In the last post, I shared with you all the full sleeve cover for GameGrooves' BIPOC charity album, Select Adventure, as well as the process behind the drafting stages of the artwork. I mentioned that I would cover the component islands of said sleeve cover in greater detail in this post.
What I'm about to write serves as my attempt at a thorough description / alt text for the above image -- there are seven islands and one ship, all of which are the components of the Select Adventure artwork. Please bear in mind that I only had the music as the influence for the artwork, and not any descriptions of each of the tracks.
The first island, "Cloudcandy Palace," was based on the opener, Dionté George's Bits and Pieces. To me it sounded chill and dreamy, so I drew the dreamiest thing I could think up: a pink rocky island, with huge glowing star pieces dotting the landscape, and pink candyfloss clouds surrounding it. In the centre is a palace with light pink walls -- it has a central dome, as well as four towers, each with their own domes. The domes are light blue and white. There are yellow orbs on the tops of the domes.
The second island, "Aman Village," was based on the second track, Felix Arifin's Cintaku Asli (My Love is Real). I drew a tropical island, very much based on Indonesian (especially Javanese) flora and architecture. I made sure to include a lot of the traditional houses and other communal buildings that I saw in references. As it happens, I am familiar with a lot of maritime Southeast Asian cultural references, having grown up in the region.
The third island, "The Crystal Coral Palace," is based on Rahul Vanamali's track, 5-3. When hearing Rahul's track, I thought it felt marine. It felt like some underwater odyssey to me. I began to dream up an island made almost entirely of water that magically held itself together in that general island shape. It would teem with plenty of fish and other creatures. Before long, I imagined a tall, gleaming coral palace at the centre -- this place would have lots of colour, movement, and life.
The fourth island -- the first "main island" -- is actually a large island and a small island connected by a bridge. The small island is just an open field with some hills. The large island comprises three locales, based on three separate tracks, and I will detail those:
The first locale, in the northwest part of this island, is a Chinese-inspired city in what I called "The Valley of Great Peace," heavily influenced by Erica Wong Ping Lun's track, Coral's Theme. I felt a great deal of calm hearing that track, and I tried to convey it as best as I could.
Before drawing this, I'd also been watching a lot of Xiran Jay Zhao's videos, especially their breakdowns of the Mulan films and the three "books" of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and so I'd internalised their explanations of Chinese architecture and design, including moon gates, guardian lions, and some everyday sights in villages. I let loose on this drawing as a result: this locale has a central citadel, surrounded by villages with trees and moon gates, and a marketplace. Just outside the front gates, to the south, is a drum tower, where a signaller pounds the drum to mark times and events. To the east is a temple, guarded by a pair of guardian lions, and right behind said temple is a garden and pond.
The name, "The Valley of Great Peace," is a reference to various places named Taiping 太平, a name that means "great peace" in Mandarin Chinese.
The second locale, just immediately south, is a desert called The Great Sandy Expanse, and in that desert is a village (El Pais), complete with houses, church, communal gathering places, winding roads, trees, and cacti. This was actually heavily influenced by Audio Mocha's track, El Paisa Y Su Bicicleta.
I feel I should make a note here that when I drew this, it didn't click in my head that El Paisa was a cumbia track. I wasn't quite sure what it was, and so my influence for that village was primarily Mexican as a result because it was the first thing I thought about. Now, at the time of writing, as I look at images of Colombian villages -- seeing as this track is a Colombian-style cumbia track -- some seem to be similar to the reference images on which I based my artwork. I hope it isn't too much of a deviance; it certainly was not intended.
The third locale, on the east section of this island, is called "Rainbow Falls," and is influenced by BeanBops' track, Memoir of Myself. It is a river and waterfall running between two mountain ridges with pine forests. These mountains rise high that there are clouds surrounding their peaks, and there are crater lakes at the peaks. A rainbow hovers between the peaks. When I listened to Memoir of Myself, I imagined a deeply picturesque, breathtaking scene that ultimately became what I drew here.
The fifth island is a single locale in and of itself. It is the setting that I drew to Ro Panuganti's Heaven Knows. What I heard sounded pretty dreamy and urban, and before the announcements were made on GameGrooves' Twitter page, Ro himself alluded early on to the fact that this song is both a love song and a metaphor for the immigrant's experience. I could make that allusion from listening to the lyrics.
