Thursday, June 30, 2011

My first signing EVER

Last weekend, as part of my real job as a librarian, I attended the ALA (American Library Association) Annual Conference in New Orleans. It was really quite an exhausting and busy trip, with sessions and workshops most of both days, so I barely had time to take in any of the sights of the city.

However, my publisher Tin House Books did have a booth in the exhibitor's hall and they invited me to do a signing on Sunday morning from 11am to noon. The book is still at the printer, but they brought quite a few copies of the blad (which stands for "book layout and design" and is basically a heavily abbreviated [like, only 6 to 12 pages] version of a book - I am guessing that a blad is sort of the art book version of a prose ARC, which stands for advanced reading copy), a huge stack of those gorgeous promo postcards they made up (thanks to the Tin House intern Vanessa who tirelessly collates, bands and stickers these together!) and a bunch of their Fall catalogues with one of my drawings on the cover.

I was really not sure at all what to expect. I mean, I've worked a lot of years in bookstores and I have seen a lot of author events. Some have been heavily attended and generated some fantastic discussion. Others have been just the author and one or two friends or relatives who lived in the area, sitting uncomfortably in a field of empty folding chairs and trying not to feel embarrassed for each other. I was a bit terrified that the signing would end up being just me sitting there and talking to my wife and the people from Tin House, but I vowed to do the best job I could.

And man, it was CRAZY! I mean, not crazy like huge lines of people snaking down the long aisles of the exhibitor's hall, but crazy like there were actually people there waiting for me when I got there. It blew me away. It was such a wonderful experience and every single person I met was truly, genuinely nice as well as interested in the book.

So let's see, I got to meet Deborah Jayne, one of the people at Tin House who handles publicity and marketing. I've exchanged many emails with her, but she was incredibly cool in person. As soon as I sat down and got started, I got to talk to two really sharp librarians from Minnesota who had been waiting for a bit for me to arrive. I probably tormented them with too many questions about how bitterly cold I imagined it to be in Minnesota, but they were really good sports and we talked all about the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Zak Smith and his art, how I ended up using all those found pages and different media, and so on. I even had the chance to draw an extremely quick and rather rough portrait of Captain Ahab on notebook paper for one of them. It really started things out well.

In no real order, I also got to meet Amanda, another talented artist who has a site called Tumbling Elephants and who I believe has a day job at either Tin House or for Publisher's Group West (I'm embarrassed I can't recall).

I finally had the chance to meet Matt Dembicki, an artist and cartoonist whose name I feel like I've been seeing for years now. Matt is a regular at Columbus, Ohio's S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) and he actually has copies of my the very first comics I ever made and xeroxed myself, Spudd 64, which was really cool to find out. Oddly enough, in spite of how many times we've been in the same room, this is the first time I've ever really met him. He must have bought those "Spudd 64" comics when my wife was at the table and I was wandering around at S.P.A.C.E. Anyway, Matt is a great guy and he just edited an absolutely fantastic anthology of comics called Trickster...


...which you can and really should pick up right away. It's a beautifully produced book, and the art and the stories in it are really quite astonishing.

Matt took a few photos of my drawing pictures and talking to people while apparently gesticulating wildly, so I am thieving a few from him...


(I am drawing a whale on the back of someone's postcard here. You can see the blad right in front of me, with the old book cover design. Also, a stack of the promo postcards, the Tin House Fall catalogue, and my trusty Hello Kitty inkpen case. I never go anywhere without that thing.)


I also got to meet a friend of Daryl L.L. Houston and still hope to meet the man himself some day. There was someone there from Publisher's Group West, a few reps from Bookforum magazine...I'm sure I am forgetting some people. But man! It was way more than I expected, and in just an hour. Maybe people really are getting interested in this book!

I want to thank Tin House, Deborah Jayne, intern Vanessa, and everyone else who put this all together and shipped it all out from Portland to New Orleans so I could hang out for a bit. And most importantly, I want to sincerely thank everyone who stopped by and talked to me about the book. You've really helped me get off to a great start, and it was wonderful beyond belief to talk to people face to face instead of just through email.

I am on Facebook too

I'm generally a pretty private person, so my personal Facebook page is kind of restrictive. I have well under a hundred friends, all of whom are either family members or longtime friends. Basically, its only people who are related to me or who I've had a beer and a few hours of conversation at least once with.

