Ask magazine (a sister publication to Cricket) contacted me with an assignment to illustrate a story about the whaleship Essex sinking. This was a true life incident in which a whaleboat was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale out in the pacific, and was the story that inspired the novel ‘Moby Dick’. Coincidentally, I had just recently read the account of this sea story only a month or so earlier, was very interested in the topic, so it was with great interest that I approached this assignment. This story in the magazine only concerned itself with the ‘whale attack’ part of the tale, and not the grisly aftermath (two or three drifting lifeboats, starvation and cannibalism).
The illustrations are all odd sizes and shapes, having to snake around through the text and sometimes across two page spreads, so I’ve taken some liberties with presenting them here, combining a few spots, flipping a few to face the other way in order to fit the space, and in the case below, reducing the illustration quite a bit in size to fit this blog.
The one just above was the opening illustration, stretching across a two page spread with text to the right and left of it, and showed the initial contact with the whale. The illustration at the top is a combination of two separate illustrations. The larger one spread across the gutter of a two page spread, and shows the whale swimming towards the ship about to ram it, and the spot to the upper right was actually facing the other direction in a corner of the page, and shows one of the harpoonists. The illustration along the left side was of one of the sailors trying to cut a line that was still attached to the whale as he was diving. The illustration below depicts one of the impacts with the whale’s fluke, and shows a couple of the tortoises that were brought aboard from the Galapogos Islands for a supply of fresh food for the men.
I so enjoyed this assignment, that it inspired a promotional postcard that I drew up a month or so later, hoping to land more assignments of this sort (and it would later prove to work like a charm).
Also around this time, I had an assignment from a book publisher, Voyaging, out of NY, that needed an ornate nautical compass rose for the frontspiece of a book. I had a lot of fun with this one too, using ‘sea beasts’ and ornamentations from old maps as inspiration to put this together.