Album Cover Hall of Fame’s Interview with artist/photographer Peter Wilkins

Pet Sounds from the New Grooves series by Peter Wilkins

By Mike Goldstein, Album Cover Hall of

Posted March 23, 2023

In early 2023, I was reading a travel article in the FT about how some of the towns in Newfoundland were working hard to shift their economies from what they’ve relied on for ages – fishing the icy offshore waters – and learning to rely more on tourism as a source of income (if you’ve never been, you’ve got to go – it’s beautiful up there!). In the article, they introduced a local entrepreneur who was chasing two of his passions – fine art and distilling spirits – and as a fan of the products produced by both of those pursuits, it really caught my attention. What also caught my attention was that the person being featured – Peter Wilkins – had produced a series of art pieces that were based on his photographs of album covers spinning at high speed on turntables so that the resulting circular images showed only the relative positions of the graphics and their respective colors. For example, his image based on the Are You Experienced? LP cover for Jimi Hendrix shows circles of the psychedelic reds, yellows and blues (and all of the variations within) but, when you see it, you know immediately that it’s that record cover! I reached out to Peter and asked him whether he’d be up for an interview about his process and the inspiration behind this particular series (available for viewing and purchase on the website of his local gallery partner Christina Parker – I also wanted to learn a lot more about the seaweed-flavored gin he manufactures (not yet available in the U.S., sadly, but all the more reason to venture on up there sometime soon, perhaps), but that’s for another article…

We began our correspondence via email in late February/early March, 2023.

New Grooves versions of the Sgt. Pepper’s… and Let It Bleed album covers by Peter Wilkins

Mike Goldstein, – Peter, thanks so much for agreeing to take the time to consider this questionnaire – much appreciated. A little bit of pre-questionnaire online research indicates that your “New Grooves” series was “inspired by album covers and are Wilkins’s endeavor to capture the color and pictorial elements of the original album artwork. These elements are digitally re-mixed and abstractly represented as circular artworks – mimicking the scale and size of the vinyl record using the original artwork to create a new emblematic aesthetic of the album cover. At first glance the works are experiments in color. A playful element ensues as the viewer tries to guess the source of the cover” and that these works were first shown at the 2013 Toronto International Art Fair, in London in 2015 and then in Newfoundland in 2016.

If that info is all correct, let’s dive in – first off, can you share a little info about your background, any art-related education, in particular and when it was that you decided to pursue art/photography as a career?

Peter Wilkins – I had always been making bits of art and coming up with artistic ideas but never felt, throughout my twenties, that I could just become an artist. I went ahead and worked in other media-based businesses – TV and Internet – but it wasn’t until we moved out of the city, to Conception Bay in Newfoundland with four young children, that I really thought, “now is the time to make art”! And it just went on from there!

Mike G – Judging by the results, it was a great decision. Now, please tell me how and when you first chose to explore this way of representing album cover imagery?

Peter W – In 2013, I managed to finally get all my old vinyl to Newfoundland and was suitably excited about it all being at the house. I really wanted to frame some of the album covers and dot about on the walls but Michelle, my wife, was a little worried it might look a bit “student-y”. While slightly taken aback, I mulled it over and wondered how I could possibly celebrate the album covers in a new and intriguing way – especially in a way Michelle and I would both enjoy.

It took a while to come up with the concept and it was particularly helped by playing a couple of old picture disks – watching the picture disk vinyl rotate on the turntable and seeing the colors merge, blend and change was very exciting. Once I got the idea where I was just popping the actual album covers on the turntable, I then spent a long time trying to light it properly and take long exposure photos to capture the colors of the album covers.

However, I have to admit, I could never get the colors to ‘pop’ in the way I wanted, so I started experimenting on the computer. After endless failed attempts and a very roundabout way of doing it, I found a process that worked for me, the key criteria being to capture the colors and key elements of the album cover so that anyone who has spent time admiring the original artwork would recognize the colors and see the album cover in their own mind, letting the music waft through their imaginations.

MG – Do you by chance have any sample takes of the images you first shot? And how did you keep the covers in place while you set up and shot your photos?

PW – Sorry to say I don’t really have any sample images that I’m happy with – in a sense they are what I would call working images and a key step in the process. I can’t quite remember how I rigged the albums up – the turntable was on the floor so it could be lit; and I made a little contraption to hold the album cover above the spindle and then used something with a bit of friction to stop the covers sliding off.

