09 November 2017

Christmas in the County 2017

30" x 36", oil on canvas, 2017, private collection

Being a huge fan of music, I always feel lucky and happy when I get to participate in the design and/or illustration of a CD package for a band (or other musical project). I've done a few of them over the years, learning a lot along the way, and they've been plenty of fun, for the most part.

A few months ago, Krista let me know that Lori Farrington, one of the organizers of the annual Christmas in the County fundraising album, was looking for an artist for the 2017 CD cover. I contacted Lori immediately about volunteering to illustrate the cover and offered to go beyond that and design the booklet as well. It turns out it's just a sleeve, but the track listing and credits still needed to be laid out on the back of it, so I took care of that...although, I don't know what the CD itself will look like, as I wasn't involved in that (somehow I let it slip my mind).

The CD should be ready in early December and I'll have photos of the finished package then.


Some of my earliest ideas centered on coziness, inspired by the Danish concept of Hygge, but I couldn't figure out a way to illustrate that and customize it for Prince Edward County without it feeling overly contrived. I'm sure there's a way, but I wasn't happy with any of my ideas, so I brainstormed further, collecting images for inspiration.

Among these were images of stained glass windows (traditional and contemporary), various musical instruments, local winter landscapes (mostly pictures of Small Pond in winter), and the covers of past Christmas in the County CDs by other local artists (to make sure I don't repeat earlier ideas).

Ground with tightened pencils.

Skipping my sketchbook, I decided to compose my cover idea directly in Photoshop using a photo of a winter sunrise I shot a couple of years ago in our backyard, an acoustic guitar, some scrolls from a medieval stained glass window, and a scan of a "matrix" pattern (among many) I'd created a decade ago for use in some other paintings.

The scrolls would remain on top of everything, the landscape would remain intact (but I'd make the foreground a field of white snow, rather than the frosty tall grass from my photo), and I'd break up the guitar in a "shattered mirror" sort of way...for fun.

Getting the lead out.

Knowing this would be the darkest element, I started on the "leading" using a brown and blue mixture that I find gives me a richer black than black from a tube. This first application isn't the darkest it will be, but I planned to go over the lines at the very end to clean up any brush strokes that crossed over.

Scroll and body work.

Rather than lay out the text in a computer program for the final cover, I wanted to incorporate it in the painting itself, to make the entire cover handmade (although, I did lay out the text in Photoshop in preparation for the painting to get the spacing, sizing, and curvature as correct as possible).

I started with the scrolls because hand-lettering is not one of my strengths and I wanted to get it done early in case I had to make any serious adjustments, but I think they turned out okay.

I made the guitar body darker than the final would be. knowing I'd paint several different lighter shades of brown and orange over top.

Getting the blues.

I painted the blue foreground expecting to either overlay that with some transparent white paint, or make a similar adjustment in Photoshop later on. Then I fell in love with the blue/orange complementary contrast overall and kept it as-is.

I didn't do anything to change the colour of the scrolls, here; that's just the exposure of the photo messing things up.

Doing some landscaping.

I've mentioned before how painting over a bright orange ground messes with my colour perception –especially if I'm painting blues– so getting the violet hues of those sunrise clouds was a challenge, but it worked out in the end.

After this stage, I had to simulate the brightness of the sun in the centre, so I added a red-orange halo around the trees in the middle and then made a bright yellow sun which would get a flat white covering afterward.