Hot Rod Artwork [pt. 1]

Reaching for new heights in the album artwork department, I commissioned Chicago illustrator Sterling Martin to create the cover for my Hot Rod Stigmata single. I met Sterling at the iconic “Neo” nightclub years ago, and have since enjoyed seeing his work on Instagram and other platforms. I knew I wanted a graphic novel vibe for the cover to complement the whimsical feel of the song, and Sterling’s work jumped to mind. Here are a few projects from his website that sealed the deal.

Drawing from one of the song’s lyrics “Engine’s golden roaring / hood ornament’s a dove”, I wanted a graphic of hot rod with a- you guessed it- dove hood ornament. After a bit of research. I found a hot rod model I liked, as well as a dove hood ornament (which apparently is a thing!). I also sketched a general composition for a rough starting point.

I provided these cues to Sterling, along with audio of the track, and he quickly responded with some preliminary questions. Here are snippets of our exchange.

Do you know what the make and model it is? It looks kind of like a Rolls Royce, but I don’t know much about cars. I want to look up other images for reference if I can.
It’s a 1932 Ford, although I think the body was tricked out by the owner. I literally Googled “hot rod”, clicked images, and it was on the front results page. It spoke to me.  Here’s the skinny.
In the example you gave it looks like you were framing just a portion of the car to zoom in on the dove. I can play around with different compositions, but I just want to verify that’s what you had in mind.
Pretty much! An angle that looks like the car is launching up and going to bust out of the frame (or maybe even does!) The dove helps to accent the stigmata bit of the song, so I think it would be a nice point of focus. Feel free to play around as you see fit!

Sterling went to work and within a few days sent me with a grid of 10 different ideas for me to choose from, along with more questions to guide us through the process.

I like #5 the best! It really matches the feel and motion of the song’s relentless chorus. Thundering down the road!
Obviously, these are intentionally rough to just get an idea of layout. I’m not sure of your thoughts on flames on the side of the hotrod, but I included it on a few because I thought it might be visually interesting.
Since #5 shows mostly the hotrod’s front, so I don’t know if there is a way to get the flames across- is there? Would like to if possible. I’m now thinking these flames can represent a bit of a hellish feeling, to achieve a nice duality.
It’s not real clear, but I considered possible backdrops as city building, mountains and sky, a moon, a sun, a road vanishing to a horizon line, a tunnel, and maybe a line of trees or street lamps diminishing behind the car. Let me know if any of those ideas spark anything for you.
I like sky, moon, and stars… maybe some purple in the sky?
I thought including stars might be nice since you mention stars in the lyrics. I thought either visible in the sky or if the sky is not in the composition, reflected in the body of the car.
I feel as the composition of #5 fits the chorus- and following your ‘stars’ suggestion above- maybe the background of the image reflects the ambient feel of that bridge section. A purple-tinted mysterioso night sky?

Stay tuned for updates and to watch the artwork progress. In the meantime, go follow Sterling on Instagram!