Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Watercolor Wednesday Digital collection

Between August of 2012 & August of 2013 I did a year long experiment to create and sell small, affordable, and fun watercolor paintings that I could release each Wednesday. It was a fun year-long project and gave me a way to try some new things as well as a way for fans of mine to collect some of my work on a more wallet-friendly scale. 

And now I've collected pieces from that year into a digital book! You can purchase the 90 page digital book here for only $5:

The digital book got a design treatment like it was an odd old photo album or scrap book and was put together by book designer extraordinaire (as well as Legends Vol 1 contributor) Nate Pride. 72+ pages of paintings....fairy folk, dragons, household objects, monsters, and whimsy. I've also included a number of never before seen paintings (which will all be released tomorrow sometime in my online store as a one-time Watercolor Wednesday blowout)

Below you can see some of the familiar painting as well as how the book is designed.

I'd originally intended to release this book as rollout with a "year 2" of the Watercolor Wednesday project, but unfortunately I don't know that I'll do a second year because of scheduling. But for now, whether you were part of that first year or not, you can now collect all the original-themed paintings in one digital volume here:

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Guard Prevail Tee Design

Over the past several years I've been releasing Mouse Guard shirts that I have printed locally. I treat each shirt like a limited print, when the initial print-run sells out, that shirt is gone and it's time for a new one. There've been 3 past shirts (though we still have some limited stock of the Black shirt in the online store)

Well, It's time for a new shirt! The above image is the tentative design. I say tentative, because unfortunately, we are having a hard time sourcing the blank shirts in the cloth quality we have used in the past that is available in both Men's and Ladies sizes in the same color. We have used Gildan's soft style in the past, but we've exhausted their color options (in fact they now offer one less matching color than they have in the past).

So I have no firm date on when these will be printed, since we are still trying to work out the shirt stock (and color), but I still wanted to share the new design. The three mice are Saxon, Kenzie, and Rand from my Weasel War 1149 teaser print from SDCC last year with an added backdrop deign and "The Guard Prevail" text added.

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Feather Knighting Print art process:

Over a year ago, I posted about a false start on this piece. I wanted to do an oversized Mouse Guard print, with lots of detail, focusing on non-violent mice, and a ceremonial feel to it...but as I posted back in May of 2013, I never got it to a place where I could ink it. Today I'll go through the steps I took to get to this finished piece  and my plans for it.

Here is the composite of my three original sketches (the mouse with the feather, the mouse with the sword, and the room they occupy). I wanted to fill a room's shelves with artifacts and books and scrolls, and hidden Mouse Guard easter eggs. My problem with this was the wonky perspective of the circular room I'd sketched. And instead of establishing vanishing points, I built a model...

Using a few dishes & coffee mugs as circle templates, scrap bristol, cardboard, chipboard and basswood, I made model of how I thought the room should look. the brackets were cut on a small jigsaw to make life easier. I find making models like this to be very helpful not just with helping drawing in perspective, but also to help design a room in three dimensions as you build it. I decided to center the ceiling peak as I built this model, not just because it was easier, but because I as I held the rafters in different positions, I preferred it being not directly above the little platform the mice are on.

I photographed the model at an angle that worked with my original drawings of the mice and composited them together. This would serve as the perspective form foundation for the architecture I'd fill with curios and important mousey-things...but...this is the state where I abandoned the piece for over a year due to lack of time to devote to it. The original composite print-out stayed taped to my wall above my lightbox as a reminder to get back to it when I could.

Last week, I finally knocked the dust off this project and got it rolling again. I printed out the photo/drawing composite and on a lightbox re-prnciled the whole thing on several new sheets of paper (taped together to match the scale). Here I was finally able to add in all the items (many of which are nods back to various Legends of the Guard stories). I looked up to notes I'd jotted on the original sketch composite taped above my workspace, and made a few new ones as I went.

