My vote for coolest thing on the internet at the moment would have to be Matt Kish’s One Drawing for Every Page of Moby-Dick. The project is exactly what you’d expect: for every page of Matt’s copy of Moby-Dick, he selects a short passage and turns it into a piece of art. For the past couple of years, I’ve been picking at Moby Dick, reading a passage here, a passage there, sometimes sequentially, occasionally following the narrative for several chapters. But mostly I really am just picking, finding themes and images and turning them over in my mind. ODFEPOMB (um…) has been a wonderful companion in my reading: some pieces draw attention to lines of the novel (like ‘it was now clear sunrise,’ illustrated above) that I may have forgotten before; at other times I have waited for Matt to interpret favorite chapters – like ‘The Whiteness of the Whale’ – or smiled to realize I already have the perfect mental image for a passage when picking a page at random.
Kish’s work is stylized, symbolic, eclectic, and in tune with the passions and furies of the source material. Take his iconic Ahab, for example. When he first makes an appearance, we see a machine designed for killing whales – a turret for a head, harpoon set like ordnance in a cannon, a single, monomaniacal eye looking straight ahead. As the rage and madness hidden within the cool exterior begins to show itself, the depiction changes. Cool blues are replaced with blood-red; straight, simple lines turn to scribbles, delicate detail work replaced with rough, broad strokes.
And that’s only Ahab. Ships, sailors, and whales are all treated to the same approach; Kish has built his own visual vocabulary for the novel. And, besides the excellent artwork, Kish’s online persona is endearingly humble and friendly. He seems devoted to his massive project (you would have to be, I suppose), and writes about the novel, the project, and the creative process with eloquence and subtly.
And now is the perfect time to start following. The next page to be illustrated will be the first page of Chapter 133 ‘The Chase – First Day.’ Tomorrow, Ahab will step forward from the scuttle, sniff the air, declare that a whale is near, alter course, and call all hands. Three chapters and the epilogue are all that remain to illustrate and they’re going to be good ones: Moby Dick will be sighted and attacked, boats will be destroyed, Ahab will go down with his foe, the Pequod will sink, and Ishmael will be left to float on a coffin on a dirge-like main. I for one, am pretty damn excited.