Saturday, January 29, 2011

My task is complete.

As I write this, it is 9:26 a.m. on Saturday morning, January 29, 2011 and I just finished drawing and scanning the final illustration. I have completed my task. You and I have walked together, from the first page of Moby-Dick to the last. As I expected, I just don't know how to even begin to sort out how I am feeling. What surprises me the most is just how sad I feel. It's really, finally over. I am truly going to miss these characters. Queequeg and Ishmael. Starbuck and Ahab. Even Moby Dick himself. These characters have really become a part of my life, a part of my daily thoughts now, for well over a year. It will be sad not to think of them, not to see them as often as I have.

I am going to miss all of you too. I have enjoyed the comments and the emails and the sharing of thoughts and ideas more than you might ever know. It has really been a pleasure and, even more so, an honor to share this project with you all. You may not know it but every one of you who commented or wrote to me or talked to me about this project became a part of it. This is as much for you all as it is for me, and I have been a lucky man to be able to share this with you.

It will be a strange day today I think. I have to wash up some brushes and give my closet studio a long overdue cleaning and sweeping. Then it will be a pleasant dinner this evening with some good friends, to celebrate the end. Beyond that, I don't know.

This is not the end, not quite yet, for this blog though. There will probably not be daily or twice-daily updates any longer, but there will be many more posts. Updates on the publication of the book, hopefully a gallery show or two, a few more pieces of Moby-Dick inspired art (I've always wanted to a suite of four illustrations of the named whales from Chapter 45: The Affidavit. The whales are Timor Tom who is scarred like an iceberg, New Zealand Jack the terror of the cruisers, Morquan the King of Japan and Don Miguel the Chilian whale marked like an old tortoise), and lots and lots of details about me selling every single illustration from this thing. I do hope you'll continue to visit, to comment now and again, to drop me a line and say hello. It should be an interesting year.

For now though, I am going to let myself feel just a little proud of this. I've looked back often over all of these illustrations and while there are always some I like more than others, I am pleased with them all. I do think I've done something good here.

Thank you, everyone, for your kindness and your companionship. Godspeed.

MOBY-DICK, Page 552

It's funny. I looked back at the very first entry for this blog, the illustration for the first page, and in my innocent exuberance I had written "Because I honestly consider Moby-Dick to be the greatest novel ever written, I am now going to create one illustration for every single one of the 552 pages in the Signet Classic paperback editiion." That made me smile. Especially the "I am now going to..." as if it were a simple card trick or a demonstration on how to make a pie crust. I had no idea where this would end up taking me.

And now, here, 543 days later, I have taken you from the first line of the book to the very last. Here is the final illustration for page 552. I think you will see, after looking back at that first page, that this one is as it had to be...

Title: On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.

8.5 inches by 11 inches
colored pencil and ink on found paper
January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 551

Title: ...then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.

12 inches by 8.25 inches
ink on watercolor paper
January 24, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 550

Title: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"

8.25 inches by 12 inches
ink on watercolor paper
January 23, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 549 (second, final version)

Title: Retribution, swift vengeance, eternal malice were in his whole aspect, and spite of all that mortal man could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead smote the ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled. Some fell flat upon their faces. Like dislodged trucks, the heads of the harpooneers aloft shook on their bull-like necks. Through the breach, they heard the waters pour, as mountain torrents down a flume.

"The ship! The hearse! - the second hearse!" cried Ahab from the boat; "its wood could only be American!"


15.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
January 23, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 549 (first, unused version)

(Simply put, I had two ideas for this piece and I just couldn't decide. So I made both of them on the same afternoon thinking it would be easier to choose which one to use once they were both complete. I ended up liking them both quite a bit, but the second one in the post above seemed just a bit more cinematic, violent, and terrifying so I went with that. Still, I like each of these quite a bit.)

Title: Retribution, swift vengeance, eternal malice were in his whole aspect, and spite of all that mortal man could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead smote the ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled. Some fell flat upon their faces. Like dislodged trucks, the heads of the harpooneers aloft shook on their bull-like necks. Through the breach, they heard the waters pour, as mountain torrents down a flume.

