Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Something like a book plate, maybe?

Yesterday, someone who had recently purchased Moby-Dick in Pictures but lived very far away from me here in Ohio and very far away from any of the appearances I would be making for the book emailed me to ask if I would send him something he could paste in his book as a kind of personal note or dedication. I thought that was a fantastic idea so I replied and told him I would be happy to draw him a small picture and write something as well so that he could attach it to his copy and have something a bit more unique and personal. This is something I would like to do for anyone who asks, really, so if you've purchased a copy of my book and would like me to send you some kind of drawing or note you can attach to one of the front pages, I would be happy to. I can't promise anything extravagant, but it will be good and it will be unique. I am searching for blank bookplates because it would be ideal if these could simply be adhesed into the front cover, but if my search is fruitless these will simply be small drawings on paper that you can paste or glue in yourself.

If you'd like something like this, send me an email with your address and let me know. Also, let me know if you'd like anything in particular. Obviously, there is no charge at all for this, and it is something I am happy to do for those who've put faith in me and bought the book.

My art, in Scotland...


The immensely gifted poet JoAnne McKay who, some time ago, was kind enough to include some of my illustrations in a magnificent handmade poetry book she created titled Venti has also purchased some of my Moby-Dick. As you know, it gives me great joy to share my art with friends, and ever greater joy to see images of my art in its new home. JoAnne has written a wonderful blog post with lots of photos of the contents of the package that I sent her, as well as some in-progress photos of the art being framed. This kind of thing simply thrills me to no end. And to think this is all happening in Scotland! Someplace I have only ever read about and dreamed of! To know that my art, made in my closet with my own two hands, now lives thousands of miles away across the ocean. It's brilliant! Many many thanks JoAnne, for the post, the photos, the kindness, and the friendship!

27 more 'Moby-Dick' illustrations for sale in my shop


Now that Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page is more or less officially out (a bit early, I know, but some friends have already begun receiving their hardcovers in the mail which is really quite exciting!) I've added 27 new pieces to my Etsy shop. Quite a few very good illustrations, I think, consisting almost entirely of whales, White Whales, harpooneers and Ahabs.

This will probably be the last batch for a few months as I need to hold quite a few pieces back for a gallery show in Portland in November. Take a look if you're interested.

Questions People Ask Me #01: Why 'Moby-Dick?'

This time, they're videos.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Home from New York

New York and Brooklyn were fantastic, exhausting, surreal, and very encouraging. I was not at all certain what to expect, how I would be received, and what people would think of the book and the project but thankfully nearly everyone was very kind, encouraging, and truly interested in what I had created. There were some odd moments and some awkward instances, but overall the entire experience was a very positive one and I am grateful to everyone who made this possible.

Unfortunately, I did not get to take nearly as many pictures as I had hoped. Mostly I was just too busy, and when I wasn't too busy, I was kind of stunned at how surreal everything seemed. And when I wasn't stunned by the surreality, I was tired. Nonetheless, here are at least a few pictures of what I did last weekend.

My wife and I flew into New York on Thursday morning. I was part of an event that evening called the Brooklyn Book Festival Bookends Opening Night Party at this amazing bookstore called the powerHouse Arena. powerHouse is also a publisher and they've got a fairly incredible line-up of titles. The event was co-hosted by powerHouse, my publisher Tin House Books and this really great new literature and art magazine and web site named Electric Literature. Really really fine folks there. You should check out the site, their stories, and definitely their magazine. There were to be quite a few other people at this event, including Tin House magazine editor Rob Spillman, and readings from authors Kelly Link, Marc Basch, Elissa Schappell. My wife and I were staying in Manhattan, so we took the subway to Brooklyn and walked the rest of the way to the powerHouse Arena. On the way, we saw this...


...and this...


I had no idea these people occupied such a huge piece of what I would assume to be very expensive Brooklyn real estate. Not at all what I would have expected to see.

I had seen a few photos of the powerHouse Arena online and been a bit awed, but it is even more incredible inside. There really is what resembles an arena, or amphitheatre, with curved and tiered seating for an audience and a space for authors or performers. Here is what the store looks like from the bottom row of the arena seats...


You may now be able to see why I was getting a bit nervous. I was in New York, the heart of the publishing and art world, getting ready to share a few images of my project with a crowd of people who had presumably already seen and read everything under the sun. All in a bookstore which doubles as an architectural marvel. The image below, while blurry, nicely sums up how I felt. A tiny little thing sitting out in the open hoping bravely to not bomb...


