Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Inside the Whale" and "Wild Bill's Run" tonight

Just a quick reminder that tonight, Thursday February 28th, there are a few things going down at the Wexner Center for the Arts on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. At 6pm I will be signing and drawing in my book Moby-Dick in Pictures in the Wexner Center Bookstore, so stop in and say hello. At 7pm, there will be a double feature of documentaries. The first is a brief short entitled Inside the Whale, by Greg Carlson and Mike Scholtz, that is actually about me. The second, and the one I am looking forward to the most, is Wild Bill's Run, a full length documentary by Mike Scholtz exploring the life and shenanigans of Wild Bill Cooper, leader of "the Marijuana Air Force" among other things. More information on the event at this link. Teaser for Wild Bill's Run below. Hope to see some of you there!

Wild Bill's Run - Teaser from Mike Scholtz on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Call Us Ishmael"

My good friend, the filmmaker Dave Shaerf, has been slowly assembling a wealth of astounding footage for a documentary he is working on that focuses on Moby-Dick and its cultural impact. Titled Call Us Ishmael, he is finally making some of the footage available in this brief but intriguing introduction. Excerpts from interviews with me and Dr. Tim Marr as well as some beautiful shots of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and their annual Moby-Dick Marathon. This is very exciting! Take a look...

Opening final-HD 1080p from Dave Shaerf on Vimeo.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday diversions: Is that the best we can do?

I am not familiar with Catherine Lacey or David Shields. I have not read Shields' books even though How Literature Saved My Life and Reality Hunger figure heavily in an interview Lacey did with Shields for the site HTMLGiant. I read that interview this morning, and I am troubled.

First there was the intro, which read a bit like a Saturday Night Live skit and was formatted like this:


-David Shields = highly self-conscious lab rat; David Shields = Canada

-Will the internet ever save anyone’s life?

-Bret Easton Ellis’s twitter feed

Following that, the piece begins promisingly enough, with Lacey touching on a self-imposed two week break from the internet during which she only answered a few emails on her phone and read Shields' How Literature Saved My Life. I was hoping for some worthy follow-up on that from both Lacey and Shields but that was not the case. While there are some important ideas running through the interview, too much of it is peppered with strange and bizarrely dramatic proclamations like Shields' stating "I use the internet as a tool to figure out where the war is being waged that day on our individual and collective minds."

(An aside here. Again, this kind of thinking seems so prevalent, and so constantly ignorant of the role that privilege and class play. How many in this country and others do not have steady or reliable access to the internet and technology in general? It is depressing to see the digital divide continuing to grow to the point where those who do not have this access are no longer even derided, they are simply non-existent. What fundamentally undermines so much of what Shields' is saying, rightly or wrongly, is summed up when he says "...when I am online I’m thinking as hard as I can about what this water is in which we’re all swimming." No. Really, no. We're not "all swimming" in that same water. A lot of people are "swimming" in the water of just trying to earn enough money at the job to put food on the table and in the kids' mouths.)

Near the end of the piece, things really unraveled for me. Shields' says "Steven Soderbergh is looking for 'a new grammar'; he’s weary of narrative prison of films. He’s seeking a new language by which to express himself. Hey, join the fucking club. How do we get there? You just know it’s out there, don’t you? Someone is going to make of a million Facebook posts or Twitter feeds an astonishing collage. See Christian Marclay’s The Clock. If that isn’t a model, I don’t know what is." He goes on to offer readers other "models" which include Danger Mouse's The Grey Album (I hope he is referring to Grey Tuesday and the collective online lashing out against corporate control of intellectual property and not just the album itself which, at best, is merely clever and entertaining) and, astonishingly, Bret Easton Ellis' Twitter feed. Yes. His Twitter feed, according to Shields, is actually saving either his or someone else's life. It's not entirely clear which. In Ellis' Twitter feed, Shields says "He is actively trying to figure out how to live, how to think, how to feel, post-Empire. He’s on it. He gets it, completely. He gets how to push back, how to be part of the culture and how to push back against ferociously it at the same time, to ignore it and transform it. He is a hugely catalyzing force for me." Obviously, I needed to investigate this for myself since, if these claims were true, I would certainly need to be following this feed on a daily basis. I followed the link and found, on the first page...

--four references to the band The Eagles and / or their album Hotel California

--a link to the new video from the band The Passion Pit

--a Tweet proclaiming "The band I am listening to the most right now is Tame Impala and their great record "Lonerism"

--six references to the HBO show Girls including "the almost unbearable pathos and honesty of the last two episodes makes everything else on TV seem like something we need to forget."

