One day in a meeting at The Purple Gates, Tony said ‘I’ve had a great remix done from Are we There Yet, maybe we should do a whole album of remixes’. A few weeks later, I was briefed on ‘Are We There Yet: The Med School Scans’.
Tony’s idea for the artwork was Soviet X-ray bootlegs, but this wasn’t something we could produce with any kind of authenticity, even on a small scale, without looking like just another X-ray record cover.
Instead I came up with an idea for coloured vinyl with a purpose (rather than coloured vinyl for novelty), and made a cover design that you have to scan with the record to be able to read.
The whole project looked great once printed – fluorescent Pantones worked perfectly with the colour-blocking idea and look super-tasty in person!
More newness! Here is the artwork I created for Krakota’s debut album. He called the album ‘Strange System’, which is totally up my alley when it comes to record titles.
The title made me think of black boxes (as in science/engineering, not aerospace), which are systems that you can give input to and get output from without having any idea of what happens inside the system. I had some crazy idea to create some artwork completely obscured by a black box, but that was too, well, obscure. Everyone on the project seemed to like what I was drawing to go into the box though, so we ended up with that as the cover itself.
Everything is connected in this artwork! Clearly some of the objects are straight out of the mechanical/system corners of my noggin, but a lot of it comes from Krakota – his love of vinyl, celebratory beers and coffee to fuel the writing process, audio bits and pieces, and objects taken from some of his track titles. On the cover is a xylophone (from Xylo), a ghost, some samphire, an ice machine (for Ice Hands), some bones (for Lazy Bones), and the odd elastic bands. There are more track titles in the gatefold artwork too.
I kept my illustrations on this artwork as geometric as possible to make it feel very mechanical, so to contrast that and bring it back into the world of humans, we had all the artwork printed on a nice and heavy unbleached card stock. It roughs it up just the right amount and looks pretty fresh in physical too.
I received a package from Russia this week, which isn’t something that happens very often in Ricky Trickartt HQ. Inside were finished copies of some artwork I had created for St. Petersburg’s Microfunk – more cardboard cassettes, but in a totally different vein to last time!
The album is a collection of tracks from various members and friends of the Microfunk collective that were lost or unreleased over the years. The concept was about finding new life in something that had been left behind. I was commissioned by Bop to illustrate this concept with the bouquet from the bowl, and got to have plenty of fun filing the inside with pipes too!
I love print so much. The art looks great on the heavy brown paper stock and white ink – it almost looks like I drew each copy myself with some super-fine white Posca markers.
Thanks to Bop and everyone at Microfunk for the project. You can get a copy on their Bandcamp page.
Here’s the last project to close out the work-year: Hospital playing cards!
Hospital and I had been talking about doing a deck of playing cards for a long time and I finally found a few free days to crack on with it in November, just in time to get them out for the holidays. The idea to do the King, Queen and Jack as Surgeon, Nurse and Physician came to me when we first talked about doing playing cards, so I started by drawing them up, and followed them with some more conventional number designs.
When we got the specs from the printer, I discovered there was space not just for two jokers but two extra cards too. I drew a Joker based loosely on Tony the CEO, then after a bit of scratching around I decided a bonus pair of turntables would be better than the rules of Bridge.
The last detail was the box, and I decided if there was ever a playing card package to pay homage to, it would be the magician’s favourite Bicycle.
They’ve turned out really cute – it’s nice to get ideas out of my head looking like I imagined them!
The other big album project I’ve been working on lately is London Elektricity’s ‘Are We There Yet?’. Tony already had the image he wanted for his album cover from a photo shoot while touring in Japan, but he wanted to go all-out for the special edition of the album, and it was left to me to figure out how.
Because of the album’s travel-related title, we agreed to do a series of twelve postcards (one for each track on the LP) and a fold-out map too. First I was given a list of track titles, then I got to listen to the album not long after. Tony’s music always sounds like a slightly-retro adventure to me, and I know he’s really into science fiction, so I decided to treat each track as an intergalactic destination, and made each postcard to be a 1960s-inspired travel poster.
Once I finished all the postcards I turned my attention to the fold-out map. I couldn’t really make a conventional map as the elements from the postcards transcended planets, oceans and objects, so I came up with this abstract illustration for the job.
