Folio Society Competition 2013
‘The Heart of Darkness’
by Joseph Conrad
Amelia Johnstone & Anna Bhushan
About The Competition :
The Book Illustration Competition is a partnership between ‘House of
Illustration’ and ‘The Folio Society’.
The annual international competition is open to illustrators over the age
of 18, both student and professional, with the winner receiving a
prestigious Folio Society commission. The winning entry, judged by a
panel of experts, will become a commission worth £5,000 to complete a
total of 9 illustrations and a binding design for ‘Heart of Darkness’ by
This will be published by The Folio Society in September 2014.
Five runners up will each receive a prize of £500. Three prizes of the
six will be awarded to student entries. This competition is open to
anyone over 18 who is not a Folio Society commissioned illustrator.
Entrants should register their details and enter online. The entry fee,
which includes VAT, is £25 (£15 for students), payable online via
Paypal. Once registered for entry, no refunds of entry fees, part or
whole, will be offered. Only one entry per person will be accepted.
The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on Friday 10 January
* The judging will take place in January 2014, shortly after the deadline
for entries. The winner and runners up will be announced publicly in
September 2014, to enable the winner to work on the book and for it to
* All judging is done anonymously. The judges’ decision is final and no
correspondence will be entered into.
* The winner will be asked to provide a total of 9 illustrations for the
final book, as well as a binding design, and must agree to complete the
commission within the given deadline (end of April 2014).
* The winner, runners-up and shortlisted finalists must be prepared to
lend some or all of their original artwork for display and will be required
to allow reproduction of the artwork for use in web and printed publicity.
Please see the terms and conditions.
After carefully reading the story, we select the scenes we want to illustrate.
We choose interesting points and also balance the number of illustrations throughout the
whole book. We always start by talking and imagining what we want the project to be.
It helps us to look at a lot of paintings from the period we are illustrating – in all our work
there is a clear reference to artists and paintings. We make detailed notes about the
characters and the scene of each illustration then conduct preliminary historical research
to understand how best to create the characters and setting.
We collect all of the references for each illustration – artists and art, sketches, photos of
people… then we begin the rough drawings.We develop the idea through various
different colour layouts and compositions until we achieve the desired effect. We work
and rework the illustration until we have a detailed visual of the scene. We use graphite
pencil on tracing paper then we digitise our sketch and then work in Photoshop.
After this stage, we proceed with the finished illustration and start the process of
colouring. We use mixed media, our visible brush strokes are all handmade not digital.
First we paint each picture element separately (background, characters and objects) with
black gouache and pencil on paper. Then we digitise them and use Photoshop to colour
The colouring process is very complex and has been developed after many years of
experience. We always compare the CMYK colour against digital proofs to ensure colour
accuracy. Our final illustrations are in a digital format.
‘It is important to study the history of art and to know the past as well as
the present. Always strive to improve. Try to be very critical of yourself
but never give up – although it is a very difficult job. Follow and respect
one’s personality, don’t follow the trend of the moment. If you do, the
risk is to be used and thrown away in a short space of time. At the
same time it is important to know about new trends and tastes. Don’t
forget it is a commercial world, but be careful in your choice of projects.
It is important that the quality of your work keeps growing. Interpretation
is more important than technique and special effects. Young artists
must not work for free, only if it is for charity. And last but not least,
enforce the law on copyright!’
How To Enter
1. Read the book: The chosen book for this year’s competition is ‘Heart
of Darkness by Joseph Conrad’. You may read any edition of the work.
To enter the competition you will need to submit three illustrations and a
2. Select and illustrate three scenes. You can select any three scenes
from the book.
3. Your illustrations must be PORTRAIT, not landscape.
4.Entrants should also design and submit a binding to accompany the
three illustrations. The binding design can be from any scene in the
book or inspired by its overall tone and themes. Please read the
The binding does not need to be finished artwork, although the three
4. Register online
We will only accept entries via the online form. You will need to register, after
which we will send you a confirmation email with your login details to enable
you to return to your entry until the final deadline.
NB: Please check your spam folder for this email if it doesn’t arrive
The online form will enable you to edit your contact details and also the
captions for your uploaded images.
5. Save and upload your images and captions
Please retain a separate high resolution copy of your entry to the specifications
detailed in the ‘The Illustrations’ guide:
This is the copy that will be used if your entry is selected as the winner.
For upload to this site, illustrations should be saved as 150 dpi, RGB, JPEGs
(jpeg setting 8) as detailed in the ‘The Illustrations’ guide see above link.
a) Your binding and your illustrations of the three scenes must be submitted in
the same entry.
b) Work may be disqualified if these specifications are not met in full.
c) Only online applications will be considered.
6. Read and accept the Terms and Conditions
By submitting entries to the competition, you are confirming that
you have read, understood and agree to the terms and
7. Pay your entry fee
Once you have accepted the terms and conditions, you will be
taken through to the Paypal page to pay for your entry. If you do
not already have a Paypal account you will need to set one up
We will send you a confirmation email once payment has been
received and your application has been successfully submitted.
Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart Of Darkness’ is a short novel of astonishing reach. Set
in the upper reaches of the Congo river at the turn of the twentieth century, it is
at once a critique of colonialism, an enigmatic travel narrative and an
exploration of the depths of human psychology.
At the shadowed heart of the book lies the dying Kurtz whose final words, ‘The
horror! The horror…!’ have become symbolic of man’s destructiveness, from
nineteenth-century colonial atrocities to the barbarity of the Vietnam War (as
Francis Ford Coppola so brilliantly expressed in his retelling of the story for
One of the key precursors of modernism, the impressionistic, subjective style of
the novella remains revolutionary – and controversial – to this day.
Conrad himself made a journey into the Congo in 1890, and much of the
landscape and characters derive from his experience there piloting the Belgian
riverboat, Roi des Belges.
This autobiographical grounding is particularly significant to a novella in which
Conrad’s control of form and detail is perhaps best shown; from the tidal shifts
of the Thames, to the mourning crêpe of Kurtz’s fiancée in Brussels, to the
harlequin’s shabby dress as he stands waving from the shores of the deep
It is an intensely visual book, with its dreams and nightmares as sharply
visualised as its realities.