However, I do understand how important it is to have some kind of presence this way, so I created an "artist" page on Facebook. It's right here...

Matt Kish, Artist (ha!)

Just look for this picture...


You can click over there and "like" me so that the posts will show up in your feed. That's where I'll be posting all the Facebook-type stuff about publicity, book promotion, photos from anywhere I might show up to share the book, and stuff like that. I mean, I'll be posting a lot of that here on this blog too, but since so many people use Facebook, it's a good way to sort of centralize everything and get all your news in one place.

So maybe you could "like" me some time. That'd be pretty cool.

The long journey begins

Well, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page will be out in just about 3 months on October 11 and the publicity machine is revving up. This is all so very strange to me, but so far things have gone pretty well and most people have been genuinely nice and, most importantly, normal. It should be an interesting next few months though.

Now that the book's debut is drawing closer, my publisher Tin House Books has really started to promote it in some genuinely wonderful ways, starting with this mention on their blog. Of course, to those of you who have followed this project from the beginning, almost two years ago (!), these images are hardly sneak previews, but to everyone who found out a bit later, or may be learning about the book just now, these teases will hopefully get them interested enough to want to learn more.

And in an even stranger twist, that blog post contains a link to the Twitter feed that Tin House has started, which will contain even more sneak previews and other tidbits about the book for the next few months. I don't have a Twitter account myself (you'd probably laugh if you saw my phone, which is the farthest thing from a smart phone in the world) but I'm really kind of fascinated and thrilled at how Tin House is using all sorts of digital channels to promote the book. I hope to help as much as I can, so you might end up seeing more interviews with me and mentions of the book on other sites and blogs in the next few months.

Anyway, check out the blog post, and the Twitter feed too.

Listen to me talk about all kinds of stuff

My good friend Kyle Wallace has several online projects. His videogame blog GoodGameGet is always a great read, but his personal site Dokutsu seems to be where Kyle’s true heart really is. On that site he posts his art and photography, which I am enormously fond of, as well as what he calls his radio projects. Of particular interest here is an in-depth interview Kyle did with me about two years ago, just before I started the Moby-Dick project. Kyle came over with his odd little digital recording device and we spent a few good hours talking about art, life, memories, creativity, and lots more. Kyle recorded the entire conversation, edited it beautifully and put it together as a kind of "This American Life" audio piece. You can listen to the entire thing right here.

I believe you have to stream the audio and not download it, but if you ever wanted to know what I sounded like, this is your chance. It was strange and bittersweet for me to listen to this again. So much has changed since that time. While I am still not comfortable with the label, I do grudgingly accept being called an artist now. I could go on and on but I think it’s best you just listen for yourself, and then ask me if you’re wondering about anything.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Upcoming appearances: ALA Annual Conference, New Orleans, June 26

In real life, I am a librarian.

In an odd turn of events, my publisher Tin House Books will have a booth at this year's ALA (American Library Association) Annual Conference, in the exhibitor's hall, this weekend in New Orleans. Since I will be there for my job, they have kindly invited me to spend some time at their booth on Sunday June 26th. The book is not yet complete, and I don't even think they will have galley copies, but Tin House does put out a wonderful literary quarterly journal as well as an astonishingly wide array of fantastic fiction and non-fiction so there will be lots to check out.

I'll be sitting there from 11am until either noon or 1pm with a big stack of those beautiful promo postcards with art from the Moby-Dick that Tin House made up for me (I know some of you who bought art from me have some of these), signing them, talking about the book, and so on. So if you're a librarian and happen to be at the Conference (it's absurdly expensive to get in, so I can't imagine anyone coming to it unless they were somehow associated with libraries), stop by and visit. I'll even draw you a picture if you like.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My art, in Ohio!

As you probably know, it gives me great joy when people who own my art send me photos of it framed and hanging on their walls. What you might now know that my wife is very fond of my art as well, and we have begun to frame a few of her favorite Moby-Dick pieces. So here is my own art, framed and hanging on my own walls. First, a piece which my wife tells me is actually her favorite thing I have ever drawn, the illustration for page 218, hanging on the wall above our bed. This illustrates the line Squall, whale, and harpoon had all blended together...