That is a model? Where is the "trying to figure out how to live, how to think, how to feel, post-Empire"? To me, it all looked an awful lot like masturbatory pop culture namedropping. Maybe it is unfair and grossly inaccurate to make any kind of assessment of Ellis' Twitter feed simply from the first page of Tweets, but you know what they say about first impressions.

So again, I am depressed. Deeply depressed. I would have thought that in order to turn off the internet, to rediscover literature and the life of the mind, to "figure out how to live, how to think, how to feel" I would want to do something like read the works of Heidegger and Kant, Franz Kafka and John Steinbeck, Chinua Achebe and bell hooks, and Neil Postman and Judith Butler to start. I didn't realize all I needed to do was follow someone's Twitter feed and watch Girls obsessively.

Look, I don't have a problem with television or enjoying it or Tweeting about it. None at all. That's actually the kind of thing that I would expect from a Twitter feed. Honestly, if you're going to Twitter looking for anything more than an entertaining link or a clever phrase, you're searching in the wrong place. And my own aesthetic life is absolutely full of similarly enjoyable but shallow pleasures. As dearly as I love the magazine, I would never pretend to elevate Heavy Metal and the comics of Moebius and Druillet above Herman Melville or Gloria Anzaldua or Mary Wollstonecraft. What depresses me so much is the way that things like Ellis' Twitter feed are propelled to level of Important Thinking. That this (Girls and the Eagles and namedropping other bands) is "how to live" at the expense of, well, everything else. Is it possible that we could ever look out at anything more complex and broader than what is immediately in front of our faces, or motivating our genitals, or stimulating that part of our mind that is addicted to clever snappy dialogue like it's cocaine? I found it almost paradoxical that in an interview which at some points alludes to "the slowness of books" in a positive light eventually devolves into a worship of the quick fix, the instantaneous world of "new media" and the never-ending worship of pop culture personalities.

Is this really the best we can do?

EDIT: One more addendum, mostly on Girls. Here's the thing. Ultimately, Girls seems to be a show with a fairly narrow focus. A narrative on the coming-of-age experiences of a group of privileged white girls in Brooklyn. Not for me, but no big deal there. But here's my issue. One of the most effective critiques leveled against fantasy literature, comic books, science fiction, videogames, and so on is that these things are childish. They appeal to us in ways that we should have apparently outgrown as we become mature adults. I don't agree with that much, but it at least does occupy some solid logical ground and can be a useful point of discussion. So if we can batter fantasy and science fiction with that critique, why is it acceptable for people in their mid-40s to be so obsessed with show like Girls which focus entirely on the experiences of 20-somethings? Should we as adults in our 30s, 40s, 50s and so on not have put those things aside and grown up? The hypocrisy is astounding.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who watches this?

Do any of you who visit this blog watch this show? If so, what is your opinion of it? Even if you don't watch it but know a bit about it, what do you think?

Paste on Kish's "Dick"

I have to give credit for that rather off-color header to my good friend Mr. Tony Goins who used it over at the Ferret Press / PANEL blog. I thought it was genius, so I ganked it.

It does have a point though. I was honored to be included in the newly published anthology The Graphic Canon: Volume 2.

This volume contains twelve of my Moby-Dick illustrations, including one alternate that was not published in my own Moby-Dick in Pictures. Additionally, it boasts and absolutely stellar line-up of gifted artists and cartoonists, including Shawn Cheng, John Coulthart, John Porcellino, William Blake (yes!), Maxon Crumb, and many many more. Paste Magazine recently ran this review of the anthology, and overall it was a very positive one. Of my work, the author had this to say: "The other revelation comes from Matt Kish, who has created a unique image for every page of Moby Dick (all of which can be seen on his blog). Intense and surreal, these visions are a triumph, keeping a strong tether to the original prose while launching into electrifying worlds of their own." And there is much more at the link. Click over and take a look, and if the book sounds interesting to you (I have my contributor copy and I will vouch for the fact that it is indeed a big beautiful colorful book full of wonders), please pick up a copy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Inside the Whale" and "Wild Bill's Run"

Last January, I was invited to Fargo, North Dakota by filmmaker Greg Carlson, for a number of things which included a strange sort of collaboration for a video installation he is working on, a book signing, and a speaking gig at Concordia College. It was an absolutely fantastic experience, and I wrote at length about it, with plenty of photos, in this post. The friendships I formed there have borne fruit yet again, and Greg and filmmaker Mike Scholtz will be coming to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio on February 28 for a double feature screening of their documentaries Inside the Whale and Wild Bill's Run, starting at 7pm.

