the surface of the Strathmore bristol using the printed image I could see through it as a guide. I didn't have the perspective correct for the background in my rough, so I made a correction before committing to ink (though the center area of the furved building to the right still has incorrect vanishing points. The inks were done with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs mainly).

(As a side note, many of the mutants represent something, characters from other talking animal books, old TMNT RPG characters, and the cat that represented me from my old project Cats Trio.)

The inks were then scanned and I started the coloring process where you establish all the various areas as flat colors with no rendering (and often times not the final colors themselves). After I flatted in the colors on the turtles themselves, I tried to keep the other elements simple, making a 3 tone variation for the buildings and the mutants. Bobby said Nickelodeon was nervous that the turtles might get overshadowed by the foreground characters, so while these were not exactly the final color choices, I did keep in mind that I wanted the turtles to be the most vibrant of the citizens and the others should be kept more muted.

Here is another look at the final cover art with the rendering and the special effects for lighting added.

Other TMNT in Time Cover Process Posts:

It's been a fun run on TMNT. While I don't have anything else lined up with IDW currently, I do hope to come back and do some more with the TMNT sooner than later.

2014 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wild's End Cover process

A new book from Archaia parent company BOOM! will be coming out soon called Wild's End by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard. The elevator pitch is "Wind in the Willows meets War of the Worlds". So when the editor pool in the Archaia/Boom! offices asked if I'd be up for doing a cover, I said "Yes, please"...because how can you go wrong with talking animals in clothes? I'll be purposefully vague on the details of this book and the story, because I'll let BOOM!'s marketing make sure they control how that info is released. (more can be found in this interview on CBR) To the left you can see the final artwork, but in today's blogpost, I'll walk through the process of making the cover art.

I was given a script of the first issue and some character control art (shown here on the right). For the first script, I decided to focus on a moment towards the end of the issue, though I combined a few things all happening at once for the sake of trying to get a lot of story info into the cover. There are four characters in that scene: A dog, a fox, a Rabbit, and a Mink. In my original thumbnail I sent to BOOM! I'd omitted the mink for the sake for trying to fit everyone, but 1) this layout had some flaws which fixing would open some space and 2) the creators and editors really wanted the Mink in there.

I sketched out each character in poses I figured would work for the scene. With a few of them, I revised the poses and details by placing my original sketches on the lightbox and tracing over them on a new sheet of paper. I was going by descriptions given in the script for the character's personalities (often comparing them to past and present actors) as to how I'd present their body language and facial reactions. In this series of sketches, I also drew up a tavern for the background. I'm finding I feel more free doing these on separate sheets of paper rather than in a sketchbook...if a drawing isn't going well, I can scrap it easier than if it was in something bound together.

I scanned all the rough sketches and assembled a digital composite layout in Photoshop. By doing this, and having each character as a separate manipulate-able layer, it's easy to scoot all the parts of the composition around like an elaborate collage. The characters are all tinted different colors to help me see them better in this process...where one character ends and the next begins...or what negative spaces are formed between them. The yellow and orange borders are guides for what is the 'trim' and 'bleed', which are terms for where the page is cut (trim), and where you want to extend the artwork to so that if the trim is a bit off, there won't be a white edge showing with no artwork (bleed).

I printed the digital composite layout and then taped that printout onto the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. Using my lightbox, I can see through the bristol and used my printout as a guide to ink from. I occasionally will still do a bit of penciling on the bristol surface when I feel my rough is too rough and needs a bit more tightening before I commit to ink. I used Copic Multiliners (0.7 & 0.35 nibs) to ink this piece. Even though the trees, stars, and shooting star/comet were all going to be a color in the final, I had to ink in the shapes solid black so I had something to work with in the coloring stage.

The first part of coloring (after scanning the inked piece and cleaning up the white/black levels) is called flatting. It's because the purpose is not to worry about rendered colors or shading, or even proper color choices. It's goal is to block in various color areas so they are easy to re-isolate when it is time to choose proper colors or render an area. Here are my color flats on the right. I went with pretty wacky colors as I filled in my various areas. For me, each color shown here is also different layer (labeled things like 'clothes 1', 'clothes 2', 'animals 1', 'details', 'sky', etc...). I also established the color holds for the stars, comet, and trees as well as a lightening of the linework for the background ground and tavern as it goes further back.

Using the character guide and picking a few colors of my own, I finished the piece and rendered in the shadows and highlights using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. To the left you can take another look at the finished cover.

Wild's End with my cover is due to come out September 10
And I'll offer up the original inks for sale in my online store later today.

2014 Appearances:
Heroes Con: June 20-22
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

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