by Maria Popova
Illustrated insights on love, hate, God, capitalism, and the rest of life via Herman Melville and found paper.
Since 2009, former high school English teacher and self-taught artist Matt Kish has been drawing every page of the 552-page Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville’s iconic Moby-Dick, methodically producing one gorgeous, obsessive drawing per day for 552 days using pages from discarded books and a variety of drawing tools, from ballpoint pen to crayon to ink and watercolor. Now, thanks to Tin House Books, Kish’s ingenious project joins our running list of blogs so good they became books: Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page gathers his magnificent lo-fi drawings in a 600-page visual masterpiece of bold, breathtaking full-page illustrations that captivate eye, heart, and mind, inviting you to rediscover the Melville classic in entirely new ways.
I’ve read the book eight or nine times […] Each and every reading has revealed more and more to me and hinted tantalizingly at even greater truths and revelations that I have yet to reach. Friends often question my obsession with the novel, especially since I am not a scholar or even an educator any longer, and the best explanation I have been able to come up with is that, to me, Moby-Dick is a book about everything. God. Love. Hate. Identity. Race. Sex. Humor. Obsession. History. Work. Capitalism […] I see every aspect of life reflected in the bizarre mosaic of this book.” ~ Matt Kish
'...Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowel's wards.'
Ballpoint pen on paper, September 17, 2009
'Call me Ishmael'
Colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 5, 2009
'But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive.'
Colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 6, 2009
'Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea-crashing boat, the whale wheeled round to present his blank forehead at bay; but in that evolution, catching sight of the nearing black hull of the ship; seemingly seeing in it the source of all his persecutions; bethinking it - it may be - a larger and nobler foe; of a sudden, he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his jaws amid fiery showers of foam'
Ink on watercolor paper, January 22, 2011
'...where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul's tossed craft.'
Acrylic paint and ballpoint pen on found paper, August 13, 2009
'I don't know how it is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping.'
Acrylic paint, colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 19, 2009
''Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam- me, I kill-e!' again growled the cannibal...'
Ink, colored pencil and marker on found paper, August 27, 2009
'Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.'
Acrylic paint on found paper, August 30, 2009
'...and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains...'
Acrylic paint, colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, September 30, 2009
'Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child borne out of sight over the wide waters.'
Ink and marker on found paper, October 5, 2009
'...hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling...'
Crayon, ink and marker on found paper, November 24, 2009
'…who has also by the stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think untraditionally and independently…'
Colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, November 12, 2009
''I will have no man in my boat,' said Starbuck, 'who is not afraid of a whale.''
Colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, December 19, 2009
'But it was especially the aspect of the three chief officers of the ship, the mates, which was most forcibly calculated to allay these colorless misgivings, and induce confidence and cheerfulness in every presentment of the voyage.'
Ink on found paper, December 28, 2009
'Moby Dick bodily burst into view! For not by any calm and indolent spoutings; not by the peaceable gush of that mystic fountain in his head, did the White Whale now reveal his vicinity; but by the far more wondrous phenomenon of breaching. Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more. In those moments, the torn, enraged waves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some cases, this breaching is his act of defiance.'
Ink on watercolor paper, January 11, 2011
''Thou Bildad!' roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the cabin. 'Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn.''
Ballpoint pen and ink on found paper, November 16, 2009
Woven of equal parts visual mastery and creative bravery, Moby-Dick in Pictures is a treasure in and of itself, one that not only pays homage to Melville, but also reimagines what it means to embark on a modern-day epic voyage of creative restlessness.
Images courtesy of Matt Kish
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