Monday, February 14, 2011

Stockholm Syndrome Apollo

JAMES - Today is the first installment of what I will call "Process Week" - each of the next 4 days I will post a different process of a new project I've recently completed. Ready.... Go!

First up is an album cover I finished at the tail end of 2010, for the band Stockholm Syndrome's second album, Apollo. The band features songwriter Jerry Joseph and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, as well as an all-star cast. The album is released tomorrow, Feb 15th by Response Records (Feb 28th in the UK). Find it everywhere.

I was approached by the band and management to bring a wild visual to life that somehow combined the Greek God Apollo and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. I was given the title song as reference, which poetically weaves the tale of a man searching for hope and meaning, to eventually soar to the sun from the depths of street life, with the soundtrack of Smokey and the Chi-Lites ringing in his head.

I knew that literally drawing the Apollo theater could possibly confuse people to think this was a live recording from the Apollo, as many such albums have appeared in the past. So I needed a better connection - and what better than the 125th Street subway station.

Pencil Sketch

Here's the simplest of scribbles - in my mind it mapped the whole thing out, even though I realize it doesn't look like much. But compared to the final, it's all there.

Concept Sketch

So I refined the sketch to submit to the band (along with a couple of other different sketches - this is the one they chose) using Photoshop and a quick ink drawing.


Once the imagery was set, it was time to draw. For this one, I drew all the parts separately, starting with the station itself. I created a perspective to work with, and filled the station in around it. From there I would have the basis for the train and Apollo with his horse and chariot, all of which could stay within the proper perspective, using this guide as my key.

Drawing The Train

Drawing Apollo and his horse

Developing the lettering

Again, each element was created on it own, then all combined in Photoshop to be assembled and colored. This makes it a bit easier, in case I decide to change a certain thing later on (and I did...plenty!), it wouldn't affect any other part of the illustration. It also came in handy when creating the image for the back cover, which shows the empty subway station with just a little hint of Apollo's magic being left behind.

The lettering was developed by hand - the style revolves around interlocking circles. Once I had the theme down, I brought it into Adobe Illustrator and refined it till it was perfect.

Back Cover

Detail Shot

I'm very proud of the cover design, of which I also created the booklet and CD face - not to mention the double-LP version on blue vinyl (oooooh!!). And the album is pretty strong - these guys are serious pros. They start their tour on Friday the 18th in San Francisco to celebrate the album's release. Check em out if you can.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a process where I get to do a lot of monkeying around...


Inside the Rock Poster Frame said...

Wow, that is really good. Nice work James

james flames said...

Thanks Gary!

Tyler said...

Super nice stuff James. Way to go!

Christopher writes comics said...

I Love the font you chose, but am curious about the lower font you did not choose... was that based off of a font of completely designed from scratch? The way the letters interconnect is really slick.

Great post!

james flames said...

Thanks guys. Christopher, both fonts were created from scratch - the bottom one was the lettering style from a different concept sketch that I sent the band (which wasn't chosen or used, rightly, in my opinion). I love that style, and plan to use it somewhere, sometime. But I didn't think it worked at all with the current cover, which led me to develop that other font. Thanks though! Good eyes for peeping that out.

artist said...

Brilliant work James; Bravo! Connie

Brian Taylor Illustration said...

Yeah, really great piece!