Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bald Bill and Dierdra Michelle

I guess it's mostly on account of my book Moby-Dick in Pictures, but I get a lot of emails these days. I've probably gotten more email in the past year than I ever got in the ten years before that. Almost all of it is nice though, which is good. Sometimes though, I get an email that is so heartfelt, so genuine, and so intriguing that I actually feel a connection with the writer. That's very rare these days, especially with electronic communication. The email I got from artist Dierdra Michelle was like that.

Dierdra is an artist and you can see her paintings at her blog With a Raven's Wing. Below is Tattoo Tilda, 24" by 36", acrylic paint and real rhinestones on canvas.

She had somehow discovered my Moby-Dick project and emailed me asking about the best place to buy a copy. She wanted to give it to someone who was very special to her, the tattoo artist known as Bald Bill, who she described as "a sea dog from way back, a Boston boy who served in the Navy" and who was "covered in fish tattoos." Bald Bill, who runs what looks to be a phenomenal tattoo shop in Vermont called Yankee Tattoo, is the kind of person who, by the very nature of the life he's led, just seems to command a kind of respect. Honestly, when people like Bald Bill and Dierdra take an interest in my own art, I sometimes feel a bit strange. I mean, I'm just an Ohio kid who never left the state, never sailed on any sea anywhere, never served in the military, never traveled the world, and in general just lived a fairly quiet and outwardly nondescript life. Sure, yeah, the stuff that goes on inside my head would probably fry most people's brains, but very few people see that and in only comes out in the art that I make that, for the first decade or so, no one really ever saw. I don't know, maybe it's through the art that Bill and Dierdra and others found that connection.

Anyway, based on Dierdra's story as well as what she shared about Bald Bill, I wanted to do something a bit more special for them since they were adopting a copy of my book. I didn't have a copy I could send them so I wouldn't be able to draw in it, and I decided that the next best thing was to make a special drawing that they could maybe paste into the book as a big bookplate. Something to show my respect for them, and my gratitude for their kind words. This one was much larger than a usual bookplate, measuring around 6" by 8", and I consciously tried to work in elements of scrimshaw and some older, black and white tattoo linework. I think it turned out quite well and Dierdra tells me Bald Bill may even frame it instead of pasting it in the book. That really means a lot to me.

So, to Bald Bill and the artist Dierdra Michelle, many thanks and much respect. Fair winds and following seas, my friends.


  1. Nonsense, every word was well-deserved and then some. Hopefully our paths will cross some day in the future.

  2. so lovely. the drawing reminds me of my snow whale - still in the works at frame shop. cheers, lizzy

  3. Lizzy, over time, this manner of depicting the whale has become a kind of totem for me. It's like the ur-whale, or something. The primal whale of whales.


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