The style of this work is a little bit outside of my usual repertoire, but I’m really pleased with how everything turned out! The map artwork is included in all formats, but to get the postcards, you had to get one of the super-limited box sets.
The first of two big albums I’ve been working on this year is out today – Etherwood’s second album, Blue Leaves. There was a lot of artwork involved in it, so here’s a drop of some imagery, notes, and a few exclusive bits that didn’t make the cut.
This week’s new release I had a hand in (literally!) is ‘Perspective’ by Anile on Med School. After MD Chris came up with the record cover in a record cover concept, we sent Hospital’s ‘resident doodler’ Snapclicker out with his camera to find us something to work for the title, and this shot from the Barbican Centre jumped out as being perfect for the job. I gave it a retro jazzy feel front and back, and with everyone happy, it went off to print.
When the final copies arrived at The Purple Gates, I couldn’t resist going back to Barbican myself to keep the image going, in kind of a wormhole style. It worked a bit better with the CD, I think. If I was to go any further though, I’d need a much wider lens!
The latest release I’ve had the pleasure of working on is Lynx’s new album, and his first on Hospital Records, simply titled ‘I Am Lynx’.
We haven’t often done the full-on collage thing at Hospital, at least since 2006’s Computer Love EP, but we all thought it’d go well with Lynx’s idiosyncratic musical style. Steve was up for it too, so he sent through a folder of some classic childhood/family photos and a list of objects and memories from growing up in 80s/90s Britain for me to get to work with.
I pulled the collage all together in a way that radiated around Chelone Wolf‘s portrait of Lynx, to show all of these things making him who he is today, along with a few sillier lynx moments.
I’m really pleased with the cover, it’s mega colourful, totally ridiculous and very Monty Python (we even included Bronzino’s Cupid foot), but it’s also probably the most personal artist’s album cover I’ve ever designed.
Digital and CD are out on Monday, with the vinyl following soonafter (thanks, Record Store Day). Go and cop it!
For this album, I created twenty bespoke videos based on my original cover art idea – using a subwoofer to vibrate a pool of blood-coloured oobleck – one for each track. You can see the whole playlist of them all here:
It’s surprising how different the results were based on the different tunes – some of the basslines created very uniformed ripples, whereas some made the mixture go absolutely nuts! Continue reading “Wobble Wobble Womp Womp”→
I like to dip my toes into the waters of animation, and in this YouTube-dominated era of the music business, the importance of the video-sharing site has given me new opportunities to mess around with the medium. I’ve created some small animated loops for a pair of albums this summer, for Hospital Records and its sister-label Med School.
Hospital’s most prolific artist Logistics is back with a new album called Polyphony. Matt comes from an incredible creative, artistic background and has frequently collaborated on or designed his own record covers. The cover for this album was no exception – it was something he created himself on his phone (!), and I found on his Instagram account. We all thought it was fab in the Hospital office, so it became the cover for Polyphony.
I loved the kaleidoscopic style, so I reverse-engineered it in the process recreating a small, hypnotic animated loop. This proved useful not only for the YouTube videos (as embedded above) but also became the source for the rest of the artwork on the album.
Keeno’s debut Life Cycle was a bit of a puzzle for me. He is a brand-new artist that incited a lot of passion from the Hospital CEO Tony Colman – many thoughts were expressed about classical music, reference points were made that I wasn’t getting and dead-ended sketches were produced.
After a while I gave up on the reference points and just followed my nose – I figured as the album was called Life Cycle, I should try and represent a life cycle visually. I remembered back to my past experimentation with phonotropes – using a turntable and a camera’s shutter speed to create animation. After all the sums and technical experimentation, I got the design working. The little guy gets eaten by the big guy all the way along the cycle, which made the nice radial image used on the cover.
The next most difficult part of the project was convincing Med School to release the album on limited-edition picture disc, to make it all make sense. It’s taken me such a long time to write this that they’ve all sold out already, and it’s had to be re-pressed on regular black vinyl! If you were speedy and got a copy, put it on a turntable under a really bright light, and if you look at it through your phone’s camera, you should see the design come to life like it does in the YouTube video!