Friday, November 30, 2012


Did you know I did commissions? Yeah, neither did I. It just never came up before, I guess. But someone asked me to draw something personal for them and offered to pay me for it, so I did it. They wanted Batman, which was kind of tough for me because even though I've read comics most of my life and continue to do so, my passion for superheroes vanished many many years ago. Still, I could see this in my mind, and knew what I wanted to do. It turned out pretty well, I think, and most importantly the person who asked for it liked it a whole lot.

I made it with good, archival inks and trimmed the paper down to 11" by 14" so it would fit in any standard, store-bought frame.

If you'd like me to make something for you, email me at mattkish87 (at) gmail and we can talk about the idea, the size, the media, and price. I apologize, I can't promise anything before Christmas due to the Heart of Darkness commitments but in January I am free.


11 inches by 14 inches
ink on watercolor paper
November 22, 2012

My art at the 'Moby-Dick' Big Read

Today, my art goes live to accompany chapter 76 of the Moby-Dick Big Read. The chapter is read by Richard Sabin, and you can either stream or download all 76 chapters thus far. This really is an exceptionally brilliant idea, combining art, sound, and performance for a multi-media immersion in this great great novel. It's an incredible honor to be a part of this. Click the link and take a look!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

Left: "A Machine in Hell (1)."

Right: "A Machine in Hell (2)."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

"Six Knights in Hell."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

Left: "Solitary Figure in Hell."

Right: "A Severed Foot in Hell."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

More paranoia. More cynicism. More horror. I sure could use a friend right now. If it wasn't for my wife, I have no idea where I'd be, especially mentally.

Left: "Three Figures Contemplating a Skull in Hell."

Right: "Prone Figure Under Circling Bats in Hell."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

One of the worst parts of this all is that these thoughts, these ideas, these images, they are corroding my sense of hope and goodwill and ultimately making me viciously cynical and horrifyingly paranoid. Which produces sketches like the one below.

"Two Figures Whispering Near a Tree in Hell."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

The effects of October and spending nearly every waking moment living with the thoughts Conrad pours forth in Heart of Darkness begin to show their toll with these following sketchbook pages. Tiny, almost featureless figures obsessed with bizarre, pointless and futile tasks in a blood-red hellscape. Welcome to my life right now.

Here are "Six Figures Carrying a Spear in Hell."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

To the left, a list of all the art I had to make in October, which was "a month of unparalleld [sic] bullshit." I was so unhappy about it all that I misspelled "unparalleled" and I didn't even finish everything I needed to do. Close though.

To the right, a photo of porn star Linda Lovelace. It was reference for one of the illustration jobs I had last month. I had never really seen her before, and I didn't realize she was that pretty.

Man, what a miserable, hellish month that was.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

Drawn more than a month after that wonderful week in the desert sun. My mood had changed considerably. I give you "A Severed Head."

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

Drawn in August while relaxing in 100 degree heat poolside in Las Vegas next to my lovely bikini-clad wife.

This is Sir Bonetree, by the way.

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

This is true, you know.

More "Alligators"

I've been teasing small views and various hints of these, but finally, the four new illustrations I created to help promote Robert Kloss' new novel The Alligators of Abraham have been posted on the Sundog Lit web site. Just click that link and scroll way down to the bottom. You'll see my name.

I'm really pleased with these pieces. They are quite large, for me at least, at 11" by 15", and this is the first time I've tackled such big pieces. The results were fantastic and, I hope, a fitting tribute to what is easily one of the best books I've ever read. It was an honor and a privilege to be part of this, and I look forward to much more from Kloss.

Okay, head over to Sundog and take a look at the four new pieces. They are titled The Millionaires, The Woman, UNITED STATES and Alligator. My wife found them horrifying and disturbing.

Wow! John Coulthart!

I visit John Coulthart's blog Feuilleton a lot. I mean A LOT. So many of my internet image searches led back to his blog that I figured I had to check it out, and I was rewarded with an absolute bonanza of amazing and fantastic imagery, almost all of which seemed to appeal directly to my own personal aesthetic. John is also a brilliant artist and designer and he writes eloquently and articulately about both of these obsessions. Simply put, he is one of my heroes.

So, you can imagine my absolute shock and soaring joy when John briefly mentioned some kind words about my own Moby-Dick art in this blog post. John contributed a suite of illustrations exploring The Picture of Dorian Gray to The Graphic Canon, volume 2, which also contains several of my Moby-Dick illustrations. You really should look at these anthologies, they are big and thick and beautifully designed and remarkable and full of gorgeous art and comics.

