Visualized: Erik Kirtley
Dive into the imaginative and infinitely colorful mind of visual artist Erik Kirtley. But first, Erik discusses his inception into the wild and wonderful world of music illustration below:
I’m a 23 year old Swede who just moved to Gothenburg, the home of Little Dragon, Jens Lekman and José Gonzales. I’m soon to be a student at the School of Design and Crafts here in town. I used to draw as a kid, discovered Photoshop at age eleven, started drawing manga characters in junior high, got caught on photography and graphic design in high school and later attended preparatory (not the fancy kind) art school and preparatory design school.
Besides creating graphics, my biggest passion is listening to music, so it came quite naturally to want to create artwork for musicians. Creating artwork for music is basically trying to describe in an image what the music makes you feel. It can be a really amazing feeling, especially when you get free hands with the artwork.
With that said, check out some of Erik’s past, present, and future pieces below:
The artwork has a hazy vintage feel to it, which is supposed to match the lo-fi-ish soulful hip-hop beats on the record. I got in touch with Darren, aka Star Slinger, over on Last.fm just to compliment him on his first set of beats and that led to him checking out my work and asking if I’d like to make something for his next release.
I’d been following TSE for some time and they’d been following my blog Indie R&B, so eventually we started talking on Twitter and Facebook and decided to present a double compilation together. So they collected some dope tracks from producers and I created the artwork for the two part comp.
One the latest projects I’ve worked on. Here I tried to stray away from my typical style and took inspiration from some photos of graffiti that my girlfriend had taken in Berlin recently. I actually just wrote a message on Soundcloud to Drury (Glam Shell) asking If I could get an alternative download link to his rework of Télépopmusik’s ”Don’t Look Back” and he later asked if I’d be up for creating artwork for his ”Champagne” single.
This was the first official Star Slinger single and it was released digitally through Green Label Sound. We went through a lot of ideas and concepts for this one, but in the end we settled on artwork based on the ”two-headed Star Slinger” promo image I’d created earlier.
I created this artwork for a mix I put together to celebrate that the Indie R&B blog had passed 45,000 followers. For this one, I just suddenly had an image appear in my mind of what I wanted to create and just sat down and did it. It’s pretty rare that it happens, but when it does it’s an amazing feeling.
Lewis, aka Echo Shade, had seen my artwork for Star Slinger and asked if I was up for doing artwork for a joint EP he was working on with Betamaxx. I got totally free hands with this one, so I was really just playing around with this one haha. But I’m still very pleased with how it turned out.
Houses Eurotour Poster/Flyer (2012)
A friend here in Gothenburg was working part time booking bands in Europe and had Houses in his roster. He asked me if I could make a flyer/poster for their tour in Europe. The venues would choose to print either this one or an alternative version somebody else had made.
Star Slinger promo artwork. (2011)
This was also one of those moments where I just had a sudden image pop up in my mind that I had to realize. This was not commissioned by Star Slinger, but he really dug it when I showed it to him and he actually used it for a t-shirt print later on.
Jesse Boykins III fan art. (2011)
Not much to say about this one other than I was just trying out some ideas and that Mr. Boykins really liked it!
Emay — Incorruptible EP (2011)
I’ve done a lot of work for canadian rapper and producer Emay and this is the artwork for one of his EP’s. He wanted artwork with a dark feel to it, but with a glimpse of hope. I think me and Mubarik (Emay), also started talking on Last.fm.
Martin Parks (2010)
This was actually never used, but it’s my favorite piece of work I’ve made for the (much underrated) hip-hop/soul duo Martin Parks. I think this particular project never materialized fully, but the artwork was supposed to have a vintage, kind of cartoony feel to it, with the guy in this piece being the lead character of the album’s story. I got in touch with these two after having featured a mixtape of theirs on a music blog I was running back then.
Seeing Suge EP (2010)
Star Slinger, Emay and Blackbird Blackbird had a short lived project called Seeing Suge. I didn’t create the artwork for the digital release, but when it was time to make a vinyl of it they asked me to create the artwork for the sleeve, based on the original artwork. The vinyl was never made in the end though.
Another EP by Emay, created this using two analog photos I’d taken in an escalator and the hands were scanned from a book about diamonds.
What is your favorite self-created piece of art?
My favorite would probably have to be this portrait of my girlfriend (pictured below). I drew it for a school assignment where one was supposed to illustrate a moment in your life. And I chose the moment I fell in love! It’s my favorite in part because of it’s emotional value, but I’m also just really pleased with how I created it technically.
What singular piece of art (not your own) inspires you the most?
That would have to be Scott Hansen’s (Tycho) artwork for his ”Coastal Brake” single (pictured below). Scott’s art, as well as his music, has been a big inspiration for my aesthetic and just overall creative life.
Do you have to go to a happy place when making art? If so, what does your happy place look like?
Physically, that happy place is in a clean studio/work place surrounded by other creative people, inspirational art and all the tools one could think of. Mentally it’s in that moment of sheer inspiration that gets me in a creative flow. That’s a wonderful feeling.
What is your hands-down favorite album artwork of all time?
I’m going to have to say that piece by Scott Hansen again (pictured above), although it’s for a single and not an album. Other than that I’d have to say almost any album cover made by Reid Miles, Blue Note’s graphic designer (pictured below).
If you could hop into the skin of one artist for a day, new or old, who would it be?
Reid Miles most definitely, just imagine being able to create artwork for all those amazing jazz musicians on Blue Note! Either him or Saul Bass who also had a simple, but genius aesthetic (pictured below).
How does it feel when you see your artwork attached to a piece of music?
It’s always a great feeling, but seeing your artwork printed on a vinyl sleeve and getting to hold a copy of your own, now that’s an incredible feeling. It’s happened once so far, with the Teams vs. Star Slinger EP that was released on Mexican Summer. I’m hoping I’ll get to experience that feeling sometime soon again.
If your artwork was a musician, what musician would it be?
Oh wow, that’s a tough one, hmm… I’d probably have to say Miles Davis or Machinedrum, or any other musician with a style always evolving and changing direction, yet never sounding like anybody else. I’m not saying my artwork is anywhere near as genius or original as the music of the two musicians previously mentioned, haha, but I at least try to do the same thing with my art.
Any new pieces in the works?
I’m currently working on artwork for a single by Waves and Waves, a Bibio fan art piece, a secret project and just a bunch of personal projects. I thought I’d focus on personal projects this last week before uni starts, since there will most probably not be much time for that once I’m back in school again.
(Curated by Speaker Snacks)