Symphony of Nine are:
Scott Dion Brown
Radek Smaczny
Giovani Agostini
Colin Campbell
Taylor Brown

Symphony of Nine is a band I’ve known professionally and personally since more or less their beginning. I wasn’t there at the beginning, mind you, but I knew three of the five band members (Scott, Radek and Taylor) through my job at the time as a theatrical Technical Director. Over the years, we got to be friends and colleagues, so when Scott told me they were gearing up to record their third album, I asked if they’d be interested in me doing a piece of album art for them. I was thinking of the many albums by artists who put real effort into making the sleeve a work of art as much as the music. I think in a lot of ways, the shift from LPs to CDs, then from CDs to MP3s and digital downloads has made album and single artwork far less a priority. There’s still hope as there has been a resurgence in LPs. It also says something about record collecting and the importance of good album art when 12″ x 12″ and 14″ x 14″ picture frames are now available specifically for the purpose of hanging LPs on the walls like the works of art they are. I have Queen’s debut album coupled with the 2011 Commemorative release of their debut single in one such 14″ x 14″ frame hanging on my wall. It looks nice there and I’ll probably put up more.

When I suggested doing a piece for the band, they were interested. That was a year ago, so get comfy and let me tell about what happened next….

Nothing.

I got busy and never really followed up for a few months. As the kids say, “My bad!”

Well, by the fall, things cleared up and I found myself with the time to do a piece for them. By this point, work on the album was progressing and their first single, “Tonight,” was out. That spurred me on and at Scott’s birthday festivities, I said I was still interested in doing a piece. They liked the idea, so I started playing with ideas. Just before Christmas, I did a piece that I figured would look cool in the album, with subtle references to the band and the song “Tonight.” I thought that would be it and hoped they’d find a home for it in the sleeve when they finished recording the album. Scott called and suggested I do a piece for each song. Since this piece turned out so well, and I was riding the high of artistic accomplishment, I agreed to try.

Over the next few months, I painted pieces and the band wrote songs. It was collaborative on one level, where I was told a bit about each track, including the title, and I went off to work on my own. I decided early to not want to know too much about the songs for fear of painting pieces too literal. If the song was about, say, a break up, I didn’t want to end up with a painting of a break up. I wanted to spark the listener’s imagination, to suggest imagery that may or may not directly be related to the song connected to the piece without doing the heavy-lifting of imagination for them. However, I wanted the pieces to connect to the band and each other as a whole collection. Not an easy balance, as you can imagine.

Here are my notes on the track “Revelation.”

[from Scott, the songwriter]
Revelation
– Dreams
– The line between wakeful and sleep
– awake and alseep

When I finally started on this piece, I wrestled with the idea of dreams and reality and that threshold between. I was also incorporating text, among other elements, into the pieces. And I didn’t want to just paint someone sleeping. It’s been done and it’s too literal.

So, with these ideas going round and round in my mind, I started sketching, really rough, to get ideas down and to see what would stick.

My sketches date from February 8th, my first idea was of people in a field moving toward…something. A ruined city? Surprisingly, soon after, I hit on a set of images quickly. A window. A table. What to put on the table, though? I thought on it a bit and thumbed through old sketches for unused ideas. What was out the window? Those people in the field? Maybe. Then, as with a lot of creativity, the mind starts making connections. I’d done and illustration a while back of a character in a field. The character was loosely part of a series I was working on years ago of single pages to books which did not exist (an experiment in illustration-based storytelling). In flash, I had answered both questions. not only would the field through the window be the same she walked, she would be in it, far in the distance walking toward the same bridge. The moment captured in the years-old illustration would be viewed from a different perspective in the painting. I’d angle the bridge and Aileen (the character) in such a way as to account for the building not being seen from the reverse angle of the original illustration. And to add that bit of mind-blowing play on reality, the original illustration and a few other such pieces from that series would be sitting on the table.

Because I wanted the older illustrations laying on the table, I had to photograph the illustrations on a table at the correct angle, individually. I took the pictures, printed them, cut them out (so it was just the illustration image in forced perspective) and applied them to the painted table. That immediately created the depth I desired.

I painted the piece on February 9th & 10th and sent it off to Scott.

Revelation (copyright 2012 Patrick Lemieux)


Here are my notes from February 13th:

Waiting for Scott to see the painting (Revelation) and to get his thoughts. Five pieces down and at least 4 to go. Should start on number six, I guess. The way I do it is to either sketch some new ideas or to go look at previous, unused ideas if nothing is forthcoming. I can usually drum up some inspiration. What’s good about older ideas is that looking at them fresh provides new insight. Sometimes, it’s one whole idea or a piece of an old idea that triggers something new. Or I take bits of a few sketches and piece them together. I used to be sort of “all or nothing,” rejecting old sketches wholesale, or considering old ideas as not worthy of reconsidering. Back then, my pint was to always be new. If I drew something, either as a sketch or a finished work, then that was it…it was finished. and it was time to move on. Now, to see old sketches as a wealth of tap-able ideas is a revelation for for I should try pulling out old sketchbooks and going back further.
For “Revelation,” combining and recontextualizing several older illustrations into the painting was something I’d never considered before.

The band liked the art for “Revelation.” Shortly after, they shot a video for the song, but neither of us thought to use it in the footage. It would have been hard in retrospect to work it in, but in the end, when taken as a whole, the video, the art and the entire album, songs and sleeve imagery, will all work together. I won’t say any more on the forthcoming album than that.

Here is the finished single sleeve:

Revelation single sleeve (copyright 2012 Glenmore Records)

Here is a link to the video:

Here is where you can buy the single:
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/symphonyofnine2

It’s also available on iTunes.

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