Thursday, April 29, 2010

A work in progress

It happened again. What started out as something simple became something incredibly detailed. Tonight's piece will be finished and posted tomorrow evening, along with tomorrow's piece so you'll get two illustrations tomorrow. I'm quite pleased with how this one is turning out, but it still needs a few details and then a layer of prismatic colors so it's not quite there yet. What you see below already took me the better part of two hours and it's almost bedtime so it's time to put down the pens and get some rest.

For now, this is how Page 230 is looking...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 229

Title: "Swim away from me, do ye?" murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water. There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced.

7.25 inches by 10.75 inches
colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper
April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 228

Title: As if the waves had been fullers, this craft was bleached like the skeleton of a stranded walrus. All down her sides, this spectral appearance was traced with long channels of reddened rust, while all her spars and her rigging were like the thick branches of trees furred over with hoar-frost.

9.75 inches by 8 inches
ink on found paper
April 27, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where I've been, what I've been doing

Well, my long nightmare of brutal exhaustion is finally over. For now at least. Actually, I should see it will be over after I go to sleep and wake up tomorrow morning. This week started with the drive to New York and the lecture in Brooklyn, followed by the long drive back. Then I had to work a few days and finish getting everything ready for the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, or S.P.A.C.E. which was held yesterday (Saturday) and today here in Columbus. It's a very enjoyable show, but it's always extremely draining because even though I'm sitting behind an exhibitor's table I feel like I have to be "on" the whole time. Ready to talk to anyone, and usually about my art.

It was triply exhausting this year because in addition to the New York thing and trying to keep up with the Moby-Dick project I wanted to be sure I put together a new art book for the show, which meant creating 18 brand new pen and ink drawings, xeroxing them, tearing the paper, cutting the cover stock, spraypainting all 30 covers, drilling them, and then sewing the bindings. Well, my wife actually cut all the cover stock and sewed all the books together but I did all the drawing and copying and tearing and spraypainting. All in all, even though I feel dead about a thousand times over inside and my brain is less than mush, I am very pleased with how the book turned out and the show was remarkable for me. Between selling my little art books, comics and original art, I made more than I have ever made at any show ever.

Here are a few photos from the show, just so you know I haven't been goofing around and taking a bunch of time off. First, here is a photo of my table.

From left to right, you can see the minicomic All In A Knight's Work (the tiny yellow book you can barely see at the edge) that good friend Dara Naraghi wrote and I drew, my own comics Spudd 64 issues number 2, 3 and 4 (in the pale green covers - issue 1 sold out a while ago and I haven't reprinted it), my first art collection The Solar Brothers, Volume 1 from last spring (in the dark yellow covers with the spraypainted sun and clouds on the cover - these last few sold out at the show), Taproot (a really nice color collection of my older colored pencil drawings) The Solar Brothers, Volume 2 (the bright pink or red books with the spraypainted clouds and sun in the middle), the Moby-Dick promo postcards (which arrived just in time for the trip to New York and which will be sent out to all who asked for them this week - promise!) and finally a bunch of original art for sale. I sold a huge amount of art at the show, the most ever, which was a wonderful experience. All in all, things went really well. I still have some copies of The Solar Brothers, Volume 2 so if you'd like one let me know. They're 20 pages, 18 new drawings, cardstock spraypainted covers (every one different) and hand-sewn Japanese stab binding. They are $3 each plus $1 shipping.

Another fantastic surprise was finally seeing the book Emberley Galaxy: A Tribute To Ed Emberley. My friend Joe Kuth put the whole thing together, and it's a wonderful anthology of drawings and comics inspired by the phenomenal children's book illustrator (and so much more) Ed Emberley. Take a look...

Joe invited me to design the endpapers, a "galaxy" of shapes based on Emberley's shape drawings and fingerprint drawings, and I also contributed an illustration called "King Circle."

It's a beautifully designed book full of great stuff and it's only $12. You can buy copies from Joe at his blog here.

Both my wife and I are completely drained. Here, this is how she looks now after driving to and from New York and spending two solid days with me behind the exhibitor's table, the poor thing...