The first documentary, Inside the Whale, is a short piece about me. While I was in Fargo, Greg Carlson interviewed me a few times, filmed me drawing, and put together some other intriguing stuff that he's woven together in this really well done ten minute glimpse into my Moby-Dick project and my obsession with Melville's great book. I don't like to see myself on screen or hear myself talk, but trust me, this is actually a beautifully done and almost sweet little piece that I am very proud to have been a part of.

The second feature, Wild Bill's Run, is much longer. It is "the strange but true story of Wild Bill Cooper. Part Arctic adventure and part crime caper, Wild Bill's Run is an unforgettable ride with a true American folk hero." This film is by Mighty Mike Scholtz, who I also met in Fargo, and who is one of the nicest guys I've ever known. I am really looking forward to seeing this, as well as seeing Mike and Greg again.

I will be signing and drawing in copies of my book Moby-Dick in Pictures at the Wexner Center Bookstore from 6pm until shortly before the films start at 7pm. Then we will move to the theatre for the screening, and I'll probably hang out a bit afterward if you want to come around and meet Mike, Greg or I.

Here is a photo from my trip to Fargo last year. From left to right that's Mike Scholtz (making an amusing face), Greg Carlson, and their good friend and expert cameraman Matt McGregor. This was my view during much of the filming of Inside the Whale.

The World's Largest Personal Collection of Nazgul Art, part 2

(You can see Part 1 right here.)

I have a few more commissions hanging out there, but a handful of them have been completed and are now in my hands. Again, the work is wildly varied, personal, and unique, and I could not be more pleased with these.

The Eyes in the Darkness
by Robert Kloss

The Witch-King of the Nazgul
by Jimmy Giegerich

by Michael Olivo

Dead Space 2: The Exploder

So, I've been playing this. I liked Dead Space (other than that asteroid cannon bullshit) quite a bit and I found this for cheap. My wife finds it horrifying, especially the sounds.

Monday, February 18, 2013


I hesitated, unsure as to whether or not this was a true commission since it was a gift for a cousin of mine. Still, it was a specific request for art, although I was given the freedom to choose the subject. I am happy with how this turned out, and there is a good deal of personal meaning in it as well that I will keep private.

Title: Queequeg

8 inches by 10 inches
ink on watercolor paper
February 17, 2013

Monday Friday diversions: Getting older is a terrible thing

I meant to include these in Friday's post, but alas, my memory is not what it used to be. Well, for the time being, at least. With a tiny handful of small but important projects (mostly covers) to wrap up, a move looming in less than two weeks (we are currently living out of cardboard boxes), and the pressure of coming up with a small art zine for the upcoming S.P.A.C.E. show in Columbus in April (should I do yet another Solar Brothers compilation or a larger collection of Nazgul drawings?), my mind is fragmented. Onward, then.


I posted a bit about this in October, but last year I was able to spend some time chatting via Skype with an absolutely astonishing group of students from the Urban School of San Francisco. Their intelligence, creativity, perceptiveness, and tenacity were just amazing and it was one of the most thrilling conversations about art and Moby-Dick that I've ever had. Well, it gets even better. And honestly, more amazing. Those same students, crediting me for inspiration (I will never get used to that, or take it for granted) have created a Tumblr showcasing the art that they created based on their own responses to passages and ideas from Moby-Dick. It's called How I See It and you can see all the work at that link. It is really really good stuff, and I am envious of some of those pieces. One of my favorites is above, by someone named Annakai. Brilliant!


Here is an excellent, thorough, thought-provoking and entertaining review of the manga The Heart of Thomas that I think you should read, for many reasons. It is so refreshing to read a review that takes its time exploring a work, instead of seeing yet another "capsule" review that simply distills an entire book into a few witty sentences that inevitably just compare it to book X combined with movie Y. I will have more to say on this soon, I am just beginning my reading of Hagio's manga and, I will admit, this is a real stretch for me. Remember, most of my comics reading has centered on Jack Kirby, Heavy Metal magazine, Moebius, and Judge Dredd. Gay romances in boys' schools is quite far from what I am familiar with so it may take me a while to be able to articulate my thoughts well.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday diversions: Genre as fashion statement

It's been a while since I did this. Don't know how I let it slip.

