Choosing Ernest

Second year has begun with an ‘Interpretation of Text’ unit. A choice of different sectors was offered (including Editorial, Graphic novel, Children’s Books, Publishing and more). I chose the publishing option, which requires the production of a book jacket cover and 4 illustrations relating to ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway.

– Initial sketches for The Old Man and the Sea –
– Initial sketches for ‘The Old Man and the Sea –


D E V E L O P M E N T   &
C H A R A C T E R   D E S I G N

After looking into Cuba, where the book is set, and keen to both bring a new angle to a timeless classic as well as bringing a little of my own illustrating style, I decided to create a different and more abstract version of the old man. While there are suggestions that the old man, named Santiago, could have been based on Gregorio Fuentes or even Hemingway himself, I chose to interpret  him as an Afro-Cuban (Yoruba) due to the West African culture present in Cuban society. Additionally, ‘Havana has the largest population of blacks of any city in Cuba‘, so the odds would be pretty high.


It only took a few sketches to really get into the swing of things. While I very much liked (2), he looked more Indian Asian than Afro-Cuban, and so (3) and (4) were created.

The last two character designs were exactly what I wanted and had visualised, but not long later I began to think about magic realism; despite the fact that Hemingway allegedly claimed there was no symbolism intended in the book, many believe otherwise. The fable-like narrative of the book would work well with magic realism, and so I began to try to make the character more abstract, influenced my fantasy, and drew him in the style of an old character I’d created before;

Iot Book Old Man 4b.jpeg

With this character, I very much enjoyed the exaggeration of the features; I’d kept the circular, pronounced cheekbones, but this contrasted the the elongated of the chin and helped to establish the “thin and gaunt” image, as described by Hemingway. It immediately creates a striking, particular, quality/impression.




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