The Art of Imitation – How Fine Artists Have Drawn Inspiration From Album Covers

The Art of Imitation — How Fine Artists Have Drawn Inspiration From Album Covers, Part 1 of 2

By Mike Goldstein and Richard Forrest

INTRODUCTION (By Mike Goldstein)

With all of the discussions taking place regarding the advent and rapid rise of AI-generated words, music and art, it reminded me that, over the past 20-25 years, there have been similar discussions about the tools that have been created during that time to enable artists of varying degrees of capability to both express themselves in ways that they might not have been able to (or, perhaps, thought of) and explore their ideas in a more highly-productive fashion. For example, several artists I know who were originally trained to draw with pen and ink (and who, at first, were hesitant to use these new tools for fear of having their artistry questioned) have told me that computer-based hardware (pens, tablets, 3-D printers, etc.) and software (Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya, Blender and many others) have added many degrees of capability and efficiency to their day-to-day work. Draw an outline, stretch it, color it in, review, erase, substitute another color, etc., all without putting a pen to paper! Even those who consider themselves “purists” have, over time and given access to some of these newfangled tools, admitted that even when they’re committed to producing finished products using traditional methods, they find themselves doing some/all of their “ideation” prior to actually doing the work.

Where artists draw their inspiration can be from a myriad of sources. Famed creative/film-maker Jim Jarmusch is famously quoted as suggesting that “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination…” and finishing his thought by quoting another film-maker – Jean Luc Goddard – who stated that “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to” (Source – MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004).

Music and art historians, particularly since the advent of the search engine – as well as fans, writers, bloggers and podcasters that attempt to bring a bit of context into their research and writing – all are happy to share their discoveries about where an “original” work might have come from (let’s not even get close to the rabbit hole we might go down regarding scientific research and invention in all its forms). One podcast I enjoy – A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, produced by Mancunian author Andrew Hickey – regularly features a number of examples of “who did what first” in each episode, and it doesn’t take a particularly trained eye to see many examples of derivative art on the walls of museums, galleries and in advertising. More recently, with the advent of “morphing” tools and AI-generated imagery, those who cover the topic of machine-generated artwork (journalists, hedge fund managers and many concerned artists themselves) find themselves engaged in discussions about what constitutes  “expression” or “passion” or “technical ability” and what the differences may be between AI-produced works and human output.

Keeping these thoughts (realities?) in mind, some of you who’ve known me quite a while will remember that, when I owned my album cover fine art/photography gallery, I worked like the dickens to source my collection directly from either the original artists/photographers or their designated publishers. As you also might figure, many well-known album cover images were never actually made available for sale as limited-edition art prints, so for every authentic print I had available for sale, there were, for a variety of reasons, dozens of others that I couldn’t provide. The law of averages changed somewhat after I learned of the work of Boston-area artist Howie Green who, amazingly, had figured out that some fans would be happy with works of art that – to varying degrees – approximated the cover images of their favorite records. The first one that caught my eye was the one he did of the memorable cover painting done by the late artist Barry Godber for King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King package. Next, I was impressed by Howie’s re-creation of another classic album cover painting – the one done by French painter Émile-Théodore Frandsen de Shomberg and titled “La Fille au Bouquet” (Girl with bouquet) and gifted to then Derek & The Dominos guitarist Eric Clapton, who then used it on the cover of the 1970 studio album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. After seeing these two examples, and then having a lengthy discussion with Howie about how his album cover prints stayed within the bounds of copyright law, I went on to order dozens of different prints, each one unique and hand-made but certainly reminiscent of the original images (BTW – he’s since gone on to create original album covers for a variety of acts, in addition to expanding the range of his re-creations each year as he’s so inspired – I’d invite you to take a look on his web site at It was Howie’s work, along with that of several others I’d stumbled across during my regular deep dives into research for the articles I was writing that, after closing my gallery 10 years ago (OMG – it’s been THAT long?) and dedicating myself solely to the work on the ACHOF web site, always had me on the lookout for others who were so inspired by the images found on recorded music packages that they used them as jumping-off points for their own work.

