Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 361

Title: And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely.

5.25 inches by 9.25 inches
ballpoint pen on found paper
August 30, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 360

Title: Now, the spouting canal of the Sperm Whale, chiefly intended as it is for the conveyance of air, and for several feet laid along, horizontally, just beneath the upper surface of his head, and a little to one side; this curious canal is very much like a gas-pipe laid down in a city on one side of a street.

10.75 inches by 7.25 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 29, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 359

Title: This is what I mean. If unmolested, upon rising to the surface, the Sperm Whale will continue there for a period of time exactly uniform with all his other unmolested risings. Say he stays eleven minutes, and jets seventy times, that is, respires seventy breaths; then whenever he rises again, he will be sure to have his seventy breaths over again, to a minute. Now, if after he fetches a few breaths you alarm him, so that he sounds, he will be always dodging up again to make good his regular allowance of air. And not till those seventy breaths are told, will he finally go down to stay out his full term below.

7 inches by 8.5 inches
ink on Bristol board
August 29, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 358

Title: ...and what is still more, his windpipe has no connexion with his mouth. No, he breathes through his spiracle alone; and this is on the top of his head.

8.5 inches by 7 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 29, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 357

Title: Instead of sparkling water, he now spouts red blood.

10.75 inches by 7.75 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on found paper
August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 356

Title: Steel and wood included, the entire spear is some ten or twelve feet in length; the staff is much slighter than that of the harpoon, and also of a lighter material - pine.

6.25 inches by 8.75 inches
ink on found paper
August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 355

Title: And some three centuries ago, an English traveller in old Harris's Voyages, speaks of a Turkish Mosque built in honor of Jonah, in which mosque was a miraculous lamp that burnt without any oil.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 26, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 354

Title: ...Jonah was swallowed by the whale in the Mediterranean Sea, and after three days he was vomited up somewhere within three days' journey of Nineveh, a city on the Tigris...

8.5 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ballpoint pen, collage and ink on found paper
August 25 ,2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 353

Title: One old Sag-Harbor whaleman's chief reason for questioning the Hebrew story was this: — He had one of those quaint old-fashioned Bibles, embellished with curious, unscientific plates; one of which represented Jonah's whale with two spouts in his head...

7 inches by 8.5 inches
ink and pencil on Bristol board
August 24, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 352

Title: In fact, placed before the strict and piercing truth, this whole story will fare like that fish, flesh, and fowl idol of the Philistines, Dagon by name...

5 inches by 7.75 inches
ballpoint pen, colored pencil and ink on found paper
August 15, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 351

Title: ...Perseus, the prince of whalemen, intrepidly advancing, harpooned the monster...

10 inches by 6.25 inches
ink on watercolor paper
August 15, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The illustration for page 350...

...is my rendition of this photograph of the Great Man Himself, a copy of which now hangs in my studio directly in front of my drawing table. He watches every line I make. I'm quite pleased with the resemblance between the photograph and the drawing, really.

MOBY-DICK, Page 350

Title: There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.

4 inches by 6.75 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 14, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 349

Title: But the reason of this is obvious. Gases are generated in him; he swells to a prodigious magnitude; becomes a sort of animal balloon.

10.75 inches by 8 inches
colored pencil on found paper
August 13, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 348

Title: It so chanced that almost upon first cutting into him with the spade, the entire length of a corroded harpoon was found imbedded in his flesh, on the lower part of the bunch before described.

8.5 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on paper
August 12, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's time

Tomorrow, I am going to begin a vacation. This will be the first true vacation time off I've taken in over two years. Yes, I have traveled to other cities and states quite a bit in those two years, but in every single case it has been for my day job (i.e. to conferences and workshops) or, in the case of my trip to Brooklyn in April of this year, to promote this project. So even though I did spend a day walking around Manhattan with my wife, the prior day was almost entirely devoted to my presentation. In short, it still felt like a working trip.

So I'm leaving tomorrow with my wife and going someplace very far away and very hot. My wife has expressly, and quite wisely, forbidden me from bringing any art supplies, sketchbooks, found paper, or copies of Moby-Dick. We won't be bringing our laptop nor will we have access to the internet. I'm probably not even going to bring my cell phone. In short, I will be doing very little beyond laying flat on my back under the scorching sun, staring up at the clear blue sky as the hours drift away, sleeping, swimming around a bit, eating some delightful meals with my wife and thinking about absolutely nothing. It's been so very long that honestly I've completely forgotten what any of that feels like.

Charles Schulz, the man behind the comic strip "Peanuts," once said something to the effect that working against a daily deadline felt a lot like constantly running down the tracks in front of a train. And he's absolutely right.

If all goes well, you probably won't notice I'm gone. At least for a while. I finished some art well ahead of time, scanned the images, and scheduled them to be automatically posted while I am away. I won't be able to moderate the blog comments or answer emails until I return, but I really think that's okay.

I expect to be back some time next week. Until then...

MOBY-DICK, Page 347

Title: At the instant of the dart an ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound...

11 inches by 8 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
August 12, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 346

Title: In most land animals there are certain valves or flood-gates in many of their veins, whereby when wounded, the blood is in some degree at least instantly shut off in certain directions. Not so with the whale; one of whose peculiarities it is, to have an entire nonvalvular structure of the blood-vessels, so that when pierced even by so small a point as a harpoon, a deadly drain is at once begun upon his whole arterial system...

11 inches by 8 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
August 10, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 345

Title: As the three boats lay there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down into its eternal blue noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any sort, nay, not so much as a ripple or a bubble came up from its depths; what landsman would have thought, that beneath all that silence and placidity, the utmost monster of the seas was writhing and wrenching in agony!

