Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Double Visions Interview Part 2: The artist - James Hines

Illustrator and graphic designer James Hines designed the cover artwork for Munch Munch's debut LP Double Visions. His colourful, inventive and humorous works - made by collaging found images together - are used as posters, flyers and record covers frequently.

Read part 1 of The Double Visions Interview, I spoke to Richard from Munch Munch on how they chose their cover artwork and the reactions they have been getting in response to it.

In part 2 of The Double Visions Interview, I speak to James about how he got started, the sometimes difficult creative process of designing album artwork and where he sees himself in the future.

How did you get in to using collage as your medium of choice?

I was doing a lot of drawing, mainly gig posters and a few bits of record artwork etc. and I was pretty good, but not excellent. I decided it would be about time I applied for University - to do illustration as a mature student. Before I applied I met up with a tutor to go over some of the work I had and he suggested that I try some collage to add some variety to my portfolio which almost exclusively comprised of black and white pen and ink work.

To cut a long story short I was told to try some collage; I did and haven't looked back.

Do you take the same approach to both posters and album artwork, or do they need to fulfil different needs which you need to accommodate? Are you given more freedom with one or the other?

Well at college we are taught that communication of an idea is the most important aspect of any design work, so its a bit more than just following a process and hoping for the best. 

However, I do like to set myself rules sometimes and let the project almost create itself, but i doesn't always work. I'm a huge fan of Baldessari and the way he creates by setting very strict boundaries or a set of rules to adhere to. The trick, and I think Baldessari is an expert at this, is to not let the work to become dry and humourless - there is a great deal of fun and play going on in his work.

On the subject of freedom, most of the time a band has a very specific idea of what they want and this can be a huge problem, or perhaps its just a huge problem for me. Ideally someone will come to you with a strong overriding concept, but no specific visual demands. 

I just did a LP sleeve for Pink Priest (La Station Radar) and I was great to work on because the music had a very clear and specific conceptual element, and I was free to respond to the music rather than have the work dictated to me. 

The images you use are very varied, is it easy to find suitable ones that will work together? Do you collect images and have them in waiting or find ones when you need to create something new? Have you got a big pile of images waiting to be used? 
I have one very large box of images that have been cut out of books and magazines, and they are in no order whatsoever. I also have another large box of books that are yet to be destroyed by my scalpel - stuff like science annuals, and books about the war, boxing, NASA, biology etc. 

The best books are from the 70's and 80's as the tones and colours - although less accurate - have been reproduced in weird ways; they might be overly saturated, or in the case of a black and white image the contrast might be set so high to the point of abstraction.


Munch Munch approached you to see if they could use one of your existing images, how did that come about?

They saw something of mine that they liked and wanted to use it. I was very much against using that image - I'd much rather do something original for the release specifically.

I actually did about 10-15 different treatments for the sleeve, but they just kept coming back to that same image. The process was quite frustrating, but they're happy with how it turned out, so I'm cool with that.

Do you have to like a certain kind of music to design for it? Does it help?

I haven't yet had to do something for music I didn't like. I'm not with an agency or working for anyone who can tell me I have to do something for this band regardless of what I think of them. If I get asked to do some work for a band I don't like I won't do it. It happens a fair bit, and if i'm not being paid - which I am invariably not - then there is nothing in it for me.

What do you see yourself designing for in the future?  

Well I guess the dream is to be 'The Peter Saville' or 'The Vaughn Oliver' of a new, and awesome record label. I don't think enough labels cultivate that strong and unique visual identity. Oliver's work for me goes a little too far in its emotive visual representation, or synergy with the music, as I think it dictates to the listener too much. Whereas Saville's work is minimal, void of emotion and allows the listener to just appreciate both the music and design as separate entities in a sense, but both as valuable as each other.

I would really like to try some textile design too - wallpaper and fabrics that sort of thing.

James Hines, thank you for taking the time to speak to LookSeeNow.

Read the interview with Richard from Munch Munch on the artwork for their album Double Visions designed by James in The Double Visions Interview Part 1: The band - Munch Munch.

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