Thursday, January 27, 2011

Questions people ask me

Well, I guess this will probably be the last installment of Questions people ask me. It’s been enjoyable to share these things with you though. Thanks to everyone who ever sent a question or two my way, I really appreciate the interest in this project.

#1) Did you run out of found paper?
I actually had a few people ask me this, in emails and in the comments, because I have been using plain white watercolor paper or Bristol board for quite a few of the final illustrations. No, I haven’t run out of found paper or old books at all, I still have stacks and stacks of it. The reason I have been using the found paper a lot less frequently here at the end is simply because as the terrifying climax looms, the scope of the novel narrows until the only thing that matters is the Whale. My thinking about the art, and my confidence in my own abilities, has followed that pattern. At the beginning, with the entire novel ahead of me, I wanted to explore those layers of meaning and symbolism, and that was best done through layering the paint and the ink over the found pages to see what sorts of strange juxtapositions and hidden illuminations that would create. Here, at the end, I more often than not know exactly what I want to show in an illustration. Now, the elements of the found paper are sometimes intrusive, fighting against the art rather than working for it. In some ways, it has been a courageous move on my part because with these illustrations on plain white paper, the art will succeed or fail entirely based on the choices I make. Thankfully, I feel like these recent pieces have been very strong, and I think I have learned an awful lot about not just how to draw or paint, but what I want to draw and paint. I hope that makes a bit of sense.

#2) When will you start selling the art?
For now, the important thing is holding on to it until the book is completed, checked for color correctness, and on its way back from the printers. Since the book is tentatively scheduled for release some time in October or November of this year, I am thinking I will be able to start selling the art in late summer or early autumn. There is a pretty good chance that there will be a gallery show near where I live in Columbus, Ohio, timed to coincide with the release of the book so a number of the best pieces will be sold there. My wife is going to claim a few pieces, and there are a few others going to friends, but I think I will still have hundreds and hundreds of really good illustrations to sell myself. Unless some other gallery opportunities mysteriously make themselves known, I am thinking I will just sell it all myself on my Etsy shop page. I’ll probably load up 10 or 20 pages at a time so that I don’t get overwhelmed with shipping (if I am lucky to sell them!) and work through it all in order from beginning to end.

#3) What project will you do next?
Ha! I am getting asked that a lot! It’s nice though, and it makes me smile that people like what I did here enough to want to see me try something else. That really does make me very happy, and it’s very kind of you all.

Remember, I am not an artist at all. I am a librarian really, so that career is my primary responsibility. I am absolutely certain I will continue making art though, and I actually have some tentative ideas in mind. I don’t know which one I will choose, and I will probably wait a bit to see what sorts of strange coincidences in life nudge me in one direction or another. If you’re burning with curiosity though, here are some of the other future projects I am thinking about. I warn you, it’s a strange and somewhat nerdy list.

-One illustration for every page of David Lindsay’s Gnostic science fiction novel A Voyage To Arcturus, written in 1920. That is also one of my favorite novels, and one that is very important to me.

-Finally finishing my series of 111 Robot Master illustrations, a personal homage to my childhood love of the Mega Man video game series. I’ve only completed 12 and it’s been almost 2 years since I worked on them, but they were enormous, if slightly dumb, fun and I think I might need something purely personal and enjoyable after this marathon. You can see some of the earlier ones at this link.

-A series of illustrations for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

-Illustrations for either “The Bookmark” or “Red Snow,” two brilliant short stories by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

-A 240 page completely wordless fantasy graphic novel loosely based on the early Rush song “The Necromancer.”

-Illustrations for E.R. Eddison’s 1922 heroic fantasy novel The Worm Ouroboros.

I really have no idea at all right now. Maybe I'll just disappear completely and leave only these Moby-Dick pieces behind. We’ll see. But it will be a while before I start up again. I miss my wife too much, and I don’t want to lose an entire summer again like I did in 2010, where I was shut up in the closet studio almost every day drawing.


  1. Matt,

    I've really enjoyed each page that you have created. Can't wait to see the whole book published.

  2. All great to read, but what did my mind really go 'ping' at? Heart of Darkness, obviously (I love Conrad) and, especially,
    A 240 page completely wordless fantasy graphic novel loosely based on the early Rush song “The Necromancer.”
    Oh, how I love Rush.

  3. I love Love Heart of Darkness, a couple of years ago, I started to illustrate it... ...

  4. Brad, thank you, that means a lot to me. What started as a purely personal endeavor really turned into something shared, which is not what I expected at all. But it has been a fantastic and moving experience to take this journey with so many other people. I'm truly happy you enjoyed the art.

  5. Titus, "Heart of Darkness" is a bit intimidating because it has already been so thoroughly explored by other artists, filmmakers and writers. And one of my many weak areas is drawing human beings, so with no whales or monsters (besides Kurtz), "Heart of Darkness" would be a massive challenge.

    The "Necromancer" graphic novel sounds like such a delirious bit of fun that it's hard not to think about. Of course it's such a basic fantasy story (3 heroes set out to battle the evil Necromancer in his haunted tower) that I could really do all sorts of things with it. But yeah, it is really tempting.

    Strangely, I am (very pleasantly) surprised that you are a fan of Rush! Generally, my friends make fun of me for liking them, but then again many of them are slaves to pop culture and only like what they feel they have to like in order to be perceived as "cool." A bit sad, actually.

  6. Bill, that is really fascinating! And I had actually written the above comment (about so many others already exploring "Heart of Darkness") before I even read your comment. There is something so deeply universal and human about that novel that I think it attracts a lot of people. Of all the projects I am thinking about, that one intimidates me the most.


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