"The ship! The hearse! - the second hearse!" cried Ahab from the boat; "its wood could only be American!"


10.5 inches by 7.5 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 23, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 548

Title: Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea-crashing boat, the whale wheeled round to present his blank forehead at bay; but in that evolution, catching sight of the nearing black hull of the ship; seemingly seeing in it the source of all his persecutions; bethinking it - it may be - a larger and nobler foe; of a sudden, he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his jaws amid fiery showers of foam.

12 inches by 8.25 inches
ink on watercolor paper
January 22, 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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 547

Title: At length as the craft was cast to one side, and ran ranging along with the White Whale's flank, he seemed strangely oblivious of its advance...

15.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
January 21, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 546

Title: ...Moby Dick was now again steadily swimming forward...

12 inches by 8.25 inches
acrylic paint on watercolor paper
January 20, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 545

Title: While Daggoo and Queequeg were stopping the strained planks; and as the whale swimming out from them, turned, and showed one entire flank as he shot by them again; at that moment a quick cry went up. Lashed round and round to the fish's back; pinioned in the turns upon turns in which, during the past night, the whale had reeled the involutions of the lines around him, the half torn body of the Parsee was seen; his sable raiment frayed to shreds; his distended eyes turned full upon old Ahab.

15.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 19, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 544

Title: "For when three days flow together in one continuous intense pursuit; be sure the first is the morning, the second the noon, and the third the evening and the end of that thing - be that end what it may."

14.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 18, 2011

As the end nears, gratitude.

I wanted to write this now, before I finish it all. I expect to complete the final illustration, page 552, this Saturday morning, January 29th. Even though I was able to work ahead quite a bit, it was very important to me to finish the final piece on the same day that I would scan it and post it to this blog. I wanted it all to end at the same time, you see. So expect to see page 552 on Saturday at 11:11 a.m. Eastern time.

I really don't know how I am going to feel when I finish the last illustration. I can't even imagine it right now, although I am starting to see the shape of it, and starting to feel like I really will finish this. I'm going to write and post something, but I expect I'll feel so giddy with elation and so sad that it's finally over that what I write might not be as coherent as I want it to be. Hence the importance of thanking the important people now.

When I started this project on August 5, 2009, I had absolutely no idea it would become what it has. The blog was just a way for me to share the art with friends and family who lived out of state. That was really my only intention. I never would have guessed that it would come to the attention of so many other wonderful artists, poets, writers, bloggers and others. And I never in a million years expected that this would turn into a book. Never. I think some people out there imagine that I conceived this idea and launched the blog in the hopes that I would land a book deal. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As I have mentioned many times before, I am not an artist. I am a librarian living in Ohio. While knowing there will be a book continues to thrill me, I don't think I'll ever get used to it. I'm deeply grateful to everyone who helped make the upcoming book a reality, but it still feels really weird.

In my mind, this project has two aspects. The first, and most important, aspect is the art itself. The slow steady journey from the first page to the last, and what it has meant to me as a person and as someone who loves to draw. The second aspect is the book, and that seems to occupy an almost entirely different piece of mental real estate. So I am going to divide my thank-yous into two groups: those who have meant a great deal to me during the course of this project, and those who have been a crucial part of making the book a soon-to-be-reality.

The simple truth is that every person I have ever met, every person I have ever had some kind of contact with, and every experience I have ever had has been essential in shaping this project. I can think of a million and one little conversations or instances or illustrations or even pieces of music that have somehow become part of the alchemical brew which produced these illustrations. A list like that would be unwieldy and would defeat the purpose of this honest and heartfelt expression of gratitude to those that had a direct impact on this whole thing. So, first, the project itself...

