If this book was simply a gallery of David Petersen’s art, it would already be an instant recommendation. His evolving skill with intricate textures, settings, and wardrobes for a fantastical world of mammalian kingdoms is a sight to behold across all of the Mouse Guard books, and printing art from each story in one collection would be a treasure.
What The Art of Mouse Guard ends up being is far more process-oriented, contextualized, and personable. From Mouse Guard’s roots to its publishing history to Petersen’s processes to the timeline of the official releases, there is always a story behind why the art looks a certain way or the source of Peterson’s inspirations. For instance, Gene Ha pointed out that the mouse ears looked pointy like a cat’s, so Petersen began rounding out the ear designs to look more realistic. Dungeons & Dragons sessions with childhood friends, meetings with fellow artists, strokes of luck at conventions, pressure over sequels/prequels, and homemade model sets are all cataloged and recounted by Petersen and his colleagues in brief written segments between each set of sketches, character models, layouts, and colored art pages.
The review copy was a digital PDF, or else there would be more commentary on the book’s dimensions and paper quality. However, the art on display varies in size from thumbnails to half-page layouts, full-page photographs of reference models, and double-page spreads of finished art. Samples range from early brainstorms of angular character sketches to artwork from the Mouse Guard tabletop role-playing game, and include works from the numerous guest artists who contributed cover art and to Mouse Guard short stories.
The Art of Mouse Guard will reward series fans with a behind-the-scenes perspective of the thought processes behind story arcs and character origins, including references to Petersen’s friends and family among the mice and locations of his world. Fans of Cursed Pirate Girl will be pleased to learn of the many connections between its creator (Jeremy Bastian) and Petersen. In addition, embedded references in Mouse Guard to Bastian and Petersen’s wives are revealed. New readers to the series of all ages will undoubtedly feel an irrepressible urge to explore its legends after seeing the art and thoughtfulness contained in this preview.
The Art of Mouse Guard: 2005-2015
by David Petersen
Publisher Age Rating: N/A