Keith Alan Mitchell

Songwriter, singer, guitarist – Acoustic Rock, Indie Folk, Alt Country

Art is art. And art takes time.

Posted on Mar 1, 2014

I’m not a visual artist. My brain just isn’t wired that way. No surprise really, since for whatever reason, my DNA seems more attuned to all things auditory. I know what I like when I see it and enjoy the occasional art museum exhibit – and, like many people, I had a short period of time where I dabbled in photography. But drawing, painting, sculpture, etc. – those are just not my things as an artist, even though I get lots of enjoyment – and awe and respect – out of them as a viewer.

So in retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised that the process of getting the artwork done for the album was quite an educational experience for me. If you’re short on time and don’t feel like reading the rest of this, the main takeaway from the whole experience is: Start the album artwork as soon as possible. Literally. As in, if you know what you want to call the album and have any sort of concept in mind, start making it happen – even if you haven’t recorded any of the songs yet. Maybe even if you haven’t finished writing all of them!

Just as writing a piece of music can be incredibly time consuming, so is creating visual art. I knew I wanted an illustrated cover, rather than a photo or more graphic design-style work. But it never occurred to me that this would take the amount of time it did.

After spending some time – much longer than expected really – experimenting with some different ideas and eventually coming up with a concept, it was time to actually get someone on board to make it happen.

Through a friend’s contact I met up with a print production company who had their own stable of freelance artists. They were nice enough to point me to the perfect match for the concept and style I had in mind for this album cover. Lena Gustafson is a Bay Area artist/illustrator and after looking through her portfolio, I knew it would be a good fit.

Based on some of the images and styles that I found inspiring, and the concept I’d come up with for the cover and title, Lena was able to give a few quick mockups she showed me as a starting point and we were off and running.

Three initial rough (but excellent) mockup ideas for the album illustration.

But remember what I said – I can’t really tell what I like or don’t like until I actually see it, and even then, I might not know why or what specifically isn’t working for me. (That’s gotta be just about the most frustrating sort of client anyone can have, and I was “that guy” at times during this process.) After a few rounds of different renderings from Lena – all varied and beautiful, but some closer and some farther away to what I thought I wanted – we finally got things locked in. We were trying to do some of this work late in the calendar year too and the holidays always have a way of making things stop for a while.

Eventually though we got things dialed in to where we both liked it a lot and it matched the look and feel I wanted the album to have. As a bonus, the artwork is being used selectively on this very web site and no doubt will be used on concert posters, etc. in the future. So it was a good investment. And now I’ve learned to allow plenty of time for this process for the next album. Maybe the real takeway is:

Art takes time, so give it the time it deserves.

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