MG – So, without giving away your trade secrets, can you tell us how much of what we’re actually seeing in the final version is “real” and how much is your computer-aided enhancement of the image?

PW – Ha ha, that is a good question. In a sense it is all ‘real’ as it is the album cover that has been spun in the computer. The album covers are as real as they can be in the computer, in that I endeavor to ensure they are as close as possible to the original, at least to my eyes, with the correct coloring and calibration done precisely for each artwork. So when the cover is spun in the computer, it is the real colors and tones that are used in the image. I don’t enhance or alter the colors at all, so technically the colors and album cover are authentic!

MG – Can you tell me whether there was something about specific album art visuals that stuck in your brain and motivated you to create these new versions?

PW – Albums and their covers were always such exciting, mysterious things and I spent so much time gazing at, examining and appreciating the covers. I could always see some version of them when the music played, so tried to capture that in a new way was a challenge and a thrill. 

MG – How did you choose which album covers you decided to re-create? Were these albums you had in your collection, or ones you’d seen in album cover books or magazines, or ?? What was the first cover you chose to do, and why?

Peter’s New Grooves versions of Are You Experienced? (Jimi Hendrix) and Joni Mitchell’s Blue

PW – Initially it was from a range of my favorite albums, particularly those with great colors on the cover. One of the first was Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation – which has a painting of a candle by Gerhard Richter – and the trick was to get a bit of the lilac of the title and band name in there. Other early ones were My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper…Are You Experienced? by Jimi Hendrix, The Cure’s Pornography, Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust… and Nirvana’s Nevermind. To me it was very easy to visualize the colors on all of those albums. The process was, and still is, incredibly exciting to look at results as they begin to emerge – they are never ever quite what I expect!

MG – How many works are there currently in the series, and are you still making new ones? If so, are you exploring certain genres of music, or works from particular musical acts, or do you simply make them whenever you’re so inspired to do them?

PW – There are probably close to 200 works or so – maybe more! I’ve just completed a few commissioned pieces, which was great fun, and am working on a few more, which is superb. After the initial burst of favorite albums in the early stages, for the shows in Toronto and London in 2013, I endeavored to cover British music from the 1960s-2010s and selected 12 albums from each decade (Editor’s note – you can view this particular collection here – British Music – Peter Wilkins – Artwork) . Part of the fun is choosing the albums, firstly for the music, but also for the most interesting album cover – it’s a great conundrum! For the Canadian Embassy in New York, I was commissioned to produce nine classic Canadian albums – we all had slightly different views and when it’s a commission I usually end up agreeing with them! Oddly, I haven’t specifically followed genres of music, but have based the series on geographical locations, such as Newfoundland, Canada and the UK. Moving forward it would be fun to do more specific genres or even artists.

MG – OK, so now that we’ve got a bit of an understanding of what got you started down this particular path, let’s talk a bit about your process for producing art overall. When I think back on my own art/animation training, my first teacher wanted her students to think about a project in three phases – 1) what is my initial concept or inspiration?; 2) what I would like or need to do in order to create my art or, in my case, what my plan was to create the comic storyboards that’d direct how my features would look and, finally, what would I do in this project that would make it MINE – that is, how would I innovate, or would I follow a scheme that I’d used before? Do you follow a similar approach, or just how do you typically go from concept to finished project?

PW – With most art-based projects, and probably other ones outside art too – especially with the album series – the mystery was how to capture and celebrate the album cover in a new, interesting way that has artistic integrity. The process ideally moves the form forward a little and allows it to generate some aesthetic pleasure (well, at least for me). Having come up with the challenge the hard part is finding the solution and mulling over possible ways to progress. All sorts of options spring to mind, the trick is to filter them out and start testing the idea, which is when it becomes really exciting. For instance, taking the long exposure photos of the albums spinning on the turntable – while that didn’t work as I hoped, I knew it was the right path and was then on a determined trek to make sure it would work! There is always a lot of testing and a lot of mistakes, which make it so exhilarating when you get there and believe you’ve got it right – you then have the real thrill of creating something that is slightly beyond your expectations and utterly exhilarating – it’s a fantastic sensation! A bit like those glorious moments of hearing music which are forever emblazoned in your memory.

MG – Once you’ve selected something that measures high on your “spinnability” scale, can you tell me how long it takes you to develop and produce finished images? Besides the digital tools you use, were any other special processes, equipment or other aids used to produce the final versions of your work? Is every work an original, or do/will you offer limited-editions of your works?

