Heart of Darkness

My Heart of Darkness book (by Joseph Conrad) fully illustrated -
The close-up of the cover (below) shows it cloth-bound, in-keeping with the Folio Society's published books.  Their illustration competition's remit called for a design using 2 or 3 colours only.  My idea was to depict the featured characters in Conrad's story with the Paddle Steamer fog-bound, anchored on the fast-flowing and treacherous Congo river, in imminent danger of attack by Savages -

The publisher's illustration competition presented the ideal opportunity for me to demonstrate a more traditional illustrative style.  He wrote the book 115 years ago from his own serialized short-story adventures that appeared first in magazines for readers hungry for knowledge about uncharted regions of the world. 

My entry also required 3 full page illustrations (scenes of my choosing). 
1st scene from Chapter 2, page 39.  Marlow (the river-boat Captain) learns of the kind of driven man the rogue Kurtz is, when he's told of Kurtz's return journey up river immediately after dropping off a record load of Ivory -

'I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time.'

2nd scene from Chapter 2, page 55.  Marlow's knackered Paddle Steamer under attack by those godless Savages as it navigates the snags in the river's fast currents -

'Arrows, by Jove! We were being shot at!'
3rd scene from Chapter 3, page 81.  At the Inner-Station, Marlow confronts the sick Kurtz crawling through the long grass while the Savages get increasingly more restless - 

'I came apon him, and, if he had not heard me coming, I would have fallen over him too.'
Never mind that Francis Ford Coppala plundered the book's narrative for his movie Apocalypse Now, this Fossil of a Ripping Yarn would have remained just that if it weren't still naggingly relevant today.  Set in what was then Belgium's colonial Congo with its loose imperialist morals, Conrad's exploration into 'the Horror' he witnessed there is still recognizable, if you share the collective guilt of the West's liberalist expansion of democracy - its mighty military industrial complex: NATO in league with off-shore multinationals' looting of raw materials from foreign sovereign states, motivated predominantly by private profit, and in cahoots with 'approved' media outlets, describes 'the Horror' as continued from the Heart of Darkness book. 

It's the Elephant-in-the-room, and tuskless as I feel its ignominy (as a jobbing Illustrator straddling the digital age of publishing) after paying my 25 quid fee for this futile opportunity to compete for their commission, to then discover the publisher's 'tweet' announcing only a cursory 'thank you to all those who took part' with link to their chosen 25 longlisted candidates ... My Horror! discovering my illustrations did not even make it that far set me to a task.  So, I have put up this G+Community page where my fellow losers can freely air their own illustrated interpretations of Conrad's fine masterpiece along side mine if they wish, and have a bit of collective moan-fest' too if they so choose.  Moral: We are all Publishers! 


  1. Good luck old chum. Looks fab!

  2. Hey Jim,

    Fantastic illustrations as discussed last week. Think this combination of pencil, pen and colour truly captures the essence and mystery of Conrad's novel. As mentioned i particularly like the cover image which immediately sets the scene and the characters… no mean feat. You've really managed to illustrate the endless, impenetrable density of the jungle and the way it dwarfs the steamer on the lurid yellow river… pretty much the way i pictured it in my mind when i read the book.

    It would without doubt make a great graphic novel.

    You may like to amend you introductory piece; Apocalypse Now was directed by Francis Ford Coppala not George Lucas.

    Regards Dave.

    1. Much thanks Dave, your insights are much appreciated indeed!!
      I've amended that gaff

  3. Damn and Blast, I never made it as far as the longlist of chosen candidates showing here:
    I'm guessing but after seeing the judges preferred choices, I think my visual interpretation of Joseph Conrad's story adventure into the then uncharted Congo in search of that rogue Kurts was just too literally matter-of-fact for the publisher's expected readership taste who, I can only wonder, exist on a diet of liberal political pap and vegan wholemeal cheesy-wine slurry. My interpreting Joseph Conrad's story was I think not superficially self-conscious and stylisticly pseudo-expressionistic enough!

    What I've gleaned from the judges preferred interpretation is I'm done with competitions setup by Publishers regarding Illustrators and Authors like Milking-cows.

    The final winner will be announced in September. Still, I remain envious.


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