Welcome to “Cover Stories”, where we 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.

This week we hear from thehoseman, who gives us the story behind the cover of the recent Zandergriff Miggs & The Parliament of Owls record “Erwin Schrodinger Brought Him Back.”

thehoseman:

When I first stumbled upon Figment, I had absolutely no experience with photo manipulation or graphic design. The writing part has always come fairly readily to me, but it’s taken quite a bit of experimenting and trying different things in the hopes of developing my own style of cover design. I wish I could say that the outcome and/or look of every cover is plotted, planned and known in advance of the creation, but, that’s not really the way I work. I start with an idea and then just dive in and see what happens.

One of the things I have been messing around with is what I like to call “old fashioned cut & paste”. I am constantly raiding magazines and newspapers to build up a collection of images, then grouping the images into collages and photographing them.  I’ve used this method for a number of recent albums.

This album started with a phrase. A play on the old wives tale, “Curiosity killed the cat. Satisfaction brought him back”. I’ve had the line (that comprises the intro and closing coda of the album) written in one of my notebooks for months. “Curiosity killed the cat. Erwin Schrodinger brought him back.” I don’t remember if I read it somewhere or made it up myself, but I knew I wanted to use it. If you dig into it, you can find multiple meanings and I thought that fit pretty well into what Zander & the Owls were all about.

All the images were cut out and grouped into the design using an actual album cover as the background. It’s completely black with limited text that’s easy to cover with the images and it makes it easy to create a square, album sized design. I acquired a cardboard display sign for a t-shirt design that had an eagle whose wings look like the 2 tiered manuals of a Hammond organ. (if you look closely you can see the drawbars.) Everything about it was perfect, except it was an eagle and not an Owl. I cut out the head of one of the owls I used on the “Down The Owsley Hole” cover and placed it over the eagles head and voila…the eagle was now an owl.

For Zander, I took a pic of myself as him with my computer’s built in camera, printed it and cut out just his torso and head. The cat and foliage in the background were found and cut from random magazines. I had a hard time figuring out how to do the box (necessary to tie in the Schrodinger’s Cat theme). I eventually found this image online, printed it and cut it out. I tried setting it up in a variety of ways, none of which really worked out. I settled on the overturned placement…as if the cat were just freed from Schrodinger’s experiment. (which was his way of trying to visualize the abstraction of quantum uncertainty in a tangible, physical way. For those that are unfamiliar with the experiment, I won’t bore you with the details.)

Once the images were assembled into the cover design, I photographed it with an old point and shoot digital camera and dumped it into iPhoto where I darkened it and over saturated the color as well as cropping it square.

The text was added in Pages (a Mac word processor). I kind of screwed myself a little here by not leaving very good space for the album title. I like the band name “painted” on the crate, but the album title placement was a total punt (though I do think it somehow manages to fit the style.)  Then the file was converted to jpeg and uploaded to Picnik.com for some additional effects and filters. (I don’t have Photoshop at my disposal.) I’ll keep the exact parameters used as a trade secret, but I will say there are about 5 or 6 layers of filters and effects added, all faded down to between 10 – 30% opacity. All of the effects were built upon each other to make the cover look more like a painting than a photo. I wanted to wash out the glossiness to give it a faded, early 70’s vibe. I also needed to cover up the flash reflection from the camera that sits disturbingly in the middle of the design. For that I created the spiral (that sort of becomes the owl’s vapor trail as it swoops in to the scene) using the Hypnotic effect. I used the Circle Splash effect to create the beams of light projecting from the owls eyes. Finally, for purely aesthetic reasons, I rounded the corners to again, give it a vintage, uniqueness, just a little detail to define a style.

It seems so totally egomaniacal to say, but I was really thrilled with the way it turned out.

I had already hashed out some song titles and with the complete cover, the rest of the songs and description fell into place. In some of the song titles you will see not too subtle nods to songs by bands that the Owls would consider influences. I’d be curious to see if they are easily recognizable or not. (yes…feedback requested.) All in all, from start to finish this project took me about 4 hours. Once I get rolling, things kind of just pour out and I run with it until It seems finished. I don’t very often go back and make changes or edit…(though some would probably argue that I should! – and as I look at the cover image now, I see many things I would change or do differently.)

I certainly don’t have the knowledge base or skill set of some of the designers on Figment, but I think I have a decent eye for art and through experimentation, I have found ways to utilize the limited tools at my disposal. I definitely attempt to tie each cover in so it makes sense with the band/genre/album it is for and that the overall “feel” of the cover fits the album. (which is highly important to my buying/listening to other albums on Figment.)

I hope anyone who reads this will find it at least somewhat interesting. I look forward to more of these Cover Stories, because I know I am totally curious to find out how all the rest of you create your covers!

4 Responses to “Cover Stories: How Did He Bring Him Back?”

  1. Childofalma Says:

    You’re one crazy-creative dude, Zander. I always want to find out what’s up your sleeve next!

  2. javdoc Says:

    Very cool. Nice to see some old-school work done in here as well. 😉

    Looking forward to many more entries in this series…

  3. poppinfresh Says:

    I agree with javdoc: the use of old-school techniques was very effective. I am feeling inspired!

  4. FuriousGrace Says:

    Wish I had the patience and talent to do something like this! Great feature, I found it really interesting!

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