Into the Woods Flyer

Yet another show flyer

I’m designing the set for the show Into the Woods and I’ve also been asked to come up with an image for the flyer. The brief is quite open but suggests some kind of connection with the actual look of the show and a look reminiscent of D&D Fantasy artwork is one idea proposed (although not proposed in those words… that’s how I saw it!).

A good example of D&D fantasy artist is Larry Elmore who produced a huge number of the game’s original artworks for their products. Many artists have been inspired by his style and the compositional and tonal techniques that he used. Among the techniques sometimes employed are two very important ideas – strong focus and a restricted pallet that draws upon complementary colour tones.

For example… some images would be drawn in cold blue tones, then there would be an area of the composition that employed warm oranges and used to create a focus. Sometimes that focus was visibly ‘magical’ – like a spell being cast.

The Into the Woods brief calls for a degree of ‘fear’ to be evoked – the woods are scary, as well as the indication of some kind of narrative or character involvement… the woods are not just there: we are actually going in!

First Ideas

A composition that has sprung to mind straight away is the tunnel leading to a light at the end… the light might be cold and blue rather than being sunlight – this is the magic in the woods, not the way out. So the impression is of going into the woods, not finding your way out.

In an earlier investigation into the design of the set I contrived a tree design that also revealed the shape of a wolf and a witch ion the negative space left by the tree shape. The idea looks successful but there practical considerations as to whether it is possible to use this idea as a basis for the set design. It is possible that I can use it to a limited degree to add another dimension.

Nevertheless it inspired the idea of the shape of the end of this tunnel having more than just a random jagged ‘tree-like’ edge – what of the shape of the light was a character? Perhaps with another character standing inside the opening. This would mean that two images were visible depending on how you look at it.

There is a lot of appeal to this idea so I’m exploring it visually to see which characters can be made to appear in this way.

Stage 1 - Pointing Witch

My initial idea was the witch pointing “Go to the woods” which is her line in the show… close enough to “Into The Woods” that it would be visually similar.

The trees were already established as a very broad, leafless, outline for the set so I developed a number of variations on them and lined them up. It cerated an edge – the boundary of the woods.

I was thinking ahead to the atmosphere of the finished image – the director had indicated to include the darkness of the show, it was not a jolly-comedy, it is quite dark in mood. So I thought about using the witch’s staff as the source of the light in the image – a magical glow that could be green or otherwise spooky.

I did some paper sketches of the potential composition for these and landed on the one here because it lacked (in a good way) the ‘Terry Pratchett’ look of the other ideas.

Stage 2 - Hidden WitchThe witch looked too ‘nice’ (the witch is not good or nice she’s just right) so I draw on earlier ideas about disguising the image of the witch by using more mundane scenery. Here the witch (a much more scary face) and the wolf are both revealed by the lone tree next to the house.

I thought about creating the rest of the witch’s body using more mundane images which led to…

Stage 3 - Horizon and Haze…putting the horizon in.

One of the constant considerations of images for posters is to allow room for the title and text. When the horizon and ground were drawn in it seemed obvious that this would be a great space the the text, and the sky already provided an ideal backdrop for the title.

I also removed the wolf image from the tree for two reasons: it was not in the negative space like the witch so appeared to be strangely part of the tree, and the wolf should be in the woods, not in the house.

Here I also thought about the nature of the light on the trees. I was keen to have them clearly visible as a connection to the real set in the show but I also wanted them to be less distracting and more part of the scenery.

The way that they receded into a silhouette looked clumsy because the more distant trees appeared more highly contrasted with the background. I contrived a sequence of colour that made them blend into the background as they got smaller, over the crest of the hill, and into the distance.

I’ve also played around with the lone tree and house to create a décolletage for the witch. The smoke from the chimney now describes her hair.

I’ve dispensed with the witch’s staff – as she is now disembodied this works OK, but taking another line  from the show “There are giants in the sky” I’ve contrived for the moon to become the eye of a giant and vaguely described its head with the cloud texture.

My idea sketch for this composition includes a line of characters (from the show) crossing into the woods from the direction of the house. To create this characters I first sketched them to explore how they would stand or move:

These characters are established folk-tale people and have some basic characteristics to embody: Little Red Riding Hood has a basket and is young – she is shown skipping. Cinderella’s clothes are either ragged or an exquisite ball gown and I’ve chosen the former (in the show she is raged when she first goes into the woods). Jack has a cow. I drew a cow. The baker is sent by the witch to fetch items from these other characters – so he’s at the back looking out to see them.

The wolf is in the woods, waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.

I had previously spotted an interesting idea with regard to light as might come from the moon and how it reflects on the world around it. When you look at a streetlight through a tree, especially one that is ‘in’ the tree in winter, there is a specular highlight on branches that are aligned and tangental to the circle around the light source. It looks as if there are rings around the light. I aimed to use that idea to highlight the trees on the side that was in place to catch this specular highlight to see if the rings effect might show up.

I did find that my tree design lacked a sufficient number of branches to do this well. It did give me the opportunity to use a texture on the house roof, imagining that it was thatched, that might further highlight the witch’s presence.

As a final touch I sprinkled sparkles on the horizon that showed where the ground was catching the moonlight too. Additionally, I masked out these sprinkles in the shape of the witch’s pointing hand.

Into the Woods Flyer Image


In this final image I’ve added moonlight highlights to all of the trees and inserted the silhouettes of the characters from the show.

As a whole composition this particular image seems to lack scale or balance however the final flyer…

Into the Woods Flyer A4 poster.jpg

…once completed with text information becomes more balanced.

(Graphic design layout was done by Maggie Tingle of Tingle Design on behalf of Tring Park School)



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