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Author Archive: "Matt Kish"

One Drawing for Every Page of “Moby-Dick”: Another Orphan

Finishing was the hardest part. When I began, I identified quite a bit with Ishmael. Here was this man who had been struggling with a November in his soul and decided it was high time he set sail and see the world a bit. Ishmael is a cipher, a non-entity, whose only role is to tell the tale. I would, in my own way, be re-telling the tale of Moby-Dick with my drawings. Who I was didn't matter and my part in the journey would be small. Just as the story itself is what mattered, my drawings were the only thing I thought should matter.

That perception suited me well, particularly for the first half of the project. Although it was at times trying to force myself to be as visible and accessible as the requirements of the blog and the new book demanded, I was always able to retreat back into a life of privacy and obscurity. In the beginning especially there was still some time each day to sit down and talk to my wife, read another book, or take a walk.

As time went by and the events of the book edged ...

One Drawing for Every Page of “Moby-Dick”: Page by Page by Page

Yes, I really did read more than one page a day.

I am familiar with the novel. This reading, the one that led to these 552 illustrations, was actually my ninth journey through the novel. It is important to note that my first reading was in junior high school, and was more or less a disaster. Of course I was thrilled by the action and the adventure, but I plowed my way through huge sections of what my adolescent self would have called "the boring parts" with all the attention span of an apple. It wasn't until my third or fourth reading, as an undergrad in the '90s, that the shape and texture of the story began to really make themselves known. And that is only one of the many many magnetic properties of this great novel. It rewards — deeply rewards — repeated readings.

I won't go on here about the structure and nature of the text. Others have done that, and done a far better job than I could ever hope to do. I will simply add that the book is a mosaic, a vast tapestry of ...

One Drawing for Every Page of “Moby-Dick”: Coming to a Bookstore Near You

I set only two rules for myself when I began this project. The first was to create one illustration per page per day. That was to force me to re-assess my art and, in a very real sense, drag me out of my comfort zone. That looming deadline, every single day, for what I projected would be a year and a half of constant work, would constantly nip at me and keep me running to stay ahead. The second rule was to proceed through Moby-Dick sequentially, from page 1 to page 552, without skipping around to illustrate the pages I might have found most exciting or interesting at the very beginning. Just as the reader begins a story with a blank slate, gradually filling in details of place, time, character, and description, I wanted to see that reflected in the art I was making. I wanted to see how these images would develop, grow, build on one another and hopefully reference one another as I worked my way through the story the same way a reader would.

Beyond those two rules, I freed myself to do, literally, anything I ...

One Drawing for Every Page of “Moby-Dick”: Found Paper?

At some point, I am always asked some variation of "Why did you create these Moby-Dick illustrations on found paper?" Generally, that's followed by something along the lines of "What are these? Electrical diagrams?" The answer, as happens so often, has its roots in the past.

While I was in grad school in the early 2000s, I worked for a large used book store in Ohio. Customers would bring us their books, and one of the store's rules was that we always made a cash offer for every single item. It could be as low as a dime for a box of moldy books, but there was always an offer. A great deal of the material we bought would be cleaned, priced, and shelved, stocking our store with a wide selection of current and unusual titles. But there were always exceptions, and sometimes there were stacks of exceptions. These were the books that were simply too damaged or too ephemeral to even earn a spot on the bargain shelves, where all the books were priced at a quarter. Anything with a badly damaged spine, mold, severe foxing, or missing ...

One Drawing for Every Page of “Moby-Dick”: What Happened

Looking back, I should have realized at the time that turning 40 years old that summer had a great deal to do with it all.

I've been drawing pictures as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are purely visual, and my childhood was shaped by picture books, illustrated storybooks, and comics. My parents were avid readers and they did their best to make sure I followed in their footsteps. Oddly enough, I don't remember ever being given any of these colorful illustrated books when I was young. They were always just there, on some shelf, ready for me to open and fall into. I stared at those pictures long before I was able to read the stories they accompanied, so, for me, no story or book was ever complete without images.

In spite of this childhood saturated with images, both my own and those I saw in books, it never occurred to me to pursue art as a career. Drawing was something I did for fun, and only that. Drawing as a career seemed as feasible to my young brain as eating candy for a career. I just didn't think it was possible and now, as ...

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