A Walk on the Wild Side with I AM NOT A WOLF Artist Sage Coffey

White book with title "I AM NOT A WOLF" and a drawing of a running wolf, sitting on a brown wooden table

In an era where memes, celebrities, and even comics pop into existence and then disappear within a matter of days or weeks, it takes something truly special to last for years, much less for it to make the jump from one medium to another. The increasingly popular and immensely relatable Twitter account NOT A WOLF (@SICKOFWOLVES) has managed to do just that. From humble beginnings by writer Dan Sheehan in 2013, NOT A WOLF is set to spring into action with a choose-your-own-adventure-style book, complete with illustrations by artist Sage Coffey, titled I AM NOT A WOLF.

Published through crowdfunding site UnboundI AM NOT A WOLF captures the essence of Sheehan’s Twitter persona and brings the reader along for the ride. Between these covers, you, too, are definitely NOT A WOLF but a very human human being just trying to make it as a graphic designer in the big city. You are certainly not struggling to open shampoo bottles with your razor-sharp teeth and craving ham or a midnight hunt under the trees. To date, the book is over 110% funded, and pledges will remain open for the next few months as Coffey and Sheehan finalize everything.

Coffey recently took time to sit down with WWAC to discuss the project and just how they came to be part of the phenomenon that is I AM NOT A WOLF.

Dan started the NOT A WOLF Twitter feed just over five years ago now. Were you familiar with the Twitter account before getting involved with the book?

I was, but only in passing. I’d see my friends retweet something from the account and like it and leave. If you told my childhood self, who pretended to be a wolf on a regular basis, that I’d be illustrating a book about a wolf pretending to be a human—my kid self would scream with joy! I was a huge wolf kid (non-binary wolf equivalent of a horse girl). So needless to say, the project has a permanent place in my heart.

How did the two of you connect to work on I AM NOT A WOLF?

Dan does “We Still Like You,” a comedy show about sharing our most shameful stories. At the time I was working at a cafe with Carly Ballerini, a fantastic Chicago comedian, who recommended me for a live-drawing gig with the “We Still Like You” crew. Basically I’d draw whatever story the comedian was telling while they were telling it! Everyone was so kind and accepted me with open arms! It’s still one of my favorite shows in the city and since Dan has expanded the show to LA. After doing live drawing for a few of the Chicago shows, Dan approached me about doing a NOT A WOLF book. After reading Dan’s sample, I was hooked and on board for the book! We work really well together and we’re even talking about some more exciting projects in the future!

I’ve always regretted the fact that choose-your-own-adventure books seemed to fall out of favor for kids and never really caught on for adults. Then along come you and Dan, bringing them back and for the grown-ups to boot. What prompted that choice for the book?

That was all Dan! I love choose-your-own style books and it was always part of the initial pitch for the book.

How did you and Dan decide which moments in the book to capture in images?

Dan will have an outline of events that take place throughout the book and together we discuss which ones will be illustrated. We tend to lean towards the more outlandish visuals or things that’re just fun to draw a wolf doing. Trying to fit a backpack on a wolf was surprisingly hard, haha!

You’re using fairly stark linework illustrations in the book, which is quite a bit different from the style you use in many of your other projects. Did it feel like you were pushing yourself? Or was it more of a chance to do something you enjoy but don’t use often?

A lot of my work I do with a Kuretake no. 33 brush pen, which has a large flexible felt tip. It gives the clean and crisp line that you see throughout my other work. For the NOT A WOLF illustrations I used a traditional sable-haired brush and textured paper. That gives the lines a much rougher look, and I feel like that’s more reflective of the tone of NOT A WOLF.

Wolf wearing dress pants, button down shirt, tie standing at a computer desk

Without getting too spoilery, what was your favorite illustration in the book?

It’s hard not to get spoilery, haha but out of the drawings currently revealed my favorite was our main character at the standing desk.

A lot of writers and artists create music playlists to work to. Are you one of those? If so, what was your playlist for I AM NOT A WOLF?

I am totally that guy, haha. I have playlists for all my projects. NOT A WOLF was a lot of wolf-themed songs like “Werewolf Gimmick” by The Mountain Goats off their wrestling themed album Beat The Champ, but also a lot of powerful ballads from a wide range of genres to get me in the mindset of survival. “Catabolic Seed” and “Icicles,” both songs by The Scary Jokes, were on repeat!

Laura Stump

Laura Stump

I'm a constantly sleep-deprived writer who mostly prefers the company of cats to people, although cats (curse their lack of opposable thumbs!) can’t fetch beer from the fridge the way people can.