Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Title: "They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence."

6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper
September 30, 2012

OTHER COMICS: The Vortex Guardian: Fear

Somehow I neglected to mention that the second and third installments of my comic The Vortex Guardian: Fear, a side story for my good friend Leighton Connor's Laser Brigade comic, have been posted. It is to be a 47 page story, posted each Wednesday in 5 page installments. You can either start from the beginning, start part two on page 06, or start part three on page 011. I believe Leighton will have part four posted some time today. So take a look, and see what this guy is all about...

October music: Mab Crease by Reigns

For Halloween, a nicely chilling tale from the band Reigns titled Mab Crease. I really love this song because it is a weird tale of the sea, something which is obviously dear to me. This is also from their third album, The House on the Causeway. First, the song.

And here, the words.

Widowed at 25
Mabel Crease did not cry.
Not on the day that he went to sea.
No, not on its anniversary.
Not after 2 years, not after 10,
Not after 50, not even then.
Mabel Crease did not cry
For she knew he was still alive.

Every dawn, so they say,
She walked along the great causeway.
She scanned the seas for his sail
For fifty years to no avail.
And then one day, a silver flare
A small hand mirror protruding there.
Coral handled, inset with stones
She held it up and all explodes.

The mirror in the shingle
That erased every single
Crow’s foot and line scrawled on her by time.
It did not reflect
The yellow aspect
Steeped in her eyes, her teeth and the webs
Of her flailing hands
That clawed at the sand
As she fell prone on the stones that now span
Like a vortex of seeds
Flashing and free
Black kernels of madness, unfettered, released.

That’s when she began to weep
For the girl that she’d once been
For the face under glass
And for her husband lashed to the mast.

She stared entranced and explored
Her youthful face, the tight contours.
The nights alone, the local bar:
They had not made a single mark.
But moving out from behind
Another face with blazing eyes.
With hair astir, on fetid air
It was her husband, reflected there.

And that’s when she knew
The glass was askew
And its coral frame a swift portal to death.
Her husband was gone
Gnawed-on and torn
Now afloat somewhere down
Deep, deep in the depths
A green riddle of bones
Inset with stones
Like that mirror that she tossed back into the sea
“No, no more of that”
She hissed and she spat
Into a dark, rolling coil of scree.

My art, in two places...

Paul was one of the small handful of people to contact me right around the time my book Moby-Dick in Pictures was released. He is an educator, something that matters a great deal to me, and shared a lot about himself and his family with me. While we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, I do feel we forged a kind of friendship through our emails. Paul acquired a few of my illustrations, and he recently sent along this photo of them framed and hanging. What I especially liked about this was that Paul hand-selected the wood for the frame and oversaw the entire process himself. That kind of personal attention, love and care assures me that my art is being taken care of very well. Here are those pieces, hanging in Michigan, framed along with the postcard reproductions of them.

Also, in my wonderful July visit to the island of Nantucket, I met Anne M. We had some intriguing conversations, and Anne also acquired a few of my illustrations. She recently sent along this photo of them, framed and hanging. It does my heart good to know that some of my whale art is living on the island of Nantucket. That really seems like a great honor to me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October music: Everything Beyond These Walls Has Been Razed by Reigns

Turning now to Reigns' third album The House on the Causeway, which is described thusly:

Between Black Ven and Golden Cap, a slim, man-made promontory of granite cobbles extends unnecessarily a half-mile out into the English Channel. Nothing of note lies at its end or at any point along its length. This apparent futility has ensured that the causeway has, over the years, been excluded from all but the most painstaking of cartography. Even to the naked eye it seems to elude detection for the almost perpetual gathering of fog that seems to hover over its entire reach, and its brief moments out from under this oppressive vapour are instantly curtailed by the ravening attentions of the tides. Only the briefest window of opportunity arises to explore this altogether pointless finger of slimed and stinking rock.

It was during one of these rare moments that Reigns Operatives A & B came to record a perplexing audio phenomenon. It is said that the fog that so vigorously clings to the causeway has an inexplicable irregularity: that when it reaches a certain density, purportedly when light can no longer penetrate it, it emits a high pitched ringing similar to the onset of tinnitus. Apparently, it is this ringing that generates in the listener a temporary but profound befuddlement of the senses that has caused many an excursionist to wade, disorientated, into the sea.