As fate would have it, several years ago  (back in 2018) I was contacted by the co-author of today’s article, Richard Forrest, AKA “rockdoc”, who is the writer/collector/artist behind the popular site (  After looking at Richard’s own blog site and reading his descriptions of his rather-unique collection of album cover artwork (focused on covers done by fine artists including Andy Warhol, Banksy and others), I knew that my readers would enjoy a guided tour through his collection and so we agreed to collaborate on an interview for the ACHOF “Featured Fan Portfolios” section several years ago ( ). Since then, his collection has gone through some degree of revamping and his blog posts have reflected his broad range of interests in the album art arena, but I’ve remained an admirer of his encyclopedic knowledge of some of the most-influential artists who’ve created album covers over the years and, as such, I’m always keen to respond when he reaches out to me from his base in Sweden, as he did shortly after the new year to share an idea for a new article. Here’s a brief recap of the recent email conversation that’s lead to this article:

From Richard to Mike – “Hello Mike – First let me wish you and yours a very Happy and Healthy New Year. I’ve been reading the last couple of posts on the ACHoF thread and began thinking about another side of the design of record cover art. I don’t know if you read my blog ( but a few months ago I wrote a post ( about artists who recreate already existing record covers – and seem to make a living at it!”

He then went on to name a few artists – Mark Vesey, Mark Wade and Mike & Doug Starn, who each creatively present their own unique takes on record album-related imagery, which we’ll detail a bit later on in this article – and included a note about his own artwork (“not wanting to be left behind, I have started painting a few covers for my own amusement – please see the attached files”) before posing the challenge he knew I couldn’t turn down – “I wondered whether readers of the ACHoF blog might be interested in this facet of collecting record cover art.”

Making an internal note of the fact that I’ve covered this topic rather tangentially over the years (“note to self” …etc.), I soon replied as follows – “Richard – I think that an article on art/artists that are inspired by album covers – particularly including input from someone like you, who adds insight as both an artist and a collector – would be well-received. As I think more about it, I think that I’d like to approach it first as an extension of the topic that everyone seems to be talking about these days, that being computer-aided design, powered by artificial intelligence. It’s sparked a debate about “what is REAL art”, what’s considered “original art”, etc. and I think that this would segue nicely into a discussion of reproductions and album art reimagined by those so inspired. I think that I’d be able to get some up-to-date info and quotes from Howie Green and others about what inspired them to do what they do which, when added to your quotes and commentary, would make the article even more interesting.” I went on to suggest that there might be a few others whose works he might not have yet seen or considered (Lego-based covers and the works of artists who, for whatever reason, have been able to escape detection (for whatever reason) from “the copyright police”) and then thanked him for his inspiration and willingness to contribute to this quest.

We’ve since done a bit more research and have bounced ideas back and forth enough that we now think we’re prepared to share the details about the works of the people who’ve created some of the most-intriguing examples in this area, so please read on to learn more. We’ll start off with an intro from Richard…

A record cover is a record cover. Or is it? I’ve been intrigued by how the standard record cover can be enhanced, defaced, reproduced or simply disappear in a painting.

As a student in the sixties, I had record covers and posters on my wall. Hapshash & The Coloured Coat’s album Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids with the poster beside it and The Who’s The Who Sell Out with the poster that came with the very first pressings of the album (and which I lost somewhere along the line). I’ve been fascinated by record cover art ever since and have collected record cover art since the eighties, specializing in the work of the late, great Vaughan Oliver, Neville Brody, Alex Steinweiss and Andy Warhol. I’ve had to part with my collections of the first three of the names on that list but have concentrated on Warhol and expanded my collections of works by Peter Blake, Banksy, Klaus Voormann, David Shrigley and a few others.

