Art of Poe (pt 1) by Gregory K.H. Bryant
Gregory K.H. Bryant has created an incredible series of art based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. We’re delighted to be sharing his works and commentary here at The Horror Within. Look for more of his art in the coming weeks.
An artist could make a career illustrating the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and doing nothing else. In fact, I believe some have. Poe’s writing is so potent that every line could be the basis of many illustrations. And illustrating `The Tales of Poe’ has been an ambition since I first read them when I was twelve.
Indeed, so potent is his writing that, as I finally began work on illustrating his tales last year, and reread them again to refresh my memory, I was astonished at how very short his stories were. “The Tell-Tale Heart” comes in at only six or eight pages, depending on the formatting. The same is true of “The Pit and the Pendulum” and so many others. (I was delighted, by the way, to find that the years had not dimmed my recollection of the tales. Even particular turns of expression were burned indelibly in my memory.) But, short as they are, Poe’s tales linger vividly in the mind with all the weight of heroic epics. Each tale can provoke an almost infinite number of powerful visions in each reader, and the number of possible illustrations is also infinite.
My first requirement of these illustrations is that they be true to Poe. I am illustrating, not interpreting, his work. The goal is to enhance, not to upstage. And these illustrations are the supporting actors here, and that is all. When it comes to illustrating very short stories, less is absolutely better.
In the case of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, the story could easily have provoked an entire graphic novel without any padding needed. Indeed, if it hasn’t yet, it should.
But for the purposes of illustrating a collection of Poe’s tales, more than one illustration for each short tale is too much – like too many adjectives in a sentence. So I seek out those moments crucial to the story, though each story may have several.
In the case of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, I watched the entire story in my head as I was rereading it, and every moment was vivid, and every moment an unfolding crisis. But I at last chose the moment of uttermost despair, when the narrator of the story loses his footing and almost plunges into the pit of the title, which was also the instant of the narrator’s deliverance from the hell to which his Inquisitors had subjected him. That moment of absolute despair and commingled salvation, it seemed to me, was the heart of the tale.
–Gregory K.H. Bryant