Unfortunately, despite an abundance of fog, the Operatives heard nothing but the slow lapping of the glutinous, clotting water. Furthermore, due to the fog's impenetrability and their vehicle's inability to negotiate the cobbles, the Operatives tarried too long and were roughly ushered by the tide to the causeway's furthest point.

Stranded upon a raised and wooded tumulus they found themselves face to face with a most unexpected sight: a house; a house that had most assuredly not been visible from land. The house was unlocked and uninhabited, but in no way abandoned for its chambers were in a state of high expectancy, as if visitors had been, for a prolonged and industrious period, eagerly awaited. The Operatives, for want of anything better to do, entered the house and, for reasons that still seem to elude them, moved from room to room, taking photographs and recording the strange resonations that seemed to emanate from the walls.

They left the house almost two days later in a state of high distress and with the recordings you now have before you.

It was only as they made their way back to the mainland and the house was out of sight that they were at last aware of an insistent high pitched ringing...

This one actually seems to have a video which, according to the description on YouTube was "illustrated in pen and ink by Phlegm Comics and produced by Medlo." I think they did some really good work here. First, the video, followed immediately beneath by the lyrics.

Remember the school
The swinging tyre over the pool
Your den in the glade
The arbour where you used to play.

Remember the park
The bandstand lit up in the dark
The old carousel
All burning in hell.

You cross the threshold the poison will take hold
Boil your bones to a silvery stream.
There’s nothing out there but mud and a nightmare,
Picked over bodies gone gleaming and green.
The water is stagnant, the land is a magnet
For everything vile, crawling, profane.
I am your father so heed what I tell you:
Everything beyond these walls has been razed.

The shale and the shell
The sails rolling over the swell
The rowboats and tugs
All turned to dust.

You leave this attic you’ll break up like static
Particles wheeling up in the air.
There’ll be nothing left there but mud and a nightmare,
Your burning ribbon you wore in your hair.
Your friends and your teachers, the railway sleepers,
The vines and the creatures: all up in flames.
I am your father. Please don’t go out there.
Everything beyond these walls has been razed.

Some wonderful imagery there. I especially like the part about how the poison will "boil your bones to a silvery stream" as well as the land being "a magnet" and the very air causing one to "break up like static". Reminds me in some ways of Hodgson's The House on the Borderlands and some of Lovecraft's better stories. Eerie.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I've come to a decision.

I've been feeling really bogged down. It's time, actually far past time, to move forward. So I've added all remaining art - Moby-Dick illustrations, first series of Heart of Darkness illustrations, miscellaneous monsters and other stuff - back to my Etsy shop one last time.

The art will remain available and for sale until the end of Sunday November 11, this year. After that, I will take what is left, give a few pieces to close personal friends and destroy the rest. I've done that in the past and that kind of creative destruction has always fuelled new avenues of creativity for me.

So that's it. About two more weeks to get whatever pieces you may have had your eye on. Email me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Title: "Then he began again, assuring me Mr. Kurtz was the best agent he had, an exceptional man, of the greatest importance to the Company..."

6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper
September 30, 2012

The greatest endorsement of all time

My good friend Tim McClurg recently had this to say about my art and my Moby-Dick project:

"No one can craft an obscenity like Kish."

That may be the greatest, and hopefully most accurate, thing anybody has ever said about me. Ever. Thanks Tim.

October music: I Will Burn for This by Reigns

Again, from the Reigns album The Widow Blades. First, the liner notes:

On the Tuesday morning following the disappearance, Tommy Spokes, a vagrant that lived in the old Anderson shelter behind the allotments, handed himself in to the local constabulary. He had just come off a mammoth drinking jag and was in a state of high distress, both physical and mental, and believed that he had committed an atrocity he could not recall. His wounds indisputably corroborated that he had been involved in some act of violence but with no reports, witnesses or victims the police were faced with the first of many investigative cul-de-sacs.

The song:

And the lyrics:

That Sunday
I drank all day
With some men
I’d met on the quay.

Woke up Tuesday
One eye was swollen shut
And every bone was broken
In my right hand.

And all the buttons were gone
From the front of my shirt
And from my hairline
To my throat
Four scratches ran red raw.

I’ve got a feeling
Such a terrible feeling
That something went wrong.

What have I done?
And where have I been?
I think that when I blacked out
That maybe I hurt someone
This time I will burn
I will burn for this.

I remember a precinct
And some flashing lights
I think that I hid in a doorway
And I was shaking all over
Why was I shaking all over?

