Werewolves of the Heartland

-Dan dos Santos

In 2009, I was asked to paint the cover for Bill Willingham's 'Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland'. I am a big fan of 'Fables', and as such was really honored to do the cover for one of my favorite authors.

The book, unfortunately, was absolutely plagued with delays. It would be slated for release, only to be delayed over and over again. It even went so far as to appear on the cover of 'Previews', only to be delayed yet again for another whole year! This was not through any fault of the AD or the Author or Artists, mind you... it really was just bad timing. The artists who did the interior work had other time sensitive projects to work on. Additionally, the Editors felt that certain things needed to be further established in the 'Fables' timeline before this standalone book should be released. The result, a 3 year gap from creation to publication of this cover!

Well, I am happy to say that as of last Wednesday, the book is finally on the shelves. Which means I can publicly share the cover and it's process in entirety.

The basic premise of the book is that Bigby Wolf (A shapeshifting werewolf who happens to be THE big, bad wolf of legend) stumbles across a midwestern town where apparently ALL of the residents are werwolves. The residents take Bigby hostage, not realizing that he could easily escape anytime he wants. He chooses to stay imprisoned in order to further explore the mysteries of the town, and figure out how it is that there are werewolves he didn't know about.

The Editor, Shelly Bond, gave me quite a lot of freedom, and simply sent me the manuscript, asking me to come up with some initial concepts.

She hadn't specifically asked for a wraparound cover (which most artists usually charge extra for). But as I mentioned, I am a big fan of the series, and so I really wanted to do a large piece that I would be personally proud of.

In order to get the sketches done as quickly as possible, you may notice that female figure in this last sketch is actually cut and pasted from a previous painting of mine! I of course planned to change that in final, but for the purpose of the sketch, it was the quickest means by which to get the concept across.

I think we all felt the first sketch best captured the 'essence' of Bigby, and was really close to being the chosen cover. But ultimately the AD and the Author both saw that was I personally invested in the wraparound cover, and let me go ahead with the image.

Once I had approval, I booked a model shoot as per usual. Even though most of the figures would be werewolves, I still wanted to make sure my anatomy was accurate. This was particularly important to me in a few spots I found tricky to draw, most notably the hands, the foreshortened knee, and the back arm of Bigby.

I also made a very crude maquette from a kneaded eraser to see how light would affect the main werwolf leaning against a red car. In doing so, I discovered the intense rim-light resulted in a wonderful reflection on the car, that I otherwise would not have thought of.

Admittedly, this particular sketch was WAY more refined than most of my typical sketches, and it took surprisingly little revising before I was ready for final. Really, just a quick color study, and I was off.

Being 3 years old now, there is of course a LOT I would do differently if I could. But all in all, I think this piece stood the test of time better than a lot of pieces in my portfolio. Below is the final wraparound art, and the front cover with type treatment.

And for those interested, here are some reviews of the book: The L.A. TimesIGNGood Reads

Oil Paint on Board,  26 x 36 inches.

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