Here’s another gem from my cartoonist pal, Randy Enos.
Back in 2005 when my wife and I visited my ancestral homeland, the Azores, at one point, we stayed on the lovely island of Fayal in a hotel which was once a fortress right on the water’s edge replete with cannons on an upper deck next to a big swimming pool and a castle-like entrance. One afternoon we encountered an American artist and his small group of watercolorists. I’ve known a few guys that did this European tour-thing with a gaggle of amateur artists/students who would sign on for a package deal of touring various countries, lodging, visiting museums and painting with critiques from their instructor-guide. The instructor was an amiable chap and he invited us to sit in on a critique of that day’s watercolors by his little gang of students. One woman had put some words into her picture for some reason which prompted the admonition from the instructor, “Never put words in your pictures!” He explained to her that written words have no place in a piece of art and that it had ruined her picture.
I wondered what he would think of a picture I had made 4 years earlier which I named “Call Me Ishmael” (the most famous opening three words of any American novel). I had been trying to think of a unique way to illustrate my favorite book “Moby Dick” and I had hit upon this idea of doing a large picture consisting of just words… the first page of Moby Dick.
The picture is 26″ X 40″. It’s a linocut. What I like to call a “linocut-collage” because I print on a variety of colored papers inking the block in a variety of colored inks. Then I select parts of each print and paste it all up to create my full color picture.
I penciled in the words in mostly capital letters, inventing shapes with them using positive and negative spaces as the forms presented themselves to me. It’s very hard to exactly explain so I am submitting here a few details from the picture along with a photo of the whole thing to show what I mean.
After I had carved all the lettering, I proceeded to ink the block and print on the colored papers. I stuck to mostly greenish and bluish, waterish colors. I made a blue print, a green print, a purplish print, black print, white print on black paper and so forth. I kept inking the block different colors and printing on many many Pantone papers until I had this bunch of prints. Now all I had to do was select parts of those prints and paste it all up as a collage. First I used one of the prints as a “master” to paste the other little letter forms from the big prints on to it.
I think this was the most satisfyingly creative picture I’ve ever made… full of improvisation.
Mystic Seaport sells giclées of it along with my whaling picture called “New Bedford Boys At Toil”.
When I show this picture to people, I tell them that I’m illustrating Moby Dick and that this is the first page… and I have only 822 pages to go!
Amidst my picture puzzle of letter forms in “Call Me Ishmael”, I have buried a few whaling images. There’s a harpoon, whaling spade, killing lance and a small white whale.
I guess the admonition to me would have to be… “Don’t put pictures in your words!”
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: