Rockwell Kent’s Drawings of Moby-Dick
Art makes stories come alive. To me, it is as simple as that. And sometimes without art, there is no story-—or, at least, it’s not quite as good. This was the case for the great American novel Moby-Dick. It is hard to imagine that Melville’s opus was once relatively unknown, but it wasn’t until 70 years after it was published—and artist Rockwell Kent got his hands on it—that the book was rediscovered by the literary world.
Kent contributed to the rise in popularity of the book because of his illustrations of the story, which, when they were published in the 1930, proved to be incredibly popular and are acknowledged as part of the reason why Moby-Dick is now recognized as a classic.
And when you look at Kent’s drawings (which are drawn to have the look of woodcuts but are actually pen and ink) for the book, they embody the story just as much as Melville’s words. The dark zeal and sinister character of Captain Ahab is mirrored by Kent’s linework—immersed in shadow made with dozens of thin parallel lines that come so close together they obliterate all but a few highlights. The massive white whale looms as large in Kent’s drawings as he does in Ahab’s deranged mind, but Kent captures the whale’s beauty and and a bit of the wonder that underlies his existence.
Rockwell Kent’s relatively simple drawings tell the tale of Moby-Dick in a way that is just as powerful as the story itself. The same feelings I have reading the text are there when I look at Kent’s drawing art for the book. That is wondrous—and a reminder to me to never forget the power of art as a storyteller.
My dearest wish is that your art comes alive for you and tells the stories you want to tell as well. If there’s one resource that I think can help along the way, it would be Drawing: The Complete Course. It is an entire art class in one that emphasizes drawing art foundational skills and techniques that you can apply in every area of your art making, with step-by-step drawing instruction that will steer you toward drawings that are more realistic and skillfully rendered. Enjoy!