Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Having been born a Gemini, I'm well-acquainted with the duality that permeates life, seeing 2-sides of the coin spinning before me as it somersaults through the air before landing with one side up while I violently take my place in defense of the other. But both sides exist within me just as they exist within everyone.

I'm guilty of painting situations in black-and-white but what's truly astounding is how easily I can fall into extremities on either side. Even the most balanced human suffers from a slight touch of this and it's in this weakness that the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is universally sympathetic. 

The transformation of Jekyll & Hyde...


As I mentioned in my analysis of my Dorian Gray illustration, each of the nine portraits in my Classic Monsters series is a self-portrait, like it or not. Like Dorian Gray, Jekyll and Hyde also draws a strong parallel to my own life experiences and is somewhat similar to Dorian Gray or even the werewolf in the juxtaposition of his nature.

Where Dorian Gray's vices tainted his hidden portrait, Jekyll's vices bleed through in the visage of his alter ego, Hyde. However, I always saw Dorian Gray's sins as primarily sexual and romantically sadistic with physical violence as an undercurrent. While I think there is a sexual nature to Hyde, I feel it is all secondary to a sense of manic violence. It's very similar to the werewolf as a cautionary tale of suppression.

Here we have the good Dr. Jekyll, an upstanding citizen, good samaritan, intelligent, sophisticated, a pillar of society. His longings, urges, and natural instincts have long been sacrificed to honor this perfect shining veneer. In Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it is through a serum that our monster finds his window into our world. But it's easy to conclude that Jekyll's suppression is the active ingredient.

Jekyll & Hyde pre-coloring...

I opted out of massive amounts of symbolism in my portrait of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because this concentrated creature of dual-personality is such a strong symbol in himself. The backdrop is a nightmare imagining of Victorian London with mucky tainted smog hanging heavy in the atmosphere cut only by twisted and warped beacons of red illumination; hellish lamp posts bearing razor crowns that cut through the murky night.

Mirrors framed in ornate flourishes of black metal depict five reflections of Dr. Jekyll, searching his own reflection for truths too horrid to acknowledge, yet on some hastily suppressed frequency he is fully aware. For the most part, these reflections amidst an alarming red backdrop show Jekyll in various stages of shock and horror.

While the lower right image shows the doctor with determination, I feel it still indicates a shaky resolve - a slight hint of doubt in the eyes. The upper central reflection is the final face of Jekyll: accepting the man on the other side and daring to look him in the eye, using the last vestiges of his control to suppress what he knows is true.

Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in "colorful" Victorian London...


Mr. Hyde has often been portrayed as hulking, menacing, and brutish but the original novella clearly states that he is smaller than Jekyll as a result of being stunted through suppression. In my portrait of Mr. Hyde, this quality manifests as a sad sort of vulnerability giving way to wild paranoia.

Make no mistake, I wanted my Hyde to be villainous to a homicidal degree, but I wanted him to be shaken by an insecurity that gives way to snarling viciousness and psychotic fits of rage. While Jekyll is clothed in benign light pink and lavender with a dull, plain gray coat, Hyde is swathed in garish hot pink and deep nocturnal black-and-blue.

Here we find him lost in the hostile London night, snarling and recoiling like a wounded animal. His hair is dishevelled and his tacky dandyish clothing is tattered and ripped from nocturnal episodes of sexual extremity eclipsed by erratic brutal violence. Hyde is mentally stunted by years of rejection and an imbalance that has left him critically severed from the source that could have, many years before, made him manageable.

In the end, it's hard to see the personalities of Jekyll and Hyde as black-and-white since the rampaging monster is actually a product of the respectable doctor. And as the story reveals (and as is the case with so many seeming dichotomies) Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same.