Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mouse Guard Page Process

I wanted to share a bit about my process. I am usually bad about saving artwork in-process, but recently I made sure I grabbed a few pieces every few steps. The page I'm going over is page 19 from Winter 1152 #3 (if you haven't read it yet, you may want to wait to read this blog entry!)

Step1: The
For Fall 1152, I worked almost exclusively from an outline. I would finish the art then script the dialogue in-place having a good idea of what I wanted the characters to be saying. Sometimes it worked out great, other times, it proved to be daunting and frustrating.

So for Winter 1152, I still start with an outline, but now I also do some scripting before I draw. For Winter I sometimes write out a complete script for certain scenes, or jot quick ideas. Too often had I thought of the structure of the dialogue for the page, and later when the time came to add the words, I'd have forgotten them, so any ideas I have about dialogue I write them as soon as they hit me. For this page the dialogue was quick and idea-oriented. I marked the lines with 'A' and 'B' to note where on the page I thought those would be used. The 'lantern breaking' I originally planned for the next page, but for the final version, it occurs on this page.

Step 2: The Sketches & Layout
This is the step that feels the most like 'work' for me. It's a balancing act 'of which panel arrangements work best with the secession of actions I need to show on this page?' I tend to divide Mouse Guard pages on the 1/3 lines of the page, so I have a standard 'set' of layouts I can choose from and play with. The trick is to use the right shape panel to match the motion or viewpoint, or grouping of the characters, or at least to not have the two be in conflict. I try and imagine the panel I think is most important on that page (in this case Saxon riding the bat in the first panel was the one I focused on) and then work around that.
I sketch everything for a page in a sketchbook or on scrap paper. I try and focus on one panel at a time, sometimes even drawing separate elements from that panel and then composting them together on the computer later. Once I have sketches done for each panel, I scan them in and resize, rotate, and paste them into a page layout that matches the finished page size (12" x 12")

Step 3: Pencils.
I print out the sketches in the layout and use a light-box to transfer the page onto my Bristol. I clean up the image as I go, being more careful about contours & tangent lines. I like working this way because when I work on a drawing over and over on the same sheet of paper, I tend to get it very smudgy and dirty (which can work well when I'm rendering something in pencil, but not for inked work) This way, I have the minimum of pencil on the final bristol page and was able to work out all my erasing and re-drawing and fixing on the sketch paper or on the computer.

Step 4: Inks
I ink with Uni-ball Vision pens. They are waterproof and lightfast. For larger fill-in areas or textures like the bats wings, I use a '0' brush and Speedball Superblack ink. This is where the page starts really taking shape. I add the textures at this point, play with line weights, and fill-in the black areas. This part is one of the most enjoyable for me (sometimes overtaken by coloring). It's something I can work on most anywhere, so I can sit with my wife while she watches TV, or I can take it with me to coffee shops, or conventions.

Step 5: Colors
I color using Photoshop 7. Once I have the colors 'flatted' (establish what areas are what colors using just flat color) I only use the 'drybrush' brush for the dodge, burn, and paintbrush tools. I also found that adding 'color holds' (areas where the linework takes on a color) helped add depth to my work on Mouse Guard and now it's something that I think about as I'm inking the page "What gets 'held' on this page?". Originally I was worried about coloring Mouse Guard, not because I couldn't imagine the world in color, but because I was having trouble meshing my inks from Issue 1 of Fall with the colors. Ever since I found the right 'blend' I have really enjoyed coloring and pushing my work in ways I hadn't seen it going before I started Mouse Guard.

Step 6: Dialogue & Sound Effects.
Lastly, The dialogue is added. For this page, I went back to the method of writing and tweaking it after the artwork was done. I know Saxon's line in panel 1 was one that I came up with in the shower (where a great many of my better ideas come from). The idea to have the bats 'echo' one another was one that I had from the beginning, but hadn't noted it on the script. I am frugal with sound effects. I think there are a lot of them in comics that are either unnecessary or draw you out of the story because it looks like some clean type slapped on in photoshop. Here I had to have a crashy-hissy-burney-sizzly sound...bat flambe anyone?
So, that's a walkthough page 19 of Winter Issue 3. Hope everyone enjoyed this and it wasn't too boring. At some point I'll try and record more steps in the coloring.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Flu...

