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  • Writer's pictureChloë March

Myth-Places; Creating the Artwork for 'Starlings & Crows'

My artwork has always been illustrative – I’ve drawn cartoons since I was a child and have always loved to see how much I can do with just a few lines, usually drawn very quickly and intuitively. I used these kind of illustrations for my second album 'Divining' and for the artwork for my collaborative album with Todd Tobias 'Amialluma'. I felt my next two albums needed more photographic imagery, but for this latest one I knew I wanted to go back to using my drawings.

I think this is because 'Starlings & Crows' is so much about creating a sense of place. When I was listening back during the editing and mixing process I would be struck by how this intention was at the heart of each song. I knew where the songs were taking me and I felt a strong desire to create imagery that would also give a sense of these places. For me these are 'myth-places' – both archetypal and intensely personal to me at the same time. They are the places where the inspiration for the songs begin and where all my work goes into trying to recreate with the music.

Illustration by Chloe March for 'Starlings & Crows' ©

The very last song I wrote for the album was 'Looking Glass Lawn'. The title is a reference to 'Alice Through The Looking Glass' by Lewis Carrol, a fantastical, funny and surreal children’s book written in 1871. I knew both that and 'Alice in Wonderland' quite well when I was little – I loved them and was also quite frightened by both books too. I was fascinated by the surreal, quirky and beautiful illustrations by John Tenniel in the copies I had. I loved his colours and the way he captured absurd and pompous characters and I desperately wanted to step into those gardens, woods and onto those lawns where anything could happen.

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carrol

The thread running through 'Starlings & Crows' is inspired by the real, emotional and imaginative landscapes of my childhood and so I felt that referencing Tenniel in the artwork was a perfect fit. I had wanted to create songs with an emotional impact but with a sunlit slant. I was after beauty and emotion with something surreal or unsettling emerging at the edges.

I decided at the beginning of creating the artwork that symmetry would be important to give an illustrative quality and help me to frame the drawings into vignettes. So I drew all the elements separately with the intention that they could be then flipped mirror-wise.

Illustration by Chloe March for 'Starlings & Crows' ©

There was then a nicely balanced image to which I could also add a reflective vignette underneath, referencing the looking glass, or atmosphere of an undertow, or something seen from a different angle, beneath the idyll.

I spent quite a long time getting the Foxie character right. He is the fox in 'Turn Fox Then' and I wanted him to be the connection between the drawing and the viewer, or the album and the listener. He is more of the cartoon-like quality that I’ve used before but took a lot of practice to get right before I could draw him really quickly. I wanted him to be knowing and wise and a little bit amused.

Illustration by Chloe March for 'Starlings & Crows' ©

I drew to my music, particularly the tracks 'Turn Fox Then', 'To a Place', 'Starlings & Crows' and 'Looking Glass Lawn' which I put on repeat and covered page after page with line drawings with my head in the space of the songs.

The Queen-woman and the rose bushes are references to Tenniel. I copied his style for the roses pretty directly and also for the hollyhocks used in the singles artwork. These, along with the birds were drawn quite slowly and with a lot of attention to detail. The starlings and the crows are all me and needed to be joyful and have the right atmosphere without being twee, which took a while to get right!

Illustration by Chloe March for 'Starlings & Crows' ©

I hope that these illustrations add another element to the myth-places of my songs. They have the same intention: to invite you to those places with me.

Illustration by Chloe March for 'Starlings & Crows' ©

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