Of the work in that volume, John wrote this about my own: "I especially like the Moby-Dick sequence by Matt Kish, a very different take on a very familiar tale." It is difficult to convey to you how thrilling this was, and remains for me.

Feuilleton is a great great blog and an amazing source of visual inspiration. Spend some time there. You won't regret it.

"Persia Blues" by Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman

I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an incredible amount of kindness and support from friends far and wide. I think a big big part of what helped push my Moby-Dick illustration project from a simple personal blog to a published book was the online word-of-mouth about the illustrations, which seemed to grow and multiply astoundingly fast. Because of this, I think it is essential to repay some of that kindness by assisting my own friends whenever I can, hence this post.

My good friends, writer Dara Naraghi and artist Brent Bowman are working on the first of a trilogy of creator-owned graphic novels to be published by NBM Publishing next summer. The graphic novel draws heavily on Dara's experiences growing up in Iran and his great love of Persian mythology.

Although the graphic novel has already been accepted for publication, any money the two of them earn will come at the back-end, and that may be small. Basically, they are both doing this for love, and because of that Dara has started a Kickstarter page to try and raise $3000 to compensate Brent for the the incredible amount of time and research he is pouring into these pages. Dara is a really generous guy.

If you like comics and mythology, take a look at the Kickstarter page and read more. And if you like what you see, perhaps you might be able to help the two of them meet their goals. Thanks.

(Black) Friday diversions: Nazgul (continued)

So it's Monday, but this is important.

In my last post, Mordicai was kind enough to leave a comment with some additional links to his Flickr account where he had saved a few other really fantastic pieces of Nazgul art. I am going to build on my last post and add them here, with thanks and credit of course to Mordicai.

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Erin Kelso

(I actually found this one myself, I think on Tumblr, but frustratingly - and this is one of the many reasons I am not real fond of Tumblr - I was unable to find any attribution. Finally, I know the artist's name and can link back to her. It's a very well done piece, but I am somehow thrown off a bit by the white mist dominating the center of the composition. I don't think it's working too well for me, which is disappointing because Erin is clearly a gifted artist.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Alejandro Dini

(Again, a good piece with very strong composition, but I am utterly baffled as to why Eowyn is completely naked here. I generally quite like nudity in art, but this time it seems very counter to the aim of the piece. Odd.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Filip Burburan

(Completely over the top, almost ludicrously savage and evil and seemingly heavily influenced by videogames...all of which are big positives to me. A great piece, a lot of fun to look at, and Eowyn does look fierce and courageous here. And the Witch-King's armor is amazing.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Herman Lau

(This says far more about me and my own prejudices than it does about the illustration but this one doesn't work for me at all. Entirely too bizarrely romantic and passive. I don't get it at all.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Micah Farritor

(This is one of the few pieces where I've seen a literal interpretation of Tolkien's description of the Witch-King work very well. I suppose the eyes should be red instead of white, but everything else really does come together to convey a kind of terrifying power. There is a lot of fear in this piece, which makes it strong. At first, Eowyn looking like a child bothered me, but later I began to see how this very aptly shows the effects of the Witch-King's dread gaze on his foes.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Cory Godbey

(I quite like this one. It's got a nice bit of Arthur Rackham to it, but also a decidedly modern style. It's compositionally strong, Eowyn looks fierce and determined and absolutely lethal and the Witch-King actually looks terrifying. Plus, something lacking from many of these [and I have to confess, something I struggle with and usually lose to] is a sense of scale, but Godbey nails that. The fell beast is appropriately huge and the Witch-King is the colossal figure he should be, without being a giant.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Jeffrey Alan Love

(Brilliant. Absolutely, perfectly, gorgeously, terrifyingly brilliant. An utterly amazing piece of art. I was floored when I saw this one and I feel like I could probably write an entire post about how much I like it. Just look at it. This is PERFECT.)

Again, thanks to Mordicai for bringing these to my attention. There will be more Nazgul art soon, from my friends and from myself. I hope you like it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

(Black) Friday diversions: Nazgul

I am an ardent admirer of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I encountered those books in my early teens and remember the awe and fascination I felt watching Tolkien build his worlds with such care and imagination. In spite of their departures from the source material, I enjoyed the films immensely, and I watch all three of them each year around Christmas. You can probably imagine how excited I am to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the big screen, although I will forever have a sentimental love for the original Rankin/Bass animated television special The Hobbit.

