This illustration has been accepted into the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles 60th Annual Illustration West Show. It has also been included in the American Illustration Winner's #41 Archive Gallery, and has received an honorable mention in the 3X3 International Illustration Show #19.
A Man Escaped, directed by Robert Bresson, is a 1956 French film based on the memoirs of André Devigny. Devigny was a member of the French Resistance, imprisoned by the occupying Germans during World War II. He broke out of the Montluc prison in Lyon in 1943, a place where about 7000 prisoners died, and the location the story takes place. Bresson himself was also imprisoned by the Germans as a member of the French Resistance.
In the film the main character, Fontaine, knows his chance of survival in prison is low. He devises a plan of escape, and shares it with another inmate named Orsini, who is also intent on breaking out. Orsini makes his attempt first, and is caught. Before he is to be executed, he tells Fontaine how to improve his plan of escape. Fontaine soon learns he is also to go in front of the firing squad. Just as he's running out of time, a new cell mate further complicates his plans.
For this illustration I wanted to show more than just a prisoner making his escape. I wanted to show the power and oppression the occupying German force had over the French. The Giant hand represents the Nazi stranglehold on the French people, and their determination to take whatever they wanted through force. Most of the movie focuses on the prisoners, with the Germans a secondary presence. Likewise in this illustration, as it unfolds to the left, the Nazi officer appears secondary to the French characters on the cover.
The design and layout is inspired by a gate fold design used on some classic movie DVD & blu ray releases. Below is the full illustration, as well as the layout with credits, acknowledgements and other information.
For conceptual projects I always start off creating a word association list to help me explore the possibilities, and make connections I might not have thought of otherwise. Below is the list I created for this project.
To warm up to the look and feel of the film I thought it would be a great idea, and good practice, to do value studies from stills of the movie. It being a black and white movie from the 1950s, there were lots of scenes that made great studies. It was tempting to just use some of this reference for the cover art.
I try to come up with at least 3 different ideas. A Man Escaped being a black and white movie that features some bit of violence and subjugation of the prisoners, one of my early ideas was to just introduce red into a black and white illustration. Another odd idea of the prison building looking like a fist, then led to the idea of just using a giant hand. The idea of prisoners slipping through the fingers of an overpowering fist for me was clearly the way to go on this project. It also gave me a clear idea on what to do with the rest of the barrel roll layout by continuing the arm and leading to the face of the oppressor.
The next step was to take photo reference, the use that to refine my sketch and figure out the shading and values.
Once the sketch is properly refined I can move on to rendering it out. I prefer to work in black and white to ensure my values work properly, then add color at the end of the process. This also gives me some extra flexibility to adjust hue and saturation.