Friday, August 6, 2010

An anniversary

Today is Friday August 6, 2010. As I write this, it is 10:50 in the evening. The day is almost done. Today is also the one year anniversary of this blog. It was one year and one day ago that I drew the very first illustration for this massive project. And today I finished the illustration for page 339. I guess that puts me about 27 days off of what I had hoped to be a daily pace. At first, that made me a bit sad and I felt like maybe I had been a bit lazy. But then I realized that I had created 339 illustrations for this project, a nice handful of alternate images, a few whale drawings, and nearly 20 pen and ink "Solar Brother" drawings in those 365 days. In retrospect, I think I've actually been quite prolific and worked very hard.

It's stranger than I thought it would be to look back at the past year and see just how this illustration project has given it shape and direction. Back then, when I first started, I couldn't even conceive of what it would be like to complete 100 illustrations much less over 300. Back then, I had absolutely no idea how much work this thing would turn out to be. Back then, there was no way I could foresee how much of an obsession this project would, at times, become. Back then, I never would have imagined that I would end up with an agent, a book deal, an editor, and (amusingly enough) a very real deadline. Back then I didn't think a gallery owner would give me, a non-artist with no degree, the time of day even though I've now had conversations and made tentative plans with a few.

I'm not sure how I feel right now. I do feel a faint sense of happiness and satisfaction. But there is still so much more work to be done, and the upcoming chapters are the most ferocious, complex, and challenging pages in the novel. Honestly, right now, I mostly just feel tired. Not burned out. Not yet, and not at all with this project. But I am tired. For the past year I have thought about Moby-Dick and these illustrations during almost every waking hour. I've missed spending time with my wife, going for walks in the woods, and just goofing around. But I don't for a second regret the work I've put into this project, and I am committed to seeing this through to the awful, apocalyptic end some time next February.

For now though, I am going to rest for just a little bit. Pause, take a deep breath, refocus my energy. I'll be drawing again tomorrow, but I think this blog needs a day off so posting will resume on Sunday evening.

If any of you have any thoughts you'd like to share with me about this project and the last year of work, I'd love to hear them.


  1. You don't know me from Adam, but I am enthusiastic about your project. I first read Moby-Dick a few years ago, a Massachusetts native in my late 30s living far away from the sea. I connect with the book, and with the thick extra dimensions you add to it.

  2. you royally deserve a day off!
    I confess I look forward eagerly
    every day to the newest visual pleasures from your hands/eyes/mind

  3. Matt, congrats on this milestone! I am awed and inspired by your dedication to this project. Also a bit jealous of your obsession and casting about for one of my own.

    I have a couple of questions:
    1. Where do you find the paper that you use? I've been thinking that it could distract from the images if chosen incorrectly, and you seem to meld the image and the found paper so beautifully.
    2. Will you be selling the individual drawings after the project is complete?

    Hope you have a good rest today!

  4. First, I love this project and I admire you for sticking with it. So often a fun idea turns out to be so much more work than I thought it would be that it fizzles out. I'm glad you haven't done that.

    Secondly, I think the recognition you've received and the opportunities that have arisen as a result is a great illustration (ha ha) of how things take us on a different path from the one we thought we were on.

    My hat, as always, is off to you - and happy project anniversary!

  5. Purely personal, and I'm a newcomer to the project, but Melville's genius is such that each time you read the book you discover more, see afresh, see differently, see further.
    The pleasure of this blog for me is journeying the book again alongside someone else's vision.
    And the artwork is very varied, and very impressive.
    Congratulations on the first anniversary, and good luck with the next year.

  6. Well, as you know I think the drawings - and the project as a whole - are amazing. That is a hell of an accomplishment, truly! If it helps you to know, the Moby Dick piece of mine I sent you the link to took me a year and a half to complete (yikes).

    Anyway, you should feel very proud - congratulations!!!

  7. Congrats on reaching the one year blog anniversary. That is huge! I hope you enjoy it with some cake and put your feet up for a spell.

    That you're ahead of your pace is awesome! It's funny how, so often, we don't realize how much work an undertaking will be until we are in the middle of it. (I understand the obsession side of it, completely, but from a writer's point of view.)

    I look forward to more posts, more of your art. It is both original and brilliant.

  8. I'm going to reply to these one at a time, not to inflate the comments count but so I can keep them all straight.

    To Anonymous, thank you, and it is always fascinating to me to learn about the more personal narratives behind those visiting this blog. It is one of the most profound compliments I've received to learn that visitors like yourself feel these illustrations add an extra dimension to such a colossal and brilliant novel. That is my fondest hope, but Melville does cast a long shadow.

  9. Suzanne, you know perhaps better than most visitors how true that is. It is tiring, and even now, nearing the 2/3 point, it seems like the end is so far off. So far I've managed to stave off feeling burned out, and I think I have enough fuel to get to the end. But I can see a lot of sleeping after that.

  10. Sandy, thank you, and what is strange is that when I began this project last August, it was almost on a whim. I just thought it would be interesting and fun. It truly has turned into an obsession, and I often feel a bit like both Ahab and, paradoxically, Ishmael. Ahab in the sense that so often now I can think of nothing else but this project and these illustrations. It is a mad quest, to be sure, and the work can become brutal and ferocious. Ishmael in the sense that I, like he, am a prisoner on this voyage and powerless to escape until it has reached its conclusion.

    I will respond more thoroughly to your questions in a "Questions people ask me" post by tomorrow afternoon.

  11. Thank you Elizabeth. The "sticking with it" has really surprised me. I'm human, like everyone else, and I really did think that I might very well fizzle out, get burned out, or give up. I've had some really rough times while working on this project, but those have only increased my resolve to finish it. The closer I get to the end, the more obsessed I am with finishing that last page.

  12. Titus, sharing a very different and purely personal vision of this great novel is precisely what I had hoped to do. So very many incredibly talented artists and illustrators, from Benton Spruance to Rockwell Kent to Leonard Baskin to Boardman Robinson to Frank Stella and Bill Sienkiwicz have created such incredible art inspired by "Moby-DIck" that at best I hope to be able to add my own humble visions to that great body of art. It has been wonderful and exhilarating to share this work with so many people, and to read such marvelous and encouraging comment from them as well.

  13. Cheryl, I can easily see how such a delicate and elaborate piece like your own took such a very long time. For me, a big part of this challenge was to almost brutally force myself to confront creativity on a daily basis in a long marathon like this. It has been grueling, yes, but every day brings a new page and a new vision and that fuels this quest.

  14. Thank you Terresa, and I very much look forward to being able to write that final "I'm finished!" post, which should be some time next February, or perhaps March if I need some time. Even so, that seems so near and yet so far. I try not to look ahead too much since what works best for me is to simply focus on the day to day work. 212 more pages!


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