South African musician Rowan Stuart has toured the country as a solo artist, opened for popular acts such as Watershed, Dan Patlansky, Jeremy Loops, Matthew Mole and The Graeme Watkins Project, and shared the stage with Louise Carver, Nibs van der Spuy, Gangs of Ballet and Just Jinjer. Songs from his albums have received airplay on over 20 South African radio stations, including Top 20 chart success.
In 2012 he approached me to design the artwork for his 3rd studio release. The sound on this album is a departure from his signature style of ‘Acoustic Alternative’, described on the artist’s website:
“Light In Cages is a concept album, in which Rowan took a departure from the easy-listening sounds of the past, to explore the darker, more intense corners of his musical imagination. The album is best described as an Edgy, Experimental, Alternate Rock journey, and pays homage to the progressive spirit of groups such as Soundgarden, Radiohead, Silversun Pickups and Muse. Light In Cages bursts forth with grand, Smashing Pumpkins-esque guitars, unpredictable, groove-laden bass, and lightning-charged drumming, as it artfully shifts between moments of rock grandeur and moments of eerie beauty. All the while, the distinctive vocals – sometimes angsty, sometimes serene – lead the way on a journey through light and darkness.”
Rowan had already created the LIC logo and had very clear ideas on the grungey feel he wanted to portray through the artwork. After listening to his sampling of unreleased tracks I felt his sound was too clean and sophisticated for this treatment. He was very open to my tweaks and suggestions and we settled on a more moody electronic look that still summarized the trip the album takes the listener on: an introspective journey in which fear and stagnation are defeated, culminating in transcendence and acceptance.
Most of the artwork references a feeling of isolation but with a glimmer of light always illuminating the gloom. The cover image needed to retain the dark moodiness but be much stronger in order to stand out on shelves and as online store thumbnails, showing depth, movement and ultimately triumph over turmoil. The scope of work included conceptualizing photo shoots but we were able to enhance and manipulate some great photographs by Stuart Dods and Reg Stuart to get the feel Rowan was after.