Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad and Matt Kish

The long wait is over. My editor at Tin House Books, Tony Perez, was kind enough to rush me an advance copy of my new book, the illustrated Heart of Darkness. Diane Chonette and Jakob Vala took my illustrations and designed an utterly gorgeous book. As with my Moby-Dick in Pictures, this is truly a beautiful object and it just feels good in the hand. After nearly weeping with joy, jumping up and down a few times, high-fiving my wife, and then celebrating with a nice dinner, we took some photos of the book to give you an idea of how it looks. Special thanks to my wife for holding the book for me while I took these.

The front cover. I love how this is just an illustration on boards, with no dust jacket. It feels so much more direct this way. Perfect, given the nature of the novel.

One of the many brilliant design choices made by Diane and Jakob is the way that the front cover illustration wraps so perfectly around the spine and the back cover.

A view of the spine. Tin House has chosen a nice, thick, creamy paper stock that really soaks up the ink and makes the colors in the illustrations deep and rich. Some of that can be seen here, in the thickness of the book itself.

I was honored to have a say in some of the book design process and thrilled when Tony and Diane agreed that hand-drawn endpapers could be included. It's the little touches like this that make the book such a wonderful object. Interestingly, I had these endpapers in mind from the very beginning - a wall of vegetation, with a small image of Marlow in the lower corner.

The book closes with a reversed image of the endpapers. The placement of Marlow was deliberate on my part, signifying in a visual way that the tale begins and ends with him.

A close-up of the endpapers. And Marlow.

The title page. Almost terrifying to see my name next to Conrad's there. Good God.

Again, a brilliant touch from Diane and Jakob. I was asked to write a brief introduction to the book, and this introduction of mine is separated from Conrad's tale by this beautiful detail of the endpapers, enlarged and filtered. The reader is truly penetrating the wall of the jungle and entering the heart of darkness.

Some samples of the interior spreads. I am extremely pleased with the reproduction of my art. Everything is suffused with bright and acidic greens and yellow, and the images seem to almost radiate the heat and the sickness and the savagery of the African jungle. Additionally, in some of these images, you can see that the binding of this book is sewn rather than glued. Another nice touch.

The image which Diane used as the basis for her elegantly and amazingly designed cover.

I don't believe I've posted the piece below yet, so this may be the first time it's been seen online.

One final bit of fantastic detail is that the book includes what is essentially an index, listing the page number of each illustration, the quote from Conrad's text that functions as each title, and the media. Completely unnecessary, but again, so perfect in keeping with my vision of the book and the concept of this as a truly visual narrative. 

The release date still stands as November 12, although that seems to be approaching with terrifying quickness now. I am really pleased with how this turned out. For so many months, this book existed as nothing but a stack of illustrations in my studio and a concept in my head. Diane, Jakob, and my editor Tony were so receptive to my thoughts, and so full of brilliant ideas of their own. This book is everything I hoped it could be. I am proud.

Friday, June 28, 2013

More on "The Desert Places"

I am fortunate enough to have two books coming out this autumn, a fully illustrated version of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness coming in November from my fine publisher Tin House Books, and a unique hybrid text, The Desert Places, written by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss with 16 full color illustrations and a cover by me, coming in October from Curbside Splendor. I'll post the cover below and here is a press release with more info about the book. Take a look.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I love beautiful books, and I love when attention is lavished upon the design of a book. One of the ways this attention manifests itself is in endpapers, which at one time were quite common but have sadly disappeared almost entirely. I was thrilled when my fine publisher Tin House Books contacted me about creating hand-drawn endpapers for my upcoming illustrated edition of Heart of Darkness. One visual element which was a constant thread running through many of my illustrations was the African jungle. Or, rather, the idea of the African jungle, abstracted to the point of being a single, massive wall of vegetation. That was my earliest impression of Heart of Darkness, from my first reading many years ago, and it is an image and an idea I keep returning to every time I make the journey through the story again. For these endpapers, I was fascinated by the idea of them literally enclosing and containing the book, and that visual of a massive wall of impenetrable, forbidding green jungle was the only option. At the last moment, I decided to include a small image of Marlow in the lower right corner since this is in so many ways his story. Right now, I am not yet sure if Tin House will include that image of Marlow or if the drawing will be cropped and slightly enlarged to show the leaves only. Either way I will be pleased, and I am absolutely thrilled that this next book of mine is shaping up to be every bit as beautiful an object as my Moby-Dick in Pictures was.

Here is my drawing for the endpapers...

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Heart of Darkness" cover

Coming in October 2013 from my fine publisher Tin House Books, a new edition of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness with 100 full color illustrations by me. Above is the final cover, and I couldn't be more pleased. It captures everything I was trying to convey with my illustrations, and is just a brilliant piece of work. Many many thanks to Diane Chonette at Tin House for putting this together, and to Tin House in general for making this dream a reality.

Feel free to re-post this or share it in any way you would like.

Friday, February 8, 2013


11 inches by 14 inches
ink on watercolor paper
February 3, 2013

(This is the last of my 16 illustrations for The Desert Places.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Now I can share the news. The series of illustrations I am in the midst of posting are all from a forthcoming book titled The Desert Places by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss. It will be released some time later this year by Chicago-based Curbside Splendor. The cover below is one of my illustrations in a beautiful layout and design by Alban Fischer. I'm really pleased with what Alban did here, and thrilled to be a part of this with one of my old favorite authors Robert Kloss and one of my new favorites Amber Sparks. Creating these illustrations as visual responses to this book has been intense, harrowing, and nightmarish but I am so fucking proud of the work it almost hurts. I'll have more information on how to order the book when that is available, and the cover will be polished up when I can get Alban a higher resolution image, but here is a rough cut.


11 inches by 14 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper
January 20, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

THE DESERT PLACES: Above is the Light

I am creating 16 illustrations that will appear in a new book later this year. I don't want to say too much more about it until more information is made official, but it was a searing read and I jumped at the chance to do this. The illustrations will be printed in black & white, but I am creating them with some color since there is a possibility one of them will be used as the cover. Hence, as I post these, you will see both the color and black & white versions.


11 inches by 14 inches
ink on watercolor paper
January 3, 2013