PW – Sadly there are quite a few album covers that just don’t quite turn out how I would expect and conversely, there others where my expectations are low, but the final results are stunning. I usually work on a few at a time – it takes a day or two of working on them to get a few versions that are pretty close. Ideally, I spent a week or so reviewing them, not in a time-intensive way, just repeated viewings of them and happy mullings over before settling on the final version. 

The works are mostly done as C-prints – 12” circles in 14” squares, that are face-mounted on to acrylic, which allows them to pop and look modern and contemporary, at least in my view! Some of the early ones were originals, along with a lot of the larger ones, which are 28” x 28”, with the biggest ones being 42” x 42” square. The recent series of smaller artworks are now typically done in editions of 6.

MG – Can you share which digital tools you use to make your magic? Photoshop, or a paint program, or ??

PW – I use Photoshop to arrange the special layout of the cover, to ensure it is the whole artwork that is encapsulated, rather than a snippet. This was the hardest part to work out because if you just spin the image, you don’t get the full color range of the album cover – so there is a bit of reflection and repetition going on in the way I set it up. 

Once the image is readied in Photoshop, I then import it into Motion – which is a motion graphics program – in order to ’spin’ the album. This is where the magic and excitement happen. Once I have a spin or two that I think captures the color and form of the original artwork, I export it back into Photoshop, mainly to ensure the formatting and placement is spot on and I can then weigh up which version best captures the original album artwork.

MG – Were there any album images you’ve completed that you would like to do again…perhaps do a second, somewhat different version?

PW – Yes, lots of them! I loved the first ones, then those were sold, and I can now do different versions of them that are distinctly different pieces. I suppose those could be called “Version 2” – but I haven’t done this yet, as I haven’t quite settled on whether it really is ok to do that or not!

MG – With all of the thought and work you put into these works, were there examples of album covers that just couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be treated in this fashion?

PW – There were few, but then again, they become something else and perhaps I should change the background color for some of the pale ones, rather than sticking with the white. For instance, the “White Album” (The Beatles, by The Beatles) wouldn’t be very exciting on a white background – but at the same time perhaps would need to remain that way because so instantly recognizable?! The same with AC/DC’s Back in Black and perhaps even Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove! Constant dilemmas!

MG – I know that you have sold a number of your works. Can you give me an idea as to what your works are priced at in galleries?

PW – The 14” works, with the vinyl albums shown actual size, are $800 (CAD; approx. $590.00 US) in an edition of 6 and $1000 (CAD) when they are a unique piece. The 28” pieces are $2000 (CAD) and the 42” pieces are $4500 (CAD). The pricing applies to both existing and commissioned work.

Peter re-envisions the first Elvis Presley album and Neil Young’s Harvest

MG – Seems quite reasonable considering the amount of work it takes for you to create these unique images! Now, it’s time to move into the “what does Peter think about this?” portion of the interview, so let me ask you – what are your views regarding the future of graphic and visual design in the music industry as it exists on the many available physical and digital distribution platforms?

PW – It is incredibly complicated to get a coherent artwork that works effectively on so many platforms. What can be fantastic album cover sometimes just doesn’t translate to the streaming platforms as the detail and subtlety is lost and the artwork is reduced to a thumbnail that must be readily identifiable as ’the album cover’. That said, I think it is exciting, too, as it opens up new ways of sharing artworks and as everything becomes ever more digital – even allowing for the resurgence in vinyl sales – the ability to have short animation for songs or a series of images that can be used to create stories in way that aren’t videos. I think that more song-based artwork is intriguing.

MG – What are your feelings about the quality of the album artwork and design you’re seeing these days? Are there any designers or musical acts that are advancing the field and have, perhaps, influenced your work more than others? Besides as a launching point for your own work, do you think album art matters anymore?

PW – Yes, album art is still an essential art form – it still helps define the image of band and their sound and is a key reference point of any music made. Sadly, I don’t think it is quite as influential as it used to be as most casual listeners only stream the music, and it is the more diehard fans that buy the physical copies of the music. There are still a fantastic number and range of examples of new album artwork coming out – for instance, one I saw in the last month or so that I love is the new Yo La Tengo cover for This Stupid World. I think that would look amazing as a ’spun’ piece. Also, the new Young Fathers, Heavy, Heavy is very striking – slightly creepy and spooky but enticing too – I’m not quite sure how that one will turn out as a spun piece although I’m excited to try it.

MG – Here’s a “deep one” …do you think that album cover art and images help us all document human history? Personally, I believe that “iconic” album cover art in many ways has had a noticeable effect on Pop culture, so I’d like to get your take on this. Is the imagery and music providing the direction, or is it reflecting the culture, or ??

