The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly

The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly - student project

Final Cover:

My original design for the 'W' was for it to be very lightly outlined in grey, against a white background, like something emerging from snow, with the Green Man's face also done in shades of grey, with just a small splash / outline of blood to hint at the Green Man's not-so-benevolent nature. However, due to artist error, what I thought was a dark grey pencil turned out to be brown instead so I just went with the unplanned colour change, and made the Green Man look a little more wood-like.

I ended up doing it in Photoshop rather than Illustrator, due to time constraints, but I am still working on the Illustrator files I digitized, and will probably update when it's finally done. I've figured out how to get nice curves with vectors at last, but the fiddly little bits and curves on the Green Man are slightly beyond my abilities right now until I get more used to it. 

This was definitely a good, if brain-breaking, project! I learned a great deal, and hope to do better, if another similar course / project comes along next time.


The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly - image 1 - student project


Project Update:
I attempted to digitize my sketch in Illustrator - however, because my skills with it are very basic at best, I managed the letter itself, but the Green Man was clearly going to take a lot more work and Illustrator experience than I have at the moment. 

The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly - image 2 - student project

In the interests of finishing this project on time, I put aside the Illustrator file as a work in progress for later, and went with traditional media, as it is what I am more familiar with. I redrew the W and made amendments, but an unfortunate accident with watercolours required a third round of redrawing. This is the last redraw using pencil and watercolour pencil to outline.

The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly - image 3 - student project


Book: The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

Quick Summary
The apparent suicide of a homeless man named Jude leads private investigator Charlie Parker to the town of Prosperous in Maine, where Jude had recently gone to in search of his estranged daughter. Prosperous is famous for its run of good fortune (hence its name), but Parker discovers that the town harbours a dark and dangerous secret, one that people are willing to kill for. This is seemingly all tied to an old religious sect known as the Familists, or the Family of Love, a group of whom left England to avoid persecution, and arrived in Maine - together with the transplanted building of an old stone church, The Chapel of the Congregation of Adam Before Eve and Eve Before Adam. 

Brainstorming and Design Sketch Process:

Throughout the book, there is reference to the tradition of foliate head carvings and the Green Man - Prosperous' old stone church is famous for its decorative foliate sculptures and decorations:

'The main decorative features, the faces for which the church was famous, were in the upper corners of each wall, creating a kind of Janus effect where they met, an impression compounded by the fact that the lengths of carved ivy and branches of which the decorations were composed flowed between the faces and continued along the upper lengths of the walls, so that the visages all appeared to spring from the same source. They had weathered over the centuries, but not as much as might have been expected. Intricate constructions of stone leaves formed a protective screen around them, from which the faces peered out...But what struck me most was the sheer malevolence of the expressions on the carvings. These were not manifestations of gentle emotions, or signifiers of hope. Instead, they boded only ill for all who looked on them. ' (The Wolf in Winter, pg. 139-140)

Roots, twining vines, and nature are major themes which come up as the book progresses, as well as the idea of a malevolent entity older than the Green Man which resides, like deep roots, under the old church, having somehow been transported along with the building centuries ago.

After making a long list, I settled on a handful of themes to begin my sketches with: Vines, roots, stone and wood (the church building), and the Green Man (foliate heads, so leaves, vines and roots and wood are very much linked to it).

The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly - image 4 - student project

The Wolf in Winter - John Connolly - image 5 - student project


I ended up going into some extra rabbit hole research on the mythology of the Green Man, and the Familists, whom I discovered were a sect formed in the 16th century. From there, I did some more research to look at 16th century lettering and script so I could look into incorporating the letter forms into the 'W' that I chose as my capital letter (for Wolf, and Winter). 

So at the moment, my sketches stand at these six, with my notes on them jotted down at the side of each sketch. My personal leaning is towards the second sketch on the 1st page of drawings, and peeeeeeerhaps the last drawing on the 2nd page, but I think I need extra sets of eyes to look at them for me and critique what works or what doesn't. 

Feedback very welcome please! 

Shuku Li
Choral conductor / Fledgling Calligrapher