Saturday, April 28, 2012

Classic ALBUM COVERS that Influenced me.

Okay, to make up for last 'no words' post, on THIS one... i may have gone a little over-board. 

Now, these aren't necessarily my favorite albums musically speaking.  Sometimes yes.  Sometimes no. But it's just the albums *artwork* itself that inspired me when i was trying to break into comics.  It was through these classic album covers below, that i discovered..... 

Cal Shenkel, can't say enough about this guy. He did nearly all of Frank Zappa's album covers. It took me a while to warm up to his scratchy pen work at first, but he was so eclectic, i didn't even know it WAS the same artists who drew the majority of Frank's  covers! 

His collage covers were some of my favs. 'Burnt Weenie Sandwich',

and 'Uncle Meat' (below) are two that really opened my head to Collage or Assemblage artists like Felipe Jesus Cansalvos and Rauschenberg. Yeah, i know, Shenkel is considered 'commercial art', the other two 'fine' art. But that's just how certian sub-cultures groups them, because I believe... Felipe and Robert and Cal have a something in common.  


So what does this old Zappa cover album have do with Sam Kieth? Influences. a non-comic book artists that I never acknowledged until now. It could have been someone OTHER collage i could have discovered first, or I might have just been READY for it.  Or somehow... open to it.

Some people tell me they had the same reaction to my Maxx painted stuff or my freakier Marvel Presents covers, or Sienkiewicz work, or Dave Mckean's collage covers. Not putting myself in their league,  just mean 'mixed media' wise, Some of it blew some of your minds, just as Bill and Dave's work blew my mind too.

So, Cal's zappa cover, crude as it is... also blew some our of mind.  Maybe it was the 'sound collages' of Zappa's music on the Uncle Meat album itself. But for whatever reason..

something CLICKED.  or Broke. or maybe... Exploded.

So, here's my humble thanks/tribute to Mr. Shenkel's Uncle Meat album cover.  This is actually how i saw it in MY head! Note the acrylic on the white is still unpainted over.

Here's a lighter picture of it, with the white acrylic on the left colored in. Some teeth, junk food, lots of grit in there too.

And here's another versions, pasted into a yellow painted canvas,

...with some added 'found objects' (crap i found in a garbage bin) which i pasted into the drawing surface,

some fishing line, colored pipe cleaners, sand..

but is that yellow still too garish? Yeah, maybe.

Now here same painting, a few hours later. Darkened up a bit on the sides, to draw the eye to the center. 

Now to be fair, this is pretty far away from collage, isn't it?

I was too lazy to hunt up some dental photos of teeth, so just i drew my own. But you get the idea.

Now let's say your not wild the Uncle Meat collage? that's cool. The SOURCE not the point though. What gets me going may leave you cold. Point is, *anything* that gives us a creative 'Whack on the Head' when creating.  Some NEW way of seeing things. 

Here's an clumsy attempt at collage on an old Maxx cover. You can tell i was using a food magazine by the chocolate in the photo i used.

You can see some pastel I worked in over the slugs back too. It's like i was  nervous about using photos, trying to blend them with my art, which defeats the point of collage in a way. Not always, but in this cause, i think it draws attention away from the focus, the slug.

But regardless of if it does work or not, it was the TRYING it that causes me to grow more confidently in later work -using all sorts of wire, bolts (in Maxx's feet), sewing machine parts and all sorts of stuff in my later paintings.

Course much later, Sienkiewicz and Mckean work with collage totally ripped the lid off. 

But i have to trace much of my *first* awareness to collage back to Cal's 'Uncle Meat' cover.



Remember this old Dan album? Always loved this paiting, but since i don't have the Vinyl or CD album anymore, it took some digging to fine out *who* she was! Turns out she was Donald Fagen's girlfriend, Dorothy White, who sadly died of breast cancer a while back.

Growing up I doodled my own crude version of this cover in various sketchbooks. 

This was back when i was still grappling... some might say.. floundering? .. with watercolors. But those weirdly shaped figure sitting in those chairs, they pops up in my work in a few panels still. Well, a cartoony distorted version of them.

There's something graceful about these distorted figures that still appeals to me. ( Her version, not my own!) i just threw these early fan efforts up to show anything can inspire us fans!)



I was never a big fan of the this Carole King album, but i LOVED the cover. Wasn't able to find WHO artists painted who painted it was, but it struck a cord with me.

I, ahem... 'barrowed' this 'peach-orange-sepia' lighting effect many times in my panels i painted. Or  tried too.

The reflected ocher light washed down and bathes back up into the figures in the album, plus the solid black outlines... is something i remember using in this old Maxx page. 

Many European comic artists like Gaetano Liberatore did effects... (soft colors in a hard outline) which look almost oil or acrylic painted, only I understand Liberatore used markers to accomplish the same effect on RanXerox!

This effect reminds cover me of that too. 



Being a big Beefheart fan, I saw that Don Van Vliet's art work sometimes graced some his albums.

Don Van Vliet's art? Call it 'self taught', 'american primitive', or 'abstract expressionism', or some people just call it 'awful'. Some scratch their heads. I remember reading the painter  Julian Schnable was an early fan of Beefheart's music, and once bought some of Don's art. 

Don's art was an acquired taste for me. But i slowly warmed to primitive art for the same reason that, while growing up, Primitive or child-like drawings were intriguing to me. Even if they were the opposite of what i spired to when sharpening my skills while trying to break into comics.

The flashback issue in the Maxx comic to Julie's childhood, also drawn in a naive style - and those childishly scrawled drawings of little julie are the reason it's my favorite issue of the Maxx I drew. 

