Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 423

Title: "Presently up breaches from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles."

10.75 inches by 15.5 inches
acrylic paint and ink on found paper
October 25, 2010


  1. Thank you William. The story of how this piece came to be is a strange one.

    Initially, I had envisioned something much more specific, detailed and defined. A small whaleboat in the foreground and a huge whale off in the middle distance breaching up from a rough sea. The piece was going to have quite a bit of linework, lots of ink, and even though I wanted to keep the lines a bit looser than usual it would still be very concrete.

    I laid down a few layers of watered down blue acrylic paint first, to anchor the images, and then put the page in front of a fan to dry a bit. When I brought it back in to the closet studio to start working on the white whale, the paper was still much wetter than I realized. Also, just before I started to paint the whale, I decided that even though the whale would still be in the middle distance, I wanted it to be absolutely, ridiculously, and almost cosmically huge. Just an absolute monstrosity. I watered down some white paint because I wanted to layer it on and build up the whale. Since the paper was wetter than I realized, the watered down white paint immediately began to pool in certain areas, bleed in others, and almost curdle. I was horrified at first, and then fascinated, so I kept layering it on. Moby Dick went from having almost his entire body rocketing out from the waves to simply a massive head shattering the surface of the water.

    After several layers, I wanted the paint to dry so I lifted the paper up from the drawing table and again, at first to my horror and then my fascination, the watered down white paint began to run in rivulets all down the page. It was kind of amazing. It's like the image was moving and changing and growing and almost painting itself right in front of me.

    Rather than fight this, I encouraged it, so I let the piece run, let it dry a bit, layered more on, and repeated. In the end, this gloriously chaotic, wet, ferocious piece is what resulted. Ultimately, I feel that this one captures the white whale better than just about any other illustration I've done yet.

  2. Love this one. I'm glad you rolled with the punches so that the piece came out as it did.

  3. Just wonderful, evocative and dreamy. Frightening at the same time. All one could ask, right. Really nice! And thank you for the explication on the process, I always appreciate that. The wonderful 'accidents' of the studio are magic indeed.

  4. Daryl, it was a really strange experience. It really did feel as if the picture was painting itself. I've never witnessed anything like that, but since I was hoping to learn how to loosen up a bit and let go of some of my control when making images, this was probably the best step to take.

  5. Kathryn, it was really just too strange not to share. As I mentioned above, I am usually very tightly controlled when making art. Every line and mark and color is generally so deliberate my knuckles whiten. That is something I am hoping - still - to learn how to change through this project. It's been very peripatetic, swinging first in one direction and then another. But with this image...wow, things changed fast.


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