I couldn't have done any of this without her. She's amazing.

Okay, I am way waaaay behind on my emails, on the Moby-Dick project and on sending out the promo postcards. I'm going to start fixing all of that tomorrow morning, so look for emails from me by the afternoon, new art by the evening, and lots of postcards by the end of the week. Also, if you want some postcards (for free) or the little art book ($3 plus $1 shipping) send me an email. If you've already let me know you wanted postcards, I've saved every one of those emails so it's all in the bag for you, no worries.

I hope this made sense. I think my brain is on the floor now. Time to sleep. It's finally all over now. All I have to do (ha! ALL I have to do!) is just draw one Moby-Dick piece per day, every day, for the next year. Sounds like a vacation after the last few weeks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Photos from Brooklyn and Pete's Candy Store

Alright, as promised here are a few photos from my recent trip to Brooklyn and Pete's Candy Store. Complete with commentary.

Here is my first look at Pete's Candy Store...

Apparently it can get kind of loud at Pete's. We saw quite a few of these...

Wines & booze. You rarely see that first word in plural form like this...

A construction trailer near Pete's. The jokes just write themselves. Oddly enough, on this trip I was reading the graphic novel Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks, which has a main character named Dick Burger. Dick Burger? Dick Chicken?

This is the room where I would be giving my talk later that night. It was really quite interesting, looking like the interior of a train car with a stage at one end. Ian, one of the staff at Pete's, helped me put up their giant screen right on the stage...

Here is the oddly squished microphone I used. It looked like it had seen better days, but it worked just fine...

And here is the crowd! I can't believe how many people actually came. There's around 40 people in this photo alone, and there were more in the very back. It was really wonderful, and everyone who attended was just incredibly great to me.

Here's me, on stage, at the end of the talk. I look a little red because it was kind of hot and I was super nervous. And it was kind of cold and windy that day so my face actually got a little windburned walking around Manhattan.

One girl who attended came up to me at the end and shared this incredible tattoo of Moby Dick. I've been thinking about doing something like this once I finally finish this project...

And finally, a new friend and an old friend. First, a new friend...the amazing Aaron Cael, painter of portraits...

And last, my very good friend Aaron M. Fitzwater who has always hated being photographed. At least by me...

Goodbye Pete's Candy Store and goodbye Brooklyn, for now at least. No matter what happens, this was one of the best nights of my life. Thanks for everything!!!

P.S. - I hope these format okay. Sometimes, for some reason, there are big blank spaces or the words don't indent under the photos properly. Let me know if anything looks really weird and I'll look into it.

Hello Brooklyn!

Man, I don't even know where to begin! The Open City Dialogues gig at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn was amazing! My host, the man behind the whole OCD series, was Jamie Hook and he seemed to get word of this thing out all over the entire city. I was worried hardly anyone would come out to see me, mostly because hardly anyone knows who I am, but the place was really packed. It was just astounding. And even better, every single person I met and spoke too was just incredibly nice, warm, supportive, encouraging and genuine. I owe Jamie a huge debt of gratitude for inviting me out to be a part of this, so Jamie, a million thanks!

Let me see if I can present the evening in a more coherent way. I'll post some photos I took in a separate entry later this evening. My wife and spent most of the day wandering around Manhattan and took the subway to Brooklyn about 90 minutes before the event. Pete's Candy Store is really a pretty sharp place. We got there early so we went in, ordered drinks and sat down. Jamie arrived shortly thereafter, introduced himself, made me feel right at home, and got started setting up his laptop and the projector. There were a few technical difficulties which lasted right up until the beginning of the talk, but Jamie valiantly soldiered on through it all until everything was running smoothly.

People started arriving around 7pm and then just kept arriving. I think at one point I was just sitting at the edge of the low little stage (the lecture was given in a long narrow room that looks very much like an old train car with a small stage at one end) just kind of speechlessly staring ahead with wide eyes watching all these people pile in. I was about to pass out from nervousness at several points, but my wife just kept laughing at me (which actually helped calm me down a bit) and was relentlessly encouraging.

