Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Baltimore Recent Commissions

This week I'll be sharing recent commissions from Baltimore (I'll post about the New York commissions in a few weeks) as well as the rough pencils.

Mice with "Balloons": The request was for a mouse couple on a bench with balloons "ala UP". I had misgivings about this suggestion because of my wanting to only draw mice as they would appear in the pages of Mouse Guard or Legends of the Guard. So I did research and included an homage to a very medieval carved bench, and then used paper lanterns that float from the hot air being trapped instead of balloons since Mouse Guard era mice would not have latex balloons or helium. 

The Sketch was rather straight forward. I drew only the one edge of the bench with plans to mirror the carved portion for the other side behind the female mouse in Photoshop. I also drew the paper lanterns all separated apart from one another so in Photoshop I could arrange them in a eye pleasing mass easily.

Guard Mice on the Charles Bridge in Prague: This commission was requested by a past patron of my work who had me do a piece based in Scotland where he and his wife were married. This time, he and his wife had traveled to Prague and thought it would be cool to see guard mice on the historic and iconic statued bridge. The mice hold a flag quartet of the four Prague medieval flags that are located over an arch at one end of the bridge.

To rough this piece out I drew the mice separately from the background, then assembled in Photoshop. Originally the one mouse only had a staff, but when I assembled the two drawings, I found a void of negative space in the upper part of the piece, so the flags were drawn in to fix the problem. 

Saxon in an oak tree:
The owner of this piece requested "a Mouse Guard in nature". I've done several of these for this person already, so consulting my list, I had not drawn Saxon for her. The oak is my favorite tree species, and I like using it as a motif for Saxon (I've linked the motif of lady bugs to Celanawe & dandelions to Rand already). 

The rough sketch was not a collage piece like many of my roughs, but just a straight forward drawing of the red-cloaked mouse amongst acorns and oak leafs. Because I knew I needed to add some tonal value and contrast to the image, I shaded in the leafs planning to crosshatch them in ink.

Mouse and Bunny:
This piece is heartwarming and tragic. The fan who commissioned this is a father who tragically lost his wife and baby. He and his remaining children had a lot of tough nights and found solace in reading together as a family. Mouse Guard was one of the book series they enjoyed. The Mouse and the bunny represent the children based on stuffed toys each of them own, and the butterfly is the spirit of their mother looking over them. 

Unfortunately I've misplaced the rough, and so I can not share it.

2014 Appearances:
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bricks of the Mouse Guard Kickstarter

The fine folks at Crazy Bricks (who make custom pieces that fit LEGO®, Kre-O®, Kubrick®, Character Building®, Si-Dan® and Friends®) and I are doing a Kickstarter for Mouse Guard pieces & custom mini-figs!

You can view the Kickstarter here for all the info about the project:

This is all in preparation for an AMAZING Mouse Guard LEGO display at the 2015 Emerald City Comic Con by Washington based ArchLUG being spearheaded by Alice Finch. Alice is the very talented Lego builder who constructed Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter. I met Alice a few years ago and we started talking about Mouse Guard Legos immediately. Well in 2015, as part of the 10 year anniversary of Mouse Guard, that is becoming a reality, not only that fans get to witness, but can also own a piece of.

The full kickstarter page has the details but the overview is that the custom pieces needed for the lego display in Seattle at Emerald City (mouse heads, custom weapons, cloaks, tankards, etc) all needed to be made special. And Guy Himber at Crazy Bricks is the man to make those. Heads, Weapons & Accessories are available via the Kickstarter now, with stretch goals of full character mini figs added "fur" colors, and other items to be unlocked as the campaign continues!

Mouse w/black axe digital render example

Mouse w/Lieam's sword digital render example

Mouse w/Kenzie's lantern staff digital render example

In addition, to the brick pieces offered as rewards, I did some new character art on 6" x 6" bristol. The originals are being offered in several reward tiers. The color pieces will be available as printed material at different stretch goal levels. Below, you can see my pencil to ink to color process for each character:







2014 Appearances:
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2

2015 Appearances:
C2E2 April 24-26
Motor City May 15-17
Denver Comic Con May 22-25
Heroes Con June 19-21
Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 25-27
New York Comic Con Oct. 8-11

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thanatos Diver Variant Cover

Pals and Legends of the Guard Vol 2 contributors Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn have a new ongoing comic coming out in October from Th3rd World publishing called THANATOS DIVER. They asked me to contribute a variant cover for issue 1 (I believe Jeremy Bastian is also doing a variant for this series). And so this week I'll be sharing my cover and a few steps of the process to get the final product.

Thanatos Diver is about a young woman who is an underwater salvager in her mini submarine around the island she lives on...and it leads to underwater and island hopping adventures, which may or may not involve the mysterious Thanatos Diver himself.