Nothing, and I truly mean nothing, would have been possible without the constant, unwavering, and heartfelt support and encouragement of my best friend in the entire universe, the love of my life, my wife. This has been a long long journey, and it deprived us of a great deal of time together. The last three months in particular have been absolutely brutal, with me working in the closet studio almost non-stop, pausing only to eat dinner, kiss her goodnight, and get some sleep. And yet through these 18 months, she has never once had anything even remotely resembling a cross word for me, or for the project. She has cheered me on, told me how proud she was of me, shared the work with her friends and family and coworkers, and done every single little thing necessary to keep our daily lives running smoothly. Laundry. Grocery shopping. Car repairs. Ironing clothes. And, amazingly, she did all of that while sharing a 90 minute (one way) commute, working an extremely demanding full time job, and earning tenure at the university where she works. She is quite simply an astonishing human being, someone who I respect more than anyone else in the world, and the absolute foundation of my life and my happiness. This belongs to her as much as me and I would never have gotten past page 5 or 6 without her.

I have this friend named Brian Stephens. If you saw us together, you might never guess we were friends. He is 9 years older than me, drives around in a weird old car filled with stuff, and has all kinds of jobs. But in the entire time I have been making art, other than my wife, no one has supported me more. Brian is one of most genuine, honest, and decent human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He seems a bit crusty on the outside, but he truly has a heart of gold. He's helped me in innumerable ways, and I honestly think of him as my patron at times. I would have given it up long ago had it not been for him.

Next, I need to thank my old college friend Tobin Becker. This thing actually grew out of an offhand comment he made to me on Facebook, so without that spark I might have never started down this road.

Meg Guroff, who runs the excellent web site Power Moby-Dick, a site I have referred to almost daily for the last 18 months, was the first person to contact me about this project and the first person to interview me. She was directly responsible for getting this project wider exposure from the very beginning, and I can't imagine what might have happened without that first boost.

There are very very few people in the world that I would call a friend without ever meeting them. Scott B. in Georgia is one of the those few. Scott was the first real, non-web site affiliated, non-journalist person to contact me about this project. Through the last year and a half, he has never been out of touch for long and he has never hesitated to share his own experiences as a sailor, his thoughts as a reader, or his encouragement as a friend. There are very few people who I would say this project has really been for. Myself and my wife, definitely, but in many ways this has been for Scott too. His passion for reading and for Melville have stoked my fires when I was feeling down and kept me going when I needed an extra boost.

It is important for me to thank the artists Tom Williams, Andy Bennett and Craig Bogart and the writers Dara Naraghi and Sean McGurr, my good friends from the Columbus, Ohio arts collective PANEL. I have had the pleasure of meeting with them all fairly regularly over the years, sharing work, and talking about what looks good and what doesn't. I haven't seen them as much as I would like lately, but they were a big part of the first 180 pages and they were constantly enthusiastic about the project.

Gigantic Joe Kuth was the first person to ever publish my art in a real book, his excellent collection Emberley Galaxy, a compendium of art and comics dedicated to Ed Emberley. Joe is kind of a kindred spirit in that we share many of the same favorite authors and artists.

I have gone on and on about the artist Jeffrey Meyer many times on this blog, but if I ever had a creative mentor it would be him. Again, I have never had the pleasure of meeting Jeffrey since he lives in Washington and I am in Ohio, but I hope to someday. He is a brilliant artist and someone who I would normally be too intimidated to even correspond with. Yet in spite of his strong opinions and outspokenness, his words have always provoked me into thinking deeper about the creative process and working even harder. I owe him a lot, probably in ways he doesn't even realize, and I hope to repay it all some day.

Daryl L. L. Houston is a pretty fascinating guy who seems to do about a million interesting things. Chief among them is his excellent blog Infinite Zombies and he was kind enough to invite me to guest post over there for a group read of Moby-Dick. I don't get to correspond with Daryl as often as I'd like, but I know he's alwasy checking in on this project, occasionally leaving wonderfully insightful comments and sending me an email or two when I'm flagging. Of course, even more awesomely amazing is that he got my illustration of a Fin-Back whale from page 131 tattooed on his back. For a guy like me, who loves tattoos, that is quite possibly the highest compliment that has ever been paid to my art. Just phenomenal.

Will H. from down south has also been a constant presence, sharing my paradoxical love of both Moby-Dick and Mega Man videogames. He's been a great listener and I have shared with him some of the bumps in the road for this project, and some of the frustrations of navigating the publishing industry. He's connected me with some essential legal advice as well, and I don't know if I'd have had the courage to proceed the way I have without that.

