Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Questions people ask me

Since this post is much newer than the previous questions people ask me post, some of the answers have changed since then. This is where things stand right now, and this is probably the final answer for the "selling art" question. But first...

#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.

With a few exceptions, nearly all of the paper I am using for this project came from when I was in grad school and worked at a used book store. Customers would come in and sell us their old books and we would always make them an offer on every single item, no matter how badly damaged or ephemeral. Of course, the offers were sometimes as low as a nickel for a box of books, but when that box was an incomplete set of somewhat musty encyclopedias from 1954 (which happened more often than you would imagine), there was really very little use for them and we wouldn’t ever be able to re-sell them. Once the buys were taken care of, we would carefully sift through the books and sort them into what we could clean, price and sell and what we would have to donate or discard. My manager at the time was very understanding and always allowed me to look through what was going to be thrown in the dumpster. Sometimes I took an odd book or two home, just to keep, but more often than not I was able to find books full of diagrams, repair guides, maps, old engravings, and so on. At that time (this was between 2003 and 2005) I didn’t know what I might use this paper for, but there was something deeply compelling and fascinating about it all. It was like all this knowledge, all of this lore, all of these forgotten or ill-fated dreams, all collected between dusty covers and left to be carted out to some landfill. I built up a pretty massive collection of paper and that sat for several years, and followed me through several moves, before finally deciding to use it as the basis for this Moby-Dick project. Initially, the decision to use found paper for this project was simply the result of me wanting to make art in a looser, messier, more textured and chaotic style. Almost instantly though, I began to see how illustrating such a densely layered narrative like Moby-Dick on found paper, with elements of those diagrams and maps and images showing through, beautifully paralleled the layers and layers of meaning and symbolism in the text itself. Often, when I am selecting a page to use as the basis for an illustration, I am operating on an almost subconscious level. I am sure that some part of me is taking careful note of what that page already has on it, but for the most part this kind of thing doesn’t reveal itself to me until the illustration is complete and I can take a long look at my work as it lays on top of, and transforms, the imagery beneath it.

So that got kind of long and meandering. Almost all of the found paper is from my used book store job, although these days I do periodically haunt library discard book sales looking for unique books. And thank you very very much for the kind words about the way the found paper and the art meld so beautifully. That is very kind of you, and I do hope I am able to do that.

#2) Will you be selling the individual drawings after the project is complete?

Definitely, yes, I will be selling them all. A while ago, I didn’t think I would, mostly out of a strangely sentimental attachment to the work. Now that I have completed almost 350 images though, I am beginning to realize that in order for me to process this entire journey and what it means to me personally and aesthetically, I need to reach the end and then let it go. That might sound weird, but other than the few drawings I have up on my art for sale page (a caveat and an apology: that Moby-Dick alternate for page #326 currently listed as available has been purchased, I just have not had a chance to take it down from that page and I am sorry about the delay - although the alternate for page 334 will soon be up there and available), I actually do not own any of the original art I have ever made. I have given a great deal of it as gifts to good friends and family members and sold the rest of it over many years.

My wonderful wife has claimed 2 or 3 of these illustrations for herself, but other than those, I will be selling the remaining 549 or 550. I haven’t yet figured out if I am simply going to try and sell them myself, through my web site, or if I am going to try and see if I can land a gallery show. There has been some interest from a few galleries and museums, but nothing definite has been decided. I have been told I might be able to make much more money selling them through a gallery, but since I am not an artist and don’t make my living this way, money is not really an issue for me. Sure, I am always thrilled when I can make some money from a drawing I’ve made, but that’s never been the reason why I draw. When I price something, the price is based on my sentimental attachment to the piece, how long it took me to make, and the expense of the material or media (if any). Which is why on my art for sale page there are pieces ranging from $10 to $250.

So the only real question for me now is, will I begin selling the pieces immediately after I finish this series (some time in February) or will I wait and see if there is the possibility of gallery shows and sales? I don’t know that for sure yet, and I would appreciate any advice if any of you out there have any. But the good news is that if you ever wanted to own a piece of this project, you will definitely get your chance in early 2011.


  1. I have enjoyed following your work on Moby Dick.
    How about scanning the drawings on request and offering a signed print for twenty bucks?
    It would be fairly market driven - only those drawings requested would be scanned and you could limit the edition to 10-20 prints of each.
    I want to buy a drawing but I am perpetually broke.

  2. Hello Clarke, I've actually been giving very serious thought to just that kind of thing for some time now. What is currently working against me is a lack of technical know-how, a rather lousy scanner / printer, and a serious lack of the time I would need to figure the whole process out and get it started. It may have to wait until I am completely finished with these illustrations, but I will definitely be finding a way to make these available to people who might not be able to afford an original. I will be sure to make the details very clear once I finally get the process sorted out.

  3. Oh, excited now.
    I do know a print-maker, name of Hugh Bryden, who you can visit here: http://www.hughbryden.com/
    I could have a conversation with him if you'd like, he's a lovely guy.
    And yum, the chance of owning an original...

  4. Titus, let me take a peak at his site and see what I can learn. I deeply appreciate the offer of assistance, this is new territory for me and while I would love to make prints available to any who want them, I want to do it right so that they look beautiful and are still affordable.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.