I’ve been a collector of record cover art by established painters, designers and graphic artists for some time now and I have recently found how record cover art has moved into the realm of consumer art. Artists have begun using record cover designs as a starting point for their own creations, and these can take the form of paintings of a cover, often enlarged, or modification of an original design or even reworking an original record cover by adding color or other design features (a technique that has been called “vinylizing”). Many readers will remember bubblegum wrapped in mini (3” x 3”) record sleeves such as the ones marketed by the Amural Products Company (Naperville, IL, USA) in the early 1980s called “Chu Bops”. There were 85 different packages made, featuring records by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Blondie and many others.

Here are two examples of Chu Bops covers beside their original vinyl counterparts, for scale:

I’ve found several forms of this “new” record cover art:

– paintings or prints of record covers

– reproductions of record covers

    — paintings (including those that modify existing cover art, what I call “vinylizing”)

     — other media (e.g. mosaics and LEGOR)

– other cover-related art

– record covers as art prints (where there is no record)

and so I’d like to spend a little time looking at each…

1) Paintings or photographic prints of record covers – Several artists have established what seem to be successful businesses by recreating record cover designs. Mark Wade ( paints enlarged versions of record covers on canvas complete with ring wear or corner discoloration that deliberately makes the cover appear well-used. He sells both the original paintings and a limited number of prints of each original.

Mark Wade’s paintings of The Who’s The Kids are Alright and The Beatles’ With the Beatles covers.

Morgan Howell ( is a British painter who specializes in painting supersized seven-inch singles. Howell (aka @supersizeart) is based in St Albans, just outside London and his works have featured in gallery exhibitions and are for sale from his website. Morgan uses seven-inch singles as his originals and paints faithfully-reproduced, enlarged versions of each record in its original company (i.e. non-picture cover) sleeve, also complete with signs of wear such as tears, discoloration, creases and folds. He has published a book of his paintings called Morgan Howell at 45rpm and has a second volume, Morgan Howell 7”: 100 Paintings of Classic Singles, in press.

Morgan Howell’s paintings of Elvis’s That’s All Right, Metal Guru by T. Rex and The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset in their company sleeves.

Somewhat peripheral to these is photographer Mark Vessey (, who has made a name for himself photographing piles of records, books and magazines – to show their spines only – in thematic collections. He has produced limited editions prints of his photos of piles of soundtrack albums and albums by Prince and David Bowie, among others. Buyers of his photographs can choose what size their budget allows, from 80 x 80 cm to 150 x 150 cms in limited editions.

Mark Vessey’s bundle of David Bowie album cover spines

I have also painted record covers. The first was a large monochrome featuring covers of the US and UK versions of Billy Ward and his Dominoes ultra rare 10 inch LPs (I don’t have this one any more). The next was a 100 cm x 100 cm monochrome version of The Who’s “My Generation” cover in the late 90s.

My take on The Who’s “My Generation” cover in Indian ink on paper.
Richard’s re-creations of album art for UFO, Kraftwerk and The Clash

Why did I create these? As a collector who was looking for specific cover that were rare and often expensive and not wishing to cough up a lot of hard earned cash for the originals (while also having seen other artists make a living from reproducing album covers), I wanted to see if I could paint some of my favourites. I hadn’t painted any record covers since the nineties and those first attempts, like the “My Generation” work you see above, were monochrome (black & white, painted with India ink), so I wanted to see if I could do full colour reproductions. The impetus to start came from gallery-owner Romain Beltrame who, in 2019, put on a show of my other paintings and who (as mentioned later in this article) sold me some of his “vizualised” covers and suggested I might try to do some.)

My paintings are pretty true to the original cover art, though, of course there are some colour variations. I chose these three covers because of their varying degrees of difficulty in reproduction — the dots in the UFO cover, the faces and text in the Kraftwerk and the brickwork in The Clash painting.