The piece is actually just attached to the matte and floating in the frame, so that all the tactile details of the paper, including the blotches of ink and the fold in the middle, are visible. At first I wasn’t too sure about that kind of presentation, but she has an incredible eye for these things and after seeing the finished frame it really looks incredible.

Next, my illustration for page 300, which illustrates the line Thus, while in life the great whale's body may have been a real terror to his foes, in his death his ghost becomes a powerless panic to a world. This one is framed and hanging over our tiny little computer desk. You can see a bit of my workhorse of a scanner in the bottom...


This one is matted and has a very simple brushed steel frame. My wife refers to this piece, which is a white charcoal drawing over acrylic paint, as my “ghostly technique,” which to me sounds awesome.

More from me soon, and if you’ve got a piece of my art framed and hanging on your wall, please email me a photo. I’d love to post it on the blog, with your permission and your identity carefully protected. And if you’d rather keep things private, that’s fine too, just send me an email so I can see my art in its new home.

Everybody wins!

After a lot of soul-searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world of galleries is just an uncomfortable fit for me. I do realize just how much a good gallery and gallery representation can do for an artist, but for a lot of personal reasons, it just doesn’t feel like the right thing for me to do. Because of this, there will not be any gallery shows for these Moby-Dick pieces.

However, this is actually a very good thing, for me and for everyone, I think. First, I feel a lot better and a lot more at peace with this decision, and peace of mind is worth more than anything. Second, I will be able to share and even sell more of this art in ways that I feel more comfortable using, and hopefully to the many people who have visited this blog since the early days of the project and encouraged me every step of the way. Many of the really good pieces that I had set aside for gallery shows are now available to anyone, and a few of the pieces that had been originally claimed were never paid for so they're back. So let me know if there is a piece you’ve had your eye on and I'll take a look.

The art book comes out on October 11, so leading up to that date, I will be adding 10 to 20 random illustrations from the Moby-Dick series to my Etsy shop every 2 weeks or so. I am hoping that most of those will sell down so that the shop doesn’t get cluttered with too much art, but we’ll see. I’m still not sure how in-demand these pieces are. I decided to add a wide and random assortment of pieces from the series so that there will always be a lot of different facets from the book represented on the shop. That way, if you were looking for an early piece showing Ishmael, you should be able to find that, but if you wanted a portrait of Ahab or an image of whaling, you should be able to find that too.

I’ll probably post something on this blog each time a new batch of pieces go up in the shop. Once the book is out, I’ll be adding more and more pieces each week for anyone new who just found out about the project. Plus, it’s always a lot cooler when you can say you own a piece of art that’s in a real art book, I think. Even if you don’t visit this blog regularly, I think Etsy allows for some kind of RSS feed to notify people when new pieces are added to a favorite seller’s shop, but I’m not sure how to set that up. Can anyone clarify this for me?

I’m still very very new to this, so please forgive me if I stumble a bit while I try and get this all ironed out. I want to be as fair as I can to everyone, and I definitely want my art to go to good homes. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or advice. I’ll be happy to answer anything, and I could probably use a bit of guidance now and them.

Okay, the first batch of pieces is up in the shop so go take a look!

I've been doing some work...

It’s strange that almost a month has gone by since I last posted. After the frantic pace of posting at least one illustration per day for almost 18 months straight, this is such a strange lull. I really have been quite busy though. First, I had a birthday earlier this month, and I spent some time in New York City with my wife on a small and much needed mini-vacation. Second, after a flurry of last minute details and some incredible bending-over-backwards to get things just right from my amazing publisher Tin House Books, the art book Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, is finished and has officially been sent to the printers. That is an incredible feeling!

I’ve also been working on two small illustration projects that, for the time being, I need to keep under wraps. However, I can share this photograph of four of the recent drawings, which I’m sure you will discern are whale and Moby-Dick-related...


I’ll be able to share the full images and much more information about them within a month, I think. It’s exciting.

I expect the posts here to pick up the pace a bit now. Summer is always a bit slow for me since I like to spend time outside whenever I can and it’s been 2 years since I was able to enjoy a summer with my wife. However, with the book coming in October and a few publicity events already shaping up, I thing things will only speed up from here until the end of the year. Thanks for sticking with me and checking in now and again, I really appreciate it.