I find it intriguing that my art seems to be so well received in Europe, and the constant and deeply deeply appreciated comments of the bloggers Lizzy G from France and poet JoAnne McKay, AKA Titus the Dog, from Scotland have become as necessary to me as breakfast. I miss them when they don't chime in and I've truly come to look forward to their thoughts on these illustrations each and every day. And they are fascinating women as well. Lizzy is a globetrotter with a delightfully unorthodox way of looking at life, and I owe JoAnne so much for selecting a few of my illustrations to accompany her absolutely brilliant poetry in her book Venti. As Joe Kuth was the first person to publish my art here in the United States, JoAnne was the very first to bring my art to Europe and that, to me, is thrilling. I believe her book is still available from her site, and it is well worth getting a copy as she is a fantastic poet.

Another gifted poet who has been inspirational to me is Hannah Stephenson who maintains an intriguing blog called The Storialist. There, Hannah selects images she has discovered online and writes perfect verses to accompany them. Even more amazingly, she keeps this up every single weekday. She somehow found out about this project and even wrote a poem about one of my illustrations, which floored me.

Gratitude and a bit of awe goes to Professor Elizabeth Renker of The Ohio State University. She wrote the foreword to the Signet Classic paperback edition of Moby-Dick that has been my guide for this project, so I was blown away when she contacted me. She is as brilliant as you would guess, but she has also been incredibly supportive of this entire thing and a pleasure to correspond with.

Thanks go to Jamie Hook who was kind enough to invite me to Brooklyn to share this art with a ton of people who stuffed themselves into Pete's Candy Store as part of his OCD (Open City Dialogues) series of lectures. Really, if it hadn't been for that appearance in New York, I don't think this project would have come to the attention of as many people as it did.

Obviously, this project was directly inspired by the artist Zak Smith and his own project illustrating every page of Gravity's Rainbow. His came years before mine and is as endlessly fascinating and labyrinthine as Pynchon's novel. Similary, Zak along with the artists Shawn Cheng, Matt Wiegle, Sean McCarthy, John Mejias and Craig Taylor have begun, but not yet completed, a similar attempt to illustrate every page of Cormac McCarthy's powerful novel Blood Meridian. Their work far surpasses my own and has been hugely inspirational to me.

Thank you to every single writer, blogger, or journalist who has ever interviewed me or written about this project, especially Aaron Cael (who also painted the best portrait of me ever made, which now hangs with pride in my closet studio), Sean T. Nortz who wrote an almost frighteningly perceptive piece about me, and David Carver who asked me some of the most probing questions I've ever had about this project.

Thank you to the regular and semi-regular visitors who comment here. People like Buck, Sandy Longhorn, the wonderful people at The War & Peace Project and everyone else who, in this haze of exhaustion and delirium, I am sure I am forgetting.

Finally, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who has visited. There are simply no words to describe what that has meant to me. I am not used to this many people. I've never shared my art so widely. It was terrifying at first. But you have all been very kind, and you have all helped this project out in a million little but essential ways that mattered very much. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. I couldn't have finished this without you.

(Okay, just a little bit more now)

Last, I have a few people I need to thank for making the upcoming book a reality. First and foremost, the artist Sophie Blackall. Really, the book started because of her, and without her there never would have been one. She saw a mention of my appearance at Pete's Candy Store last April and even though she wasn't able to make it, she was intrigued enough by the description to look me up online. She too is a fellow whale and Melville lover and thought highly enough of my work to suggest that a good friend of hers, an agent, take a look at it. Again, there never ever would have been a book had it not been for Sophie. She gets the first copy.

That agent, Seth Fishman, has been a godsend. I am probably not easy to work with and at the very beginning I was suspicious and asked a million questions and was just pretty doubtful about the whole thing. I kind of gave him a hard time, really, but he was persistent and genuine and really trustworthy. That's hard to find. I'd trust this guy with my life, and what's even more amazing is that he got this thing turned into a real book with an awful lot of hard work and not much financial reward simply because he really believed in it. That made me feel indescribably good. I know a lot of people thank their agents, but Seth really deserves it. He is incredible.