We’ll see some other examples from this category in Mike’s section later on…

2) Reproductions of record coversLaurie Cinotto (teeny_tiny_vinyl) is an amateur record cover reproducer and the only American in this group. As far as I know she doesn’t sell her productions, though she has given some away as presents. She is a record collector with a very large – and still expanding – vinyl collection. She has recreated her music room in miniature complete with shelves of records and reproduces each record she buys as a 5 x 5 cm (2 x 2 inch) cover complete with inner sleeve and card record. She even makes box sets and gatefold covers. A modern version of the old Chu Bops bubblegum records!

Laurie Cinotto’s mini music room with some of her miniature covers and her recreation of The Breeder’s POD cover.

I collect records with covers produced by well-known artists including Banksy, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Klaus Voormann, Cindy Sherman and David Shrigley, among others. There are gaps in my collection of some of these that I will never be able to fill, either because the record is impossibly rare, or because it never existed in the first place (i.e., they never went into production).

My collection of Andy Warhol record sleeves began when I bought The Velvet Underground & Nico and then White Light/White Heat. I was aware from the outset that these were Warhol designs and when I bought the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers I realized I had a Warhol “collection”! This was increased when I was given Diana Ross’ Silk Electric as a Father’s Day present a few years later. I then started collecting Warhol covers in earnest and when, in 2008, Paul Maréchal published his Andy Warhol: The Record Covers 1949-1987 Catalogue Raisonné identifying a couple of releases that were unknown up to then, I decided to reproduce these as accurately as possible. More record covers with Warhol designs have appeared since, some so rare that only a single copy has been found. I recreated NBC’s Night Beat box set first. I sourced original 1950s EP box sets and created new slicks to cover them and photocopied the insert. At that time I hadn’t considered trying to replicate the record labels so the boxes were empty.

My recreation of the Night Beat box set with Warhol cover.

In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of its original creation, I made a limited edition series of the five colour variations of Warhol’s and Billy Klüver’s “Giant Size $1.57 Each” covers. This was done by first spray painting the record covers and then silk screening the “Giant Size” design onto each of fifty covers.

Twenty-five of the Giant Size $1.57 Each covers I made in 2013.

I have since made other reproductions strictly for my personal collections.

3) Paintings – There are many people painting reproductions of record covers. For example, artist Howie Green takes a well-known record cover as his starting point, reinterprets the image and then hand-embellishes it with his own art. Mike Goldstein will add an interview with Howie later.

I add “vinylizing” to this category. I suppose people have always been adding things to record covers, starting with their name or telephone number. I know I was guilty of defacing some of my early record covers by writing my name in flashy styles. But there are people who feel the finished record cover, as delivered to them, isn’t good enough and add their own artistic touches. In 2017 Bert Dijkstra and Dick Van Dijk asked noted graphic designers and artists to reimagine their favourite record covers and put on an exhibition in the renowned Amsterdam record store Concerto called “Vinylize!” The exhibition catalogue shows fifty-odd, recreated covers ranging from Sgt. Pepper to Kraftwerk via Michael Jackson and Patti Smith. Mike G interviewed the producers of his show for the ACHOF web site back in 2020, and I’d invite you to click here to read it and learn more about this fascinating project –

The Vinylize! exhibition catalogue.
Two examples from the Vinylize! book. Billy Squier’s Emotions in Motion reimagined by Olla Boku and
Talking Heads’ Fear of Music reimagined by Zutto.

In 2019 I had my first exhibition of my own art at the aptly named Triphop gallery and owner Romain Beltrame ( also ran a record shop on the premises. He introduced me to his own vinylization of records. I bought about ten of his works and asked him to vinylize a couple of covers from my Warhol collection:

Two covers with Andy Warhol’s art reimagined by Romain Beltrame in 2019.

4) Other media: By this time no one should be surprised to read that record covers are being produced in other media than on paper or canvas. The Mosaic Studio in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, U.K., ( has made many mosaics of record covers including Nirvana’s In Bloom and David Bowie’s Low.

Two covers reproduced by The Mosaic Studio in mosaic tiles.