As a teenager studying art, i'd I'd have CRINGE to think i'd post a drawing like this on above my blog.  Let alone equally crude child-like art would show up on a MTV someday. But outsider art, love or hate it, is valid as any other form of art. Art like this generously litters my sketchbooks, mixed in with ornate detailed drawings too. Admittedly, not to everyone's liking. I respect that too. 

However, Van Vliet DID open my mind to outsider art, action-painting, Japanese calligraphy, and raw looking artists across the board from Ralph Steadman to Franz Kline. 



Always loved John Fahey, and Patrick Finnerty's drawings for the 'America' Album, 

but especially this surreal back cover (above). - boy that image of the guy running from those animal-people used to give me the friggin' CREEPS! 

Found this digging into some OLD stuff here.. during the maxx days, again, still hit and miss using color back then i doodle this for fun.. The camera flash didn't catch the first pic very well. Half in shadow. 

..THERE ...thats better.

Actually it looked better half in shadow, huh? : )  Notice i still had the trout popping in randomly too.. surprised the trout never made it into the maxx comic. 



Barry Godbar painted this classic cover, i read somewhere that Robert Fripp owns it.  (I wonder if Fripp or Belew even noticed we used one of their songs on the opening to the Maxx cartoon?  MTV was too cheap to license the DVD rights, so it's something different on the DVD.) Sorry, digression there. 


Here's another fanboy doodle i came across in the same sketchbook of this Crimson cover.. 

you know what's spooky about this face? It's not just in the coloring, it's the line work. It's that neurotic way the eyes are looking down and the lips are curled back. Still never could capture it. 

I guess you can tell this post is winding down because were plumbing the depths of doodles now, eh? 

Neon Park is another artists in the 60s - 70s in the Cal Shenkel period. He did one of the most famous Zappa albums, 'Weasles Ripped my flesh'.

I had about four pages of doodles of this cover years ago, but they somehow got lost. Some weren't half-bad either as i remember.

Mut back to Neon. He did tons of covers for Little Feat, another band i listened to trying to break into comics.

Here's a VERY crude version of 'Sailing Shoes' album cover...

and quickly...  here's the same page, upside down.. (back to that crimson image.) 

Okay, ENOUGH already - Jeeeez - got that out of my system! Sorry it got a little 'thin' there towards the end. Promise i'll post some newer art next post! 

Okay to finish this off: since my last post i started drawing a Hollow's TREE...

i figured i'd wrap this up, i'd throw in "YES" album cover artists, Roger Dean.

So, i think you can probably *guess* where i got the idea for all my zig-zaggy trees from now, right? ; )

- sam 


lucasirineu said...

Man, it's so great to see this. Really a wonderful experience to see how all those things influenced you over time, and to take a look at your older artwork. You should do things like this more often. [:

Rafael Only said...

Hey, Sam!
I just remembered how cool it was when I knew you like Beefheart, Monk, and another genious...
It’s really hard to describe how happy I am every time I read some of your works, and when I visit this madly great blog (!). I’m not trying to be a fanboy… Your art is very, very important to me. I’m really thankful for it all.

Rafi animates said...

Awesome post, thanks for sharing.

jennifer kraska said...

Hard thumbs up for the return of dribble!!
Always nice to see what influences you. Really enjoyed the album art parallel. Music and art go hand and hand. I frequently click away on iTunes and find myself missing having that physical thing (album art) to gaze at. Sigh.
Oh, by the way, I love that you put everything and anything up here!

juvinwo said...

Wow. So amazing. Please tell me they are going in the big art book you are doing! I would love to own these!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Sam Kieth showing the world that he likes rock music and rock album art. If only there was a BOOK of Sam's take on different rock gods... what would your version of Hendrix or Cobain look like? Oh how I would love to see that in my lifetime.

Marcus Collar said...

2 amazing posts in a row

Finally saw Thunder agents issue 4

I loved your Martian Manhunter

cody said...

Awesome post really cool. funny about your sketch books and never thinking you would show anyone, I'm always nervous when someone flips through my sketch book not knowin if they are looking at a horrible sketch or some crazy idea thing I wrote down. Love your slugs.

Marcus Collar said...

Mr. K!

Wait you forgot Movie posters remember your Chinatown tribute with Julie's eyes in that "Maxx" comic everyones jabbering bout..

Jeff Lafferty said...


Nate said...

Love Schenkel! Have a Billy The Mountain original he did for me hanging above my desk in my office.

pblfsda said...

This was fantastic; it could be an ongoing set of posts. By the way, the artist on the Carole King album was Drew Struzman, but the Art Director was Chuck Beeson so Beeson might have been the one responsible for the sepia treatments. I found that with a quick trip to, where people upload scans and other information about variant music releases. If you want, here's a link:

Neon Park also did some US editions of early Bowie albums, "Man Who Sold The World" and a double LP of Decca stuff from the 1960's that I think was called "Images". Struzman also worked on "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and Alice Cooper's "Welcome To My Nightmare".

november 17th said...

I dig those weird covers from Yes and thank you for sharing what inspires you.

Danielle Rosenstein said...

I am so happy that I live in an age where the Internet and comment boxes exist...It brings me so much joy to know that one of the most influential of creative people in my life is still not only alive, not only creating, but actually goes out of his way to speak directly to the fans like this, like the way you intimately used to do back in the flaps of the old comic books. I am so amazed at how many interesting influences you have, and how much we share in common of taste! This is an awesome a discovery as finding out Santa Claus is not only real, long after you have become a jaded and cynical adult, but he now lives next door, and he is a biker. This doesn't get any cooler. Keep up the fantastic artwork Sam, you have no idea how much your stuff and imagination means to me.

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