I taped the above redrawn pencil piece to the back of a sheet of 300 series bristol (24" x 12") and on my lightbox I started inking the piece: example 1, example 2. I ink with Copic Multiliner pens. I used the 0.7 nib mostly for this one, other than the eyes of the mice which I did with a 0.2. As usual I was adding various textures and line weights as I went to draw the viewer's eye through this messy cluttered room.

I scanned the inks in two different scans and then re assembled the pieces in Photoshop to start the coloring process. I established the various areas of the piece (fur, books, floor, clothes, wooden beams, etc) with obnoxious and garish colors to help me figure out if I stayed in the lines and if I established enough different areas so I could re-isolate any given object in the room to render it or alter it's final colors.

Here again are the finished colors. I did all the rendering using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop while using a textured brush. This piece took me the longest of any single Mouse Guard page/piece I've ever colored. Partly because of all the little details on the shelves, but also because I knew this piece was going to be reproduced at-size and not shrunk down like other Mouse Guard pages and covers.

I plan to release this image as a 24" x 18" offset print (like my Beauty and the Beast print) and add a little text box at the bottom with a single paragraph story like the ones I write for the covers of Legends of the Guard. (The text shown here is placeholder-text...I didn't want to spoil the story yet). Today I'll be talking with my local printer to see if there is any way to have this in-time for Baltimore this weekend, otherwise, I'll release it at New York Comic Con.

UPDATE 9-2-14 @ 1PM
Unfortunately, the printer could not guarantee the order could be fulfilled before I fly to Baltimore this Thursday, so they will be a New York Comic Con item instead...and perhaps online too.

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Baltimore Yearbook: Grendel

This year marks the third year for the Baltimore Comic Con releasing an art book for their convention featuring guests of the show doing their rendition of a pre-selected creator-owned character. In past years the book were centered on Frank Cho's Limbery Meadows and Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. This year it's all about Matt Wagner's Grendel.

To the left is Wagner's cover (with book design by Thom Zahler) of the art book. Unfortunately, I didn't get my piece done in time to be included IN the book, but if you collect enough signatures at the convention, you can collect a print of my piece from the Baltimore Con folks.

  More info here: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Baltimore-Comic-Con-s-Annual-Yearbook-Returns-in-2014-with-Matt-Wagner-s-Grendel-.html?soid=1101956786023&aid=xtcfN8WGoOA

Here is my finished piece. I didn't know much about the character, but in doing research I found that his original secret identity was a writer named Hunter Rose. So I did a stylized layout featuring an antique typewriter with it's brand name replaced with the comic title "GRENDEL", a Hunter Rose letterhead, and a quote from the epic Beowulf. The info on the bottom of the typewriter include a Wagner's manufacturer logo made to look like Wagner's signature and the location of the company his home state. 

I'll be donating the original inked piece to the art auction that takes place at the Baltimore Con.
Happy Bidding!

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recent Commissions

This week I'm sharing a batch of commissions from San Diego and Boston.

A Mouse Astronomer:
I did a little google image searching to mentally combine several concepts for what a Medieval Astronomer would look like or what tools he'd use. Here are examples of the types of pieces I used as inspiration: example A, example B,  example C
That "C" example is where I took the the tapestry and costume cues.

Welcoming Baby Rex:
A family had me commemorate the engagement of their daughter a few years back (the piece on the lower left here). Now they are married and asked me to depict the welcoming of baby Rex. I kept the same costumes for the parents and also the location, but inside now instead of the balcony.

Death Hissing Snake:
This was a piece I started as a commission example, but sold recently out of my portfolio. I saw a photo of a blind mink-eyed snake and thought that was a good creepy basis for a classic mouse battle. 

Mouse Glassblower:
In my product description in my online store for commissions, I listed the idea of just listing a trade for a mouse like: Mouse Glassblower. This customer liked that idea so much, she requested just that. I'd drawn some glassblowing mice in Fall 1152, but wanted to show a studio/workshop with more tools and work items. The tied & hanging inventory is my idea, and while not very practical, looks cool.

