Last month I posted a collage of some of my favorite covers for Moby Dick. Today, I am sharing my own spec cover for the novel!

I painted this image in digital over a traditional drawing. I used transparent layers on the image until about the half-way point, after which I switched into normal layers and screen layers for the rest of the image.

One of the great challenges of this piece was the amount of atmospheric effects I had laid out for myself in the sketch. The temptation with digital is of course to make a brush for every effect. (“Eureka! It will be simple as cake! I’ll just make a foam brush, a cloud brush, a wave brush; why… even a person brush! THE WORLD WILL BE MINE!”)

Yet, were I even able to do this, it would lead to disunity in the image. Cut-outs and shortcuts don’t work. They create a visual clutter that disrupts the flow and repetition viewers are used to seeing in painted images and more importantly, in real life. When you use a wide variety of trick brushes, elements within the image don’t seem to match up with one another. They don’t feel like they belong in the same world together and a keen observer, particularly those familiar enough with painting, will pick it out quickly, and it will be an annoying distraction that will take them out of the experience. The rest will feel a low grade disappointment with the piece as their subconscious tries to reconcile the disharmony. It just doesn’t look right.

So a challenge for me in this piece was to use only 2 brushes to try and achieve all the effects: A splatter brush and a rough-edged brush. I made the rough-edged brush one that could blend well on low opacity, but also paint clean, solid shapes on high opacity. You will have to be the judge of the image’s success or failure on this 2 brush approach. (Hey Gerard, you aren’t fooling anybody! I can see clearly you used a whale brush to make that whale and you used the cloud filter, you snake-handling eel!) …Anyway, it was an interesting challenge and I really enjoyed working with a limited tool set for this one.

Digital Value Comp

Tight Pencil Drawing. Graphite on heavyweight drawing stock.

 Transparent Digital Underpainting (about 40% complete)


“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; 

to the last I grapple with thee;

from hell’s heart I stab at thee;

for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”