Best of all, one of my best friends in the world, Aaron M. Fitzwater, who I used to work with at the used bookstore here in Ohio and who now lives in Manhattan, came out to the gig after work. I had dearly hoped he would come, and we tried to coordinate things but I'm pretty lousy at turning on my cell so it was in doubt until he walked through the door. It was truly wonderful to see him again, he's a phenomenally gifted artist, and his being there meant a great deal to me.

But that's not all. As I had hoped, Aaron Cael and his friend Alexander Veer, the men behind TitleOfMagazine came out to the gig as well. And Aaron brought with him the amazing (and massive - 16" by 28") painting he made of me that accompanied the interview he did with me on their site. It looked even more incredible in person and is now safely ensconced in my turquoise blue closet studio.

After a really kind introduction, Jamie handed over the curiously squished microphone and I got started. I talked a little bit about how I'm not an artist, some of my personal history, and how I came around to this Moby-Dick project. I shared a few slides of my early photography, art and comics, and then shared a selection of my favorite Moby-Dick pieces so far, talking a bit about each of them. The whole thing lasted a little under an hour, but what shocked me the most was that at the end, rather than hopping up and piling out of the place, every single person stayed behind and a whole bunch of them asked me some very perceptive and really insightful questions. I've just never had an experience like that, and it was just really great to be able to share my art with other people and get that kind of feedback and support.

Honestly, and I hope this doesn't sound cheesy, even if nothing like this ever happened to me again regarding my art, this will always be one of my best and fondest memories. No matter what I do, or don't do, after this, being able to spend an hour with all of these people, share and talk about my art, and hopefully give them something interesting to look at was one of the best experiences in my entire creative life.

So I'm back home now, back to work, and back to a life of relative obscurity. I'm still deeply exhausted and need some rest, but I would be a liar if I did not admit that this gig at Pete's really made me feel good and got me excited again.

Wow, what a rambling post. I'm sorry it seems a little breathless and histrionic. I just don't think I can adequately convey, with words and in a blog post, how amazing the experience was, how wonderful the people were, and how strange it still all is.

Alright, I'll post a few photos later this evening and then I gotta get back to work on the art. And sleep. Definitely sleep a bit.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Going to New York + Idiotically Self-Indulgent Introspection

It's Saturday evening as I write this, but by the time you read this it will be Sunday morning and I will be several hours into my drive from Ohio to New York. White Plains, New York, to be precise. Monday night, I'll be giving a lecture? Talk? Slideshow? Presentation? Still not quite sure what to call it. Anyway, Monday night at 7:30 I'll be sharing images and talking about this Moby-Dick illustration project as part of the Open City Dialogues series at Pete's Candy Store in lovely Brooklyn. I've prepared everything as best as I could, but I'm still nervous. So wish me luck, and if you're in or near Brooklyn please come down and say hello. I know Aaron Cael of TitleOfMagazine will be there and I'm looking forward to meeting him. It would be great to see some of the faces behind the comments and the emails you've been sending.

This slight lull in making art comes at a very opportune moment for me. I generally avoid any kind of deeply personal writing on this blog for reasons I've gone into before. I've got so much on my mind right now though that I think this might be a good time to get some of it off of my chest. If you dislike "Idiotically Self-Indulgent Introspection" please read no further because I do think that what will follow will probably be incredibly self-involved, perhaps a little pathetic, and maybe deeply interesting in a voyeuristic kind of way.


