I hadn’t paid attention to the album artwork of Iron & Wine until recently. I did a bit of research and was beautifully surprised to find out Sam Beam (known as Iron & Wine) was not only a film tutor before he started making music, but he also did most of his own album artworks.
In an interview with Rachael Maddux he shared that he was always drawing as a kid. He went to art school where he specialised in photography and film, but he always loved drawing and painting.
“…it’s fun to take an image and sort of try to match it with the style of the music on your record — in a surreal way sort of tangentially comment on the music by painting yourself. I like the challenge.”
“The original idea was — remember when we were kids and you’d color on a piece of paper with a crayon and you’d paint over that with black Tempera paint and then etch out the drawing?” […] “The idea was to do something like that, so I actually did a bunch of physical ones. But I kept fucking up, so I did it with, like, black ink and a brush — just drawing on white paper. And then we flipped it in the computer and then we were able to color it. We did a bunch of different versions of the colorization and still kind of kept that main idea of all those random colors you get when you actually do that kind of a etching kind of thing, where the color bleeds into the objects in the background. We were able to do a bunch of different versions. . . . We toyed with the idea of including ones for people to draw themselves, but it was kind of a big commitment.”
-S.B. (on the cover art for ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’)
This was the artwork that inspired this post and the research into the visual side of Iron & Wine. Not only does it coincide with my first attempts at album cover art, but also with my recent experiments with inverting images. Reading about his process has inspired me to try it out myself – keep it simple with black and white and then add colour digitally. I do enjoy having a coloured original which is probably why I haven’t thought to try this out yet.
It was actually the cover of Our Endless Numbered Days that I saw first, though I’d been listening to his music before, I hadn’t paid attention. In the interview he says he likes the idea of a recognisable cover, where you always know that it is this or that artist, but he just works the opposite way. He has different versions of the same self-portrait for Our Endless Numbered Days, Such Great Heights, and Passing Afternoon.
The cover art for The Shepherd’s Dog is an incredibly captivating painting. The use of colour and positioning give off the hint of a certain dark madness in broad daylight – an exciting way to perceive the music in the album.