After exploring and drafting the initial concept on paper, I further developed a sketch in Photoshop, refining my composition, adding the campfire in the foreground as an interesting visual element that contributes to a sense of scale and depth.
Creating a black and white tonal painting version allows me to better understand what the different layers of the scene are, to properly separate background, middle ground and foreground elements and to further establish where the sun is and how it illuminates the scene and creates dimension.
For this project, I chose to continue in Illustrator. I enjoy the benefits of a vector-based workflow, including the ability to draw resolution independent art, to easily build and reuse assets or even the opportunity to later [animate] the scene in After Effects.
Besides establishing a good composition, my main focus was to correctly render the atmospheric conditions of the moment, the silhouettes of trees and mountains at dusk, the fog rising and quietly enveloping the valleys, the pastel colored twilight sky, the warm campfire surrounded by darkness.
Initially I had envisioned the sun to be higher in the sky, allowing light rays to still be visible accross the scene. Eventually I chose to hide it lower behind mountains, introducing more haze and fog for added mistery and drama.