Welcome to a new regular feature we’re starting here on Figment News called “Cover Stories”.  In each installment of “Cover Stories” we’ll allow a Figment player to describe an album cover he/she designed in their own words.  From the original idea to the finished product, we’ll hear the story behind the cover.

Javdoc’s entry in the Metal Concept Album Contest; ‘five’ by doom metal band Crimson Eye, is without a doubt one of the most striking covers on Figment, and one of which he’s justifiably proud.  Fronting a concept album inspired by the 5 murders central to the Jack the Ripper legend, javdoc’s cover captures the essence of violence and terror inherent in the story in a simple and stark image.  While cover art is obviously a key factor to success in Figment, it’s particularly so with respect to concept albums.  The ability to immediately draw a buyer/listener into the gist of the story with a well-chosen-and-prepared cover is critical.  Javdoc definitely has a knack for this, evidenced by his win in last year’s concept album contest with ‘The Saga Of Carus: I. Journey To Roh’Orn’ by Lords Of Winter, his strong showing in the most recent contest, and the high quality of his work in general.

So for our first entry in the “Cover Stories” series, we turned to javdoc to discuss the genesis and creative process behind ‘five’.

Javdoc: Thanks, I’m honored to kick off this new series.  I hope a little insight into what I did with ‘five’ will be helpful to some of the other players, and I look forward to learning more about some of the other amazing Figment covers as this continues.

I was psyched when the announcement of the Metal Concept Album Contest was made.  In real life and on Figment, I have a definite appreciation for concept albums.  I love the story-telling, whether on ‘2112’, ‘Animals’, ‘Tommy’ or ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’.  I don’t think it’s a surprise many of them are considered the definitive works of the artists who produce them.  And of course, and most relevant here, they almost always have killer artwork that has to tie strongly to the story.  I’ve done a bunch of concept and pseudo-concept albums on Figment, so they are certainly near and dear to my heart.

With some of the albums I’ve done, I’ve had an image first and then created an album to go with it, as in the case of ‘Portals’ by Zeroth.  For that one, I was fooling around with a picture taken by a friend of mine, and the idea of portals came to me.  In the case of ‘five’, I decided to do a concept album around Jack the Ripper, and had most of the songs plotted out before I started on the cover.  My original concept was of an extremely close partial view of a shape in the foreground with a knife in hand looking at a woman in the background, to create an anticipation of violence to come.  I had something very specific in mind, and wasn’t sure how I’d be able to come up with what I envisioned without a lot of editing work.

The image I started with for ‘five’ was a found one – from a BBC story regarding Jack the Ripper.

[Editor’s Note:  The use of found images is, as many of you know, something that you need to be careful with for copyright reasons.  Although javdoc did use an image from a BBC program, he heavily edited it to create a new image that he used for his cover, and thus it was not banned.]

It’s moderately creepy in its’ own right, but I think I upped the ante quite a bit with the way I worked it over.  Though this wasn’t really the image I had been thinking of, I started playing with this one for fun to see where it would go.  The first thing I did was to tweak the color, saturation, contrast and brightness.  I knew I wanted a red scheme, to reflect the intensity, violence and fear of the situation, and not to mention, blood.  I also made it quite a bit darker, so the red was really red and the black was absolute.  I have to say, the result turned out even better than I was expecting, and once I had this I knew I was onto something special.

The next thing I did was to crop the image.  If you look at the original, the perspective of the viewer is about on-level with the shape and the view is fairly wide.  I wanted to adjust that, to give the feeling of someone being trapped, cowering in a corner.  I cropped it so the head of the shape is closer to the top, as though it’s looming over the viewer, and giving more of a looking-up perspective.  The structure on the right side is very dominant, to again give the feeling of being closed in.  When you add this to the heavy, dark coloring, I think it creates a real feeling of closeness.

As I said before, my original intent was to focus on the potential victim, with the killer represented only by a partial silhouette.  Though the actual image was now focusing on the killer rather than the victim, I still wanted to convey the sense of imminent violence, so once the coloring and cropping were set, I painted in an arm with a very visible knife.  It is being very deliberately presented to the viewer, so there’s no doubt as to what is going to happen next.  It took me 2 or 3 tries to get it just right, and though I wasn’t shooting for it, I like the way it’s hard to tell if the knife is protruding from the bottom of the shape’s fist for a downward plunge, or from the top for a slicing swipe.  Personally, I thought the shoulders of the original image were a bit narrow, and to add to the feeling of looming threat and closeness, I bulked up the shape a bit at the same time.

