Out of all the thumbnails, the third one was the one I liked the most. All I had to do was scale it up (3000px wide) and start painting.
Since my idea was to make a concept and not a final matte painting, I could be a little looser than usual. I browsed through the references I'd collected earlier, looking for shapes that were close to what I imagined this environment to look like. Once I found something, I pasted it in the file and color-corrected it to match my colors. Nothing too advanced here; just curves and painting on top. When I had some basic elements in the scene, I started painting over to fill the rest of the picture (Fig.04).
I admit it; I'm not a "brush guru". I have Jaime Jones' brush palette loaded in my Photoshop, but I usually use just a few of them. This doesn't mean you should do the same. If you look at Jamie's work you will see what the good use of different brushes can do. I prefer using just a couple of them because I always have a hard time browsing through them and finding the right one! Fig.05 shows the main ones I used in this particular picture.
Tubes and Smoke
The painting process in this picture was pretty straightforward. Two elements that required a slightly different approach were the tubes and smoke.
To paint the tubes I used a mixture of paths, layer styles and the Smudge tool (Fig.06).
The smoke was painted with two brushes (one as a painting brush, one as an eraser) and the Smudge tool in certain places (Fig.07).