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A Portrait of Poe—Into the Maelstrom by Pete Janes

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A Portrait of Poe—Into the Maelstrom by 

Pen and ink stippling with digital detailing in Gimp.

From A Descent into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe, 1841.
The edge of the whirl was represented by a broad belt of gleaming spray; but no particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice, half shriek, half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract of Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven.

I thought I would try to capture Poe somewhere between an incomprehensibly vast vortex of chaos and a more prosaic, Victorian world of decorative arts. The worlds are cancerous to each other, and only Poe was strong and insightful enough to attempt to bridge the gap.

An interesting side note here is that I was determined to avoid the standard props of a Poe portrait, namely the raven or the black cat. Nevertheless, the wallpaper pattern that I puzzled out ended up having very feline features. Funny how the brain works.

Organic produce slinger by day. Automatic Scribbler and Deliberate Renderer by night.

“Pete Janes entertains the macro insect crowd with meticulous gouache and watercolor specimen pieces, while his more imaginary illustrations seem to be glimpses into faraway realities.”—noted art critic and Portland bum R. Terialspray

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  • Lynnette Shelley
    Lynnette Shelleyalmost 5 years ago


  • Very much appreciated Lynette! Boy is my hand tired!

    – Pete Janes

  • Zombie Rust
    Zombie Rustalmost 5 years ago

    Great portrait Pete, it’s an excellent illustration!

  • Thanks Zombie! Next up: Lovecraft!

    – Pete Janes

  • Trystan  Mitchell
    Trystan Mitchellalmost 5 years ago

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Virgil would be jealous ;-))

  • Thanks for reminding me, Trystan—I meant to include a ref to Virgil in the notes section.

    – Pete Janes

    ROUBLE RUSTalmost 5 years ago

    Oh wow, this is great Pete!!!!! Excellent work and composition, I love the chaotic background. Weeelcome to challenge ;)

  • Thanks Rouble! This is the first piece I’ve done specifically for a challenge . . . maybe I should try that exercise again!

    – Pete Janes

  • Anita Inverarity
    Anita Inverarityalmost 5 years ago

    Magnificent !!! I love your Poe and the whole concept of the piece-amazing work my friend :))))) xx

  • Thanks Anita! It was your Poe that really lit the fire under me to complete this!

    – Pete Janes

  • Tony Sturtevant
    Tony Sturtevantalmost 5 years ago

    really outstanding!

  • Very much appreciated, Tony!

    – Pete Janes

  • fixtape
    fixtapealmost 5 years ago


  • Mission accomplished! Thanks fixtape.

    – Pete Janes

  • sorina
    sorinaalmost 5 years ago

  • I am most pleased and honored, Sorina.

    – Pete Janes

  • fecundfreehand
    fecundfreehandalmost 5 years ago

    Excellent! love the repeat pattern in the b/ground too!

  • Thanks Fecund. If you look closely you can see on which side I started and on which side it was time for my cramping hand to put the pen down!

    – Pete Janes

  • Hugh Fathers
    Hugh Fathersalmost 5 years ago

    Fantastic image!! . . .

  • Very much appreciated, Hugh.

    – Pete Janes

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