The final thing I did, and I am not even sure if it’s noticeable to most who view the cover art on Figment, was painting in two red eyes for the shape.  This was probably the hardest thing to nail, and took me 5 or 6 tries to get right.  I wanted this to be subtle – I didn’t want some Jimmy Page “Song Remains The Same” special effects fiasco.  Partly it was the positioning, but it was also getting the color intensity just right.  I wanted them to capture the background shading, as if the viewer was looking through the eyes of the shape at the wall behind: playing on the “windows to the soul” concept, and implying the viewer is being stalked by a soulless monster.  I think I finally nailed it, and I must admit feeling a little creeped-out by the final product.

I debated with myself a bit what font style would work for the title.  I was considering some handwriting/scrawl options, and some period typset fonts.  I finally settled on one I thought looked like what might have appeared in the newspapers of the period, as the media coverage of Jack the Ripper was one of the key factors in the establishment and sensational nature of the legend.  The signature Crimson Eye logo was applied, a faint softening was done to tie everything together, and it was finished.

Overall, I think this is one of the best covers I’ve done, and even though it appears very simple a lot of thought went into the final product.  I hope this look into my approach was entertaining and helpful, and as always, I appreciate everyone’s interest and support for the things I do on Figment.

Thanks.

javdoc

Do you have an favorite album cover on Figment that you designed?  We’d love to hear about it for “Cover Stories”, so send it to us using the feedback link on any Figment page.  Make sure to include images that we can use to help tell the story and a full step-by-step write up (use javdoc’s above for a reference) on how you put the cover together.  Please keep in mind that the decision to post your Cover Story will be based purely on the editorial discretion of our Figment News editorial staff.  We look forward to hearing your cover story!

6 Responses to “Cover Stories: Dissecting Crimson Eye’s “five””

  1. theHoseman Says:

    What a great new feature! And, javdoc…nicely done! Your description of your process for creating the cover is wonderfully detailed. I think the craft of true cover “design” is too often overlooked by a lot of the players. There are some truly astounding covers gracing Figment (“Five” being one of them) but there is also an abundance of straight up found images with some text added. Too often I read a review that says “great cover” when it’s obviously an image plucked from online with little or no design work inherent in it. I would love to see more unique creativity in cover design here on Figment. Javdoc and several others (I won’t name, lest I forget someone) are setting the bar for us all to follow. I encourage everyone to find their niche and work with it to create some truly unique art in your own style.

    Thanks Eric and Figment for this cool new feature and for providing us this outlet for our artistic ruminations!

  2. frizbee Says:

    Awesome new feature! I really hope we see more of this in the future, and that it doesn’t go the way of the podcast. I miss the podcast.

    I totally agree with Hoseman. There are far too many instances of people saying “OMG! Awesome cover!” when commenting on what is clearly a random image that was grabbed off of Google with some text added to it via Paintshop. I don’t expect everyone to be Photoshop wizards, but at least put a bit more effort into it.

    I can’t wait for the next installment of Cover Stories. I always wonder about the creative process of my favorite album covers, in real life and on Figment.

  3. Childofalma Says:

    Sweet new feature. I’ll be honest that when I first looked at Five’s cover it looked very simple. I thought to myself “He has Photoshop! (Yeah… yeah I’m a Scorpio. Prone to jealousy…) His options are unlimited!” then I remembered that Javdoc is one of the greatest cover designers on the site. There must be more to it.

    Low and behold, there was. Spectacular.

  4. eric Says:

    Glad you guys like “Cover Stories”. All the thanks does go to javdoc though, it was his suggestion and as evidenced by his “cover story” he richly deserves it.

  5. javdoc Says:

    Thanks guys, I appreciate the comments – both on my work on ‘five’ and on the idea for “Cover Stories”. I look forward to reading about some of the outstanding work being done on Figment.

    Just as an aside, all the work I have done on here has been done with an almost 11 year old version of Paint Shop Pro. A couple of things were even done, at least partly, in MS Paint. Better tools can definitely help, but my feeling is it’s really about experimenting and trying to put together something interesting and different.

  6. poppinfresh Says:

    What a great idea — it’s really interesting to get a peek at others’ creative processes. Hope to see more of “Cover Stories” in the future. And congrats to you, javdoc, for being featured in the inaugural edition — you deserve it. Awesome cover!

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