On Trying To Draw Album Art
28toMake is a free, month long course from CreativeLive. The simple exercises are meant to work your creative muscles, by making something small in 20 minutes or so, every day in February. The first week’s exercises are all based on drawing. Yesterday’s involved trying to recreate your favourite album art. But, as I thought about […]
28toMake is a free, month long course from CreativeLive. The simple exercises are meant to work your creative muscles, by making something small in 20 minutes or so, every day in February.
The first week’s exercises are all based on drawing. Yesterday’s involved trying to recreate your favourite album art. But, as I thought about it, what came to mind was something I’d stumbled upon a few weeks back while tidying up the studio, some old art I had drawn back in grade 7.
As a kid, I used to draw versions of album covers for audio cassettes. It wasn’t a job or anything. Just something to make the taped versions of my favourite albums look special. One in particular that caught my eye was a version of the cover for Billy Joel’s The Nylon Curtain.
Joel was never my favourite artist and this certainly wasn’t my favourite of his albums. But, something about the cover art, and the first track, Allentown, did resonate deeply with a younger me. I guess it was the harsh, Richard Ford style critique of working class suburbia, that made me think about my own context, about the kind of school I went to, the kind of neighbourhood I lived in and the kind of lives that were waiting for me and my friends.
So, I did the exercise, not so much drawing the album cover itself, but drawing the version I had made for the audio cassette sleeve. It was fascinating to notice the details, the red edging to match the frame border on the original artwork, the ink hand lettering trying to capture the serif style of the album’s typography. I tried echo the colour graduation in the pencil shading, something I probably haven’t done since leaving school, as well as replicating the type with a Japanese ink brush, instead of a ball point pen.
Sometimes I get asked, is it possible to teach creativity? I think that’s the wrong question. We are all born creative. We learn to repress our creativity, to not trust it, to talk it down or hide it away. The real challenge isn’t learning how to be creative, it’s unlearning all the reasons we give ourselves for not being creative.
My drawings so far in 28toMake have a childlike quality about them. I also see that in many of the submissions on Instagram. Maybe childlike is the wrong term, for the same reasons amateurish might be the wrong term. It’s a judgement, based on ranking, progression and possibly, competition.
Looking back on the album art I drew in junior high school I like what I see. Some of it is pretty good. But, I drew it all for myself. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. I wasn’t being graded or judged in any way. I was responding to things I loved, things that moved me, things that meant something at that time. And, I was making simple, uncomplicated, fearless choices to make something.