Right now, I am just feeling absolutely burnt out and exhausted beyond belief. I've described at length my living and working situation, how I wake up at 5:30 AM, have a 90 minute one way commute, get home near 7:00 PM and try to find time every night to do everything life asks as well as making art. Within the past 30 days though, I've really just taken on far too much. In addition to these daily Moby-Dick pieces, I agreed to illustrate two short comic stories (one was two pages, the other was five pages) for a small press anthology and have been working diligently on trying to create another small (i.e. xeroxed and hand-bound) 20 page art book, a sequel to last year's collection The Solar Brothers. That involved making another 18 to 20 pen and ink drawings, planning a cover, writing an introduction, and so on. So in short, in around 30 days, I've created almost 60 pieces of art and haven't cut corners or "mailed it in" on any of it. But it has taken a toll. My fire is burning pretty low right now, and my mind just feels scraped down to nothing. It will be a relief to take a few days off and just concentrate on making this slideshow presentation the best it can be and enjoying time with my wife who I sometimes feel like I never see anymore. It's funny and a bit ironic, really, that when I started this project I was pretty casual about it all, thinking it would be a fun and interesting adventure. Slowly it seems like it has started to consume me though, and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I am starting to feel just a bit like Ahab and Ishmael. Ahab in the sense that I am becoming obsessed with completing this project the way Ahan was obsessed with destroying the white whale Moby Dick. Sometimes it is all I can think about, to the detriment of just about everything else in my life. When I wake up in the middle of the night, the first thoughts that leap into my head are what to do for the next illustration. I feel a bit like Ishmael in the sense that he, like me, had no idea what he would be in for when he signed on to the Pequod. By the time Ahab's madness and the true purpose of the voyage had been made clear, Ishmael was far from shore and farther from home, well beyond the point of no return, with no choice but to see things through and hope to survive. I can empathize with that.

So, yeah, I need a very short break.

One last thing that has been on my mind an awful lot lately has been the art. I think some of the exhaustion I've been feeling, and some of the still shocking (to me at least) visibility this project has gotten has really fuelled this self-doubt. See, before I started this project, the drawings and comics I had been making were lushly and obsessively detailed. I drew everything with rulers and templates, spent hours putting down layer after layer of colored pencil (or, in the case of the comics and the ink drawings, thousands of tiny hash marks for texture and patterns) and creating these elaborately detailed idols. I'm not sure if I've ever shared these but here are a few examples. First, the very first drawing I ever made as an adult, way back in 1998. It's titled Metatron...

Other, similar pieces followed, like these...

I look back at those pieces and I still like them. Actually I love them. I'm really very proud of them and of what I was able to create. But after a while, the length of time each piece took became incredibly frustrating to me. Some of those colored pencil pieces took 30 to 50 hours to make, and this was with a full time job. If I was lucky, I could make maybe one drawing per month. It became a kind of prison to me, and I needed to find some way out.

This went on for literally years and finally got so painful that I almost stopped making art. This Moby-DIck project was a beacon of hope, a way to continue making art but in a way that was drastically different. By forcing myself to complete and share one piece of art a day, every day, I would be forced to work faster, simpler, more conceptually, and in a radically different way. You can see how completely different my approach was in the very first image. Compare the above pieces to my illustration for page 001 below...

Instead of taking a month, I had created a complete drawing in less than an hour, and I was quite happy with it. This simplicity bordering on abstraction was a characteristic of many of my early illustrations for this project...

Somehow though, over time, I've found myself drifting back to those old ways of working. What's such a paradox about that is that, while it is mentally easier for me to visualize art that is rich with details and textures (like those old colored pencil illustrations up above), it is actually physically much much more agonizingly difficult to create them. So pieces like these...

...come to my mind very easily, yet they take hours and hours and hours and hours of agonizing, backbreaking, arm-cramping work. I'm always pleased with the results, but the effort is murderous and sometimes I wonder if I am perhaps working counter to what the original and personal artistic goal of this project was. I really am interested in exploring art that is far more simple, perhaps slightly abstract. The concept of doing more with less, of communicating ideas and even narratives with simple lines and shapes...that is really magnetic to me. It's what I tried to do, and think I succeeded at, with some of the very first illustrations in this project but I think I've really started drifting from that original goal and I don't yet know why.

So I really need to pause for a bit and do some deep thinking. It's complicated because I feel like, based on the kinds of comments that have been left on this blog, that many of you viewers really respond to the more detailed pieces. But it can also be dangerous to create something just because you think people will like it. That's a bad path to head down, and fortunately I haven't taken a step in that direction yet, but I worry about it. Especially since when I started this project, I honestly thought that maybe 10 or 20 people, most of them good close friends and family, would be the only ones to see it. And now I am driving to New York to give a presentation about it. Honestly, never in my wildest dreams...

