Earlier this year Heather Fay asked me if I would be interested in doing some artwork for her new record, now titled Cherish the Broken. I had worked with Heather before when she released her cover of Thriller but this was a much bigger project, and it was exciting! I am a huge supporter of indie artists / musicians, and I enjoy her music immensely. So we sat down and talked about her vision and ideas, and I got to planning immediately!
Straight away I knew I wanted to do something different from what is recognised as “scribblegraph” illustration – I wanted it to be uniquely for Heather, and not at all a straight forward “scribble”. The idea involved photographing solid models on a small set, and I described it to her. In hindsight I think Heather was more than a little nervous about the concepts at this stage, but she had complete faith in me, and literally gave me complete artistic control. In this industry, that is phenomenally rare. She truly showed her trust in me, handing that control over to me in what was essentially an enormous emotional roller coaster for her. Releasing an album to the world – exposing that body of work and those parts of yourself – is tough. It must have been tough for her to hear my wild ideas and give me that freedom! But she didn’t hesitate, and I think she’s incredible for that; it was a real show of faith. The title Cherish the Broken hadn’t even been chosen at this stage, and the music hadn’t even been fully recorded or mastered, so there was very little direction other than my knowledge of her previous releases, and of who she is as a person.
Planning across the globe
The collaboration would not have happened without Google+ and Hangouts – that is absolutely certain. We spent countless hours discussing where we were both at with time and other projects, ensuring at every step that we were going to bring everything together at the right time. As “simple” as the finished product seems, these things take far more planning & time than you ever allow for, so being able to communicate well with someone 15,000km and 12 hours apart is vital. I think we did that really well; in and of itself – that is an achievement!
Originally, Cherish the Broken was titled Autumn’s Chill – and my original conceptual sketches for the album art were ultimately canned as this working title evolved. The next progression was the Heather Fay Paper Doll (below) which started to shape the bigger idea of miniature set design and modelling ‘characters’ so that the end product would be a photograph. It would bring a lot more depth & life to the cover, and I knew if I could create & capture it how I was visualising it, it could work really well. When I started presenting these new ideas to her, Heather liked the paper doll I’d made but felt strongly that it wasn’t “her”; she just wasn’t connecting with it, and so it couldn’t work. Back to the scribbling board!
The Heart Tree illustration was a natural progression of something she had herself done during her crowd-funding for Cherish the Broken – her supporters are known as Heather’s Hearts, and this has always been a very powerful piece of her story for her personally, and for me visually. I needed a background for the set I was visualising, and this was the result. Any artist will tell you – this blurry image in the background doesn’t seem like much, but it takes time and a lot of patience. Without quality of the Artline (“Drawing System”) pens I use, it would not have been possible. Mixing ink with watercolour pencils is a nerve wracking exercise, and it takes a lot of faith in your equipment and media:)
Bringing it all together
The characters that appear on the cover of Cherish the Broken are all cut out and photographed in front of the Heart Tree with very specific lighting (some of it ultra low lighting for real warmth – only possible with the support I’ve had from JOBY!). Using shadow to create depth and emotion was a large part of my vision; and the ability to make it work would either spell the over-all success or failure of the cover.
Having now finally released the art for Cherish the Broken it’s wonderful to finally be able to sit back and see how her fans (her toughest critics!) feel about it. We connect with musicians in many ways, and we build an understanding of their identity through their music and the way it’s presented – being a part of that with Heather has been both daunting & intimidating, but also wonderfully rewarding.
I hope those of you that know Heather Fay best can relate to this vision I had for the cover of Cherish the Broken and that you enjoy the album!
Video – how we came together through Google+
You can buy Cherish the Broken now: www.heatherfay.com