Yes, that's an advance copy of my book, displayed proudly. I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing my name posted like this, as part of an "event" or a "reading," so I try to take a picture of this anytime I see it. This is the board announcing the night's festivities, and there I am...


This one is very dim, but here is a shot of me holding the mic, talking about the project, and looking at the book cover (which was projected on the wall)...


And here is a much much better shot, ganked from the Electric Literature blog which shows me a bit brighter and the cover on the wall...


By the way, you should read Electric Literature blog post about the event. They have a much better rundown of the whole thing, and many more photos.

There were way WAY more people there than I could have imagined too. It really freaked me out at first, but I think I did okay. All of the seating was full and the rest of the bookstore was standing room only. Here's part of the crowd...


All in all, the event was a huge success for me, I think. Rob Spillman was very kind, his wife Elisa Schappell was incredible to talk to and demonstrated a courage and ferocious passion for writing that I don't think I have ever experienced before. She was remarkable. I finally got to meet my agent Seth Fishman who is every bit as cool as I had thought he would be. Author Kelly Link was a blast to talk to, a deeply intriguing writer, and she had an excellent H.P. Lovecraft necklace on. The folks from Electric Literature, especially Benjamin Samuel, were wonderful to talk to and I hope to be able to contribute to their publications soon. Many people came up and congratulated me on the project and the book and asked a lot of unexpected but welcome questions. It really truly went great.

The next day, Friday, was a real whirlwind. First, it was off to Rob Spillman's home to sign advance copies of my book for sale at yet another party, Brooklyn's shockingly excellent new independendent bookstore Greenlight, and the Brooklyn Book Festival itself on Sunday. It was immensely kind of Rob to welcome my wife and I into his home, and he fed us too, which was even nicer. His family was great to talk to, and we learned that his daughter is the drummer in the band Care Bears on Fire. For these advance copies, I wanted to do more than just sign them, so I spent a good 90 minutes - which Rob was very patiently sat through - signing and drawing a rather detailed picture in all 22 copies. I really felt good doing that, and I was happy to be able to share something more individual with everyone that bought one of those copies. This is me sitting on Rob's back patio diligently drawing away...


And my wife and I, on Rob's patio. You can see a bit of one of the drawings in this one...


One of the biggest highlights of the trip for me though was getting to spend a bit of time visiting my friend the artist Shawn Cheng. Shawn has been so encouraging to me, for many many years now, and in so many ways I owe him just about everything. There never would have been a Moby-Dick illustration project or book without his friendship and advice, and he is an absolutely phenomenal artist as well. He is currently working like mad on a number of huge pieces for a solo show coming up in either February or May of 2012. I think I might actually be more excited about this than he is! Anyway, he was kind enough to take some time out from his workday to hang out with me in his Brooklyn studio and show me some of what he has been working on. Shawn keeps a well-maintained studio blog showing almost all of the work in progress. It is fascinating to visit. This is Shawn and I in his studio, and you can see some of his heartbreakingly gorgeous art in progress all around us...


Finally, it was off to the party at the Greenlight Bookstore. Although my book is not officially out yet, there were advance copies floating around, and it was an absolute thrill to finally see my own work sitting on a display table in a real bookstore in Brooklyn...


And of course, even better to see my book so close to a scantily clad woman.

So that's my New York trip. I may be back, but there are still a lot of upcoming events in October and November. I'll take more pictures for those.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Come and see me in Brooklyn tomorrow night


To kick off the Brooklyn Book Festival, the powerHouse Arena is hosting a Bookends Opening Night Party on Thursday September 15th from 7pm to 9pm. Co-hosted by Electric Literature and my own wonderful publisher Tin House, the evening will feature featuring live music by Backwords along with readings by Kelly Link, Marc Basch, Elissa Schappell, and a presentation of some images from my own book along with me talking a bit about them. And if you corner me, I'll try and draw you a picture. I truly hope to see some of you there!

Studio visit video, part 6 of 6

The end...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My art in Illinois...

Blogger (his blog bears the fantastic name Imagined Icebergs which I love!) and educator Dan T. in Illinois was one of the very first people to purchase some of the art from this project, and he has posted some photos of the art framed and hanging on his walls in this post here. If you follow that link, you'll see a few iterations of Queequeg, including the the very first image I ever drew of that tattooed harpooneer, all in their new home. There is also an interesting story about another piece Dan was interested in that had been claimed, as a surprise for Dan, by his partner. I remember at first being really confused by the fact that I was shipping two packages of art to two different names, both at the same address, and quadruple-checking my records out of a sense of terror that I would send something to the wrong place. It all worked out though.

