Best artworks designers

Visual artists pick their favourite cover arts from 2019-2020

As the music industry matures in India, so does the visual arts industry. Both complement and supplement each other. Cover arts, gig or tour posters and merchandise serve as means of added revenue streams and have become an increasingly important part of an Indian musician’s portfolio. With increasing audio clutter, sometimes the visual aesthetic of an artist can make all the difference; it can set them apart as serious musicians as opposed to stream hungry click-baits.

Like the past two years, this year too, Indian visual artists pick their favourite artworks that have stood out in the last 12 months and applaud the artists who worked on them.

Labonie Roy

Bangalore-based Labonie Roy combines her love for nature and art as works towards making sustainable living an accessible reality. Most recently, she has worked on the flora and fauna-heavy artwork for Sanjeeta Bhattacharya’s single ‘Everything is Fine’, which was based on the New Delhi-based singer-songwriter’s first-hand experience of the destruction of the Aravali Range in the northern part of India. Roy has picked out artworks by Sonali Zohra, Rhea Iyer and @oddesque.

Lojal – Phase, Artwork by @oddesque

Labonie Roy: One of the most vibrant, unique pieces of album art I’ve seen this year! Since most music is now commercially consumed online, digital art suited to screen-viewing has become the norm, so the hand-done feel of this work is really refreshing. The textures of the work pair perfectly with lojal’s genre-bending sound. The contrast between the flat and bold colour and the delicate, almost antique-looking line work is beautifully executed, and the background has a subtle magazine print texture. To cap it all, the text is simple, almost incidental and therefore all the more impactful. Altogether, the artist creates a unique balance between surrealism and melancholy. What I love about this artwork is that it stays true to the musician’s style – it’s hard to box in with any genre, and that gets me curious to hear more.

Thermal and a Quarter – A World Gone Mad Artwork by Sonali Zohra

Labonie Roy: I have admired Sonali’s work for a long time, and her attention to detail and visual language are just stunning. This artwork particularly stood out to me because of the atmosphere she has created – a finely balanced depiction of darkness and foreboding at the first look, and fortitude as the artwork draws you in. In bold black and red, you see fire, smoke and disillusionment wrapped up all in one – as the world as we know it dissipates before our eyes through Sonali’s signature linework. Two people and a dog stand in a burning street, watching as a comet hurtles towards them. The “madness” of the world is enhanced by delicately drawn surveillance cameras, bleak newspapers fluttering around and rats scuttling at the edges of the scene. The trees struggle for space between buildings, and are tellingly indistinguishable from the flames. It’s a haunting depiction of what we see the world becoming, eliciting a sense of fear and darkness – and as the thematically illustrated title says, “A World Gone Mad”. However, there are small glimmers of light – the starry sky, the two people holding hands facing the bleak scenario, and significantly, wearing headphones. You can almost picture the scene in your mind, and perhaps even relate to it – overwhelmed by the mad world, we stand together in the face of it all with music in our ears. The artwork does an amazing job of telling a story, inviting the viewer in and setting the tone for the album.

Sabu – Rest Artwork by Rhea Iyer

Labonie Roy: Echoing the soothing tones of the single, Rhea has created a scene so familiar and relatable, I feel myself melting into the visual as I listen to the song. Her bold style is superbly elegant, with stippling (or rather, calculated smattering) of dots and delicate colour palettes that always reminds me of dried flowers. Sitting at their desk with a smouldering cigarette in their fingers, the protagonist of the artwork has clearly had a long day – and perhaps anticipating it to go on, has put their head down on their desk for a moment’s respite. The colour palette and linework create a moving visual, and you can feel the protagonist’s tiredness, the heaviness of their limbs and most importantly – the catharsis of rest. The attention to detail really takes this artwork to another level – small touches like the lanyard and ID card hanging off the display board, the extension cord, fairy lights, the shirt on the back of the chair and my personal favourite – the nailcutter on the side table! The lettering is also ingeniously placed – this cover doesn’t advertise; it just gives you a peek into someone’s life – the more you look, the more you learn. The artwork makes the single into an immersive audio-visual experience, drawing you in until you can almost feel this beautiful room around you, sitting at a desk, listening to a kind, quiet message to get some rest.

Yash Pradhan

Yash is a Mumbai-based designer who also contributed to the first AHH annual artwork feature back in 2018. Recently and most notably, he was commissioned by the American trio Khruangbin to design a poster which is now up on the American band’s merch store. This year, he also worked with Akshay Johar aka electronic artist MojoJojo for his single ‘Dillagi’. The artwork for this track is “a surreal reflection of numerous references from Rajasthani elements in terms of the instruments and vocal samples used in the track.” Yash has picked out artworks by Sajid-Wajid Shaikh, Ján Juhaniak and Pallab Baruah.