PW – Absolutely, album cover artwork is perhaps one of the key visual touchstones of pop culture, certainly from the early-mid 60s until now. Each era has been defined by select genres of music and each genre, at least in my mind, is always totally identified by the visual impact of the album covers that, when they’re spot on, perfectly represent the sound, aesthetic and image of the bands that exemplify pop culture at that point in time. You could very easily document contemporary pop culture with an array of album covers. Ultimately, the music and corresponding visual artworks are a result of the culture the musicians have been exposed to or helped create and are perhaps best considered as signposts to, and leaders of, cultural shifts and changes. 

MG – We’ve now come to what will be my last question for you today…since you’ve been promoting your work in galleries and online, are you seeing new opportunities for your talents?

PW – The wonderful thing is that I’ve always been kept very busy, and I feel very fortunate about that. I would love to work on more new series, perhaps defined by location, genre and era or a combination of the three. It would be fantastic to show more of my work in the USA, beyond the Canadian Embassy in New York, and elsewhere, as it is a real joy and privilege to work with such amazing source material, and listen to the music, too!

A bit about today’s interview subject, Peter Wilkins

Peter Wilkins (British, b. July, 1968in in Leicestershire, U.K.) is a multimedia artist now based in Clarke’s Beach, Newfoundland, Canada. Wilkins’ various bodies of work have been exhibited in public and private galleries across Canada and abroad, including The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery (St. Johns’, NL), Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown, PEI), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (Victoria, B.C), and Canada House (London, England) and the 55th Venice Biennale (Italy).

His portrait and landscape artworks are held in public and private collections in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France and Greece. In 2009, Peter Wilkins was the inaugural artist-in-residence at Memorial University (St John’s, NL). In 2011, his works based on the architecture of Toronto were exhibited as a featured exhibition of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival (Toronto, ON) and in 2013, Wilkins exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale in the Collateral Event, About Turn: Newfoundland in Venice, Will Gill & Peter Wilkins.

In 2016, he showed 72 British albums at Old Truman Brewery and more music artworks at The Christina Parker Gallery in St John’s, NL. Nine of his Canadian album artworks are now on permanent display at the Canadian Embassy in New York.

In addition to his work as a fine artist, Peter is a partner in the Clarke’s Beach, Newfoundland, Canada-based Newfoundland Distillery Company ( This award-winning maker of spirits aims to “celebrate the terroir of Newfoundland and create distinctive spirits using local ingredients.” I asked Peter how he got involved in this artisanal business and here’s what he told me – “The distillery was just one of those things funny things that fell into place, much to our surprise!! In 2016, William Carter, an old friend, returned from Ottawa where he had been a proper chef for 20 years and he wanted to make whisky. He thought I might be interested, as he knew I was into food and wine and, perhaps more crucially, I did spend a year as a ‘professional drinker’ travelling the world with a very old friend investigating how different cultures approach alcohol for British TV (Editor’s Note – Peter was as co-host in Dom Joly’s Happy Hour series for Sky TV, which ran for a season back in 2006 on BBC One).

I was immediately interested but, as whisky takes at least 3 years to make, I wondered if he could make gin. Bill smiled, said “yes” of course, and came back a couple of weeks later with some gorgeous gin. We toured the gin about to test it and everyone loved it. Then, we started looking at how to produce spirits legally and were slightly astonished, a few months later, to realize we had set up a distillery! It was extraordinary – everyone we approached was incredibly helpful and onside and we’re still slightly scratching our heads, wondering how this all happened!

I certainly wasn’t looking for another career and initially I thought it would be very civilized and easy to produce some spirts, well slightly help Bill produce the spirts, enjoy testing the spirits and keep making art. Running a distillery is a lot busier than I expected – though fortunately I do still find time for working on some art.”

A view of New Foundland’s Conception Bay (and the icy waters) from the Clarke’s Beach deck of New Foundland Distillery, Spring 2023

You can view Peter’s collections of fine art photographs via the following link to the Christina Parker Gallery-

Peter’s own site can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, all text included in this article is Copyright 2023 Mike Goldstein ( and all images are Copyright 2023 Peter Wilkins Photography – All Rights Reserved. All of the trade names mentioned in this article are the properties of their respective owners and are used for reference only.

One response to “Album Cover Hall of Fame’s Interview with artist/photographer Peter Wilkins

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