The idea to do this illustration was sparked by remarks Elon Musk had made in the press. One comment in particular was his dislike for workers unions, saying he believes they "create a lord and peasants sort of thing". He also made a very obscene and dismissive comment about advertisers who had cut off doing business on X/Twitter over his endorsement of an antisemitic post.
Like most projects that require a concept, I started by creating a word stack. I listed anything I could think of that related to what I know about Elon Musk, including his many business ventures, his aspirations for colonizing Mars, and his admission of having Asperger's Syndrome during his appearance on Saturday Night Live.
While working on the list, I also started playing around with how I wanted to caricature Elon. I gravitated toward exaggerating his cranium to both represent his intellect as well as his ego.
For my thumbnails I played around with the idea of Elon as a lord, or some sort of ruler. I started to wonder, if he were able to colonize Mars, what would it be like? What kind of laws would the colony abide by? What if he decides once there that he should be an authoritarian ruler, and that everyone should serve him. Could it end up like North Korea, but on a different planet with no hope of escape?
Along with my thoughts on Mars, the caricature of him with his exaggerated head reminded me of the Martians from the movie "Mars Attacks". I gravitated toward the idea of dressing Elon similarly to the Martian leader from the film. I think the bubble helmet adds the perfect metaphoric analogy of his awkward personality, and inability to empathize with average people. Elon lives in his own little bubble, and we are after all just part of a virtual reality simulation as far as he is concerned.
Something that I was really excited to try on this illustration was changing the lighting on Elon's face to being lit from below, like in horror movies. My son posed for a few reference pictures for me so I could get a good idea how to render Elon.
I create my illustrations in Photoshop using Kyle T. Webster brushes. I start by rendering my illustration in gray scale, then add color once I am sure the values are working. For this one I kept the Earth, Elon, the rockets and the background on separate layers to keep things simple when it came time to add the color.
Lastly I add a few layers set to "color" and finish off the piece. I like to make sure if I use a color, it is balanced throughout the image, and not just a small spot that might stop your eye from moving freely around the image. For this illustration I was able to use several complimentary colors; red with green, blue and orange, and purple with a little yellow.