Illustration: The Conqueror Worm

“It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs”

But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
— Edgar Allan Poe — The Conqueror Worm

After having the honor of drawing not one (Season Finale: The Hidden webpage), not two (Valentine's Day Special) but three (NoSleep Live 2018) special episodes for NoSleep in a row, we return to our normally scheduled program with Season 10 Episode 15.

One of the old masters

But this illustration turned out to be a special one, after all, because in this episode the NoSleep team produces material from the public domain for the first time!

The episode's first story is actually a poem called The Conqueror Worm by noone else but one of the greatest godfathers of horror literature: Edgar Allan Poe himself.

So in order to do this occasion justice, I decided to go with a portrait of the master. The reference I used, of course, is the famous photograph of him we all know (or more accurately: the daguerreotype of him!), and while it was a lot of fun to paint, I had to work for a while to get the likeness of the portrait excactly where I wanted it.
The photograph is so well known that I wanted to get as close to it as I possibly could.

Imagining a worm

In the poem, Poe sets up the stage in a strange theater filled with a veiled audience and mimes dancing to and fro. In the climax of the poem (which you can read for free here), a giant worm appears and devours the actors.

While I usually shy away from actually drawing the monster in the story, I found it easy to make an exception for this artwork. First, the poem is quite short, and second, well — the worm is right there in the title!

So I set the sights to the internet to see if I couldn't find some kickass worm paintings to draw inspiration from.


Of course, it wasn't long before I stumbled over the images drawn for the notorios sandworms of the desert planet Arrakis in the influental Sci-Fi Novel Dune by Frank Herbert.

The first design decision for my worm was foregoing the flaps covering its mouth, but adding some teeth instead — to better devour you with, obviously.

My earlier sketches for my drawing have shown the titular worm dropped around Poe's shoulders in corporeal form, but I couldn't get it to look right.

It took me a while to realize why that was: In the poem, at least in the way I read it, the worm is an allegory for death and not a literal worm. So to indicate that, I opted to draw it in its current, wispy form.

I really hope you like the painting and am very happy to be able to pay my homage to one of horror's greatest.

Until next time, my lovelies, take care,