Well, that's that. I need to take a few days off. I need to rest. I badly need to rest. I need to get my mind straight, my vision clear and my goals in line. I'll be back from New York late Wednesday night so there won't be any new posts until the next day. I'll post lots of photos and a full write-up about the presentation and the rest of my adventures in the city on Thursday evening. Art will resume some time on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

If you read this whole thing, I hope you don't think any less of me. This has been a strange, exhilarating, terrifying, thrilling, exhausting, challenging and unexpected journey so far. I wish I could share with you all even half of what has gone on behind the scenes. And please, rest assured, I am fully committed to completing this entire series of 552 illustrations for Moby-Dick. I've just run head first into a wall right now, and badly need a quick rest and a fresh brain.

Any advice, comments, emails, encouragement, or even honest critique would be deeply appreciated. You can leave them in the comments (which are moderated and won't appear until Thursday) or email me. The emails always mean a lot. Comments can be left anonymously as well.

Okay, wish me luck Monday night, and I'll be back on Thursday.

Matt K.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 227

Title: But calm, snow-white, and unvarying; still directing its fountain of feathers to the sky; still beckoning us on from before, the solitary jet would at times be descried.

8.5 inches by 11 inches
ink on found paper, xeroxed and enlarged 4 separate times, treated with white-out (originals and remaining copies destroyed)
April 15, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 226

Title: These temporary apprehensions, so vague but so awful, derived a wondrous potency from the contrasting serenity of the weather, in which, beneath all its blue blandness, some thought there lurked a devilish charm, as for days and days we voyaged along, through seas so wearily, lonesomely mild, that all space, in repugnance to our vengeful errand, seemed vacating itself of life before our urn-like prow.

7.5 inches by 10.5 inches
acrylic paint, colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper
April 15, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 225

Title: ...every reclining mariner started to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. "There she blows!"

17 inches by 11.5 inches
ink on found paper
April 13, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 224

Title: Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
ink on found paper
April 12, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 223

Title: ...Beelzebub himself might climb up the side and step down into the cabin to chat with the captain...

10.75 inches by 15.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
April 11, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 222

Title: ...the pursuit of whales is always under great and extraordinary difficulties...

10.75 inches by 15.75 inches
acrylic paint, collage and ink on found paper
April 11, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 221

Title: I looked round me tranquilly and contentedly, like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a snug family vault.

7 inches by 6 inches
ink on found paper
April 9, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 220

Title: "Mr. Stubb," said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up in his oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain...

6.75 inches by 10 inches
acrylic paint, ink and pencil on sketchbook page
April 9, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 219

Title: There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.

15.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint, crayon and ink on found paper
April 7, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 218

Title: Squall, whale, and harpoon had all blended together...

10.75 inches by 15.25 inches
ballpoint pen and ink on found paper
April 6, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 217

Title: ...with a lightning-like hurtling whisper Starbuck said: "Stand up!" and Queequeg, harpoon in hand, sprang to his feet.

8.5 inches by 10.75 inches
colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper
April 4, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 216

Title: ...the brief suspended agony of the boat, as it would tip for an instant on the knife-like edge of the sharper waves, that almost seemed threatening to cut it in two...

7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on found paper
April 3, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 215

Title: Seen in advance of all the other indications, the puffs of vapor they spouted, seemed their forerunning couriers and detached flying outriders.

7.75 inches by 11 inches
ballpoint pen, ink, marker and spraypaint on found paper
April 2, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 214

Title: But the sight of little Flask mounted upon gigantic Daggoo was yet more curious; for sustaining himself with a cool, indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric majesty, the noble negro to every roll of the sea harmoniously rolled his fine form. On his broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed a snow-flake. The bearer looked nobler than the rider.

8.5 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on found paper
April 2, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 213

Title: The whales had irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no distantly discernible token of the movement...

7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on found paper
March 27, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 212

Title: Those tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and whale-bone...

7.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on found paper
March 27, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 211

Title: He would say the most terrific things to his crew, in a tone so strangely compounded of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman could hear such queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere joke of the thing.

11 inches by 7.75 inches
ink and marker on found paper
March 24, 2010