The use of LEGOR blocks is not a huge leap from traditional mosaics and artist Adnan Lotia has bravely made cover reproductions using LEGO. You’ll read more about Adnan and his work in Part 2 of this article.

5) Other cover-related art – The twins, Mike and Doug Starn (, are Americans who use record covers as the background for their oversized paintings using anywhere between 25 and 70 record covers (each still containing its record.) The brothers are internationally recognized and their works are featured in galleries and museums. Initially photographers they have also created installations but more recently have produced paintings. They source used records and hang them on a metal grid allowing the owner to remove a record from its cover to play, after which it can be replaced.

Two paintings by the Starn brothers painted on record sleeves. Little Richard (left, photo of Little Richard from the Ochs Archives) and Iggy Pop (right, using Douglas Gilbert’s famous 1970 portrait of Iggy).

6) Record covers as art prints (where there is no record) – Famous street artist Shepard Fairey is also a gifted painter and poster artist and has designed a number of real record covers, both seven- and twelve-inch. He has also produced. Limited edition prints in the form of record covers that, to my knowledge do not include a record. In one such series he parodied one of Alex Steinweiss’s classic covers.

Alex Steinweiss’ 1940 cover for Rodgers’ & Hart’s Smash Song Hits album and Shepard Fairey’s pastiche limited edition print,

I have also produced a couple of covers for records that were never released. The Warhol Museum has lithographs for a projected RCA Victor album and seven-inch double EP entitled Progressive Piano. I decided to make a cover for this record (see front and back covers, below) and design labels for a ten-inch LP. I had to write the notes on the back cover, too. Of course, the records don’t play the actual selections but they look great on display.

The second set of covers I tried my hand at were the four sketches done by Andy Warhol for a projected, but never released, collection of Billie Holiday tracks with the provisional title Volume 3. The sketches were really painted collages with no indication of which record label the album might have appeared on, but Warhol had painted in some track titles. Knowing that Columbia Records had access to the Billie Holiday recordings, I decided to create Columbia 10” LPs. I first painted the covers following Warhol’s designs and then had these printed. Again, rear cover notes were required, so I made those up too. Once again, I sourced old 10” LPs and created mock 1950s Columbia Records record labels.

Now that we’ve seen (and, in some cases, fallen head-over-heels in love with) the works of the other artists Richard’s introduced us to – including Richard himself! – it was my turn to pitch in and try to help readers and collectors grapple with the questions that have caused some to hesitate adding certain works to their collection – i.e., “what is REAL art” and what’s considered “original art”, which you’ll find in Part 2 of this article, which will be posted shortly.

Unless otherwise noted, all text and images included in this article are Copyright 2022-2023 Mike Goldstein ( and Richard Forrest ( – All Rights Reserved. All of the trade names mentioned in these summaries are the properties of their respective owners and are used for reference only.

3 responses to “The Art of Imitation – How Fine Artists Have Drawn Inspiration From Album Covers

  1. Bruce – thanks, I’ll be sure to share the info about your Hipgnosis series in my next newsletter and, as you correctly pointed out, my inability to read the title PRINTED ON THE ARTWORK (!!) necessitated a correction, which has been done. THANKS, Mike G

  2. Fascinating stuff. Thanks, Richard, for sharing the twists and turns of your, um, enthusiasm. Some of these take vinyl fetishism to whole new levels! Personally, I blame Andy.

    I’ve posted several collaborative articles in the ‘Art on your sleeve’ series that features album covers displaying existing ‘fine art’. A kind of obverse of this, perhaps?

    Great stuff. Look forward to the next instalment, Mike.

    Two ‘P.S.’s. One, it’s been a good week for album covers; the Vinyl Connection three part series on Hipgnosis and Mark Blake’s new book and now this feats!
    Two, a small editorial oversight. The Talking Heads album appears to be Fear of Music, not Remain in Light.

  3. simon robinson

    Looking forward to reading this Mike! I actually have some of those bubble gum albums, I think they are US but imported at the time…