Album Covers: Art for the masses

Posted by Steve Fearn on 1 March 2016 | Comments

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I remember as a kid being influenced and incredibly inspired by album cover artwork such as Roger Dean’s Yes album and Gerald Scarfe's Pink Floyd The Wall illustrations.

I then progressed to buying posters of Salvador Dali - Swans Reflecting Elephants and Metamorphosis of Narcissus. This was not so much because it was art, but because it was like Roger Dean’s work and it looked good on my wall! From there I went on to start painting my bedroom wall myself with band logos. Luckily my mum and dad were happy that I used my creativity in a positive way. I painted Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Angel on the wall above my bed.

In those days I went about my life blissfully ignorant of most art but appreciating album covers and graphic artists. This went on for many years until I moved to London and pretentiously went around the London galleries looking at everything from Turner to Damien Hirst. Even that though, at the time, was more about looking interesting to girls than appreciating art. I still can't get my head around the Mother and Child Divided by Damien Hirst (cows cut in half and preserved in formaldehyde).

I've always loved drawing though and creating things and decided to sign up for Art and History of Art A levels, the best thing that could have happened to me. My Art History teacher was a gem. He made learning fun and I still remember much of Gothic revival, Victorian social paintings and the Impressionists. What got my juices really flowing was the idea that you are free to fill in the blanks. When you go to an art gallery you get the painting and some small blurb about the painting that is enough to make you yawn. But when we studied Art History we learned about the painting, the techniques used, the person behind the painting, the social interaction of the person behind the painting, their social class, political persuasion and their sexual preferences, historical context of the painting and any scandal or gossip - always a bonus. This may trivialize art history, but it was fed to me in a way that I wanted to learn more. Art became something I could understand and not on an unreachable pedestal.

I went to Paris for 4 months working in the post room of the OECD to save some money for Art College. In those 4 months I had visits from lots of friends who wanted weekend breaks and I took most of them to the Musee d’Orsay the most interesting gallery in Paris created from an old train station. Most of the paintings in the gallery were the ones I had studied, therefore I treated my friends to a scandal and gossip filled tour of the museum full of the real story behind the paintings. They absolutely loved it and were equally inspired.

I returned to the UK and went on to college and university where I ended up as a graphic designer which bizarrely brought me back full circle to where I first experienced the world of art with Roger Dean's albums.

gerald scarfe floyd
Gustave Courbet The Desperate Man1
roger dean example
turner norham castle