Comics Go Pop! Artist Sean Phillips curates new exhibition for Lakes International Comic Art Festival

The Phono+Graphic Exhibition poster featuring Sean Phillips cover for the Stereo MCs album, Supernatural.

The Phono+Graphic nthusesxhibition poster featuring Sean Phillips cover for the Stereo MCs album, Supernatural.


The Lakes International Comic Art Festival has just announced the first of several exhibitions to coincide with this year’s comics gathering in Kendal, which will feature record album artworks by numerous comic artists – including, among many others, Festival guests Dave McKean and Charlie Adlard.

Phono+Graphic: 60 Vinyl Record Covers by 60 Comic Book Artists, to be exhibited at Kendal Museum in October, has been curated by the locally-based, internationally-renowned comics artist Sean Phillips, who is also one of the Festival patrons.

Drawing comics professionally since the age of 15, Eisner Award winning Sean has worked for all the major publishers. Since drawing Sleeper, Hellblazer, Batman, X-Men, Marvel Zombies, and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Sean has concentrated on creator-owned books including Criminal, Incognito, Seven Psychopaths and Fatale. He’s currently drawing The Fade Out, written by his frequent collaborator Ed Brubaker.

The exhibition includes record covers by the likes of acclaimed Batman artist Neal Adams, Judge Dredd artist Brian Bolland, cartoonist Robert Crumb, Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett and some of this year’s Festival guests – Charlie Adlard, Hunt Emerson, Dave McKean and Phil Winslade.

Sean Phillips. Photo: Joe Gordon

Sean Phillips. Photo: Joe Gordon

While researching the exhibition, an idea from Festival Director Julie Tait, Lakes District-based Sean was surprised to discover just how many well-known comic artists had drawn album covers.

“I’d planned to have two covers by each artist if they’d done that many, but I soon had to change that plan,” he says. “There’s far too many to fit in one exhibition.

“I had to be quite ruthless in my curation, although it was more suprising to discover covers that I had no idea had been drawn by comic artists. Albums like David Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’, with a painted cover by Guy Peellaert.

Equally hard was whittling down the art to just 60 pieces, says Sean.

“Some classic sleeves and albums just had to be included, but apart from that, I just went with what I liked,” he reveals. “I had to either like the work of the cover artist or the music, and sometimes both happened! There’s a lot of old classics, but also plenty of recent covers by contemporary artists.

The cover of Meatloaf's 'Bat Out of Hell' by Richard Corben

The cover of Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’ by Richard Corben

“On a purely artistic level, I really like Christian Ward’s cover for ‘The Pictish Trail’ and Dan Clowes cover for ‘Las Vegas Grind Volume Four’. Nostagically, Richard Corben’s painting for the cover of Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ can’t be beaten for music lovers of a certain age.

“All the records also had to be on 12″ vinyl,” he expands, “and apart from one which is too good to miss out, I’ve managed that. The art looks at its best at that size – and nobody wants to be squinting at a CD sized picture on the wall!”

The oldest picture in the exhibition is a French, spoken-word album of a Tintin book.

“The original picture was drawn by Herge in the 1930s but I think the record is from the 1950s,” Sean notes. “He’s one the greatest European cartoonists ever, and everybody knows who Tintin is, so I’d be daft not to include it. The next oldest is ‘Cheap Thrills’ by Big Brother and the Holding Company. Robert Crumb drew that cover in 1968, and the exhibition also includes another of his covers from 2008.

“The most recent is the self-titled debut album by Cosmic Rays. Fellow festival guests and band members Charlie Adlard and Phil Winslade both contributed art to the gatefold sleeve.

“Charlie will be taking a break from drawing zombies for The Walking Dead for the band to play at the festival so I had to include them!”

Paradise Lost - Album Cover by Dave McKean

Paradise Lost “As I Die” album cover by Dave McKean

After all his hard work putting the exhibition together, what does he think makes a good record cover?

“A good cover is one that makes you want to buy the record and listen to the music!”

Although he has also illustrated album covers, including Supernatural for the Stereo MCs, featured on the exhibition’s poster, which artist or group would the artist personally like to do an album cover for?

“As I’m not remotely cool, I’d love to paint a cover for an Elvis Presley album!” he enthuses.

“Our exhibitions program is intended to appeal to a broad range of tastes and interests and to demonstrate that there is more to comic artists and art than meets the eye,” says Festival Director Julie Tait.

“Sean has created a fantastic exhibition which reflects the diversity and brilliance of comic art, which we’re confident will draw all kinds of visitor to the Museum.”

News of the exhibition has also given the Festival opportunity to confirm appearances at this year’s event by Charlie Adlard (making a welcome return) and Dave McKean.

Charile Adlard. Photo: Olivier Roller

Photo: Olivier Roller

Charlie Adlard has been a “veteran” of the comic industry for over 20 years. He’s spent the majority of his time since 2004 working on The Walking Dead for which he has received many industry awards. In his time as a cartoonist he has worked on many other projects as far reaching as Mars Attacks, The X-Files, “Judge Dredd” and “Savage” for 2000AD, Batman, X-Men, Superman etc and creator-owned projects closer to his heart like Astronauts In Trouble, Codeflesh, Rock Bottom, and White Death.

Dave McKean has illustrated and designed many award winning and ground breaking books and graphic novels including The Magic of Reality (Richard Dawkins), The Homecoming (Ray Bradbury), Varjak Paw and Phoenix (SF Said), The Savage, Slog’s Dad and Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (David Almond), What’s Welsh for Zen (John Cale), Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison), Wizard & Glass (Stephen King) and Mr. Punch, Signal to Noise, The Wolves in the Walls, Coraline and the Newberry and Carnegie Medal winning The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman).

Dave McKean. Photo: Allan Amato

Dave McKean. Photo: Allan Amato

His self penned Cages received several awards for the year’s best graphic novel. He has also written and illustrated Pictures That Tick Volume 1 and 2 (collections of short comics) and Celluloid (an erotic novel). He has created hundreds of CD, book and comic covers for Michael Nyman, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, Bill Bruford, Bill Laswell, Tori Amos, Altan, Fear Factory, Roy Harper, Frontline Assembly, John Cale, and the entire run of Neil Gaiman’s influential Sandman series. He has exhibited in the US, Europe and Japan and has released four monographs of photographs.

Dave has also designed characters for two of the Harry Potter films and directed five short films and three feature films, MirrorMask (winner of seven International Awards), Luna (BIFA and Raindance Best Feature Awards) and The Gospel of Us (2 Bafta Cymru awards) with Michael Sheen.

He is currently working on a fourth film, a new graphic novel called Caligaro, a musical theatre commission from the Manchester Jazz/Literature Festival, a book of paintings inspired by silent cinema, and a VR project.

• Phono+Graphic: 60 Vinyl Record Covers by 60 Comic Book Artists – Curated by Sean Phillips | 5th – 20th October 2015 Kendal Museum, Kendal, Cumbria

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Categories: British Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, Events, Exhibitions, Features, Other Worlds

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