A few years ago a friend of mine started recording an album with this bushy haired Australian singer songwriter going by the name of Duncan Woods. My friend phoned me up and asked if I could take a few shots whilst they recorded for some promo stuff and perhaps do some quick artwork for an EP. I agreed, took a few average shots and line illustrated a Rabbit character Duncan had kept drawing as a signature.
After developing the EP artwork, the guys asked me if I wanted to do the artwork for the album. Now, turning a sketch into a vector graphic and dropping it onto a layer in photoshop isnt hard. But creating the artwork for the album was going to require something a little bit more engaging. A quick bit of back story…..once upon a time I used to draw continuously from the age of when my memory first started to form properly (some would argue that has yet to happen) till about 16 when I left school and became an irresponsible delinquent heavily distract by all the things that distract a teenager. And for some reason I stopped drawing. Whilst this might be a random tangent, its leads onto the fact that for some reason I agreed to illustrate an album cover without ever actually really illustrating, well, anything before and having completely forgotten how to draw. But none the less I enjoy agreeing to do things I can’t do, then working out how I am going to do said thing.
DEVELOPING THE CONCEPT
The album was to be called “Together on the Road” and the motivations for the tracks stemmed from Duncan’s questions about life and the path we are all supposed to take.
As it turns out the album name was a phrase that was lifted off of a bicycle boat trailer in Amsterdam, the top photo being that trailer (the bottom image was a idea for the front cover). The album name started to create an idea. I started to imagine the title as a description for the journey we take through life. From small upbringings, to the travels some of us embark upon in our late teens & early 20’s to our working life and eventually to our inevitable death. I wanted to cover many things with the artwork from innocence, multiculturalism, capitalism, perversion, domestication, religion and mortality. The rabbit Duncan had sketched for me for the EP artwork became a recurrent symbol of a divine entity in my mind, the mark of some form of religion or movement.
What I intended to create (and ultimately what proved to be too expensive to produce independently) was a folded album cover that people buying the album would unravel and then engage in. I went as far as to create small details on the CD of Chinese symbols representing messages of life and death, happiness and sorrow on the bases of the two sand timers. These timers were surrounded by smaller sand timers denoting the individual experiences we have in life and their durations, the idea being that they are all connected and have an effect on each other.
DEVELOPING THE IDEA IN PHOTOSHOP
Because of my limited skill and the linear nature of the idea I decided to go for a two dimensional look. I started out by making a quick sketch of the idea I had in my mind before proceeding.
My tools of choice were the pen tool and the shapes tool. My first draft focused purely on trying to get my rough sketch into some sort of viewable shape. The colour palette I initially chose matched the beige paper that had been chosen for the EP cover, but after sometime I simply got depressed looking at it. It also meant that I was fairly restricted colour-wise with what I could use and I felt it was just too dark a tone for what the music was trying to convey. I was also not happy with the look of the Hospital and the small house next to it so I did some tweaking and made the whole piece less monochromatic-like and more colourful.
I developed the characters after the first draft using the pen tool and based them roughly around the ducks seen on the trailer. Nothing too complicated, but I wanted to populate the illustration with more than one type of animal and settled for a Rabbit, a duck and a penguin.
The tree came after the initial sketch whilst I was creating the first draft. I needed something with a bit of impact that would allow the rest of the scene to unfold. I have always like the use of tree’s as being symbolic of life so the idea of juxtaposing it as an icon for death intrigued me. I found a stock illustration of a tree that had the right shape for the trunk and drew the branches out from this base image. The idea behind the different shaped leaves was to represent different religious viewpoints that all ultimately have the same basic ideological core (the tree) that there is some higher entity who guides us, based on a set of rules, into an afterlife of some type based on how we lived our current life.
The Look of the Buildings
I based the look of the city on classic New York architecture. I have always liked the look of the tall roomed arched window buildings. The control tower of the air port was based on LAX’s control tower. The small cottages have a idyllic European countryside influence. With the Hospital I decided to go with a modern look with the impression of a large open entrance hallway.
Developing from the first draft I decided to go full detail and fill in every last little point where something could happen. The taxi cabs are based on the classic yellow New York cab, shop names, a strip bar and even the various goings on in the hospital. I wanted to create detail that would cause a person to look closer at what was going on.
The CD cover
I had only developed the one rolling piece of artwork and actually did not take into account the CD cover or the CD itself. Once I got onto this stage I planned to give all viewable surfaces some details to look at. As the initial idea was too large to be cost effective for printing (this was all self funded by Duncan) I decided to shrink it down and use it as complimentary part of the rear sides composition.
There was some discussion as to whether or not to include the album name and artist title on the front of the CD case. In the end I put my foot down and put the title and Duncan’s name on the spine as having it on the front would detract from the front image.
The fairground I included just because. It started off as a doodle and kinda developed from there. The initial version was reversed allowing me me to put the Ferris wheel behind the CD so it was revelled when CD was taken out.
The final product – below are a few pictures of the CD and the cover:
Finishing Things Up
As part of the Album launch I converted some of the specific parts into posters that were going to put up around the gig venue. I decided to add an additional piece, developing the Hitchinos Smoked Chicken restaurant into a chicken farm.
After everything was tied up and finished I had a spare couple of hours on my hands and decided to merge everything together into one piece. I figured this was a nice way to tie things up and develop some of the atmospheric bits like smoke, smog and street lights.