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Kickstarter Preview: Intro to Sketchbook Picture Sleeves Volume 1

July 28, 2019

Hey looky-loos and preview-peekers! 


As of this writing I'm 5 days and $425 out of reaching my kickstarter goal.  If I don't hit it, I'm not sure on what schedule I'll be able to put out Sexton Ming and J.T. Dockery's "Kenttucky Pussy" comic or the book collecting my own sketchbook picture sleeves.  Both are years in the making, though, and I'd liek to get them done now.  (read: dedicated publisher stamps his feet and screams...  Now! NOW! NOW!!!)



Of course, I'm not actually going to scream.  Instead I'm going to calmly share an endorsement from one of my personal favorite artists... A guy who knows a thing or two about record sleeve art: Darren Merinuk!  Here is the intro he's kindly enough written for "Sketchbook Picture Sleeves Volume 1: 2016-2019" 


If you're not convinced to chip in after reading his enthusiasm over the project...  Well...  I'll probably try some other way to convince you... 


"Designing a picture sleeve for a 45 has a lot in common with writing a hit single. You need to come up with a simple catchy riff and showcase it with straightforward backing that doesn't clutter things up too much, which will leave room for the hook to successfully catch the ear and burrow into the brain of your prospective fan. You can get a lot more subtle on an LP, there's more space there to get into nooks and crannies, but 45s, both sound- and art-wise, have gotta be clean and punchy. To vividly demonstrate this principle, here comes Ken Eppstein with his rockin' record rack fulla faux 45 sleeves that aim to do the cartoon equivalent of a top 40 smash, grabbing eyes instead of ears but with the same noble intention: To make you do the TWIST!


Yeah, there's some pretty twisted ideas in this volume, spinning like wild from straightforward riffs on the original song title to totally out-there extrapolations, some of 'em pretty dark in the Don Martin or EC comics sick humor tradition. If you're going into this collection thinking of Mad Magazine or Wacky Packages you're headin' in the right direction, though it just might catch you by surprise with some social commentary or even sincere emotion here and there if you don't watch out. Ken's clever design sense is the secret weapon here, framing his ingenuous John-Holmstrom-meets-The-Simpsons art style in some subtle and effective ways. Of course if you're hoping to get the full effect, you gotta know your way around the early, wild and groovy r'n'r and r'n'b music that provides the meat in this cheeseburger and also the hip references to comics, movies, pop culture and even everyday life itself that its been garnished with, but my guess is that if this book has managed to beguile you into looking at or buying it you're probably on the right wavelength already.


Ken's ability to put a wise-guy twist on the title of most of these 45s is the main item on the menu here and the ensuing disastrous, humiliating and occasionally horrifying scenarios deliver solid yocks throughout, but personally I'm kinda partial to the ones where he eschews the gags and goes for a more design- and mood-oriented approach. These pieces add a bit of depth, thrown in as they are amongst the class clown capering like land mines on an Italian road in an episode of Combat. Think of the way "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" fits into the first Ramones LP and you might get the idea. Even cretins gotta stop hopping sometimes, ya dig?



Of course Ken has a big advantage that regular sleeve designers don't: He's working without the interference of the musicians themselves and the record label drones who cluster around them, who are, lemme tell ya, always VERY concerned that the musical artist is portrayed in the properly glamorized and airbrushed style as demanded by ego-addled star and portly marketing guru alike. Pretty sure the label execs in question would balk at the depiction of Conway Twitty making out with a unicorn, one of the comedic highlights of this volume in my personal opinion. (I'm not so sure Conway himself wouldn't have dug it though.) In the happiest circumstance imaginable for a cartoonist, Ken is free here to run wild, knocking over sacred cows and foiling at will the wishes of egotistical wannabe superstars who would prefer not to be drawn with grotesquely protruding noses the size of jumbo rolls of baloney.



These cartoons are following the trail blazed by garage/punk rock (and related genres) itself: simple, stoopid, irreverent and willing to go upside your head in pursuit of a laugh, and once in awhile to maybe make a thoughtful point as well. 


But now let's get to the meat of the matter. Imagine you're in a local record store with a big wall full of brand new, tempting 45s, each in its own snappy picture sleeve. All you've got in the pocket of your Levi's is a single creased-up buck, which means you can only walk out with one of 'em. So you better take your time and think it over carefully, buddy…. Which one are YOU gonna pick?"


-Darren Merinuk




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