Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar

Designing the ‘Utopia And Wasteland’ Album artwork

Two of my fave people to work with.  Having worked on the cover image for Greg and Ciaran’s ‘The Silent Majority’ album a couple of years ago and done some further promo work with them since then, I was made up when they got in touch about helping them with their new album release.   Aside from shooting some videos (coming soon) the guys asked if I could do the album artwork – all of which I was well up for.

A few weeks later I got this message from Ciaran:

We started exchanging ideas.  As well as the cover idea that Ciaran had put forward, I liked the image of Greg and Ciaran standing in the wasteland, possibly for inside the album sleeve.  I went searching for reference images:

Once we’d agreed on a visual interpretation of what ‘wasteland’ would look like in the context of the cover, our next problem was where we were going to find it.  The images above are Iceland, which exceeded our production budget.  We figured if we found a large enough, rubble covered area to photograph in, we could make it work.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I got a message from Ciaran saying ‘Is this any good?’

I took Ciaran’s panoramic image of the area he’d found and as a quick, crude draft, I got rid of the green patches on the ground and threw on some text and scribble to show what I thought the artwork could look like:

Back in conversation with Greg and Ciaran however, I thought it would look better and more like the original reference images without the relatively close treeline in the background:

So now that we had a very rough sketch of what we were trying to create, it was a case of getting the guys to the location and getting the picture.  We also had a couple of videos to shoot, so we found a location for those close to where Ciaran’s wasteland was so that we could get it all done in one day.  On a cold morning in November we arrived at the ‘wasteland’ and took the shot.

We took a few variants, but this is the image I chose as the main picture for the album.  It’s actually four images stitched together in a panoramic; much like the original pano image Ciaran had taken on his phone, I wanted to make the area look bigger than it actually was.  Although the flash was feathered across the front of them, it was still quite a hard light source which was deliberate; it was there to simulate the sunlight from the sun that I was planning to add in post.

We shot for a few minutes and then went off to film the videos…

Once back at base, I stitched the images together and started making the tweaks necessary to get it closer to our original concept.  I can’t remember everything I did; I know I replaced the sky and put in a false horizon line, got rid of the green ground, evened out some of the toning on the ground, turned the whole thing redder to make it look and feel more desert-like, took some magenta out of the highlights, added a light source…  Anyway, this is how it finished up:

And that became the image for the inside of the album (as well as a bunch of teaser social media posts prior to the album announcement).  We also did a few variants to use for promo:

For the cover illustration, fortunately the guys chose not to use my two-year-old-like scribbling and instead commissioned the services of illustrator Ning-ning Li who produced something that was awesome.  The album cover ended up looking like this:

The album is released on 13th April 2018 but can be pre-ordered here.  You can also catch Greg and Ciaran on tour:

Pre-release Tour

18/2 BRACKNELL, South Hill Park Arts Centre

19/2 COLCHESTER, Arts Centre

20/2 LONDON, Green Note

21/2 Nr HULL, Cottingham Live

23/2 LEEDS, Grove Folk Club

24/2 Nr CHIPPENHAM, Pound Arts Centre

 

‘Utopia & Wasteland’ Album Release Tour

 

13/4 Nr HEBDEN BRIDGE, Wadsworth Community Centre

14/4 BIDDULPH, St Lawrences Church

15/4 HITCHIN, Folk Club

17/4 CHESTER, Storyhouse

18/4 EASTBOURNE, Lamb Folk Club

20/4 THAMES DITTON, Ram Folk Club

21/4 Nr STROUD, Under the Edge Arts

22/4 WALTON on THAMES Riverhouse Barn (Morning show)

22/4 WALTHAMSTOW, Folk Club

25/4 SHOREHAM on SEA, Ropetackle Arts Centre

27/4 SHEFFIELD, Live @ Sams

28/4 BEDFORDSHIRE, House Concert

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