Huge thanks also go to my publisher (yay!) Tin House Books for taking a chance on a total unknown like me. They've been so supportive and so wonderful so far, and I can't imagine a better publisher. My editor Lee Montgomery and the art director Janet Parker have been shepherding this thing along every step of the way, answering my questions, and working with me to make sure this book is as awesome as possible.

Alright. Wow. I think that is everyone. I am very tired now. And I worry that long list might be riddled with typos and some shoddy grammar. But it all came from the heart and I mean it all.

Thank you, everyone. And to my wife, I love you very much.

Back to work. Only a very few pages remain.

My art, in Virginia...

Over the course of this project, I've done a lot of thinking about whales and whenever I wanted to paint or draw something purely for fun, it's generally been an image of a whale. These images were kind of thematically linked, so I began calling them "Leviathans." For a time, they were available in my Etsy shop but I've sold all of them. I'll probably do a few more, but not for a while.

Dan in Virginia ended up being given the "Red Leviathan" as a Christmas gift from his girlfriend, which actually makes this even more wonderful for me. It's still a straneg thing for me to think people like my art enough to pay for it, but even stranger (although in a good way) to think my art is worth giving as gifts to loved ones. Dan was kind enough to frame the piece and send along this photo of it hanging in his home...


It looks to be in very good company indeed, and I am quite liking the vintage Classics Illustrated Moby-Dick cover in the upper right hand part of the photo. Also, on his bookshelf, Dan has a faced-out hardcover copy of 20,0000 Leagues Under the Sea from an illustrated series of books that is very familiar to me. When I was very young, probably 6 or 7, my father bought me a copy of Charles Kingsley's book The Heroes, collecting the stories of Perseus, Theseus, Heracles, and Jason and the Argonauts. I remember that book so well, and it is a powerful childhood memory of mine. I've not been able to track one down since, and I haven't seen the book in decades, so Dan's photo brought back a rush of memories.

So there it is...my art, now living in Virginia. Many thanks for sharing the photo, Dan, and if anyone else reading has my art framed and hanging on their wall, please send me a photo. I'd love to see it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 543

Title: Their hands met; their eyes fastened; Starbuck's tears the glue.

"Oh, my captain, my captain! - noble heart - go not - go not! - see, it's a brave man that weeps; how great the agony of the persuasion then!"


6.25 inches by 10 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
January 17, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 542

Title: "What's this? - green? aye, tiny mosses in these warped cracks. No such green weather stains on Ahab's head! There's the difference now between man's old age and matter's. But aye, old mast, we both grow old together; sound in our hulls, though, are we not, my ship?"

8.25 inches by 12 inches
ink, marker and watercolor on watercolor paper
January 17, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 541 (second, final version)

Title: "Aye, he's chasing me now; not I, him - that's bad..."

7 inches by 7 inches
acrylic paint and ink on Bristol board
January 20, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 541 (first, unused version)

(This was my first attempt at the image. Obviously thinking about the ouroboros as well as E.R. Eddison's amazing fantasy novel The Worm Ouroboros. I felt that this attempt was just a bit too static and perhaps even a little lifeless. I'm not absolutely thrilled with my second attempt, in the post above this, but I do feel it has a bit more life and a bit more horror in it so I am going with that one.)

Title: "Aye, he's chasing me now; not I, him - that's bad..."

7 inches by 7 inches
ink and marker on Bristol board
January 17, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 540 (second, final version)

Title: ...while still as on the night before, slouched Ahab stood fixed within his scuttle; his hid, heliotrope glance anticipatingly gone backward on its dial; sat due eastward for the earliest sun.

8 inches by 6 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper
Jannuary 24, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 540 (first, unused version)

Something about this image just wasn't sitting right with me. For one thing, I was unhappy with the three little skulls near the bottom. Also, the sun looked more like Jupiter to me, which bugged me. Finally, I just couldn't get that word "heliotrope" out of my mind. So, days later, in a rather furious fit of sketching, I redrew this thing completely. And I'm much happier with the second version, in the post above...)

Title: ...while still as on the night before, slouched Ahab stood fixed within his scuttle; his hid, heliotrope glance anticipatingly gone backward on its dial; sat due eastward for the earliest sun.

