Heart of Darkness

Updated.. My concept for Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness book -
The close-up shows cloth-bound cover in-keeping with the Folio Society's published books and their illustration competition's remit to design using 2 or 3 colours.  It depicts the featured characters of Conrad's story and the fog-bound Paddle Steamer anchored on the treacherous Congo river as it sits in imminent danger of attack by Savages -

My competition entry included flat artwork for the book's cover together with 3 illustrated page scenes of my choosing.  The publisher's illustration competition presented the ideal opportunity for me to demonstrate a particular visual style for Conrad's novel.  First published 115 years ago, he wrote it from his own serialized short-story adventures that appeared in magazines of the day for readers who were hungry for knowledge about uncharted regions of the world. 

1st scene, Chapter 2, page 39.  The river-boat Captain Marlow learns of the kind of driven man the rogue Kurtz is when he's told about Kurtz's returning back up river immediately after dropping off a record load of Ivory -

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

2nd scene, 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, 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 be just that if it weren't still naggingly relevant.  Set in what was then Belgium's colonial Congo with its loose imperialist morals, Conrad's exploration into the horrors he witnessed there is still recognizable if you share the collective guilt over 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, and motivated predominantly for private profit, and in cahoots with 'approved media' outlets, describes 'the Horror!' hinted at in the Heart of Darkness

It's that Elephant-in-the-room, apparently tuskless now as I see my own struggles as a jobbing Illustrator in the digital age of publishing - My felt ignominy after paying 25 quid to compete in this futile opportunity to gain their illustration commission, then that tweet announcing the chosen 25 longlisted candidates was without me included ...Aaagh! the horror of finding my hard work was acknowledged with no more than a cursory 'Thank you to all those who took part' set me to a task.  So now I have put up this G+Community where fellow losers can freely show-off their own illustrated interpretations of Conrad's classic masterpiece with me and have a bit of collective moan fest too.


  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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