Mali – Limbo, Artwork by Ján Juhaniak

Yash Pradhan: Enjoy seeing collages on album artwork & this one of those, as the artwork itself is self explanatory & depicts the track title “Limbo” very well.

Naalayak – Hindi Gaane, Artwork by Pallab Baruah

Yash Pradhan: The artwork is such a great and modern approach on Mughal painting. The whole composition is great too.

Zanuski – Free Flow Mon Ami, Vol. 2, Artwork by Sajid-Wajid Sheikh

Yash Pradhan: The composition of the artwork is very contemporary and intriguing with some bold elements
which is Sajid’s take on American rubber hose animation from the 1920’s predominantly Betty Boop which reflects the album very well.

Errol Crasta

Errol has worked on a bunch of projects for the independent music circuit in India, most prominently the artwork for Aditi Ramesh and Tre Ess’ single ‘Heal’ which came out in April 2020 during one of the strictest lockdowns in the country. He also worked on the re-design for AHH in the month of August. Errol has picked out artworks by Namrata Kumar, Vibhav Singh and Boomrangg Studio.

Peter Cat Recording Co. – Happy Holidays, Artwork by Namrata Kumar, Design by Karan Singh

Errol Crasta: Dreamy with a heavy dose of surreal-absurdism hits the correct level of abstract that Peter Cat Recording Co. brings in this album which includes their old, unused and discarded songs. The warm to cool tonal change in the artwork just makes it really soothing to look at.

Krantinaari – KRANTINAARI, Artwork by Boomranng Studio

Errol Crasta: This artwork exudes a certain assertiveness thats present in Krantinaari’s debut single. The strong color scheme is reminiscent of those used during the constructivism/ heroic realism art movements which aids the songs outcry against patriarchy and the motivating nature of the song.

Kanishk Seth – Jhinjhoti, Artwork by Vibhav Singh

Errol Crasta: I love the intricacy of details and the fusion between the retro bollywood-ish and electronic aspects which is a perfect visual for the song. It is also accompanied by a neatly done motion artwork.

Sashank Manohar aka Gherkinz

Sashank makes music as 1/4th of the F16s and art as Gherkinz. Most recently, he worked on the call for applications poster for this year’s Toto Music Awards and the cover art for Harini Iyer and Han Beyli’s latest single titled Rowthiram Pazhagu. Sashank has picked out artworks from Ezzyland, Gayatri Hariharan, Devashish guruji. He also picked the cover arts for JBabe’s debut album, Die in Bombay by Death by Fungi and Hoirong’s latest album Hope & Light as special mentions.

Ezzyland – BOMBS, Artwork by Ezzyland

Sashank: Bombs is a chill lo-fi bedroom bop that instantly transcends the listener to some kind of a melodramatic dystopian landscape. The visuals of floating deep sea jellyfish and an abandoned UFO concealed in electric seaweed like plants growing out of an abandoned car perfectly fit the mood of echoey underwater synths and spacey vocal reverbs. As Ezzy puts it, “the song follows young rebels who swim in ecstasy when they’re not fighting with their oppressor.” Leaning towards surrealism, most of Ezzy’s visuals are fervid in obscurities and leave you pushing the possibilities of your own imagination. Bombs definitely is one for those who aren’t afraid to flex that odd brain muscle or two.

Gauley Bhai – Joro, Artwork by Devashish Guruji

Sashank: Joro (fever) is an exploration of love, identity and memory. The art behind Joro almost makes me feel homesick of a place I’ve only dreamt of before and brings out a fondly recollected memory from a time I spent in the North East, sitting at a city square listening to the voices of the people, singing in chorus to whatever was pop music on the radio at the time. Joro is a beautifully painted, light-hearted tale of modern folklore.

The Earth Below – Nothing Works Vol 2: Hymns for Useless Gods, Artwork by Gayatri Hariharan

Sashank: The art behind Nothing Works Vol 2 feels like a beautiful destruction of a god who fell from his throne and is on a psychosomatic voyage through the desert. Cast away in a fever dream and riddled by mortal emotions, he is deceived by the desert and its phenomenon playing tricks on his eyes, mirages turn into serpents and flowers into stone, whispers of death blowing through the sand under his feet, as he sets to pull through the night. Depicted beautifully through chilling hieroglyphs and eerie figure marks, Hymns for Useless Gods is definitely one of my favorite visual representations of an album this year.