Original art complements student-made albums

Rachel Lee, Arts Editor

From Pink Floyd’s iconic “Dark Side of the Moon” prism image to the Polaroid picture on Taylor Swift’s “1989” album, cover art has become one of the most recognizable ways that people visually identify musicians.

Even on a high school level, as more and more teenage musicians release their own work, student artists are creating album covers as an opportunity to bridge the gap between musical and visual art and gain exposure for their designs.

Junior Eden Smith created the first album cover art for Tomtsu, a student band at the high school, as well as the design for their “128” single. The “128” cover art plays on the idea of a yin and yang concept as it depicts two intricately illustrated koi fish swimming circularly in a galaxy pool.

According to Smith, the band members gave her the general outline of what they wanted by specifically requesting a koi fish design, but she ultimately had the artistic license to create what she deemed fit.

“I probably listened to that single 50 times in the process of making it, because they said they really wanted it to look like it sounds,” Smith said. “When people look at it, they know what’s coming based off of the art, so I wanted to capture that.”

Another cover artist for Tomtsu, junior Risa Yamazaki, created the art for the band’s “Tongue Tied” single, a design that reflects the title itself with the focus on a person’s mouth with a road as the tongue. Yamazaki explained that when she listened to the actual song, she had imagined someone rushing along on a skateboard which became the initial inspiration for her design.

Similarly to Smith, Yamazaki said that Tomtsu left the design up to her, but she wanted to ensure down to the colors and size that she was creating something the musicians were satisfied with.

“I do think it’s hard to try to draw something that you listen to because everybody has different imaginations when listening to a song,” Yamazaki said.

Both Smith and Yamazaki expressed that the opportunity to create cover art allowed for artistic growth. According to Yamazaki, she was able to exercise different techniques when she chose to use pen and paper rather than digital design, and that seeing her work used on major platforms like Spotify, marked a big step for her as an artist.

In addition to improving her technical skills, Smith said that she developed the ability to collaborate with others during a creative process.

“Usually as an artist at this stage, you don’t really have clients per se, you just make whatever art you wanna make. This really helped me learn how to work with different people,” Smith said.

In addition, creating cover art for Tomtsu opened up new opportunities to work on her art.

“It definitely gave me business experience and it connected me to the Teen Center where I work now,” Smith said. “Tomtsu plays at the Teen Center, and I just kept doing stuff for them and fliers, so the Teen Center was like, ‘Do you want to make fliers for us as a job?’”

However, cover art is not the only way to link pieces of visual art to musicians.

Instead of an album cover, Senior Rose Roustom created the logo for Föss, another band formed by students. Since Föss has not yet released their own music, Roustom drew the logo ideas from the band’s request for a waterfall as Föss means waterfall in Icelandic.

Roustom already had some background knowledge on freelance work because of exposure to her family’s art business, but she still gained more experience in creating work that people will want to actually use for themselves.

“[The challenge was] definitely fixing it, definitely the back-and-forth part where I knew what they wanted, but I needed to create multiple versions of that and see what they liked,” Roustom said. “They needed to understand what they wanted as a group and disagree with each other, and I can disagree with them. This sort of negotiation to get to the perfect thing.”

Yamazaki and Smith also stated that continuing with more possible cover art was something that they would enjoy and are open to. According to Smith, although she is leaning more towards clothing design, the chance to create cover art was a special experience that she would be interested in doing more of.

“I do really like designing album art, I think it’s such a fun thing to do,” Smith said. “It’s two different forms of art coming together because you have the visual art from the artist, but you also have the musical art.”