Revisit: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.

This was a project set at university (Second year), we were each given a short story to read and create two illustrations, one was of the cover and one for the inside of the book. Reading the story a couple of times to understand and come up with ideas for the story. I chose to do two different styles, as I felt this could be good to experiment.

For the cover, it was difficult to choose what would be good elements to show in a way that would represent the story, as with any book cover, capturing the tone of the novel and bringing something special to it is not an easy or simple process.

The story featured hundreds of scuttling crabs along the beach where the story is set, and a very old man with enormous wings was the center of the story, falling from the sky, crashing into the community.

I had decided to put a crab on the cover, holding a feather – to start with, the idea was a rough and didn’t look strong enough, though the elements felt right, I hadn’t captured them and placed them well, composition-ally.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez book cover rough


Back to the drawing board, I decided to do more research, looking at graphic book covers like;

The Gettysburg Address, Jeeves and the Impending Doom,

Jeeves and the impending doom coverThe Gettysburg Address book cover















The Curious Case of Benjamin button, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death,

The Curious case of Bejamin Button The Mystic arts of erasing all signs of death












Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid, The Learners

The Learners Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid















This helped massively, I’d decided to use the same elements and create a new dynamic and composition to the piece. It would be a simpler, graphic book cover.

To start, picking the new composition, I’d previously found a photo of a crab I liked and drawn, this time from above, instead of from the front like in the original idea. I then wanted to use a bird wing representing the old man, but having it as a silhouette over the crab and cover, with the text in the wings shadow.


Crab sheet wings sheet


For this, I researched and printed off images of wings from birds with large span’s, like buzzards or birds of prey, and collaged them on a page. Drawing them into my thumbnails.


I needed help. My illustration tutor, Howard Pemberton’s door was always open, whether he liked it or not (as I always visited for a quick opinion). He exclaimed to me that it was important to find the perfect element for the illustration, the wings would take me some effort and repeated studying to get them how I wanted. He told me a story from his past to enforce his point; (I’ll try and remember and retell to the best of my abilities)

‘We (the designers working on the project) were asked to do an illustration/design (for an advert of some sort i think), one of the main elements was to include the illustration of a lemon, a typical well known fruit to us all. As a group of well taught artists and designers this would seem easy, however, after the initial drawing the client came back and said it didn’t look like a lemon, it was then suggested to go to the market and buy a lemon and illustrate it, so they did. Sending the work back to the client, with a return response saying it didn’t look enough like a lemon. Back to the market to find another lemon, same negative client response. How can drawing a lemon not look like a lemon? In the end, there was one lemon that they liked. They had instead, gone to the supermarket and bought a Jif Lemon, which is lemon juice in a plastic container shaped like a lemon’

Jif Lemon

Unsure when this story was set, most likely between the 70’s and early 90’s, there wasn’t the access to the internet or resources like there is now. Thousands of perfect pictures of lemons can be found on google, including drawings of lemons from the original googled photo’s of lemons. It’s a whole new world of designing these days, but the moral of the story is, research, draw, research, draw, research, draw – repeat until you find / create the perfect interpretation for your work. Communicating the elements perfectly is your job, don’t skimp out on the first google image you find, or drawing your make.

Google Search Lemons

Working out the best wings and text layout for the cover after an inspirational word from my tutor:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Thumbnails

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Thumbnails















After I’d managed to find the wings and crab that perfectly fit the illustration. Now it was time to put it all together. As it was a graphic cover and based on the research, I’d decided to use screenprinted elements, using a silkscreen and a cardboard stencil for the crab and wings. I found some recycled Amazon packaging and created the stencils from that. I headed down to the Printmaking room in the fine art building… DARN! – It was closed, the printroom was only open certain days, and it was supposed to be open that day, but the only technician running it was away that day. I wanted to get something done, so I turned to a scanner and photoshop.

The recycled cardboard stencil scanned better than expected, I had a shape of the crab and wings that i could easily select with photoshops wizard tool, and the recycled texture of the cardboard was essentially the first instance of me discovering about using textures in my artwork. it had multiple pieces of fiber of different colour, thickness and strands inside this brown card. It had character already, and reminded me of sand. So I made it a mustard yellow colour and the fiber brought some bits of red into the illustration.


Wings Stencil Crab Stencil

I then put those pieces together, with only the text left to do. This was fairly hard as it’s always difficult to find the right font to go with an illustration, so after trying a typical font that kind-of worked. I decided to create 3D block text, sitting on the sand. I had been dabbling with the 3D program ‘Blender’ here and there, but nothing major, I’d still only learnt part of the user interface. I’d managed to use my little knowledge to write the text, and light it accordingly, then I exported it – as well as multiple times at different angles (specifically for the ‘Enormous Wings’ text) so I could have a quirkier layout of the text. Painting over the 3D text, creating a simple but quite nice dynamic.


3D text render

The final piece, is one of the strongest bits of design I did at University, and got great feedback. It’s one of my favorite project pieces from the entire 3 years, but it still has the roughness of a second year’s work, just the idea was really strong.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Book Cover Illustration Marquez


The story can be read online for free, and with my embedded cover illustration here:


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