These are most of the completed panels in my Moby Dick series. They’re not exactly illustration — at least, I don’t think of them that way — but the people who’ve seen them always ask about the text that prompted the image, so I’ve included the relevant excerpts from the text.
The Pequod (Chapter 16)
All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for pins. To fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to.
Ahab (Chapter 28)
Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded.
The panels are made from commercially printed fabric and use the same palette, primarily black, white, and grey with touches of gold and red. The red and gold are overtly symbolic: The red represents the blood of the dead (both the whales and the whalers), and the gold stands for the thirst for profit that drove, and still drives, the energy industry. I don’t do anything to alter the fabric — I just try to pick something interesting and then machine- and/or hand-stitch it down.
Duodecimo (chapter 32)
First: According to magnitude I divide the whales into three primary BOOKS (subdivisible into CHAPTERS), and these shall comprehend them all, both large and small.
One of the most challenging aspects of the series is the format. The pieces are fairly small – 12 inches square. With the square format, it’s easy to fall into the trap of centering the focal point and, as the series is growing, I’m always looking for ways to keep the images from becoming a set of bull’s-eye targets. The woodblock prints in Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo also share a format (a rectangle approximately 8 ½ inches wide x 12 ½ inches tall) and I’m finding that work an extremely helpful resource for thinking about how to frame the subjects and divide the space.
Sharks (Chapter 67)
You would have thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to the sea gods.
Baleen (chapter 75)
In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous “whiskers” inside of the whale’s mouth; another, “hog’s bristles;” a third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language: “There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his upper chop, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth.”
Is there a particular resource or set of works that you find useful or inspiring for problem solving? Do you think about the format, its shape and scale, as a design element in your work? If so, to what extent does it influence the work?