Our readers have had quite a few chances to meet with Chris van der Linden, the mainman behind the projects Fourteen Twentysix and Bow, but I am not sure if you knew that Chris also works as a graphic designer, providing the high-quality album arts, posters or any other graphic backups for bands. This interview is an insight to Chris’ work as a graphic designer. Look below, you may find some stunning art of this regular dude.
Nick: Hey Chris! I am pretty sure that we canvassed your career as a musician, though you are again in a workaholic mood with your new Bow project. I’d leave it aside and focus on your other artistic skills. So, you also work as a professional graphic designer, meaning that you can design pretty cool artworks, posters or any graphic backup for bands and musicians. When did you realize that your call will be exactly the graphic design?
Chris: Well I’m a creative person so while I’m maybe most known for my music I never do just one thing. Even for my own bands Fourteen Twentysix and Bow I work on the music but also the artwork and online presentation.
I grew up listening to music and playing in many bands. Then I studied graphic design, media and photography. I worked as a studio photographer for six years and did a lot of artwork (I showed in a few galleries, sold paintings) and did artwork for bands. In 2006 I started my own company in the gaming industry and music and artwork sort of became a serious hobby, because I have to run a company during the day.
I’ve been working for my company for six years now and recently decided I wanted to do more artwork again next to it. So you are right, I am a workaholic
Nick: Graphic design, as a separate branch of art is pretty vast and ever-expanding field, so could you tell that there is something inside this huge field that takes your attention at the most?
Chris: My main expertise is creating album artwork and packaging (like digipacks, dvd’s etc). My second focal point is what I call the “band identity”. This is the total creative “package” that makes a band. This is not just the album cover but also the look of the website, the band photo’s, press kit, tech rider, twitter account and style of communication. Because I am an independent musician and released quite some music on my own, I also have a lot of experience there, so I can help bands with more than just a cool piece of imagery. So bands can consult me with various questions or “problems” that go beyond artwork and I probably can help them move to a next level.
Nick: How does a process of creating an album art go? I guess that for you, as being a musician, it’s easy to provide a visual background of the music creating that way a strong bond between the sound and image. Am I wrong?
Chris: It’s an organic process which begins by listening to what the band has to say. This can be done through a briefing where the band tells me what they like to see, but the music also “speaks” for itself, giving me a direction immediately. The reason I think the brand identity is important is so you don’t just create cool one-shot album covers, but ideally something that is recognizable through an entire discography. This way people start to recognize the difference between Dream Theater album cover and Opeth album cover instantly.
Nick: Which project has been most demanding or most difficult to do so far?
Chris: I recently did the digipack (with 8 page booklet) for Malicious Dream’s “Soil” record. This was a monster project which took me a couple of weeks to finish. It started with designing a unique concept that moved beyond the traditional metal standards. Then it took some time and tests to figure out the right way to visualize the concept. Once we had the style down it was hard work getting the 8 pages of unique artwork filled and matched with the digipack. All in all the finished product looks awesome as you can see on www.lindenartwork.com and it’s been applauded in many reviews.
Nick: Do you usually form a base idea and then work around it, or you have a few different sketches from which one gets picked up by a random choice method?
Chris: Usually I spend more time talking to the band before making artwork. For me it’s better to have a clear understanding of what they want and let it form in my mind before going into Photoshop. Once you are in Photoshop generally things move slower, so I want to be sure of where we are going. In some cases when a band (or myself) am not totally sure of what we want I’ll do a few sketches. Especially with logo’s it can take a few feedback rounds before I’ve nailed what the customer wants, with artwork I am usually pretty spot on from the start.
Nick: Let’s talk a bit about tech stuff. I guess that you are in step with technology when it comes to using computers for what you do. So, what do you use? Which programs or tools? But on the other side, how much indeed a computer can substitute a hand?
Chris: I work on an iMac with Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. Nothing too fancy but powerful enough to work smoothly and handle high resolution files. I don’t work much on paper (sometimes I like it, for underground metal projects for example, where a more ‘old school’ look is wanted), most of my work is photography and manipulation.
I use a Nikon SLR camera for photograhpy which transfers the RAW files to my mac. Then the party is on and I can do my magic
Lastly I have four external hardrives that automatically back up files on four drives so I have a backup of a backup of a…. you can never be too safe with these things.
Nick: What about inspiration? Is there anything from where you draw it? Music? Film?
Chris: Yeah, I get inspiration from movies, music, other artists work. I love using shots of nature, textures to overlay and so on. I’ve a wide variety of styles I like to use so as with music I’m pretty all over the place. I am known for my darker atmosphere but I can do a bright indie pop album cover too, and be totally excited about it.
Nick: Are you working on any design projects at the moment?
Chris: Yes I am doing work for a potential new customer, but I can’t talk about that yet. I can say he’s the bassplayer of a well known metal band. Once I have news I will post it on my website www.lindenartwork.com
Nick: What’s more intriguing for you: creating music or an album art?
Chris: I love both and would die a little inside if I couldn’t do one of them. Artwork generally is more focused and has a clear end goal. Music to me gives a bit more freedom which is great. To me they work great together because new music inspires me to do new artwork, and the other way around.