Monday, January 14, 2013

My task is complete. Again.

Last night, I finished the illustration for page 100 of Heart of Darkness, as you can see in the above photo. The ink is still wet! So strange that almost exactly two years ago, I had just completed my first book and wrote a similar post to commemorate that. Completing the Moby-Dick illustrations was a much more emotional experience than this, but no less important to me. I think that is because Moby-Dick is such a different book, with so many moments of humor to balance the hatred and the horror. Heart of Darkness, while equally intense, truly was for me a long road through hell. Being done with this has not quite sunk in yet. I don't know why. Maybe because I had to sometimes keep it at arm's length lest it poison me too much. Maybe because I was more cognizant of the absolute need for balance this time, and made sure that I gave myself time to step away from the horror and enjoy life. Maybe because...I don't know. I am at a loss. It's going to take me some time to step back and see the shape of this thing from farther away. I'm very proud of the work, and I think that when the book is out this fall it will be a truly unique vision of an important book. I'm honored to have the chance to share this with the world, and I think what I've done here is worthy. But I don't yet know what it means. To me, or to anyone else. How this one has changed me will take some time to show, I think.

But there it is, above. The final illustration for Heart of Darkness. Another book completed and soon off to the printer. I'm tired now. Very tired.

As before, thanks are due. This time though, I feel like I worked more in solitude. I suppose I am being a bit dramatic here, but until this reading, I don't think I ever grasped just how chilling and horrific Heart of Darkness is, and just what kind of monster Kurtz is. I feel like I worked in solitude to spare others from the horror of what I was immersed in. That to somehow bring others into that, even simply for support, would be to let that horror spread. I don't know, it's weird. And probably slightly martyring too.

Still, there are many people who helped in big and small ways and they deserve much more than a simple thank you. First, and always, to my wife, who quite literally kept me sane and held tightly on to the lifeline that ultimately led me back out of the dark places. I'd have been a suicide long ago without her. She makes everything in my life better all the time. My good friend Charley D., who introduced me to Conrad way back in high school. Without him, I may never had made the acquaintance of Kurtz. Author Justin Taylor for providing the soundtrack to at least the first part of the work. RF for her perspective, her willingness to "listen" to my venting and ranting emails, and for her unwavering friendship from thousands of miles away. Toni Bal and Sandy Longhorn, who visited the blog often, commented frequently, and seemed to have a good idea just what I was getting at with this. Lizzy G. from France, who always seems to show up at the right time with kind words. My friends at the gym, Chris, Jill and AJ, Dana, JD, Stephanie and Jeff, Tom, Wes, Kaylyn and Lindsay. I don't think I forgot any of you, but it was always good to hang out with you and forget about the work for a while. My editor at Tin House, Tony Perez, and designer Diane Chonette who has the unenviable task of taking all the art I dropped on top of her and hammering it into a book. Before I was ever involved in publishing I used to think that all that thanking the editor stuff was just a professional courtesy but now I see how essential the guidance of good editors and designers is. They are definitely equal partners in the process. Finally my agent Seth. There wouldn't be a book without him.

Okay, no rest for the wicked. I've got posts lined up all week, plus two more illustration projects to wrap up which I'll be sharing here, and, hopefully, a new and totally original graphic novel of my own to start work on this year. Busy. Very busy.


  1. Congratulations! I just received your Moby-Dick in Pictures for my birthday today (after harassing my loved ones to buy it for me at last year's S.P.A.C.E. in Columbus, OH). I read Moby Dick about once a year and it continues to be a powerful presence in my life as a reader/writer. I absolutely love your illustrations. So many of them bring up memories of specific passages and past readings (and create a fun interpretive tension). I'll look forward to your next work. Heart of Darkness is certainly a different animal, but I think it has a similar kind of emotional impact (if darker). Thanks for doing what you do. -Jarod

  2. Thank you, both of you. It feels very good to be done. I've said this many times, but I never dreamed I would be lucky enough to have one published book, let alone two. It means a lot.

    Jarod, thanks for sharing that. It sounds as if your own experiences with Moby-Dick may be similar to mine. It's an honor to be able able to bring these visions of stories to life, and I hope I can continue. Also, I will be at S.P.A.C.E. again this year, so stop in and say hello.


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