What have I done?
And, oh God, where have I been?
I think that when I blacked out
That maybe I killed someone
This time I will burn
I will burn for this.

I will burn for this
(You will burn for this).

More on Four and a Half Minutes Missing

Yesterday I posted a video for the song Four and a Half Minutes Missing by the band Reigns. I had forgotten that their releases often contain extensive and interesting liner notes for each of the songs, so I wanted to share that here as well. From the album The Widow Blades, the liner notes for Four and a Half Minutes Missing:

The Blades disappearance has had no shortage of theorists to painstakingly dissect every aspect of the case and most of these theories hinge on the so-called "fading ailment" (the Widow's own terminology - so coined in her correspondence to Professort Hauthner). Millicent Blades had a virulent opposition to extreme wintry conditions and to snow in particular. This peculiar aversion had the effect of rendering her momentarily unconscious when exposed to snowfall - a kind of seasonal narcolepsy. She writes that this state would be preceded by "a strange weightlessness as if I was, for a moment, ceasing to exist." In his reply, Professor Hauthner outlines the possibility that she could have been suffering from a psychosomatic malady resulting from the combined stresses of her phobia and the lack of a normal sleeping pattern. Her final bout of unconsciousness, which occurred during a small flurry in the winter of 1977, she timed at exactly four and a half minutes.

These episodes, according to taped conversations posthumously retrieved from the Professor's attic, were coupled with a perplexing vision in which she would find herself in a field in the middle of a fierce snowstorm. Through the blizzard she would see an approaching figure, an elderly woman with outstretched arms. She would always regain consciousness before the woman could reach her. This vision continued throughout her life with one subtle variation: as Millicent Blades grew older the approaching figure in the vision became younger until, as revealed in the final recording, she was no more than eight years old, the same age she'd been when the seizures started.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Title: "He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold, and he certainly could make his glance fall on one as trenchant and heavy as an axe. But even at these times the rest of his person seemed to disclaim the intention. Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy -- a smile -- not a smile -- I remember it, but I can't explain. It was unconscious, this smile was, though just after he had said something it got intensified for an instant. It came at the end of his speeches like a seal applied on the words to make the meaning of the commonest phrase appear absolutely inscrutable."

6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink on watercolor paper
September 30, 2012

I drew a picture of Woody Allen

Did you know that? Perhaps it comes as a surprise. Dan DeWeese, editor in chief of the fine Propeller Magazine, a "quarterly lit, art, film, and culture magazine founded in 2009" invited me to contribute six illustrations to accompany a series of pieces they are running on directors and film. You can see my Woody Allen piece and read the fascinating essay it accompanies, The Influence of Anxiety by Benjamin Craig at that link.

If you know anything about me as an artist, you know that in general I don't draw people that look like people. That made this task very difficult for me. In addition, I have actually never seen an entire Woody Allen movie from beginning to end. That, however, made this task easier because I was able to look at Woody from an entirely unbiased perspective and zero in on the visual cues that would communicate his likeness. I think my piece turned out quite well.

In the coming weeks, there will be essays about and illustrations by me of Federico Fellini, Linda Lovelace, something about "The 'New Hollywood' of the late 60s/early 70s, with special attention paid to The Monkees (the success of that tv show bankrolled Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces), Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty," something showing "a discussion of Sight & Sound's new poll that ranks Hitchock's Vertigo as the new 'best film' and moves Orson Welles's Citizen Kane to second place," and finally director Barbara Loden and her film Wanda. Do take a look.

October music: Four and a Half Minutes Missing by Reigns

In a recent email exchange with someone, I again addressed that with very few exceptions, I despise music with lyrics. Often I find the intrusion of the singer to be unbearably egotistic and self-aggrandizing on their part, and by the close of even a three minute pop song the urge to physically throttle the singer is almost impossible for me to control.

I did mention exceptions though. Reigns is one of my favorite bands. I find everything about their music, from the conceits that form the concept of each of their four albums to the sonic experimentation to the fascination with darkness, magnetic. To date, Reigns has released four albums, and it depresses me how little is written about them online. These albums are We Lowered A Microphone Into The Ground from 2005, Styne Vallis from 2006, The House On The Causeway from 2009 and The Widow Blades from 2011. You can, and should, read a bit about each album on their site here because the premise of each is amazing. The first two had very little in the way of human voices, but Reigns has been adding more and more vocal elements to each album. The reason I can tolerate is that, with their songs, Reigns tells stories. I like story songs.

