Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing For Every Page

Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing For Every Page is the amazing work by artist Matt Kish. The title describes what a reader will find when viewing this work. Kish selects a poignant quote from each page of Moby Dick, the classic work originally composed by Herman Melville in 1851. Kish then creates his own interpretive drawing based on the quote. Kish uses varying mediums to create his work, ranging from pencil, pen, marker and colored pencil. Kish normally composes his work on found paper, which can showcase his drawings on bills, menus, grocery lists, receipts, etc. It is through this artistic layering technique that he is able to add to the layers of Moby Dick’s original story.

Kish is unique because he is a self-taught artist and not a literary critic or professor. He is simply a lover of Moby Dick and its complicated, layered message. Kish has an eye for uniquely powerful passages in the text as well as a gift for translating these messages into visual art.

In the forward of the text, Kish describes his reasons for creating a combined art and written text of Moby Dick. “Really, I just wanted to make a version of Moby Dick that looks like how I see it […] Moby Dick is a book about everything. God. Love. Hate. Identity. Race. Sex. Humor. Obsession. History. Work. Capitalism. I could go on and on. I see every aspect of life reflected in the bizarre mosaic of this book.”

Kish is more than correct stating within Moby Dick and its characters a reader can find allusions to every theme. What Kish succeeds in is bringing these themes to life both through the quotations he selects and the way in which he represents these quotes through his art. Kish’s works often have a mosaic quality, which is particularly important since he describes Moby Dick and the book’s interwoven themes and characters in the same manner.

As one might imagine, Kish’s description of the whale is of extreme importance. As a reader peruses the 552 page work, they will notice Kish works diligently to portray the themes of God, love, hate, obsession and capitalism solely in the whale’s depiction. The whale’s portrayal ranges from menacing and terrifying to peaceful and heavenly with the single turn of a page. In one drawing the whale with fangs terrorizes the occupants of the Pequod, while another shows the whale as being inspired by Van Gough’s Starry Night.

A reader of Melville’s original work will notice Melville often describes the whale in contradictory terms based on specific moments within the text or a specific character’s relationship to the whale.

Trying to narrow down some of my favorite art works within this book was difficult. There are several amazing works which blend and translate Melville’s words into artistic masterpieces.

Although there are several hundred amazing works within this text, if I had to select two that stood out and completely brought Melville’s words graphically to life, I would choose the two pieces which Kish created to represent the whale in its fullest symbolic potential.

The first pictures employs the quote: “declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous, but immortal (for immorality is but ubiquity in time)…”. For this quote Kish, draws a picture of a green whale breeching the water. The green whale serves as a representation of the tree life as a large sunflower reaches into a halo of yellow light from above.

My second favorite picture utilizes the quote: “It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me.” In this particular picture, Kish draws the whale as a white balloon hovering above a diminutive small city hosting a carnival. In comparison to the other balloons and figures, the whale and its whiteness overtakes the picture. A reader of Moby Dick will notice this is a representation of the affect the whale has over Ahab.

This book is perfect for the art lover as well as the lover of Melville’s classic transcendental text. If a reader is appreciative of both art and the original written text, Kish’s work will unlock a special meaning. Moby Dick in Pictures One Drawing For Every Page is the perfect synergy of written classic and visual artistry.