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
ink on found paper
August 10, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 344

Title: But no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke, than all three tigers — Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo — instinctively sprang to their feet, and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their barbs; and darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their three Nantucket irons entered the whale.

6.5 inches by 5.25 inches
ink on found paper
August 10, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 343

Title: "I say, pull like god-dam," - cried the Indian.

8 inches by 5.5 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 8, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 342

Title: At this juncture, the Pequod's keel had shot by the three German boats last lowered; but from the great start he had had, Derick's boat still led the chase, though every moment neared by his foreign rivals.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
August 8, 2010

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.

MOBY-DICK, Page 341

Title: Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in the rear, swam a huge, humped old bull, which by his comparatively slow progress, as well as by the unusual yellowish incrustations overgrowing him, seemed afflicted with the jaundice, or some other infirmity.

10.75 inches by 7.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
August 8, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 340

Title: "Go along with you," cried Flask, "it's a lamp-feeder and an oil-can. He's out of oil, and has come a-begging."

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
August 7, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"It is the eighth day of the eighth month..."

"...I am uncertain about the year. But why?"

That line, spoken between Flay and Rottcodd the Curator announces the birth of Titus Groan, 77th Earl of Gormenghast, in Mervyn Peake's masterpiece Titus Groan. The Gormenghast novels are my second favorite books, and this entire project was almost going to be an attempt to illustrate Titus Groan, the first in the trilogy, instead of Moby-Dick. Ultimately, Ahab won the day.

It has been customary for as long as I have had a web site or a blog for me to wish young Titus Groan, imaginary though he is, a happy birthday on the eighth day of the eight month. In my haste to begin this project last year, I overlooked the importance of this day and it's time to make amends.

Happy birthday Titus. As Sourdust later intones, "A heavy day...always a heavy day."

(The illustration below, of the child Titus on the way to his christening, is by Mervyn Peake and presumably copyrighted by his estate.)

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.

MOBY-DICK, Page 339

Title: The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau, Derick De Deer, master, of Bremen.

9.5 inches by 8 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 6, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 338

Title: If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps ...

11 inches by 8 inches
acrylic paint and charcoal on found paper
August 6, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 337

Title: If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist his brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to square.

4.75 inches by 7.75 inches
acrylic paint, ink, marker and pencil on found paper
August 6, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 336

Title: For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men.

7.25 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and charcoal on found paper
August 6, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 335

Title: In some particulars, perhaps, the most imposing physiognomical view to be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full front of his head. This aspect is sublime.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint, charcoal, collage and ink on found paper
August 5, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 334 (second, final version)

Title: To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of this Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist has as yet undertaken.

10.75 inches by 7.75 inches
charcoal, ink and marker on found paper
August 5, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 334 (first, unused version)

(Again, I finished this late last night, scanned it, posted it, and then went to sleep with a mildly swelling itching brain. As I lay in bed trying to get some sleep, an entirely new illustration for this line of text - one that better connects the whale and phrenology - slowly swam to the surface of my consciousness. It was much too late at night for me to start work on it, but I am going to finish it today, scan it, and post it later tonight. I'll also be posting the next illustration for page 335. I'm truly not certain why there has been such an abundance of visions lately. In general, it's a very good thing but I am going to be working harder to clarify my ideas for each piece so that I can continue to progress through the novel rather than make 2 or 3 illustrations for each page. I'll save some of these ideas for the second time I make an illustration for every page of Moby-Dick a few years from now. Ha!)

Title: To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of this Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist has as yet undertaken.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
ink and marker on found paper
August 4, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Page 326, finally

I've decided on using the first, more colorful illustration for page 326. That piece was the first one I drew and it was the first image that came to my mind when I began thinking about that line of text. Additionally, that is the piece I was leaning toward from the very beginning, primarily because I tend to adore excessive detail and riotously bright colors. Many of you left comments that echoed my thinking about the two pieces as well, which was that the first was closer to what I felt Melville was trying to convey in describing the sperm whale's physiology as a vast collection of bizarre and brutal shapes that had somehow been joined together by a higher power. Even my wife, who at first preferred the second, more realistic illustration of the yellow whale, changed her mind after reading the text more closely and studying the two pieces again. So this is the illustration that will appear in the book...

I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of you who took the time to look at the two illustrations and leave your thoughts, whether you did so in the comments or by sending me an email. It wasn't meant to be seen as a vote, but I did ask for your feedback and you shared that with me in abundance. That really means a lot. It is sadly all too easy, while working on this project alone in my closet studio and posting the images in a blog, to lose sight of the fact that many people are now following along with these illustrations and in a very real sense participating in this journey with me. The comments you leave behind, even when they are critical, help ground me and re-connect me with the rest of the world. And of course, when they are complimentary, they make me smile a great deal. So thank you, every one.

Finally, and I am fervently hoping this doesn't seem like a shameless plug or some avaricious and filthy money grab, the second illustration for page 326 is available on the art for sale page if anyone wanted it.

Alright, enough of that. Back to work.

MOBY-DICK, Page 333

Title: Now, how had this noble rescue been accomplished? Why, diving after the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there; then dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards and upwards, and so hauled out our poor Tash by the head.

5.25 inches by 8.75 inches
colored pencil, ink and marker on watercolor paper
August 3, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 332

Title: But hardly had the blinding vapor cleared away, when a naked figure with a boarding-sword in its hand, was for one swift moment seen hovering over the bulwarks. The next, a loud splash announced that my brave Queequeg had dived to the rescue.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint, colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper
August 1, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 331

Title: ...but, on a sudden, as the eightieth or ninetieth bucket came suckingly up — my God! poor Tashtego — like the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well, dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight!

7.25 inches by 10.25 inches
acrylic paint, ink and marker on found paper
August 1, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 330

Title: Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his erect posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging main-yard-arm, to the part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
August 1, 2010