The Artwork of "Ohio Reveries"
'Ohio Reveries' has been out for a month. And a year ago I wrapped on my sessions at Court Street Recording. It's been a year of focusing on these songs and the process of releasing them. One of my favorite parts of this process was conceptualizing the artwork and creating the Ohio emblem I've been plastering on everything. I thought I'd take some time to write about it here for anyone interested.
The name 'Ohio Reveries' has been on my mind for years. The term is the meeting of my reality and dreams. How I process and give meaning to my experience. It's the vision of life I've had and the paths I've taken. These are not songs about Ohio, but ones filtered through a lens of someone who has grown up and lived there. The truth is I consider many of my songs reveries and could've made an altogether different collection with the same name. But these particular songs felt like the clearest representation I could offer of this idea. Each one stands as its own unique thought, but it also needed to work as a cohesive collection.
I wanted this cohesion of ideas to be represented in the artwork and the idea of the emblem came together pretty early. I drafted a couple versions by hand and then digitized one and kept modifying it until I was satisfied with it. Each song is represented here. Starting with track one, 'The Traveler' is represented in the northeast corner of the state by the boots with flowers. The image I used for the single artwork inspired this; a traveler's boot left on a very scenic part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. The owner's story left to the imagination.
Moving lower on the map, the next track 'No Moon' is represented by a clear, but moonless night sky. A night that would be difficult to navigate if not for a lighthouse modeled after the historic one in Marblehead that sits on Lake Erie. I positioned it in the east near Youngstown where my wife is from. Her light shines to the west illuminating the large compass that sits over my home in Northwest Ohio, representing 'Compass Rose'. It's from this place my experience and love has grown... Arrows point in all directions toward the many adventures and experiences I've been lucky enough to have.
The terrain below the compass is split by a dense river representing the River Lethe; the mythical river of sleep and forgetfulness mentioned in 'Banks of Lethe'. The river pours off the map near Cincinnati where the real Ohio River runs. In the drawing, the river splits some hilly, rocky terrain and the flat farmlands. Much of this landscape including the bundles of wheat and arrows at the forefront were inspired by the Ohio state seal.
The final and most prominent element of the design is the skull sitting in the southeast. This represents the final track 'Ignis Fatuus' and symbolizes a couple different things to me. First, a momento mori reminder that we are temporary and therefore we must live fully. Second, that there is much to be learned from our history and those who came before us. We can be grateful for their lives and contributions, but we need not relive their mistakes and misfortunes. If only we can uncover the right lessons... easier said than done I suppose.
I made the emblem front and center of the cover for the collection. I went through many different versions with various colorations and landed on the gold as my favorite. When I decided to do a run of records I was able to work in the runner up and do a second complete design with the blue sky cover. Design A is the gold with black records and design B is the blue with clear records. Both are limited and available now in the online store along with cds, shirts, hats and lots of other goodies.
It was also fun and a challenge to put together the single artwork for each song as I released them month to month in 2021 and early 2022. Here's a little explanation of each:
The Traveler - I was lucky enough to capture this photo while hiking the Camino de Santiago with my wife. It was the morning of my favorite day of the hike near O Cebreiro, Spain. The hiking boot was already positioned on a pillar showing how long to go until the destination. It was a surreal vision. The Camino is a very personal journey that brings about a lot of reflecting. I don't know the real story of the boot, but to me it felt like a memorial, maybe for someone who had walked the path or perhaps never had the chance. In any case, I couldn't help but feel fortunate to have been there in that moment.
No Moon - This is a photo looking out from my backyard at dusk, doctored to fit the nighttime mood of the song. I'm lucky to have these views as the sun goes down. The sky is different each evening leading to different kinds of nights. Some are bright and clear, and some are darker with no moon.
Compass Rose - This kaleidoscopic vision came from some photos I took in a farm field near home. It had been left to grow wild for the season and the wild carrot aka Queen Anne's lace took over. Some consider it an invasive week and others find it beneficial or beautiful. It may be all of the above, but much like the message of 'Compass Rose', much depends on perspective. The kaleidoscopic image plays with the idea of perspective and all I knew is it was a beautiful place to be at sunset that day.
Banks of Lethe - The original photo used for the artwork of 'Banks of Lethe' was taken near a walking trail in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, OH on a warm Christmas day a few years back. It was a pleasant respite before a 2020 New Year that would become challenging in a lot of unexpected ways. The photo felt like a good fit to represent the mythical River Lethe. Serene, yet something looms. On the other side everything is different.
Ignis Fatuus - I took this photo on a foggy morning hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The barbed wire divided the path from a field. The sun shone through haze and dew. A delicate violet vine wrapping itself around sharp braided steel. It reminded me of mankind's war with nature, and mankind's war with itself. The illusion of power and its fleeting nature. It seemed a fitting image to represent 'Ignis Fatuus'. A ghost light in the night, a term for delusion, and a song about the violence of our history returning to us because we follow the deceptions that keep leading us to it.
The final remaining cover is one I created for 'Banks of Lethe (Charon Mix)', a nearly fifty minute ambient remix of 'Banks of Lethe'. A sketch of the Charon navigating the darkness on the River Lethe helps represent the transformative experience of the song's re-imagining. A visualizer (thanks to Dustin Galish) makes it a complete audio-visual meditation. In the visualizer, my sketch comes to life, floating back and forth in the gondola. Let the Charon guide you down the River Lethe as fear gives way to awe, then to calm acceptance, and finally to sleep.
As always thank you for your support and for listening to this collection. It means a lot to me. The music is streaming everywhere and available in the online store. The artwork and emblem can be found on all kinds of goodies including t-shirts, hats, pins, and more. Your support helps me keep doing what I love to do, creating and sharing these reveries.