So now, in the fading days of October, with Halloween approaching and 2012 dying more and more with each sunset, I've been listening a great deal to Reigns. As I work through the Heart of Darkness illustrations and some other stuff for The Alligators of Abraham, their chilling, gloomy, disquieting and disturbing stories are the perfect soundtrack. I'd like to share a few of their songs this week, along with the lyrics which are incredibly well crafted and integral to the experience.

This song, Four and a Half Minutes Missing, is from their most recent album The Widow Blades. The premise of the album is, from the band's web site, as follows:

Whilst growing up in the country, Reigns Operatives A & B, from an early age became aware of the bizarre, yet inconclusive, fate of a woman from a neighbouring village. It took some years (and a great deal of wading through a seemingly endless stream of local conjecture) for them to ascertain that the woman in question was Millicent Blades: a middle-aged widow who had disappeared during the blizzard of 1978, vanishing somewhere between the villages of Tup’s Fold and Tone Gulley. Nothing was found of her save a set of interrupted footprints and a pile of clothes – all turned inside out.

The intervening years have provided much in the way of outlandish theories pertaining to her disappearance but very little in the way of answers. In a possibly futile attempt to reverse this situation and still haunted by the stories they heard as children, Operatives A & B went back to the area to document her final journey across the countryside. Using equipment selected purely on the basis of portability and resistance to the elements (with perfect synchronicity, their week of recordings coincided with the heaviest snowfall since 1978), they recorded at all the key locations that the widow visited (or is thought to have visited) on her final, fateful day: including, amongst others, her house and that of her physician, an Anderson shelter (home to a vagrant who was briefly suspected of her murder), a former tea room that she had frequented since the fifties, a disused tannery, and (for the climactic 20 minute closer, “The Mounds”) an excavated series of barrows; the approximate location of her disappearance.

The recordings proffered no conclusive answers: whether this was due to the inclemency of the weather, the passing of time and the resultant cooling of the trail, or the operatives’ disastrous decision to record the entire album under the influence of Hybrium Sulphate (a monstrously unpredictable chemical that the widow had herself been prescribed) is a moot point.

A brilliant starting point, and the eleven interconnected songs that follow create a startlingly realistic mosaic of the last day of Millicent Blades' life. Four and a Half Minutes Missing has just enough of the fantastic to discomfit the listener and trouble the sleep. It tells of a woman who, later in her life, began to be troubled by mysterious blackouts which always lasted, strangely, for exactly four and a half minutes. No video, but this link will play the song. Read along with the lyrics below for the full effect. And use headphones. Better that way.

She seized up
At the casement
What she saw
Set her trembling

There was a click in her skull and a dullness descended and spread
Reeled on the spot and lowered and buckled her legs
She came down in the hallway and fell through the floor like a mist
Passed through the cellar and into the ground with a hiss

She came to
In a pasture
Two feet of snow
Just like last year

Beneath an oak
A tiny figure
So terrifying
So familiar

It outstretched a hand and began to advance through the snow
She could not distinguish the face extinguished and low
Then her blood slowed as a smile bisected the head
Four feet away and the greyness ascended and spread.

And a half
Two minutes and a half
And a half
She’s been gone for four
Four minutes and a half.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Come see me at the Old Worthington Library tomorrow

On Saturday October 20th, I will be at the Old Worthington Library in Worthington, Ohio (northwest of Columbus) from 2pm to 4pm talking about my Moby-Dick project, how it started and how it became the book Moby-Dick in Pictures, my process, and I'll be bringing and sharing some original art. I believe registration is required, but you can find out how to do that at the link above. As a librarian, I am really looking forward to this, and the time allotted plus the intimacy of the setting means I'll be able to have some really fantastic discussions with whoever shows up. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

"...Terrifying Angels with Many Heads"

Via Robert Kloss, check out this free downloadable fiction and poetry anthology from NAP Magazine titled, amazingly, Anthology of Etiquette and Terrifying Angels with Many Heads. Every story and poem contains both of those elements. It's bizarre and indeed wonderful. I only wish I had known about earlier. I might have bombarded them with a few drawings to see what happened.


Title: "One of them, a stout, excitable chap with black moustaches, informed me with great volubility and many digressions, as soon as I told him who I was, that my steamer was at the bottom of the river."

