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If you aren’t a visual artist in your band, don’t do your album covers yourself. Well, don’t do them yourself if you want your work to be superb at least.
If music is just a hobby for you, then by all means, go ahead an make some crappy album cover in GIMP Paint shop, or even worse, MS paint (come on, you aren’t Allie Brosh)! If you’re taking your art seriously though, I’m sure you wouldn’t even consider it.
You need to have a quality of art that matches your music, and if you think that any of these options is okay (except for maybe an avante-garde purposely low-fi Tim & Eric-esque piece), then you should seriously reconsider how much of an artist you are.
Tool hired Alex Grey to do a bunch of their mesmerizing art (below), and they also did some of it themselves (Adam Jones really had some great ideas). You can use that as some inspiration to realize that you can’t do it all yourself.
Another good example is someone like Storm Thorgerson. He did countless iconic pieces of art for tons of artists such as Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, The Mars Volta, Audioslave, Black Sabbath, Muse, Steve Miller Band, and Styx. Huge bands like these knew that they needed to hire the right person for their art, so they did.
There are lots of places in your music that you might need art for, whether it be:
- album covers
- song covers
- additional art to include with your music (see an album like Radiohead’s “King of Limbs” to know what I’m talking about here)
- visual displays for your live show
- your band logo
- your bandcamp page design
- your Facebook page design
You need to have someone who knows what they’re doing. Your visual image is a very important aspect to your music, because it reflects what your music is about.
If you portray the wrong image, you might alienate and chase away the exact fans who might like your music, so make sure it fits! If you can’t do it yourself, then you need to hire someone to do it for you. I just want to outline how important that is.
In the rest of this article, I’m going to outline some common sense places for you to look to find artists that you can help you with your visual art in music.
Start With Who You Know
There’s no better place to find an artist than to look at your own pre-existing connections. You’d be surprised at how many people have a passion for art around you, but don’t display it because they lack the confidence to realize that their skills are actually valuable to others.
Make it clear to the people you know that you’re looking for artists, or even just people with a “natural artistic ability”.
Don’t underestimate the offline connections you have, especially of the people who are clearly displaying talent in their everyday life. But be on the lookout for the hidden treasures as well.
I would recommend by starting with a Facebook post to your friends and family to see if anyone knows someone who could be interested. Make sure you let them know that you want to see a portfolio, and that you’re willing to pay some cash. That will greatly change the quality of the results you get.
If someone ends up wanting to do art for you, but they’re out of your price range, here’s a negotiating tip: let them know that you feel their art is worth what they’re asking, but you only have a certain amount of cash available and that’s all you can offer. That way, you aren’t insulting them or undervaluing their art, but you don’t have to pay too much if you can’t afford it.
DeviantArt attracts different artists from every walk of life. Some people on there are doing ultra-realistic art, while others are just posting sketches they did in art class. Some are posting anime erotica, while other are posting still-life photography. Every type of art can be found here, and you can use that to your advantage.
To start looking, head on over to DeviantArt.com and click on a category to the left that interests you. I personally am usually looking for traditional painted/drawn art, so I clicked on the “traditional art” section.
From there, I would recommend clicking “more” on the left hand side, and then choosing some of the “Popular” options. You can find the art that’s most popular in the last 7 days, the last month, or even all time. This will help you find the best of the best.
Then look over the selection of art and try and find a style that is most suited to what you want for your music. From there you can click on the piece of art, and then look for that artist’s username. Once you click on their username, you should be able to look at their other work, and send them a message.
If you are offering a paid gig (and I highly recommend you do pay), many of these artists will be willing to work with you. Treat them with respect and dignity, because what they do is worth a lot, and unless they’ve built a large professional network already, they’re used to being undervalued for their skills. As a musical artist, I’m sure you’re aware of what this feels like; money talks.
Behance Network is like Facebook for creative professionals. Now the type of art you are likely to get here is more likely to have a professional feel to it, as many of these people do graphic design or video for a living; they aren’t messing around.
If I was looking for someone to do my art, I would click on “Discover” at the top, and then click the arrow beside “All creative fields” near the top. Then I would look under the “Illustration” category, because that’s where I’m most likely to find drawings and paintings, but you should feel free to look around any categories that interest you.
When you find some art that really speaks to you, click on that artist’s username and send them a message. Talk to them about your music, describe your plan for the art, and ask if it’s a project that they might be interested in.
Surprisingly, if you hit up the “community > artists” section of Craigslist, you can find some artists in your area who have a fair amount of talent. You can usually preview their work as well, and you might even find someone who is just starting out in the professional world, but still has a lot of talent.
If you find someone you like, send them a message (or call them if they left a number). Making a contact only takes a little bit of work on your part.
Unsurprisingly, Craigslist is a lesser option than the other options I’ve lined up above, but every once in a while you can find a diamond in the rough.
These options should give you a good start to finding a music cover art designer!