One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick

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Matt Kish is redecorating the interior of the Melville classic Moby Dick.

In August of 2009, I was really restless. I remembered seeing a book where the artist Zak Smith had made one illustration for every page of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow. I was really blown away by how amazing his art was, and by the whole idea in general, so a while later I decided to try the same thing myself. Only instead of Gravity’s Rainbow I decided to work on my favorite novel, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Before this, most of the art I made had been excessively detailed, really overwrought, and incredibly time consuming to complete. I got really sick of working like that. I wanted something different, so I decided that for the Moby-Dick project I would do one piece a day, every day, until I was done. And I have a full time job too. And a wife. And a life. For me, that kind of pace was almost inconceivable. I decided to just do whatever I wanted with the art, even if it looked crude or raw. After all, I had no one to please or disappoint but myself.

Impulsively, I grabbed the first paperback edition of Moby-Dick I could find, which turned out to be the Signet Classic edition from 1992 with 552 pages. Looking back, maybe I should have thought things through a bit more since I’ve seen quite a few editions with around 400 pages, which would have saved me an awful lot of time. But that’s the way things turned out and that’s the edition I am sticking with even though it will take me at least a year and half of constant and daily work to complete. Probably more. I seem to be able to average about 20 to 25 pieces per month. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

I often do the same sort of thing as a project starter.  Rather than go out and buy a blank notebook, I find a hardcover book that has nothing to do with my subject and spend an afternoon defacing it.  Redacting lines, smearing pages with whiteout.  Removing two out of three pages, pasting in pictures or jagged burst of text from my digital notes on the project.  It’s a good way to stimulate left field thoughts, as that the bits left in from the source material can bounce off your notes in useful ways.  May I recommend scooping up some old encyclopedias from the street or relieving a used bookstore of a Stephen Coonts novel? (auto-audio warning on that Coonts link)

Anyway, very cool project.  Watch this Kish guy, he’s got a blog/RSS to keep up to date on his progress.  More after the jump.

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