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
Jannuary 16, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 539

Title: "Ahab is for ever Ahab, man."

7 inches by 8.5 inches
ink on Bristol board
January 15, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 538

Title: "Great God! but for one single instant show thyself," cried Starbuck; "never, never wilt thou capture him, old man - In Jesus' name no more of this, that's worse than devil's madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone - all good angels mobbing thee with warnings: - what more wouldst thou have? - Shall we keep chasing this murderous fish till he swamps the last man? Shall we be dragged by him to the bottom of the sea? Shall we be towed by him to the infernal world? Oh, oh, - Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!"

12 inches by 8.25 inches
acrylic paint and ink on watercolor paper
January 15, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 537

Title: But soon, as if satisfied that his work for that time was done, he pushed his pleated forehead through the ocean, and trailing after him the intertangled lines, continued his leeward way at a traveller's methodic pace.

7.25 inches by 10.25 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 13, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 536

Title: That instant, the White Whale made a sudden rush among the remaining tangles of the other lines; by so doing, irresistibly dragged the more involved boats of Stubb and Flask towards his flukes; dashed them together like two rolling husks on a surf-beaten beach, and then, diving down into the sea, disappeared in a boiling maelstrom...

10.75 inches by 15.5 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 13, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 535

Title: ...the White Whale churning himself into furious speed, almost in an instant as it were, rushing among the boats with open jaws, and a lashing tail, offered appalling battle on every side; and heedless of the irons darted at him from every boat, seemed only intent on annihilating each separate plank of which those boats were made.

7.5 inches by 10.5 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
January 11, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 534

Title: ...Moby Dick bodily burst into view! For not by any calm and indolent spoutings; not by the peaceable gush of that mystic fountain in his head, did the White Whale now reveal his vicinity; but by the far more wondrous phenomenon of breaching. Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more. In those moments, the torn, enraged waves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some cases, this breaching is his act of defiance.

8.25 inches by 12 inches
ink on watercolor paper
January 11, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 533

Title: "Aye, aye!" cried Stubb. "I knew it - ye can't escape - blow on and split your spout, O whale! the mad fiend himself is after ye! blow your trump - blister your lungs! - Ahab will dam off your blood, as a miller shuts his water-gate upon the stream!"

10 inches by 6.25 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 10, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 532

Title: "Turn up all hands and make sail! he travels faster than I thought for..."

7.75 inches by 10.75 inches
colored pencil on found paper
January 8, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 531

Title: "Men, this gold is mine, for I earned it..."

6 inches by 9.25 inches
colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper
January 8, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 530

Title: ...thus to and fro pacing, beneath his slouched hat, at every turn he passed his own wrecked boat, which had been dropped upon the quarter-deck, and lay there reversed; broken bow to shattered stern. At last he paused before it; and as in an already over-clouded sky fresh troops of clouds will sometimes sail across, so over the old man's face there now stole some such added gloom as this.

6.25 inches by 10 inches
ink on found paper
January 7, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 529

Title: In an instant's compass, great hearts sometimes condense to one deep pang, the sum total of those shallow pains kindly diffused through feebler men's whole lives.

10 inches by 6.25 inches
ink and marker on found paper
January 7, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 528

Title: For so revolvingly appalling was the White Whale's aspect, and so planetarily swift the ever-contracting circles he made, that he seemed horizontally swooping upon them.

8.25 inches by 12 inches
ink on watercolor paper
January 7, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 527

Title: ...then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its gripe.

8.5 inches by 7 inches
charcoal and pencil on found paper
January 4, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 526

Title: Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of a biting shark, slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within his mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into the open air...

6 inches by 9 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
January 3, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 525

Title: But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia's Natural Bridge, and warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of sight.

10.75 inches by 15.5 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
January 2, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 524

Title: As they neared him, the ocean grew still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves; seemed a noon-meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an isolated thing...

15.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and charcoal on found paper
January 2, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 523

Title: "There she blows! - there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!"

15.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
January 2, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 522

Title: "Aye, toil we how we may, we all sleep at last on the field."

