Monday, October 31, 2011

My art comes to life

Jakob Vala at Tin House has created an incredible video to promote my book, and he has quite literally made my art come to life. This is really amazing...

Hand-drawn book plates just about done

A few weeks ago, I wrote that anyone who wanted a hand-drawn book plate could email me their address and I would make something for them and send it to them. I thought of this as a small way that I could show my gratitude to everyone who has purchased a copy of my book, and I really mean that. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would, and I am still not done, but the first batch is ready to send out and I will make sure I get these in the mail before I leave for Portland on Wednesday. Here are the first nine...


Oddly, I was unable to find any blank book plates, so these do not have any adhesive on the back. You'll have to find a way to paste them down yourself, but any good glue or spray adhesive should work fine. And they are all hand-drawn too, so every one is different.

My book gets mentioned all over the place...

I have been so crushingly busy I haven't even had a chance to read all of these yet, so I'm curious what they say. News of the book has traveled far and wide though, and here is a collection of links where people have written about Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page...

Blogger Paul Debraski writes about me on I Just Read About That....

I am discussed, along with some photos of my book and my official book launch event at The Wexner Center for the Arts, at this post on The Longest Chapter.

The staff at Poets & Writers has some kind words about me right here.

And finally Jeff Baker writes about the book for The Oregonian.

This is just surreal. Really, honestly surreal.

Books by the Banks 2011 photos

I spent last Saturday, October 22, as a guest at Cincinnati's wonderful Books by the Banks festival. This was a first for me as I had never been to anything quite like this, but everyone treated me very kindly. The festival ran from 10am to 4pm and admission was free, so there was quite a crowd. I had a 30 minute lunch break at 11:30 (which was shortened to about 4 minutes since I was happily signing and drawing in copies of my book for people who came out) and I was one of four guests on the "Re-inventing the Classics" panel from noon to 1pm. The rest of the time, I drew until it felt like my arm was going to fall off.

As is generally the case, the afternoon was documented in pictures. Here they are. First, the large sign with the layout of the room and my table assignment. I was at table 26 with a new friend, the mystery writed Dan Andriacco...



And here is the banner for the whole thing. See, I'm used to sitting behind tables at small press comic shows which usually have hastily xeroxed signs taped or stapled to any available surface. Don't get me wrong, I do love those shows very much and that's where my heart will always be, but it was impressive to be a part of something like this that had a big budget and was very slickly handled...


Me, by the banner...


And me, by the banner with my patented Warrior Face...


I got there quite a bit early, as you can tell...


The panel rundown...


And a terrifying close-up of me, with the panel rundown behind my head...


I didn't understand this sign at first. "Meet the authors. Have books signed. Buy books." I always thought you were supposed to buy books and THEN have them signed. Later, I realized that everyone was free to wander around the author room, pick up as many books as they wanted, and then to pay on the way out after chatting with the authors...


Here is my table, waiting for my arrival. I believe that Books by the Banks is handled almost entirely by the fine folks at Cincinnati's Joseph Beth Booksellers and it was so nice to be able to just show up to a table that had already been set up and stocked for me. They did a phenomenal job with this whole affair...


Me, ready to go...


And me with my tablemate Dan Andriacco. He makes a bowtie look goooood...


Up near the front of the room, my wife found this display with copies of my book and a cool Moby-Dick bag...


Here is me, thrilled to be on a panel...


At one point, I was actually gently admonished by another one of the panel members for paging through my own book while someone talked. Apparently I wasn't paying close enough attention or something. Reinventing the classics!!!

Anyway, me answering an audience member's question...


Part of the audience...


Talking to folks at the end of the panel...


And talking to folks at my table...


Drawing in someone's copy of my book...


I was amazed at how many copies of my book I sold. I'm very proud of it, and I think the price is very reasonable, but it is not an inexpensive book. So many people bought it right there though that I was just stunned. Near the end of the day, there were very few copies left...


On the floor next to me was a stack of hardcover copies. I started the day with 17 hardcovers and ended with just these four...


All in all, I had a great time, and I owe a big debt of thanks to Howard Cohen, Joseph Beth Booksellers, and everyone at Books by the Banks. Thanks for having me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beehive Books photos

Last Thursday, October 20, I had a fantastic time doing a book talk and a signing at Beehive Books in Delaware, Ohio. Beehive is a true independent bookstore, but it is by no means small. It's a gorgeous space in a really great little town with a fantastically friendly and helpful staff, lots of unique titles, and plenty of chairs to relax in while you browse.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the evening since this entire book publicity thing has been a completely new experience to me. The weather was actually fairly lousy that night as well, with rain on and off, high winds, and some unseasonably cold temperatures. Mel Corroto, the owner of Beehive, welcomed my wife and I warmly and plenty of people came out to listen to me talk. After, I signed and drew in their books for another few hours and headed home, tired but thankful. Here are a few photos from the event.

My first view of the store, from the street. I am quite fond of their logo...


This is what you see as soon as you walk in their front door. It's really a nice space...