6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper
September 29, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Title: "Can't say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered as a permanent improvement."

6.75 inches by 11 inches
ink and marker on watercolor paper
September 25, 2012

"The Alligators of Abraham" cover, complete

Thanks to good friends Diane Chonette of Tin House Books, Andy Bennett, Tom Williams, and especially Carlette Jewell, each of whom helped me out a great deal with the digital side of things, the hand-drawn and hand-assembled full cover for Robert Kloss' book The Alligators of Abraham is complete. I'm really quite proud of it, and it turned out exactly as I had imagined.

Huffington Post on J.A. Tyler and Chris Anthony

Two good pieces in the Huffington Post recently.

J.A. Tyler (pictured above), is the founder of Mud Luscious Press. He is also a writer and an editor and discusses that and much more in this. Mud Luscious is publishing Robert Kloss' novel The Alligators of Abraham and their stable of fiction and poetry is remarkable. J.A. was even kind enough to call me a genius in the interview, which came as quite a surprise.

(An aside here. Did you know that it is very very important for me to know what someone looks like? This is the first picture I have seen of J.A. Tyler, even though he and I have been corresponding about The Alligators of Abraham for the better part of year. The fact that I did not know what he looked like unsettled me. A lot. I really need to be able to see who I am dealing with. Perhaps it is because I am so visual, I don't know. But it really bothers me when I can't.)

Photographer Chris Anthony whose recent Kickstarter campaign to fund his photography book Seas Without a Shore was successful (I am very excited to see my copy of the book) is profiled in this piece along with a slideshow of his work. Take a look.

And don't be weirded out if I end up asking some of you who email me to send me a photo of you as well. It helps.

161st Anniversary of "Moby-Dick"

As you can tell from that image above, Google's banner for today, this is the 161st Anniversary of the publication of Moby-Dick. Well, one of the 161st Anniversaries, anyway. Moby-Dick was first published on October 18, 1851 in Great Britain. It was published in the U.S. about a month later, on November 14, 1851. Maybe this blog will celebrate twice!

To celebrate this fine day, I'd like to share a great many pieces of art inspired by the book and by Herman Melville himself. Some of these I was aware of, and inspired by, when I began my own project. Some of these I discovered later. What continues to astonish, fascinate, and delight me is the incredibly wide range of ways in which this great book has been explored, interpreted, visualized, recontextualized, and shared. It remains an honor for my own art to be a part of this great body of work, and I hope that my illustrations have added something small but valuable to Melville's grand tale.

In all cases below, I have attempted to give proper titles and artist attribution to each piece, but if I have made any errors please contact me and I will correct the post immediately. Off to the picture show then...

Signet Classics edition early cover by unknown

manga version by Tatsuya Morino

And I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee by Tom Neely

Captain Ahab by unknown

Captain Ahab (Face) by Leonard Baskin

Like an Open Doored Marble Tomb by George Klauba

Moby Dick Arises From the Deep by Gilbert Wilson

The Fossil Whale by Frank Stella

Moby Dick Rises by Rockwell Kent

Herman Melville by Farel Dalrymple

Captain Ahab's Worst Nightmare by Nancy Vagedes

Daggoo by Leonard Baskin

Queequeg by Leonard Baskin

Mocha Dick by Tristan Lowe

Moby Dick Transcendant by Rockwell Kent

Queequeg by Charlie Hynes

Moby Dick by Leonard Baskin

Moby Dick by Bill Sienkiewicz

Captain Ahab by RQuack

Head of the Sperm Whale by Barry Moser

I Am Madness Maddened by Gilbert Wilson

Island by Dave Wachter

White Whale by Kathleen Piercefield

Ahab by Raymond Bishop

Queequeg by Holly Doyle McAtee

Homage a Melville by Paul Jenkins

Moby Dick by George Klauba

Ishmael by George Klauba

Moby Dick as Jaws by unknown

Stove Boat by Claus Hoie

Queequeg by Matthew Cruickshank

The Great Shroud by Bill Sienkiewicz

Moby Dick by unknown

Abraxas and the Earth Man by Rick Vietch

Moby Dick by Vali Myers

Moby Dick and Ahab by Claus Hoie

Ahab (Strike the Sun) by Kathleen Piercefield

Inscrutable Tides of God by Robert Del Tredici

Captain Ahab by Den Unge Herr Holm

The Death of Fedallah by Benton Spruance

Moby Dick by Franco Matticchio