Atomic Ape: Swarm
This was a really fun project.
Atomic Ape is Jason Schimmel’s amazing band. Jason has played in two of my favorite bands, Estradasphere and Secret Cheifs, and is just an amazing guitar player. Seeing him play live is always such a treat. After the dissolution of Estradasphere Jason carried on with Orange Tulip Conspiracy, which I also did the album packaging for. Orange Tulip Conspiracy more or less completely changed members between records and Jason decided to rename the band Atomic Ape and asked me to make some fucked up cartoon mayhem for the album cover. He sent me some rough mixes that flipped my wig and inspired a bunch of illustrations for the project.
Making the Artwork
The cover illustration was drawn on a 4th Generation iPad in Procreate with desktop Photoshop doing some heavy lifting in the compositing department. I had been drawing on an iPad for a few years, but only with the recent ones could you work in print resolution in a pixel based setting. I’m not a vector guy so much, so I was eager to push this as far as I could. I also used a pressure sensitive stylus (Jaja) which allowed me to get it closer to what I would do with real ink and paper. This workflow was all very experimental for me.
Jason invited me to Hyde Street Studios for the mix-down of the album. Jason doesn’t skimp and go straight from digital. Everything was run through analog amps, tubes, consoles and such and dumped to tape for warmth. I respect the lengths he goes to for this project. I drew most of this drawing listening to Justin Phelps and Jason go through each track piece by piece to make it sound just right. What a treat. There are so many layers in this music and I was able to hear many isolated parts that you almost don’t notice on the record.
Before I could “ink” any of this drawing I made a quick plan of all the tonal values just to make sense of everything. This is just a quick hack job to find my way.
I did not feel like hand drawing all of this damn rollercoaster so I made a model in Blender and used it’s Freestyle line renderer to make a line drawing. This render is composited with an Ambient Occlusion render so you can see the forms better.
Here is a timelapse video of the Procreate drawing session. There were several crashes that caused breaks in the recording, as well as a lot of back and forth between Photoshop and Procreate, which makes some things look like they appear suddenly complete. I didn’t record the inking because I didn’t think it would be that interesting. too much undo with the older un-precise ipad limitations.