There have been a few interesting mentions of me and my work recently. First, the New York Daily News has a nice bit previewing the cover of my upcoming Heart of Darkness and some of the art right here. The three illustrations they posted will be part of a small set of four postcards, similar to the postcards my publisher Tin House Books created to promote Moby-Dick in Pictures. I'm really looking forward to those.

Second, the site HTMLGiant has an interesting "25 Points" piece about Robert Kloss' novel The Alligators of Abraham, which I did the cover and three illustrations for. You should read the piece here, it's a strange but compelling look into the novel. About my illustrations, they wrote "Matt Kish’s drawings are toothy reptilian sprawls of overlapping flesh and machine, gaping mouths in the process of being perfected." That pleased me a great deal.

Finally, this post by Yvonne Malone at her blog Playing With Fabric had some very kind words about my Moby-Dick book and how it inspired her. Thanks Yvonne.

As you probably know, I recently completed 16 illustrations for the book The Desert Places by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss. It will be out this fall from Curbside Splendor. Amber has also recently written a story called The Kingdom of July which is very visual and full of knights and strangely moving and I really loved it. You should read it, and you can find it at that link.

I love the stark, graphic, brilliant and brutal art and comics of Eamon Espey.

His newest graphic novel Songs of the Abyss is available from Secret Acres and Eamon will actually be in Columbus in mid-April for S.P.A.C.E. so I hope to meet him. Best yet though, he is taking his puppet show Ishi's Brain, co-created with sculptor and puppeteer Lisa Krause and musician Stephen Santillan on a national tour. This is very exciting. However, they are undertaking this vast endeavor, a trip of thousands of miles in one car with equipment and puppets they've created themselves, entirely independently and could use your help. They'e started an Indiegogo page to raise $1000 for the tour. Thankfully, they raised that already, but could always use more. There are many great rewards for all levels of donations, from pins and comics to shirts and art to puppets and more. Take a look, spread the word, and help Eamon, Lisa and Stephen out if you can. This will be a truly unique performance and needs to be seen.

This morning, on the 90 minute drive to work (only 2 more weeks of this!) my wife and I were discussing "steampunk," a term and genre that, admittedly, we have only the most basic knowledge of and experience with, and why even that brief exposure to it left us a bit disgusted. Interestingly, in doing a bit of reading about steampunk (honestly, I am beginning to feel a bit silly typing that over and over) I was shocked to discover that some of the artists that are very dear to my wife and I - in particular Mervyn Peake and Remedios Varo - are considered forerunners of the genre. I'm not sure I agree with that. The basis for that contention seems to be that any kind of art or writing that contains elements of technology and any kind of non-contemporary clothing is labeled as steampunk. Using that benchmark, just about everything becomes steampunk, from Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Who to some Conan adventures to everything Michael Moorcock ever wrote to all of Grant Morrison's Invisibles and so on. Is it really a genre then, if it applies to almost everything?

The aspect of steampunk that has the most negative impact on us though is the manner in which it has expanded from a literary genre or artistic movement into a lifestyle. I know that most, if not all, who choose to attend cons and shows and make and wear steampunk attire are as socially well adjusted as the average person. I'm under no illusions that somehow this particular group of fans is somehow any worse off socially than others. But, on a personal level, I don't understand how a genre becomes a fashion statement. I am fond of Moby-Dick. And the comics of Jack Kirby. And the character Judge Dredd. And Tolkien's Nazgul. But I've never ever had even the smallest desire to dress like Ahab or Mr. Fantastic or Dredd or the Witch-King. The idea is so foreign to me, and the occasional zealotry of those who seem to dive into a genre so thoroughly and so wholeheartedly as some (not all, but some) of the steampunk enthusiasts I've met is alarming. Ultimately, it all plays far too well into the hands of crass commercialization and marketing. Once a genre has a uniform and a toy line, most of the creative possibilities have been stripmined out and the thing just limps into a long and unpleasant twilight.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Heart of Darkness" cover

Coming in October 2013 from my fine publisher Tin House Books, a new edition of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness with 100 full color illustrations by me. Above is the final cover, and I couldn't be more pleased. It captures everything I was trying to convey with my illustrations, and is just a brilliant piece of work. Many many thanks to Diane Chonette at Tin House for putting this together, and to Tin House in general for making this dream a reality.

Feel free to re-post this or share it in any way you would like.

Friday, February 8, 2013


11 inches by 14 inches
ink on watercolor paper
February 3, 2013

(This is the last of my 16 illustrations for The Desert Places.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013