Thursday, November 18, 2010

MOBY-DICK, Page 447

Title: ... and if ever the world is to be again flooded, like the Netherlands, to kill off its rats, then the eternal whale will still survive, and rearing upon the topmost crest of the equatorial flood, spout his frothed defiance to the skies.

10.75 inches by 15.5 inches
acrylic paint, ink and pencil on found paper
November 13, 2010


  1. Yes, the violence is here, too. This is a fun and scary one. Thanks for your response to my previous comment.

    It would be interesting to see if there are any tonal/stylistic shifts in the narrative as it gets closer to the end (not just in plot, but if the form echoes it somehow).

    I can't believe I have never read Moby Dick.

  2. Thank you Titus. Before I started this project, I had this strange tendency to draw everything with ink or colored pencil, to close every shape, to complete every line, and to in general make everything as precise and well-formed as possible. Since starting these "Moby-DIck" illustrations, I have forced myself to explore other media and other styles. For me, brushes and paint were a revelation. Simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. I have enjoyed more than I thought possible learning to leave things less defined. Trying to hint at ideas and themes rather than explicitly depict them. Even something as simple as creating this brushy, imprecise wave was, for me, an ecstatic experience. I am really enormously happy with this piece somehow. And it is very large too, which makes me like it even more.

  3. Hannah, I am glad you wrote what you did. Melville suggests so much with his words, and the almost insurmountable challenge of translating those themes to visuals is sometimes terrifying. At times I feel almost as if I am trying to give someone the experience of hearing a symphony simply by talking about what it sounded like. It must fall short, I think.

    So in the case of this piece, how to show a whale spouting his "frothed defiance?" And more precisely, how to do so without resorting to the well known but all to simple visual vocabulary of comics, cartoons or commercial illustration? I did quite a bit of sketching to get it where I wanted it, and I am relieved that the violence and the absurdity both showed.

    In spite of my multiple readings of the novel itself, it is still so vast and such a mosaic of styles and devices that I still feel as if I don't have a full grasp of it. This project has helped immensely, but I am still discovering something new on every page, in every chapter. I am tempted to say that there are substantial shifts in tone and style as the book nears its conclusion, but it is easy to second-guess that perception. Especially because Melville has already shifted things so frequently already in the novel. Sometimes, to me, trying to get the whole of the novel in my sight seems like trying to see an entire country. There is just so much that all we can do is create mental maps full of minimizing symbols and legends, none of which are effective at truly conveying the land.

    I am a bit stunned you've never read the novel although I suppose it does fall in and out of favor often enough. It may sound silly, but you are so articulate, intelligent, and perceptive that I kind of assumed you had read just about everything. Which is really not a bad thing for you to project at all!


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