Moby-Dick art by Matt Kish


A couple of years ago, I led an online group read of one of my favorite books, Moby-Dick. As part of that read, I ran across artist Matt Kish’s project to illustrate every page of his edition of the book. Matt was kind enough to contribute a few posts to the reading blog and has been a great guy to get to know a little ever since. I’ve been building up a small collection of his art, starting with the Fin back whale, which I got not in the form of an original piece of art or even a framed print but in the form of a tattoo.  I love my tattoo, but as it had to be simplified to be translated into ink on flesh, it doesn’t begin to compare to the intricacy of design or the richness of color of the original.

The first original (scan and citation here) I picked up was the one pictured at top right above. It actually didn’t make  the final cut as an illustration for the project (and book), so I was able to get my hands on it before the drawing project had wrapped up.

Once I had gotten the tattoo, Matt kindly earmarked the Fin back for me in the event that it was ever eligible for sale, and when he was ready to let it go, I snapped it up. Although it is in a way my most treasured piece, it also has the most humble framing — a cheapo black frame that sandwiches the art between two pieces of glass. I sprang for the gallery glass to fend off glare and protect the piece from harsh light, but I really didn’t want to mess up the back of the art, for two reasons. First, although you can’t really tell from the picture, it’s drawn — as are most of the pieces in the project — on found paper, in this case an old TV repair manual with diagrams. On the back are pictured a couple of vintage television sets, and I hated to lose the back of the piece by mounting it. There’s also an inscription that I didn’t want to lose access to.

My wife got the one pictured at lower right (scan and citation) for me for Christmas this year, and I love the depth of the piece, and all that blue, and how the lines linking part numbers to their corresponding elements in an assembly or part diagram work so well with the image of a squid (all those arms) bobbing on the sea.

Next came the bottom left (scan and citation). The project had been over for a while and Matt was trying to clear the decks, so to speak, so that he could move on to the next project without any of the baggage of the Moby-Dick project weighing him down. I loved the angry red in this one, the texture of the waves, that lightning-strike/scar that imparts to Ahab an external representation of the fractured mentality that dooms him and his crew. This one also happens to be drawn on a page from Moby-Dick about Ahab, and I like the layering of that choice.

And most recently, following pretty shortly after the Ahab image, I got the bottom middle one, a picture of good old Queequeg decked out in a shirt and big socks, carrying a nasty looking hook to be used in the process of turning a dead whale into salable product. Not really evident in the photo above (but clear enough in the scan) is Queequeg’s mark, or signature, which Matt rendered as a “Q” and lemniscate (that’s the three-dollar word for “infinity sign”).

I’m not on the whole a terribly materialistic person, but this little collection — which I’ve finally just gotten hung up as a collection after getting the last two back from the frame shop today — is my prized possession, the thing I’ll go back into the fire for once my kids are safe and sound.

3 thoughts on “Moby-Dick art by Matt Kish

  1. Gabriel says:

    The “lower right” scan link is børken.

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your Moby-Dick art progression over the years. Very cool stuff indeed.


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