This picture came about a week or so ago when I had some down-time. Looking for a project, I took up an old Illustration Friday topic – one whose official week had passed before I started submitting stuff there.
The word was “Sky”.
I tend to try to walk a tightrope when it comes to these projects. On the one hand, the aim is to really zero in on the topic itself, not just draw something the topic reminds me of.
On the other hand is the attempt to do something with that topic that nobody else is doing. These impulses can be in conflict, since a focus on the topic itself inevitably leads to some fairly conventional images, which can make it difficult to put your own stamp on it.
For this one, I wanted to really capture the *sky* itself – make its presence palpable. Most depictions would have you looking up, and use either wind or clouds or a sunset to represent the sky. But those things aren’t sky. They are wind or clouds or a sunset.
If, instead, you are looking down at the ground, then the typical signifiers of sky are no longer able to get in the way. If there is some object in the foreground to offer contrast, the the density you see between it and the ground is the sky itself.
The sky is the depth.
This picture does rely on a few props to get the point across and to add interest.
The ground acts as the background, but also provides visual interest throughout the entire picture. The clouds are present, but their roles are to counterbalance the bird, and to show additional depth. The bird acts as the foreground object and, along with his passenger, are the center of attention.
As to why there’s a person on his back is anybody’s guess. I don’t even know myself. It’s equally unclear whether the human is tiny or the sparrow is huge. As to why he’s naked, it just seemed to me that a person riding on the back of a bird may have lost his clothes at some point.
The ground was created by finding a photo online from a helicopter. But the angle was wrong, so I used the “perspective” tool in Photoshop to stretch it into a more amenable point of view. Then, I drew over it in my typical style. The original coloring was much more vibrant. The “haze” was created by placing a translucent layer on top of the ground to mute the colors. The ground was also blurred slightly.
The clouds offered a surprising amount of difficulty. I blurred and un-blurred them a dozen times. I moved them into different positions on the screen. At one point, there were four clouds, which was way too much. In the end, it seemed that simpler was better. They were relegated to the periphery and a much less prominent role.
All in all, this picture bridges the gap between the watercolor fantasy pieces and the more mundane scenes that populate my digital work. The sketch line-work could stand to be a little more deliberate, but the overall free feel of the picture is satisfying… freeing.