t h e C O L L E C T O R

These images were inspired by Jonathan Lethem’s short story entitled (though you’ve probably already guessed this) The Collector, a beautiful piece of writing that chronicles the evolution of the protagonist through his collections.

I’ve acquired the rights to this story and intend to publish words and images together in the not-too-distant future. Some of the titles of the drawings that follow use words from the story, while others incorporate my own words as well.

The drawings are broken into four major groups, the first being a portrait gallery – mostly 11″x30″ marker drawings – that pulls some imagery directly from the story but also includes my own idiosyncratic interpretations and symbols to illustrate psychological states of the protagonist, whose face you may recognize as Patton Oswalt.

Oswalt has no connection to the story itself, but I’ve always liked his face and found it to be incredibly expressive, so I decided to steal it. Not his actual face, of course. That’s still attached to his head. I assume.  Oswalt was part of a short film on an old issue of Wholphin in which he stared at the camera for five solid minutes, basically making faces. I was impressed by how malleable his mug was and thought it would fit well for this particular illustration project.

face banner

Another group of drawings are primarily text based. I took one line from the story and literally illustrated it, creating a twelve-foot-tall collage built from individual 24×36-inch sheets of paper upon which this particular line of text from the story was drawn. I spent some time designing the words in Illustrator before putting them on paper. This part of the project is as much about the literal words of the story as it is about the subtext of any given communication, as it is the space between the words that was actually drawn, the words themselves being the untouched white of the paper.

I also chose one line of the story to inspire a group of drawings. In truth, I had previously made several drawings that I felt fit this particular line (“Music was a fractal disaster area.”) quite well, so they became a recycled part of the overall project.

Finally, another group of drawings simply lifts imagery directly from the writing. For example, an early collection of the protagonist is stamps, so I drew a stamp. Makes sense, right? I wanted at least some aspect of this project to be more traditional in terms of illustrating content.

Looking back to when these drawings were created, a couple different things have become clear to me; there was a quality to them that never felt connected enough to the actual story I was attempting to “illustrate,” and I think this is, at least in part, why I’ve never tried too hard to get the project published. I also realized that the reason these drawings felt disconnected from Lethem’s text was that my life – not to list toward the melodramatic – was unraveling during the making of them.  A bit of reflection shows that there is far more of me in them than there is of Lethem’s protagonist; specifically, some of The Collector portraits aptly illustrate my inner catastrophe circa 2012. This is a quality that I have come to appreciate in the work.


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