Illustration Process: Rocketman

Swiss pilot and aviation enthusiast Yves Rossy, also known as “Jetman”, continues to make amazing strides in the realm of flight. He basically inspired this illustration. I hope it captures a glimpse of the beauty, freedom, and thrill associated with such an innovative pursuit.

1. Whipped up a thumbnail in Photoshop. Focused on the “feeling” of flight and less on technicality. Diagonals, clouds, a body streaking through the sky.

2. Working out clearer design. Playing with light values on dark values and vice-versa, big shapes against small, all in an effort to capture a sense of atmospheric perspective. One of the big things about good composition is focal point. I want the eye to go straight to the rocket-dude. His dark body is set in contrast against the light sky. Everything in the design of the birds and the buildings point to him as well. Even the light birds against the dark building are kept muted in value so they won’t compete with the main contrast. Pure white birds against a black building wouldn’t be a good idea for this one. A mid-range tone of grey works better.

 3. Going technical and measuring out windows and frames in one-point perspective. All the lines on the sides of the buildings point to a spot just underneath the flyer’s body.

4. Now I take the drawing into Photoshop and work out the values again. I also mark the areas where the light hits the subjects and creates shadows.

5. Color studies! Went with the middle one on the top row.

6. And the final oil painting/digital piece is complete. I blur the birds digitally to give a sense of movement and add texture to the clouds. I also overlaid a little of the original sketch on the rocketman to make him appear sharper against the surrounding elements.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my process. It’s a privilege to share what I learn with you. I hope you benefit from it.