Queens of the Superficial: The Work of Jasper Goodall

One of my favourite albums, ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ by Muse (2006), featured some stunning visuals to accompany its ludicrous science fiction concept and dramatic, electric soundscapes. Storm Thorgerson, renowned for his work with Pink Floyd as well as Biffy Clyro and Audioslave, dealt with the album cover featuring the space-age Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The single covers, however, were done by Jasper Goodall, a UK based illustrator who previously did work for ‘The Face’ magazine and currently tutors at the University of Brighton.

Here is the single cover for the album’s first electro rock hit Supermassive Black Hole. There is an Aubrey Beardsley influence at work here with this image, the glamourous eroticism is almost a modern take on the illustrations from Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salome’. It is very decorative and graphical at the same time. The heart symbols reflect the track’s lyrical content while the slick monotone colours and clean forms tie in with the processed sounds of Muse’s then-new club music direction.

Goodall’s style for the alternative single covers switched between the solid graphics above and the more ethereal look of this example, the cover for Knights of Cydonia. The horse makes for a good motif of the epic spaghetti western mood of the track and ties in with the galloping noises heard in the intro. The stars and swirling patterns of space cloud give the image a magical feel. The horse has been used by Goodall for other purposes outside of Muse; it has adorned fashion and is now being sold as a screen print from Goodall’s website. Goodall’s main intention is create pieces of art that reflect utopian dreams and fantasies; the impossible future.

I’ll leave you with my favourite song from ‘Black Holes..’ Map of the Problematique, which combines Depeche Mode synths, acid house piano and New Order basslines with Queen style harmonies and pounding drums. The Goodall designed single cover is a homage to the cover of Cream’s classic album ‘Disraeli Gears’, appropriate as Cream were considered one of the first ‘power trios’.





Illustration Portraits: Stina Persson & Pablo Lobato

My favourite drawing subject is portraits, to the point where I can’t draw anything else except faces! Illustration allows for the format of portraiture to be explored from various angles and looking through ‘Illustration Now! Portraits’ (Julius Wiedemann, 2011) it demonstrated the sheer variety of styles available. I’ve picked out two of my favourites from the book; Stina Persson and Pablo Lobato.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Stina Persson’s style could be described as resembling ‘fashion illustration’ but her work has been used on popular magazine covers and adverts for big name brands and clothing companies. Watercolour seems to be her medium of choice but she has also explored handwriting, acrylic and ink, and collage as well as incorporating photography.

This is an poster in Malmo, Sweden advertising tours around the town. It is entitled ‘Find Your Malmo’. The heads of the two lovers make a vague heart-shape with the warm reds, purples and oranges adding to the romance. I love the lack of lines on the faces- the facial features are merely suggested and are clean white compared to the transforming colour elsewhere. This was probably accomplished using precise masking.


The portrait on the left is from Persson’s New York show in 2010, from the Gallery Hanahou, entitled ‘Perfectly Flawed’. The piece is a modern take on Tippi Hedren who was famous for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. It is a combination of cut paper making up the face and watercolour elsewhere. Despite the lack of obvious 3D form, the face and particularly the hairstyle seem to have great depth due to darker shades of colour where shadow should be.

The portrait on the right is of actress Penelope Cruz (done in 2010 for a ‘Latina’ magazine editorial). This is my favourite because of the bare minimalism- all it consists of is eyes, nose, mouth, chin and a strand of hair. The colours here are bright but not overly so; dark browns and purples are used for the shadows while the eyes are given a green/blue sheen. Persson said of her work,”It’s all about the eyes. And as little as possible about smiles and teeth. Sometimes it becomes more a portrait of a hairdo or a sweater. And that’s ok.” This is the URL for her website, giving a more comprehensive look at her work: http://www.stinapersson.com/

Pablo Lobato, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has an altogether bolder style. Using geometric shapes and vivid colours he somehow captures the likeness of the subject as well as the personality. He says, “I use 70% of the time to get to know the person I am portraying. And just 30% to draw them.”

This is a portrait of actor Leonardo DiCaprio from a ‘Flare’ magazine article, 2007. The shapes and colours are created using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to give a polished, slick look. The likeness for me is shown from the shape of the head (a square!) and the half shut eyes. The different shades on the face double as realistic tone and actually make the 2D flats seem three dimensional.


These next two are of the celebrated American rock bands, the White Stripes and the Red Hot Chili Peppers respectively. Reds, blacks and whites are used to keep in line with Jack and Meg White’s traditional aesthetic, which hadn’t changed at all during their thirteen year career. The Chili Peppers’ portrait is split into two halves in the background; Mars on the left and Jupiter on the right. Mars and Jupiter were the names of the two discs that made up the Chili’s 2006 double album ‘Stadium Arcadium’. Both groups are posed to show the unity and energy of their live performances.

Overall, both Persson and Lobato’s approach to illustrative portraiture are something that I’m interested in imitating myself. I might upload the results at some point!

My Favourite Album Artwork- Courtesy of Paul Romano

Mastodon’s new album ‘The Hunter’ has just come out this month prompting me to re-investigate their back catalogue. For a group of bearded, heavily tattooed metalheads their music never fails to impress with its sonic quality and sprawling arrangements. The best thing about their albums is the simply gorgeous artwork designed by Paul Romano. ‘Blood Mountain’ (2006) in particular is full of great fine art influenced images depicting crystal skulls, wolves, mythical beings and intricate geometric patterns.


It’s definitely a step above a black and white photograph taken in an abandoned warehouse! Here’s a selection of Romano’s other Mastodon album covers; ‘Leviathan’ their 2004 breakthrough dealing with the concept of ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Crack the Skye’ (2009) which narrated the story of a paraplegic travelling through wormholes in time to encounter Rasputin and the Russian Czar. Such unusual but intriguing  concepts are reflected once again in Romano’s distinctive style.


Romano’s website workhardened shows all his work with Mastodon along with designs for other bands and his personal fine art work. Here’s the URL http://www.workhardened.com/

Mastodon are due to appear on the new series of ‘Later with Jools Holland’ on BBC 2 at some point, making them the second metal band to appear on the show after Metallica. I’ll leave you with a track off of ‘Blood Mountain’, ‘Colony of Birchmen’ featuring guest vocals from QOTSA’s Josh Homme. DO NOT download the album- get a physical release instead. Even buying the CD means you can experience the very visual side of this unique band!