first of all, I want to say how honored I am to join this contest. I thank MPC and my fellows as well, for making me challenge my own limits...
I started from scratch, trying to figure out the solids and the geometry hidden in the clouds:
I had problems understanding the circles in the lower half of the concept sketches... Holes? And if so, what should be viewable trough them?
However, I started putting photos as usual. And as usual, the problem was to manage so many different colour ranges in order to match them. I've found some beautiful images of the Earth and Mercury:
Working with Curves, Saturation and Photo filters I tried to match lights and shadows:
I must thank David Mattingly and his precious Handbook, whose DVD provided me some amazing brushes. They helped me a lot in isolating clouds from the native skies.
I know, it wasn't requested, but I couldn't resist to put some lights of a city on the ground and even a lightning in the sky... I swear, if it was a real job, I would have resisted!
I worked a lot on defining the shadows casted by the clouds and from the little moon.
Almost finished. I know it'd need some additional work (i.e. I am not totally satisfied of the way lights/shadows match and so on) but my time is over... ;)
oh, one more thing. I am always very curious about the matte painters' workspaces... I post an image of mine, hope there will be others!
Thanks again to you all, and good luck to everybody.