Best of all for me, though, was seeing this image...


...my drawing of Stubb eating "the whale by its own light" which Dan has framed and hung over a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus! That book is like a Holy Grail to me, and I would gladly trade just about any piece of art I have ever made for a good copy of it! I have been coveting a long look at that book ever since I first heard about it, and have yet to see anything of it beyond a few images online. It is a real honor, and a curious bit of synchronicity, to have my art framed and hanging near a copy of it.

Many thanks for sharing, Dan!

Studio visit video, part 5 of 6

Almost finished now...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First advance copies of "Moby-Dick in Pictures" arrive!

Even now, on the morning after, I am still too stunned and overwhelmed to write anything articulate. So just watch the video...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Click this and make it BIG

Albert Mobilio of Bookforum magazine has written some fascinating and exceptionally kind things about my upcoming book Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page. I believe this column appears only in the print edition of the magazine, but they were kind enough to share this JPG of the piece with me, so click on the image below to make it big and read it. I'm honestly kind of speechless after reading this.

Studio visit video, part 4 of 6

More poking around in the studio...

Upcoming appearances

In just about a week, the publicity and events for the book start in earnest. I've created a sidebar to the right where I will keep all of the upcoming appearances posted. I truly hope to meet some of you out at these events.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Studio visit video, part 3 of 6

Finally, we step inside the studio and start digging around a bit...

I have been mentioned (sort of a review, too)

Julie Eakin also wrote some amazingly kind things about this project and the upcoming book for ForeWord Reviews, and you can read them right here. I like this because she went a little deeper into the work itself and touched on some of what I was doing with the art.

I'll be honest, I know the book is coming out soon (a little over a month now) and there will almost certainly be a savage review somewhere. I know what my weaknesses are, and in this digital age, I suppose you're nobody until somebody publicly rips on you. That one-star Amazon review is just around the corner, I think, and while I try not to think about that too much I do get a little nervous and queasy about it. But so far, everyone, and I really do mean everyone, has been genuinely kind and supportive and enthusiastic about this project and the book, and I never would have dreamed that something I made would resonate in such a good way with so many different kinds of people. All of these words people write about the project mean a lot to me. Thank you.

I have been mentioned...

Mark Flanagan was kind enough to write some very nice things about this project for the Contemporary Lit section of About.com right here. I have found it continually fascinating how many people have become aware of this project of mine, admitted that they have never read Moby-Dick and gone on to say that my upcoming book just might be what they need to finally read the novel. That's quite an amazing compliment.

Studio visit video, part 2 of 6

A bit about what my days were like for the 16 months that I worked on the project from the closet studio...

The War and Peace Project, and my collage

Artist Lola Baltzell and her Team Tolstoy have been furiously working on an undertaking even more massive and ambitious than my own Moby-Dick illustration project. They are creating a unique collage for every single page of Tolstoy's novel War and Peace. They've been chronicling their efforts for some time now and the results are breathtaking. Take a look at their blog The War and Peace Project to see what they've accomplished so far.

Lola was kind enough to ask me to contribute a piece illustration page 510 of the novel. I did some reading and research and, oddly enough, that page describes the French army licking its wounds like a great beast. I could not help but draw mental parallels between that image and the great White Whale that has dominated my thoughts for so long, so you will see that reflected in my piece. Take a look at my contribution right here. Many many thanks to Lola and Team Tolstoy for giving me a chance to be a part of this grand endeavor!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Studio visit video, part 1 of 6

My publisher Tin House Books asked me to create a few videos to help promote the book, so I decided to start with a "tour" of my closet studio. I'm keeping all the videos short and sweet so that you can even watch them at work. Check out part 1 right here...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Moby-Dick in Pictures" book giveaway

I just stumbled across this, but it looks like the web site GoodReads.com is hosting some kind of giveway for my book Moby-Dick in Pictures. They are giving away 10 free copies, and right now there are 101 people signed up so that pretty much gives you a 1 in 10 chance of scoring a copy free.

It looks like you might have to actually be a member of the site to register to win, but I'm guessing that many of you reading this are already signed up. Check it out right here.