Stan Sakai & his wife Sharon are very special people. Stan is the creator of Usagi Yojimbo, and Sharon, his wife has been having serious health problems for the past year. CAPS (the Comic Artist Professionals Society) put out a call for original art to auction off to help Stan & Sharon with the medical bills. They have always been a wonderful encouragement to Julia & I with Mouse Guard, and they are such kind and generous folks. I jumped at the chance to do a piece for the auction and to the left, you can see the final inks. Today's post, I'll go through the process of creating it.
To start I thought back to the issue that Stan mentioned in 2009 when he did a Mouse Guard/Usagi pinup for Winter 1152 #2 (and a question also raised in a panel Stan & I appeared on in Baltimore 2013) How do you feature Guardmice & Usagi in the same image with the heights/sizes being so different? Do you address it? Do you ignore it? Who shrinks or who grows? For this piece my answer was that I should draw Guardmice as they would appear in Stan's world, with as few Mouse Guard trappings as possible. Here are my sketches of Saxon, Kenzie, & Lieam (unused in the final layout) along with Usagi.
Those sketches were scanned and then assembled together in photoshop along with a background I drew separately after looking up reference for Edo period structures (the time period Usagi is set). Each figure is tinted differently to make it easier for me in this sketch state to see where one figure ends and the background begins. In this digital manipulation stage, I'll also make adjustments to the drawings by making sure eyes are the same size and placed correctly, fixing other proportion issues, and keeping an eye out for bad tangents (contour linework that lines up with some other element in the image which spoils the balance or sense of depth.)
That digital manipulation is then printed out at 11" x 17" (over the course of patching together several printed sheets on legal paper). I tape the printouts to a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my lightbox, I can see through the bristol to the prinout and use it as a guide to ink from. This means I don't have any pencil lines to erase (though I will sometimes tighten up parts of the drawing in pencil on the bristol before inking). The images to the right are a series of photos I took with my phone to send off to a few artists friends to show them my progress on the piece as I worked. I focused on the figures first, then the background.
In my work I tend to focus on inking in textures to create grey areas, not just focusing on the black maks I'm putting down and how large they are, but how large the white spaces in-between are, and what shapes and patterns they are making. Stan's book is in black and white, so Stan also is very texture heavy in his pages, so it felt right to really play up the patterns and thicknesses and densities of the linework. To the left are several close-up views of the inkwork (all inked with a Copic Multiliner 0.7 nib)
Here again are the final inks. 11" x 17" I sent in for the auction.
I wanted to also add color to this piece. Not for the auction though. I colored it for myself, sent off a high-res to Stan. After this, Dark Horse announced a tribute book titled "The Sakai Project" including most of the CAPS auction pieces will be sold to benefit Stan & Sharon as well. The color version will appear in tha book (slated for release around SDCC) Here is a link to the Dark Horse announcement
The CAPS auctions will be conducted through eBay.com beginning on Thursday, March 6, with a new set of auctions every following Thursday. Each auction, sold under the seller name of "CAPSauction", will be ten days in length with twenty to forty items in each set of auctions. So I don't know when my piece will be up for auction, but with a list of names like Adam Hughes, Arthur Adams, Eric Powell, Matt Groening, Mike Mignola, Jim Steranko, Tim Sale, William Stout, Bill Sienkiewicz, Cameron Stewart, Dan Brereton, Dave Gibbons, Dustin Nguyen, Bill Morrison, Sergio Aragonés, Fabio Moon, Francisco Francavilla, Gene Ha, Geof Darrow, Kevin Eastman, Jeff Smith, Kazu Kibuishi, Paul Chadwick, Richard Corben, Walter Simonson, Charles Vess, J. Scott Campbell (and many many more) it will be exciting to watch & bid on all the auction postings each week.
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