After having the nieces over for a long weekend, Julia and I have both come down with the flu (from what I hear it's a bad flu season this year). I am trying to use the times when I'm not having the chills, shakes, or sweats, to get some inking done.

While being sick, it's always nice to have the companionship of a dog. Autumn, or Anatolian Shepherd, has been very good about cuddling with us when we take naps and wrap up in blankets on the couch. She also seems to be more patient if it takes us longer to get to the door to let her out or back in..I think she can tell we are under the weather. She has taken to jumping up on our table on the deck where she can get a full bird's eye view of our neighbour's yards. I caught her with the camera today. Silly dog. The trick now is going to be getting her to not do that in summer when we have outdoor parties and picnics!

Podcast and Video:
ComiXology was kind enough to do a podcast interview with me. You can listen to that here.

And last summer The Comic Collective came by and did a video piece on me here in the studio. They have posted the 2 part video on their site found here

Calgary Comics Expo:
The fine folks who organize the Calgary Comics Expo in Alberta, Canada put together a great book for the show. They ask guests to do a western themed piece (Calgary is in the Canadian Rockies) and sell the hardcover book in full color. The original pieces are then auctioned off for charity. I did a western themed guard mouse riding an Eastern Horned Lizard (supposedly the only lizard native to Alberta)

Mouse Guard game:
While I can't share much about the official Board Game or the RPG yet, I have been toying with the idea of also doing a release of the game Saxon and Kenzie are playing in the epilogue of Fall 1152. I had to reverse engineer the game rules and play to match (or at least coincide) the images from the story. I have handcrafted this initial set that I hoped to playtest with pals this weekend. Unfortunately due to the flu, looks like it will have to wait.

Fan Art:
I was directed to the photobucket page of an artist that goes by SillyNate. It's a great take on the trio and if SillyNate is reading, thanks for the fan art, and I'd be happy to plug your website in this post.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Various Work

Snowy Valentines Day:

Been busy this last week and weekend with artwork. Unfortunately, I can't share most of it yet (covers for upcoming Mouse Guard issues, the hardcover and the RPG) But I can start to share some sketches I'm doing for an upcoming Children's book with Harper Collins called Snowy Valentines Day. It's based on the story I drew for Julia as a gift on our first married Valentines Day.  The story is being tweaked and added to so that it can be a full length picture book. The editors over at Harper Collins are fan of my Wind in the Willows illustrations and we decided to try and capture that style for the look of this book.

The new version include several friends the main character (now a rabbit) asks for help in finding the perfect gift for his bride. I have been having fun coming up with looks for the different critters homes and furnishings in fact the Rabbit's home has a few details of items that can be found in our real home.

Mouse Guard:
I have been working on some of the art for the Winter 1152 Hardcover (the little things like the tall nature panels that seperate the sections, the title page illustration etc...) Here is the dedication page illustration of Kenzie:

Cursed Pirate Girl:

A good friend of mine Jeremy Bastain has a book coming out through ASP this month called Cursed Pirate Girl. I have been very lucky for several years to sit by Jeremy and watch him work every Thursday night. He asked if I would contribute a pin-up for the first issue and I was pleased to. Jeremy's work is incredible. He can draw like an old master, he can conjure ideas more silly and twisted than Lewis Carrol & Arthur Rackham combined, and it's fun to read. You can take a look at Jeremy's artwork at his website

Fan Art:
I am also lucky that in the last few years, Nate Pride has attended those Thursday night sessions. His work is fun to watch apear on his paper as well. Back when I first started doodling Winter cloak designs for the Winter 1152 series, Nate slid this accross the table for me to peek at. I really liked the design and incorperated it into the mouse that represents Nate. (who has not yet appeared, but has been mentioned). Nate's website can be found here
see ya next time

Blog Archive