It's funny, but I have a very vivid childhood memory about that animated version. My father had read to me the entirety of The Hobbit when I was very young. This would have been 1974 or 1975, when I was 5 or 6. I loved the story and remember asking him to re-read certain parts so I could imagine them better. In 1977, when i would have been 8, I remember very clearly seeing a poster for the upcoming television special in the Lorain Public Library, when I was there with my father. He must have already known about it because he explained a bit about when it would air and how it came to be. I was so excited to see it I could barely breathe, and I remember watching it with my mother and father when it first ran. I was spellbound.

Anyway, some of my favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings are the Nazgul. When I was younger, I liked them because, like many teenagers, I thought they were just "cool" and "badass." But as time goes by, I become more and more fascinated with them. Tolkien's symbolism is broad and overt, perhaps because of his Catholicism, and there are no moral ambiguities in his work. Good is good and evil is the blackest evil. Sauron represents evil in the abstract. Terrifying, and something to be fought bitterly against, but still somehow remote. The Nazgul though are especially terrifying because they are us. Any of us. Nine mortal men, "kings, sorcerers and warriors of old," given rings of power by Sauron and gradually corrupted by not just these rings but their own lust for power, riches, and dominion over others. Eventually they become slaves to these appetites, and thralls of Sauron. A cautionary tale if there ever was one, and oddly relevant today.

Of all the Nazgul, the one that fascinates me the most is their chief, the Witch-King of Angmar. Initially, it was just the name. Witch-King! At first I wondered how that could be! Witches were, to my young mind after all, always female. The name alone hinted at bizarre and perverse mysteries beyond my own understanding. And the appellation, Angmar, a place long gone and almost forgotten in Middle-earth heightened this sense of mystery. I retain this fascination for the Witch-King, but we'll learn more about that in a later post.

So, to celebrate this Black Friday, a day in which many Americans give in almost entirely to their own greed and lust for wealth, as well as to begin enjoying the delicious anticipation many of us share for the upcoming release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I'd like to dig into my folders and share with you some of the Nazgul art I've found online over the years. Some of these I like quite a bit, some I find very curious, and others I despise. I may comment here or there, but in general I like to let the art speak for itself. We'll run through these images in more or less chronological order, as they would appear in the context of Tolkien's story. I will make every effort to credit and link to each artist, but if I make an error or am missing a link, please do not hesitate to correct me. Some sketches and studies first, though.

Nazgul by Wynahiros

Black Knight by Andy Eriksson

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Filip Stary

The Witch-King and Eowyn by Rosana Sullivan

Ringwraith by Steve Le Couilliard

(This one is strange to me because the robes look pale instead of black, making the Nazgul look almost like some sort of desert phantom.)

And now, on to some familiar scenes from the books. The Nazgul first appear while searching for Frodo in the Shire. My wife has commented that, in the films, she actually finds them more frightening like this, as hooded figures on black horses, instead of as armored warriors on winged beasts, because they somehow seem more real and more threatening. I can see her point, and many of these images very skillfully convey a palpable sense of unease and lingering terror.

The Black Rider by Anke Katrin Eissmann

Black Riders in the Shire by John Howe

The Black Rider and the Gaffer by Stephen Hickman

A Black Rider from the flawed but brilliant Ralph Bakshi film The Lord of the Rings

The pursuit begins.

Der Erste Nazgul by Thomas Petmecky

The Black Rider by John Howe

(This image was reproduced almost exactly in the film, a scene which still terrifies me.)

Flight to the Ford by Anke Katrin Eissmann

At the Ford by John Howe

Now, mustering the armies of Mordor.

Nazgul by Alan Lee (who, surprisingly, doesn't seem to have an official site)

Preparing for the final battle at the Pelennor Fields.

Nazgul over Minas Morgul by Alan Lee

The Dark Tower by John Howe

The Witch-King by Akreon

Nazgul by Maciek Wygnanski

The Nazgul by Ted Nasmith

(I really like this piece. It is unabashedly, unashamedly straightforward, evil and fantastical.)

The Witch-King and the armies of Mordor breach the gate of Minas Tirith and enter the city.

Witch-King by Alvaro Barros

The Lord of the Nazgul Enters the Gates of Gondor by Mark Fletcher

(I am fascinated by this one because it is just so unexpected, unusual and unique. The Lord of the Nazgul looks more like a knight than anything else, and the hints of its face showing against the smoke and flames, combined with the bizarre lightning coursing across the armor make an unforgettable image.)

