Step-by-step: Depict a physical struggle
The base is important, because I can quickly see if my composition is working and can make adjustments if necessary. So I start with this sketch, and decide to keep everything simple to focus on the character’s body. I keep my line art rough because it’ll be underneath the real painting, and be used as a base for the shadows in the scene.
Now I start to refine the body shape. I work the muscles on the arm and back, because it’s where the storytelling takes place. The light needs to be strong here, to accentuate the muscles. I also add strong lines on the legs, creating some tendons to add more intensity to the figure’s effort. I work everything with a Soft brush to blend the colours together.
I refine the arm muscles and enhance their exertion with a strong light. The shoulder is the focus point of the body, so I add more light around this area to attract the viewer to this part. Then I work more on the muscles and tendons on his forearm and on his hand. I use a basic Round edge set to Shape Dynamic to produce clear brushstrokes.