The Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad. Painting

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

A short book and one of two books of Conrad’s, that I have read. I struggled with one other longer novel of his, Lord Jim.

A brief synopsis. Often described as being the first modern novel, The Heart of Darkness as a story,  can and is read on a number of levels including,  a critique of 19th century imperialism and European racial prejudice; a classic tale of hypocrisy, greed and exploitation; a commentary on the shallowness of Western Civilisation and its pretence of what constitutes civilised behaviour; a retelling of the archetypal hero’s journey; and a metaphorical journey into the primal heart of humanity  (The Heart of Darkness).

Creatively, however, and the reason for my wish to illustrate episodes from Conrad’s short story was his use of the contrasting qualities of light and dark as a leitmotif not only to describe the physical external world. but as a metaphor for the complex often contradictory nature of humanity’s internal space- the light and especially, the darkness, that is  within us all.

The bright light of the African sun-  the terrible primal, darkness of the jungle and the river,  the racial contrast between the whiteness of the, supposedly superior, colonial Europeans along with their apparel set in contrast to the blackness of the subjugated, exploited, Congolese. Then there are numerous references to shadows- the place where things are hidden and danger lurks,  the oppressiveness of the sun and its exposing/revealing light along with its oppressive heat. All rich material from which to extract out ideas for pictures.

I originally completed 10 paintings- sold 5, lost two and mislaid 3- probably either in my loft or at some relative’s house. The images are photocopies of originals so some scan lines may be observed.

Original. Acrylic on stretched canvas

The Pirate. Samuel Menashe

This poem by Samuel Menashe is one of the few poems I remember from my childhood. It was part of a BBC, 1970’s, radio schools poetry programme which was  accompanied by a  book  (still in my posession). We studied the poem in class when I was around 11.

When I was 44 I studied  for a Masters degree in Children’s book illustration. As a subject for my major project (dissertation)  I decided on creating illustrations for a selection of  prose, poems and songs which have the themes of menace and lament. This poem gave me the idea for the themes and was the first  I illustrated.

“I plunder the World” what 11 year old boy could forget such a line? Alas my plundering days are behind me now, but oh the memories!

Drawing, Chalk and wax crayon. Coloured in Photoshop

The Pirate by Samuel Menashe

Like a cliff
My brow hangs over
The cave of my eyes
My nose is the prow of a ship
I plunder the world