7.5 inches by 9 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
December 31, 2010

Interview with Jeffrey Meyer

Jeffrey Meyer is an artist whose work I admire enormously. I have been lucky enough to share quite a few emails with him, and his thoughts on art and the creative process have had an enormous impact on my own thinking. He has also been kind enough to answer just about every question about art, collage, paints and ink I have sent his way. He was recently interviewed by The Ballast magazine and it is well worth a read.

Friday, January 14, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 521

Title: "Is Ahab, Ahab?"

7 inches by 8.5 inches
ink on Bristol board
December 31, 2010

Chapter 132: The Symphony

The text that inspired the illustration for page 520 below is taken from an absolutely heartbreaking exchange that Ahab shares with Starbuck the day before the final, awful, inescapable clash with Moby Dick begins. Chapter 132, "The Symphony," is one of the most powerful chapters in the entire novel, and for those of you who may not have read the book or may have forgotten Ahab's soliloquy, I would like to reproduce part of that exchange here. I am not ashamed to admit that these words move me to tears each time I read them.

Starbuck saw the old man; saw him, how he heavily leaned over the side; and he seemed to hear in his own true heart the measureless sobbing that stole out of the centre of the serenity around. Careful not to touch him, or be noticed by him, he yet drew near to him, and stood there.

Ahab turned.

"Starbuck!"

"Sir."

"Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky. On such a day—very much such a sweetness as this—I struck my first whale—a boy-harpooneer of eighteen! Forty—forty—forty years ago!—ago! Forty years of continual whaling! forty years of privation, and peril, and storm-time! forty years on the pitiless sea! for forty years has Ahab forsaken the peaceful land, for forty years to make war on the horrors of the deep! Aye and yes, Starbuck, out of those forty years I have not spent three ashore. When I think of this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the masoned, walled-town of a Captain's exclusiveness, which admits but small entrance to any sympathy from the green country without—oh, weariness! heaviness! Guinea-coast slavery of solitary command!—when I think of all this; only half-suspected, not so keenly known to me before—and how for forty years I have fed upon dry salted fare—fit emblem of the dry nourishment of my soul—when the poorest landsman has had fresh fruit to his daily hand, and broken the world's fresh bread to my mouldy crusts—away, whole oceans away, from that young girl-wife I wedded past fifty, and sailed for Cape Horn the next day, leaving but one dent in my marriage pillow—wife? wife?—rather a widow with her husband alive! Aye, I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck; and then, the madness, the frenzy, the boiling blood and the smoking brow, with which, for a thousand lowerings old Ahab has furiously, foamingly chased his prey—more a demon than a man!—aye, aye! what a forty years' fool—fool—old fool, has old Ahab been! Why this strife of the chase? why weary, and palsy the arm at the oar, and the iron, and the lance? how the richer or better is Ahab now? Behold. Oh, Starbuck! is it not hard, that with this weary load I bear, one poor leg should have been snatched from under me? Here, brush this old hair aside; it blinds me, that I seem to weep. Locks so grey did never grow but from out some ashes! But do I look very old, so very, very old, Starbuck? I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though I were Adam, staggering beneath the piled centuries since Paradise. God! God! God!—crack my heart!—stave my brain!—mockery! mockery! bitter, biting mockery of grey hairs, have I lived enough joy to wear ye; and seem and feel thus intolerably old? Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God. By the green land; by the bright hearth-stone! this is the magic glass, man; I see my wife and my child in thine eye. No, no; stay on board, on board!—lower not when I do; when branded Ahab gives chase to Moby Dick. That hazard shall not be thine. No, no! not with the far away home I see in that eye!"

MOBY-DICK, Page 520

Title: "...forty years on the pitiless sea! for forty years has Ahab forsaken the peaceful land, for forty years to make war on the horrors of the deep!"

8.25 inches by 12 inches
acrylic paint on watercolor paper
December 31, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 519

Title: From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.

6 inches by 10 inches
acrylic paint on found paper
December 31, 2010

Thursday, January 13, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 518

Title: Hither, and thither, on high, glided the snow-white wings of small, unspeckled birds; these were the gentle thoughts of the feminine air; but to and fro in the deeps, far down in the bottomless blue, rushed mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks; and these were the strong, troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea.

