Deirdre Toot, Israel
The trick for showing a figure in the air is to capture the key momentum of their movement in the scene. If you’re able to find this peak in the movement, then your illustration will be dynamic and you can tell a story at the same time.
For this image I want to show a futuristic cyber-assassin on the run – he’s jumping from a high building. I’ll keep the focus on the character and give only hints for the surroundings. To make the illustration work I have to find the key momentum of his jump. I choose the moment just before he dives into the depths of the city and disappears. We can still see the crouched position of his legs as he jumps out of an open window without hurting himself – but his arms are already open, preparing for the long dive… or drop!
For these type of poses – ones that you don’t see every day – it’s best to use references as your starting point, so that your general anatomy and proportions are correct from the get-go. You can find lots of dynamic poses if you study dancers or extreme sport practitioners. For this speed painting I’m using photos of French parkour artists.
I start with a loose line drawing of the character, then quickly block in the silhouette based on my references. In this case the silhouette is the most important, because its job is to sell the overall proportions and the pose. Then I block in the main lights and shadows on a sub-layer and roughly paint in the various mechanical parts, while still keeping everything black and white.
After this it’s just a matter of refining the parts and the silhouette. I flatten down the background and the separated character, and colour them up quickly using Color Balance adjustment layers. Finally, I apply some colour variations, paint some graphic design elements to the character, and add the final effects – dust, debris and so on – to make the scene look more cinematic.
Blurring and smudging your figure’s trailing edges will enhance the feeling of movement through the air.