All art copyright (c) Mike Kloepfer
"The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it."
-Steve Vai

Saturday, July 24, 2010



The ship is born!!!
I did NOT want to just copy a photograph, so I created my own ship from scratch.
In the end, I went with my preferences. I wanted to be a bit further back in history than the East Indiamen from the POTC trilogy and from Master & Commander - they tended to look more like Nelson's ships, and although I love that era (Geoff Hunt is my favorite maritime painter) I wanted something that would harken back to the galleons of the Spanish settlers and Cortez (from whom the title track of the CD was inspired.) I liked the two-masted ships BP and LW, and had a preference for a gaff-rigged spanker. Call me an old softy.

It's an amalgamation from numerous sources, and from my own experiences; The Black Pearl (of course), the Lady Washington (of course), a Dutch East Indiaman called the Gothenberg (also saw it spelled Gottenberg and Gotenborg), The Belona, and a few other sources of inspiration. Also a bit of the Morning Star, Morgan's ship in Cutthroat Island as well, however my DVD drive is on the fritz, so it's probably from memory.

Progress on "Burn The Ships" cover art

Working on the distribution of darks and lights. Mostly darks. It's a nighttime scene, don'tcha know...

The layout sketch continues to develop. Here, I have laid out the armature of the picture space, and I am mapping the critical points of interest, how they overlap, and how they direct the eye around the composition.

Testing the materials/process:
I get a lot of inspiration from the work of my favorite album-cover illustrator, Roger Dean.
After deciding to work in acrylic on watercolor paper, I'm testing out some of the basic ideas/elements and seeing if the techniques I have in mind will work.
I'm keeping the colors very neutral, so the few spots of saturated color will 'sing.' I'm working with a lot of the band's logo color, which is a kind of midnight blue. Ha, it should work great for a nighttime

the test sheet.

Of course, we'll have to have an Ironwood Tree or two in the illustration. I love the lines of these gnarly trees.

Testing background trees and hills. I bought some artist's masking fluid from work, and you can see the tests on the left hand side.
Oh, and there should be lots of fog. Yeah, fog...

Close up of the smoke test.
I've been looking at photos, movies, and YouTube videos, to get the most dramatic, and the most authentic-looking smoke and fire.
Of course, the watercolor technique lends itself well to this application.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cover art for "Burn The Ships"


More sketches.

The evolution of an idea.
I have had the same basic idea this whole time, as it develops, but there was something lacking. Then a friend of mine made a comment that unlocked the idea that has been skirting around the corners of my mind. Then I was looking through an old sketchbook and found a sketch of a ship in a harbor, and the silhouette of a figure in the foreground. That got the idea really going. So here is a new concept sketch:

Study paintings for the cover of my band's latest CD, Burn The Ships. This is just the setting. In the foreground will be a ship on fire (of course.)

Working out ideas with light, color, and composition. In the final piece, the ship will be more in the foreground and will dominate the composition - so the relative scale will have to change.

I tried both daytime and nighttime scenes. I like each one of them for different reasons.
The nighttime scene is more ominous and moody. definitely would be the choice if we were including the pirate song Pursuit - but that song was put on the back burner for now. :(

The daytime scene is beautiful - definitely the type of place I'd like to burn my ships, and reminiscent of how the New World must have looked to the explorers: lush, untamed paradise. But perhaps it's too pretty for a CD by a rock band.