8.25 inches by 8.25 inches
ink on watercolor paper
December 30, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 517

Title: ...and another ship, most miserably misnamed the Delight, was descried.

10.75 inches by 7.75 inches
acrylic paint, ballpoint pen and ink on found paper
December 30, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 516

Title: ...one of those red-billed savage sea-hawks which so often fly incommodiously close round the manned mast-heads of whalemen in these latitudes; one of these birds came wheeling and screaming round his head in a maze of untrackably swift circlings.

8 inches by 8 inches
ink and marker on found paper
December 29, 2010

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 515

Title: ...Ahab gazed abroad upon the sea for miles and miles, - ahead, astern, this side, and that, - within the wide expanded circle commanded at so great a height.

15.5 inches by 10.75 inches
acrylic paint, charcoal and ink on found paper
December 29, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 514

Title: ...Ahab seemed an independent lord; the Parsee but his slave. Still again both seemed yoked together...

8.25 inches by 12 inches
colored pencil and ink on watercolor paper
December 28, 2010

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 513

Title: As the unsetting polar star, which through the livelong, arctic, six months' night sustains its piercing, steady, central gaze; so Ahab's purpose now fixedly gleamed down upon the constant midnight of the gloomy crew.

8 inches by 11.5 inches
ink on found paper
December 28, 2010

Tentative but exciting news about the upcoming book

Exciting news! After sharing some ideas with my soon-to-be-publishers Tin House Books, the book collecting all of this Moby-Dick art now has a tentative title and a tentative publication date. It's looking like the book will be titled Moby-Dick In Pictures: One Drawing For Every Page and that it will be published in either October of this year (to coincide with the first British publication of Moby-Dick) or November of this year (to coincide with the first American publication of Moby-Dick).

This is really thrilling and still kind of terrifying. It almost doesn't seem real to me yet. For me, still, this project mostly means an exhausted me sitting in a closet drawing or painting pictures of harpooneers and whales, not publishers and books and ISBNs and my name on the spine of something sitting on some bookstore shelf. Still, Tin House has been a sheer delight to work with, and I can't thank them enough for taking a risk on this project and giving it a chance to live on outside this blog and the internet.

Back to work for me. I only have 19 pages left to go before my task is complete.

MOBY-DICK, Page 512

Title: Ahab, - all other whaling waters swept - seemed to have chased his foe into an ocean-fold, to slay him the more securely there...

6.75 inches by 10 inches
ink on watercolor paper
December 27, 2010

Monday, January 10, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 511

Title: "They tell me, Sir, that Stubb did once desert poor little Pip, whose drowned bones now show white, for all the blackness of his living skin..."

7.75 inches by 10.25 inches
ink and marker on found paper
December 27, 2010

Sunday, January 9, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 510

Title: ...then in a voice that prolongingly moulded every word - "Captain Gardiner, I will not do it. Even now I lose time. Good bye, good bye."

10.75 inches by 15.5 inches
acrylic paint, charcoal and ink on found paper
December 26, 2010

Saturday, January 8, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 509

Title: "My boy, my own boy is among them. For God's sake - I beg, I conjure" - here exclaimed the stranger Captain to Ahab, who thus far had but icily received his petition. "For eight-and-forty hours let me charter your ship - I will gladly pay for it, and roundly pay for it - if there be no other way - for eight-and-forty hours only - only that - you must, oh, you must, and you shall do this thing."

7 inches by 8.5 inches
ink on Bristol board
December 26, 2010

Friday, January 7, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 508

Title: ...and while they were yet in swift chase to windward, the white hump and head of Moby Dick had suddenly loomed up out of the blue water, not very far to leeward...

10.75 inches by 15.5 inches
acrylic paint, charcoal and ink on found paper
December 25, 2010

Thursday, January 6, 2011

MOBY-DICK, Page 507

Title: Next day, a large ship, the Rachel, was descried, bearing directly down upon the Pequod, all her spars thickly clustering with men.

10.75 inches by 7.75 inches
ballpoint pen on found paper
December 25, 2010