This illustration had a long and tortuous journey from my mind to the screen. I first sketched it out about four or five years ago, then stuck it in a folder and promptly forgot about it. With this year being the 75th Anniversary of Superman plus the new movie coming out, I dusted it off and finally finished it.
Originally this was going to be a generic superhero rather than Superman. He was wearing a red suit with a yellow cape and trunks. I hated that color combo though and went through dozens of others without success. Finally I decided I was working so hard to not make him look like Superman that it would be far easier to just give in and go for it. So now he's Superman.
The clouds were kind of a happy accident. Originally the background was just gonna be clear blue sky, but I thought that looked too plain and bare. So I decided to add some clouds. I figured it would take me all day to draw decent looking ones but I started doodling around with a fuzzy brush and miraculously got them right on the first go. It was a Fonzie moment-- I looked at them, realized I couldn't improve them, spread my hands thumbs up and said, "Ayyyyyyyy." OK, so I didn't really do that, but I thought about it.
I tried to draw and paint more loosely here than usual and let the brush strokes show. For some reason that's a big struggle for me-- I tend to draw everything tight and precise. It's looser than normal here but I still don't think it's loose enough. I need to keep at it.
Lastly I meant for it to appear as if the viewer is on the ground looking up as Superman flies overhead. Hopefully it reads that way and doesn't look like a side view.
Supes went through many looks until I finally settled on one I could live with. The one on the left was the original digital sketch I did. The middle one is the more detailed and fleshed out digital sketch. As you can see he was looking a bit chunky here. The image on the right is the color version, based on the middle sketch.
I was about 90% finished with this version when I decided I hated it. I don't know if it was the doughy proportions or what, but I just couldn't stand it. So i started over.
I tried some different lighting effects in this illustration as I really wanted to make it look like the sun was filtering through his red cape. I had no idea how to paint that though, so I did something rare for me-- I took some reference photos. I actually went outside on a sunny day and shot some photos of a Superman action figure to see how his cloth cape looked in the sun.
My attempt to capture that effect came out OK, but it's not perfect. I can live with it for now though.
Superman was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.