Alex's designs for this comic are a bit different than his past work. He's doing something more colorful, more all-ages, and more animated in style. Obviously I'd need to reference his concepts for the Submarine, but I didn't know quite how to approach drawing the main character. I don't draw young women very often, so I don't have a go-to style for doing that. And I didn't just want to copy what Alex was doing with her. So I opted to take the spirit of the design (all-ages, anime-like, playful) and work with my interpretation of that. (I've covered the topic of how I approach drawing other people's characters in two past blogposts Part 1 & Part 2)

Here is my rough/pencils for the piece. I drew the sub, the main character Sam, and the background (complete with glowy ring) all on separate pieces of copy paper and then assembled them in photoshop. I quickly added temp colors and effects so I could get a better idea of how I needed to ink the final piece keeping in mind those effects and potential color-holds. In my original sketches here I had a heads-up display view screen of her salvaging rival. I also left the sea floor debris to add in the end. I was going to play with the printed out version of this for how much junk to add and/or if I needed fish & crabs to populate the cover as well.

This digital composite of my sketches was then printed out so I could start the inking.

I taped that printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore birstol. On my lightbox, I was able to ink the piece using the printout as a guide instead of redrawing it or using any pencil on my bristol surface (though I did rough out some of the sea junk in pencil as I went. I tried to add some of my sense of detail to the ship (rivets, vents, joints, etc.) but not too much, since I didn't want it to stylistically look too dissimilar from Sam. I was able to push the background elements though. With Mouse Guard I find that I can streamline and simplify the characters and action, but the more realistically I render/design the environments the more believable the characters are. I applied the same logic here, giving the sub and sam a sense of movement and whimsy, but grounding their adventure in a real-ish place.

Here again is the finished cover art. A lot of the color design work was done for me in the comic, so I just needed to apply it to my work and make subtle shifts so it worked as a cohesive piece. This cover is a bit special effects heavy compared to other covers of mine. I added color holds and effects to make the glowy-ring look like something, to the headlights to not just make the lamps glow, but simulate the beams they throw underwater, and to the glass bubble to make Sam look like she's inside her craft, and to the bubble stream to soften them up and make them look like sea-froth. 

Look for my cover on Issue 1 of Thanatos Diver in November

2014 Appearances:
Lucca Comics & Games (Italy): Oct. 31-Nov. 2
2015 appearances to be announced shortly

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mouse Guard Plush!

Israel Skelton of Skelton Crew Studios and I were chatting after the release of his Chog plush from the comic CHEW. I mentioned how I really liked how that piece turned out and lamented that the plush of Lieam that was released in 2007 from Diamond Select toys was the only one they made before dropping the license. We decided to add new Plush Mouse Guard items to the Skelton Crew line! I worked up the rough sketch to the left to illustrate the proportions and color changes & embroidery changes could easily make most of the Mouse Guard characters.

Tomorrow Skelton Crew will start taking pre-orders for the first two Guardmice in the line: Kenzie & Saxon! I was involved with adjusting photos of prototypes until the manufacturer produced what Issy and I were going for. The two photographed here are physical versions I have in my studio, and a really great and quality pieces. They are 6" from butt to crown of the head. The butt is weighted with beanbag so they want to sit on your shelf, however a doll stand could be used to have them standing in your home display.

This link will have the plush items listed for pre-order tomorrow: http://skeltoncrewstudio.bigcartel.com/category/mouse-guard

And Saxon and Kenzie are only the first two in what should be a great series of plush mice. And we hope to have a prototype ready for production on another two mice in January of next year!


The Skelton Crew mouse-scale weapon replica of Lieam's sword will be availble for pre-order at that same link!!!

It features a 2 tone plating and a thread-wrapped grip.

Pre-order it here:

But wait...there's MORE!?!?!

Israel is also at work on more Mouse Guard items!!

He recently sent me this prototype work-in-progress photo of the head of Gwendolyn's pike axe (which will have a braided wooden handle when completed) The head was sculpted by John Thompson, and will be further worked on by Israel once the first metal casting is made. 

A very difficult and complicated project is still underway: The Baldwin the Brave Marionette! This will be a functional marionette of the title character in the story "Baldwin the Brave" (which is being released in hardcover format November 5th). The original sculpt was something I did to use as reference for drawing the story, but Israel has gone in and added Baldwin's specific details and cleaned up the piece so that it will cast nicely. We are *fingers crossed* looking to a pre-order date in late November on this with units shipping after the new year.

All of these items will be available in the Skelton Crew Online Store along with replicas and items from Locke & Key, Chew, & Hellboy.

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

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