Seeing as I could relate 100% to both subjects in the song, I drew the city of my dreams: a sprawling metropolis, built in harmony with nature, and with lots of enclosures and sections for people to engage in leisurely pursuits in addition to simply working. This would be a city where everyone's dreams would truly come true -- the immigrant's dream, the pauper's dream. I had brief visual images of people skateboarding or engaging in parkour or playing sports between these buildings, or on the rooftops. Or, of people greeting the dawn together, or watching the lights come on as the sun goes down. At the epicentre of this city is a tall building with neon lights at the very top, depicting a pair of angel wings and a giant halo.
Fun fact: this is the first location in the map which I named. I thought up the name "Angelopolis" before I thought up all the other names.
The sixth island, "The Lakeside Retreat," wasn't based on any track specifically, but came to ultimately represent FirahFabe's and Steph Nguyen's track, Flower of the Dawn. I drew this after having finalised the design for Angelopolis above -- it felt like a place I could escape to after feeling desperate to leave the hustle and bustle of a city. Incidentally, it would be a site of great spirituality, reflection, and gathering of energy, as it was intended to be a retreat house, where people would gather, eat, pray, and share inspiring stories that would renew each other's hope and strength.
The seventh island -- the second of the two "main islands" -- has two locales, and both of them seem somewhat connected to each other visually. I drew both areas with the intent of juxtaposing ideas and concepts that are polar opposites to each other -- danger and safety, barrenness and fertility, death and life, dryness and wetness, etc.
The first locale, "Castle Town," was an oppressive town based on Epic Game Music's They Finally Found Us. There are brown, dust-covered buildings of all shapes and sizes, on a brown, barren, dusty terrain. Some of these buildings are connected by ropes or zip ties, to allow easy passage downwards. There is a fortification in its epicentre, hence its name of Castle Town. Hearing what he wrote, I imagined a place where the oppressed clandestinely met in rooftops or scaled the walls of buildings or met in secret, to plant the seeds of change so that they, and others besides, could finally be free.
I would later gain access to the description of his track before the pre-order link of the album was made public, and it would come to haunt me, because it was in similarly oppressive-looking "Wild West" towns that persecution of indigenous people took place, along with the persecutions of anyone "other." Towns like these are a bleak, painful monument to persecutions of indigenous people past and present.
The second locale, "The Mistlands," was the location that I based on my own track, The Drummer's Prayer, which I will write about at length in Parts 3 and 4. Given that I had intimate knowledge of the track, I also had intimate knowledge of what sort of setting I yearned to drum in: a heavily misted forest with access to a river and some mountains, a refuge for people seeking shelter away from the oppression of the nearby town (hence why there are some buildings in the forest in the same vein as that of Castle Town). The people there would live in harmony with nature and with each other. In a clearing in said forest, there'd be the chieftain's and village committee's longhouse, as well as the longhouse of the people tasked with protecting the chieftain. There would also be a gathering place with a bonfire in the centre for warmth -- as the forest gets very cold -- and an altar on which the Mass is celebrated. I drew two big drums on either side of the altar, an outward sign of my inward desire to join people in communion with our Maker by playing the instrument that calls to us the most. Drums, dancing, and prayer are all intertwined for me, so I drew these elements in the same place in the forest.
There is one more island that is unaccounted for, which I called "The World's Edge." I was influenced by pictures of Tibetan villages, and Buddhist banners fluttering in the breeze, when I drew this. It is a grey, rocky, barren island, which in the album artwork joins Angelopolis by means of a rope bridge. There are small houses arranged in a circle, and a gathering place at the centre, with some blue tribal markings on the ground where the gathering place is marked. There are huge rock formations all around the houses, and strings of blue banners are tied on some of these rocks so that they form two lines above the houses. There is also a small mountain ridge between the rocks and the rope bridge -- passage to Angelopolis is difficult. When I drew this, I imagined what it would be like to imagine the value of self-sacrifice as an island.
And finally, after having talked at length about the various islands on the Select Adventure album artwork, I want to talk about one final element: the ship. It was the first thing that I finished drawing in the entire sleeve cover, and I felt that it was important for me to do that first before I drew the islands.
The ship is you, the listener.
As you listen to all the tracks, you embark on a journey that will fill you with all sorts of emotions. You will be enriched by experiences of the people you meet along the way -- the composers, and their stories. It may not be smooth sailing -- the waters may be choppy, or there may be storms -- but the journey still goes on. It changes you in ways that you least expect.
And at journey's end, when you are ready to return home, wherever that home may be, that ship is waiting to carry you there.