From the record releasing engine that is Asbestos Records comes the inaugural EP of its Double Exposure series, in which two musicians or bands pay tribute to a third musician or band. In this first volume, multi-istrumentalist and composer Franz Nicolay and folk/punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner cover the songs of the prolific playwright and composer, Noël Coward. Once again, the nice folks at Asbestos Records asked me to help with the record sleeve illustration and design. The proposed idea for the cover illustration was to emulate the Al Hirschfeld caricature illustrations that are synonymous with Broadway and musical theater, paying tribute to Noël Coward’s expansive career.
So, while Franz Nicolay and Frank Turner would be covering Noël Coward I’d be covering Al Hirschfeld.
Self Portrait by Al Hirschfeld
What would Al Hirshfeld do? I immersed myself in Hirschfeld’s caricatures in preparation. I needed to know how he might draw a guitar, an accordion, or a pork pie hat. He was a brilliant artist, able to convey so much information, movement, and personality using minimal strokes. It became clear that I’d need to resist some of my approaches and techniques while attempting those of a master far greater than I. The more I researched, the more I felt the pen I was trying to wield was much too good for my hand.
At times, my attempt to draw like Al Hirschfeld felt very much like forging a signature. The pen stroke is a bit more labored and without the natural ease of its original hand. Much like a musician’s cover of a song, the cover is rarely as good as the original, and should never attempt to better the original. The best an artist can hope for is to contribute their own personality to the work. With any luck it will be seen for what it is, a humble tribute to a master.
I’m pleased with the final illustration and layout above, which is a nod to Noël Coward’s A Special Event LP which was illustrated by Al Hirschfeld.
Noël Coward, A Special Event LP Cover by Al Hirschfeld