Show your work!

Who doesn’t recall those odious school assignments that demanded that students “show their work?” Woe be to those who “knew” the answer, the destination, but perhaps were a bit fuzzy on the intellectual roadmap that was followed to get there. No counting on fingers and toes allowed!

When I recently tried to engage Ronan about how he had come up with the “broken pencil” image for the cover of the Josephmooon “So Far So Good” CD package, his lone comment was “I don’t know. I just did.”

Sometimes it is just that easy.

We had just recorded the last song for the album, and for some reason, “So Far So Good” seemed a perfect title track as well. “It should have a broken pencil,” Ronan said at the time, adding later, “The eraser should be black.” My sense of traditionalism bristled at that unconventional request, but instead of rejecting it out of hand, decided to do some research. Sure enough, there are pencils with black, green, yellow, and of course, pink, erasers. So, why not a black eraser?

Amy Bennick had done a nice job on the sleeve art for the “High In The Sky” 7-inch vinyl, agreeing to work with a pre-existing logo and image, so we agreed to ask her to do some original art for the CD cover. In addition to the “broken pencil with a black eraser” instruction, I directed her to the cover of the Velvet Underground album, Andy Warhol, featuring Warhol’s iconic banana silkscreen. “Try making the pencil resemble the banana,” I said.

I sent her this little mockup I did with scissors and clear tape.

She sent a few pencil iterations for review and comparison.

Then we looked at a bunch of different fonts – including the very popular Cooper Black – and how they related to the pencil image. It was collectively decided that the very bold, or aggressive, fonts were fighting the pencil for attention, so perhaps one of the finer typefaces might give the image the space it demanded.

I don’t know the name of the final typeface used. I’m not a micromanager. I believe it is important to trust and empower people to exercise their talents and skills, and to make their own mistakes along the way. It really is the only way to “learn.”

I also requested the pencil be rendered whole on the inside of the album. A broken pencil starts out as a whole pencil, after all. How did it get broken? Out of frustration? Misuse? Intent? But you know what else “they” say – you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

The only missing graphic element that I originally thought might be added is the numeral 2, as you see on No. 2 pencils. But I did not advocate for it. Perhaps we were unintentionally saving that for “the sophomore effort.”     

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

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