Out back there is this astounding mural, full of bits of glass, mirrors, tiles, colors...it's almost impossible to describe. And it is huge, wrapping around most of the building. Here are a few shots...



The space next door to Beehive is currently empty, waiting for something called the Global Gallery to move in. So for now, Beehive is using it as their "annex" to host events and other things. That is where my talk would be, as indicated by the signs...


And this is how it all looked before everyone arrived...


Me, practicing my talk. I didn't have a projector so I was unable to show any art on the wall, but I did bring some to pass around and show people since it was such a close and personal experience.


And here is one of the many displays of my book, with one of Beehive's flyers for the event...


The crowd fills in. There were a lot of people there! Almost every single chair was filled, and Mel had to bring in a few more every 5 minutes at first...


Off I go, talking about the project...


After the talk, I drew a picture in everyone's book...



And then I drew in a big stack of the books that Mel had for the shelves...


Very tired after the long evening. It was a work day, after all...


Mel and her staff very kindly presented me with this beautiful little art book, a collection of Moby-Dick inspired pieces that were shown in a recent gallery show. What is amazing is that I was literally one click away from ordering this book myself while I was working on my own project, but I didn't want what I saw to influence me too much so I passed, reluctantly. It was very kind of them to give this to me.


I can't say enough good things about Beehive Books. They treated me fantastically well, and the store really is well worth the trip and hours of browsing. I'm looking forward to going back there myself since I saw quite a few titles I was interested in. If you are ever anywhere near Delaware, Ohio (just north of Columbus) stop in. They'll take good care of you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Many more "Moby-Dick" illustrations available in the shop

I have been holding back a number of the very best and very largest pieces until now, when the book is officially out. There will be some fantastic pieces at the gallery show in Portland, Oregon in November (details to follow) but in the meantime I have added 17 more to my Etsy shop and will be adding 10 or so more each day for the rest of this week. Take a look, and hopefully you'll find something you like.

24 square feet of art

Some time after I finished this project, my editor at Tin House Books commissioned from me a 4 foot by 6 foot painting on canvas replicating my illustration for page 538 of Moby-Dick, which illustrates the line "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!" Here is my original drawing...


I was simultaneously intimidated and inspired by the challenge. I had never really painted anything but apartment walls before I started this illustration project, and although I feel like I developed some skill with a brush while working on these Moby-Dick pieces, I was not at all sure I was ready for the challenge of a canvas. Especially a canvas this enormous. Still, I just couldn't find any reason to say "no" other than fear, and I'm not going to ever make any decisions based on that. So I agreed. And got started.

It took forever. It was far far harder than I could have possibly imagined. It was, at times, absolute warfare. It was physically and mentally draining, and by the time I was done, I wanted it out of my room and out of my house, never to be seen again. But it turned out magnificently, and I am grateful for the challenge. Here are some photos documenting the months-long process of creating this monster.

First, the canvas arrives, with my wife next to it to show the scale...


Next, unwrapped and up on folding chairs. It was far too large to fit inside my closet studio, and I don't have an easel of any kind, so I was forced to get creative. Ultimately, this arrangement worked very well...


Immediately, I realized I was going to need to gesso this thing more than I had expected. Down to the garage for a few coats of spray gesso first...


There was spray gesso hanging in the air EVERYWHERE. After two coats of that, I gave the canvas two coats of brush gesso..


Finally ready to begin. In order to maintain proportions as best as I could, I printed out the drawing and drew a grid over it. Then I gridded out the canvas with thin black thread to give myself an idea of where things should fall. Since Moby Dick is the central idea of this piece, I started by painting in the White Whale in order to build everything else around it...


More painting of the Whale...


A close-up, so you can see some of the texture and the black threads...


Almost done. I was very pleased with how the Whale was a very different shade and texture of white. It held up very well against the gessoed canvas...


A shot of the end of the second stage of the piece...


Next, it was time to begin the letters. I was looking forward to this part quite a bit...


It proved to be much more tiring and exacting than I had expected. Me, taking a break, rather exhausted...


The first coat of red is finally finished. In the original piece, since I used red ink for the letters, there are subtle gradations in each letter. I wanted to reproduce that with the paint as well as I could, so I watered the paint down a bit and gave each letter 2 or 3 coats so that there would be some depth and variety to the text behind the Whale. It's hard to see in this photo, but you can get some idea...


Finally finished with the letters! And this is how I felt...


Then I realized I still had a lot of work left on Moby Dick himself and this is how I felt...


Moby Dick is rather finely detailed with a network of creases and wrinkles. It was delicate work, even at this scale, so I went over and over that vast white shape, dropping in lines here and there. Again, this took an eternity...


More linework...


And finally, after I have no idea how many hours and weeks of work, the piece is finished. And I am completely drained...


In the end, I was deliriously happy with how well it had turned out. It really is a powerful, mighty painting. And I'm grateful to my editor for posing this challenge to me. At first, immediately after I finished, I thought I would never ever work at this scale again. It was simply too unwieldy. After contemplating the finished piece for a few days though, I want to start in again. I'd like to tackle something this large and see it hanging on my own wall. We'll see.