Gandalf vs. Nazgul by Andrzej Grzechnik

(While I do like the iron crown floating over a head of flames, in general this particular style of art is something I find pretty pedestrian and best suited to uninspired graphic novel adaptations of other properties or bad trading card game art.)

Much of the art I found focused, unsurprisingly, on the Witch-King's final battle with Eowyn during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. So to there we will turn.

Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul by Villev Vuorinen

Fields of Pelennor by Alan Douglas

Eowyn and the Nazgul by David Wyatt

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Filip Burburan

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Rebecca Orr

(There is an awful lot going on in this piece, which makes it slightly hard on the eyes, but there are traces of brilliance.)

Eowyn vs. the Nazgul by Glen Ostrander

No Living Man is She by Per Sjogren

(Strange in that it seems bother overly faithful to the film and curiously not.)

Nazgul by Frank Frazetta

(This one just beggars the imagination. Remember, a big part of the narrative is that the Witch-King is superbly confident on the battlefield due to the thousand year old prophecy that states no living man may harm it. Thus, the Witch-King is stunned when Dernhelm removes his helmet, revealing that he is actually a she, Eowyn of Rohan. If the scene took place as Frazetta imagined it here, I am pretty sure there is no way that anyone, not even a four thousand year old wraith, could miss the fact that Dernhelm is in fact a living, breathing, curvy woman. Nice ass though. Frazetta was always good for that.)

Pelennor by Frank Frazetta

(Another drawing, showing a very unmistakable woman. Sigh. I mean, seriously, was the Witch-King completely blind?)

The Witch-King Descends on Eowyn by Peter Xavier Price

(Nice job on the fell beast here.)

Eowyn and the Nazgul by Rick Hansen

(I really like the sense of scale with this piece. You can really get a sense of how vast and terrifying the fell beast is, and how powerful the Witch-King must be.)

Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul by Ted Nasmith

Eowyn vs. the Nazgul by Angela Rizza

(This one is really beautifully done. Almost like the best art in the very best children's picture books. Gorgeous color.)

Lady Eowyn and the Nazgul by The Brothers Hildebrandt

(Who could forget this old gem? That is a CRAZY fell beast there, but this piece remains oddly endearing.)

Eowyn and the Witch-King of Angmar by Michael W. Kaluta

(Stunningly beautiful. Very reminiscent of, and indebted to, the genius of Arthur Rackham, and in very good ways. I love this one.)

The Lord of the Nazgul by Roger Garland

(This remains one of my favorites. It is just so off-puttingly bizarre, garish, grotesque and perfect. Everything from the spot-on fell beast to the terrifying head and crown / helmet of the Witch-King to the brilliant colors and almost medieval depiction of the armies lined up in the background. Excellent work.)

Battle of the Pelennor Fields by Mariet Theune

(I love the brutal simplicity of this piece. In some ways, it looks like the work of a child, but to me a forceful kind of honesty and directness so often lacking in polished illustration. I find this one to be almost magnetic.)

Now, a few which wouldn't fit anywhere else, but bear mentioning. First, an image of the true form of the Witch-King from Peter Jackson's films.

The Nazgul by Lode Claes

(Chilling, ominous, and terrifying. This may be Weathertop, but I don't believe there was snow on the ground in that scene. Still, an image to freeze the blood.)

Witch-King by Leif Podhajsky

(I absolutely love this. In general, I despise all computer-assisted art, but I find this one to be incredibly compelling. I'm not even sure if Leif created this specifically based on Tolkien's work or if this is just some kind of general witch king, but it is awesome.)

And now we come to it at last. Cor Blok, an artist whose work seems to polarize Tolkien fans like no one else. Personally, I love it. I think his vision of Middle-earth is the most unique, perceptive, and interesting I have ever encountered. I am smitten with how he at times seems to willfully ignore Tolkien's overly detailed descriptions and cuts to the heart of the idea with these beautiful miniatures. I am an unavowed Cor Blok fan, and these are my favorite views of Middle-earth.

Legolas Shoots Down the Nazgul by Cor Blok

The Slaying of the Nazgul by Cor Blok

And finally, what is, for me, the definitive image of the Witch-King of the Nazgul, this piece by Cor Blok.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed creating it. There is much more to come in Nazgul-related posts on this blog, so keep watching. For now though, Witch-King says "Go home."

And Hipster Nazgul (by Ginger Haze) says "Okay."