August 03, 2012

Rein[Forced]: Stab Wounds


This was a project that I knew of for close to two years.  Jim Semonik, a long time friend and front-man to the band Rein[Forced], had always kept me in the loop as to what was happening with his band's latest album.  Anytime that I'd see him out at the clubs or at a show, he'd mention that he'd be needing my skills with the album art and layout.  No problem, I'd reply.  The when was never really addressed; he's a passionate guy who loves to promote and hype his endeavors.  I was already familiar with how he worked as I did the band's previous releases; Cherophobia and Futile Longings.

I had a general idea of what I was going to do after hearing the proposed album tile 'X Amount of Stab Wounds in the Back'.  Yeah, a little wordy, but not shy on filling my head full of imagery.  Taking the literal approach, I immediately saw a person's back with knives... a lot of knives.  I wanted to do this layering type of piece where the booklet would, when thumbed through, reveal different anatomical layers of the person's back in which the knives poked through.  Like those found in some encyclopedias.  However, costs prohibited and designing it would have taken me forever to realize.

As the day to actually begin came into view, a dinner date was scheduled to discuss the project.  My thinking cap was firmly adjusted and I stepped into the shower.  Okay, I didn't go into the shower specifically to think about the project.  It was more that I needed to shower and the ideas just happened to flow.  The shower has always helped me brainstorm.  Word associations also help.  For this assignment, words like; backstabbing, backbite, double-crossed,  and two-faced came to mine.

I envisioned a skeleton of sorts, shiny knives, grey tones, purple coloring, graphic looking circulatory system.  Now it was time to do some thumbnails and to gather some reference photos.


I bought about 40 bucks worth of digitally modeled knives.  There must have been about 30 different types of knives.  I didn't have time to make each and every one.  You gotta pick your battles.

Digital Reference

I chose to layout this out in 3D Studio Max because I was having a difficult time putting pencil to paper exactly the vision I had mind.  This process is very helpful for me.  I get to move objects in realtime in a three dimensional space until I'm happy with what I see.  It's also perfect when clients want minuscule to drastic changes.

Jim and I sat down to discuss the album art and to enjoy our awesome Red Robin burgers.  Yummmm!  Surprisingly, we were on the same page... but not the same paragraph.  And that's okay.  I jumped the gun a little, as I do.  I didn't come empty-handed.  I presented him with some conceptual renderings after I heard his pitch.  I was very close.  So close, I even nailed the color palette.  However, my presentation lacked a few elements that he wanted to tie-in from the previous album's art.

Now it was time for me to digest and to percolate for a while.  Sometimes what the client specifically wants isn't always the right thing.  It's my job to convince them otherwise.  Sometimes, even I need to rethink my strategy and divorce myself from those early concepts.  It can be difficult, but I'll take their notes and intentions and integrate them into a happy middle ground.


It was revealed that the booklet would be 8 total pages and in full color!  Exciting... yet intimidating.  I needed to think of related images and designs for the other pages.  Jim would not stand for blank or repurposed images for the interiors.  Nor would I, for that matter.  I knew that I needed to keep the theme consistant with the main cover image.  All I had to work with was knives and bones and the concept of betrayal.  I was kinda of at a loss for a few days as I searched for a solution.

Finally, I had my answer.  It was simple.  It had eluded me no more.  The veil of secrecy was no longer between me and the answer. This was where my artistic license, my BS in art, really payed off.  I took a giant leap and hoped I could verbalize the madness I was about to convey.

The betrayal concept was symbolically depicted as knives in the back.  It wasn't about betrayal by someone else.  The boney man can't face himself in the mirror.  He feels betrayed, betrayed by his own body.  It was as if his body acted without his knowledge, a conspiracy of the flesh.

And there it was, the pathway that would lead me deeper into the visual labyrinth.  Conspiracy of the Flesh.

But there was more than that being told with the cover piece.  Follow me.  There was a possibility of redemption as well, as shown by the knived wings.  Through the hardship, he will prevail and ascend.

Suddenly, there was a new batch of imagery I was able to incorporate.  I added the shroud and the thorny mirror frame to the cover image to help tie everything together.

In the end, this was a mentally challenging project.  Lots of little pieces.  Evolving concepts.  Several unused  ideas.  I'd do it again, given the chance.  I love the thought process that my mind endures.  It's like making a puzzle and solving it all the while finding more ways to complicate it.  Maddening!

Was it a stretch?  Was it easy for the viewer to identify with what was all being shown?  Did it matter at all?  I'm curious of what other people's interpretation are.

The Latin translations:
Pungo Vulnus = Stab Wounds
Traditio Pulpa = Conspiracy of the Flesh

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