Sadie & Kenzie at the pond:
The visuals for this were very specifically picked by the fan who commissioned the piece, from the dragon fly and the acorns to the pond, lillypads and frogs. Kenzie and Sadie holding paws was also in the request. Unfortunately I couldn't also fit in the pinecone or fireflies...but for artistic balance, I have to reign it in every now and then.

Young Fisher-mice:
Requested here were two young male mice fishing at night in the light of the moon and a few lanterns. It was fun to design a little twig & rope net for capturing the minnow, and I think I want to do more of those fabric/paper lanterns in future Mouse Guard stories. What was really cool was when the owner of the commission came to pick it up with his son, he asked to see "the commission of the mice & fish" I'd tweeted earlier that day...and when looking at it he revealed to the son that it was the father who commissioned it. It was a surprise.

I don't often draw human ladies for commissions, and I tend to steer people away from them (I don't really know why you'd spend the money for me to draw a Power Girl or Wonder Woman...seems a waste for an ugly piece) In this case, I thought I could work with the mood, time period garments & weapons and use the stylization of the Pixar design to my advantage. Wish I'd made the wisps glow a bit more.

Mouse & Crocodile:
"A mouse or group of mice riding the head of a partially submerged Crocodile like Washington crossing the Delaware". I opted to raise the croc's head out of the water more than the classic mostly submerged swimming profile to make the piece more interesting and dynamic.

Ragnier the Hunter:
A fan who saw a previous piece I did of Ragnier (a character who will appear in this Fall's Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales Mouse Guard collection) asked me to do a Ragnier piece for him. I looked up reference for an owl skull (this owl must've been a small one). With the story he's appearing in not-yet published and to have had 2 commission of him, I think he's a popular character I may need to revisit in another Mouse Guard story.

Raphael Riding Grimlock:
As an homage to my TMNT in Time #1 cover (where I had the 4 turtles on the back of a dinosaur) and the most recent Transformer's movie featuring Optimus Prime riding Grimlock, this fan asked me to mash the two together. It was hard to come up with solid useable reference for Grimlock since the original toy had such limited movement and more recent versions are not my idea of the king of the dinobots.

A Mouse Wizard:
These days I've stopped doing any commissions of Mouse Guard style mice doing/being something outside of what they'd be in one of my stories or a Legends of the Guard story. But when this fan requested a mouse wizard, I had to make an exception and go full out. The fan understood and mentioned that the wizard could look like something from a plauseable Legends story, but I couldn't resist getting a Dumbledore & Gandalf level wizard to cast a spell on the page.

I just released my 2014 sketchbook featuring last year's mouse commissions colored for the 24 page collection. You can now purchase it through my online store. The above commissions were drawn after this book was sent to the printer, but they will appear in the already-in-the-works 2015 sketchbook. If you are interested in getting a commission from me, I take a limited number of commissions before most conventions I attend. In my online store, I offer them up as pre-order items about a week before that particular convention. The piece MUST be picked up at the show. The pieces are inked 7” x 7” pieces on 12” x 12” bristol with the detail level of a finished Mouse Guard page.

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fan Art

It's been a while since I've shared the Mouse Guard Fan Art I receive. So here's a helping of awesome appreciation from my talented readers:

Daniel Constantin Popa


Ashley McLaughlin

Bella Julia Martinez

Bradd Parton

Bradley Phillips

Chris Knox

Elizabeth McGann

Garrett Pomeroy


Jacob Matthess

A Tattooed Fan at NYCC
(Sorry I missed your name)

M Gardner

Melisa Ong Mi Qin

Rachel Bennett

Sam Willits

Steam Mouse

Alex Cockburn

Craig Brasco

Eric Muller

Heriberto Valle Martinez

Luan Ferreira 

Ryan Allen


Paul Davies

Sophie Portal (age 8)

2014 Appearances:
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

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