ACHOF’s Mike Goldstein interviews artist Juan Betancourt about his impressive collection of original album cover art animations
By Mike Goldstein, Curator/Editor, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
All of us, from time to time, are inspired by great art and design. Whether it is while we’re attending an exhibition in a gallery or museum, visiting the home of a friend, strolling in a public garden or walking through a retail showroom, seeing something that stops us long enough to admire it is an event that occurs with striking regularity. Sometimes, we’ll see something that makes us think “I could do that” (either in a good way or in a “my kid could do that” way) and, if the response is strong enough, some of us will take photos, doodle in our sketchpads or enroll in a pottery class, hoping to use or enhance our existing skill sets in efforts to make great art ourselves.
Here in “AlbumCoverLand”, great talent has produced many, many examples of images that have ingrained themselves in our minds and memories, helping us recall both the music we most appreciate and, quite often, the circumstances we found ourselves in when we first heard it. Fans of this art have honored these images (and the designers and bands that produced it) by purchasing posters, t-shirts, fine art prints, bumper stickers and other such merchandise for their own collections, while smaller numbers have memorialized the designs by re-creating them on their basement/bedroom walls and tattooing them on to their limbs. Musical acts have borrowed memorable album images and modified them for use on their own records, with the resulting “homages” or “parodies” in many cases as memorable as the originals (think Zappa’s “Were Only In It For The Money” cover, a parody of “Sgt. Pepper’s” by The Beatles).
From time to time, album cover visuals have inspired other artists to re-imagine the main image in full motion, whether in brief animations or in longer-format movies. Back in 2006, there was a popular web video that a team of talented animators at a company called Ugly Pictures created titled “Album Cover Wars” which pitted many famous record covers against each other in a rather bloody battle, with Billy Joel (on the cover of 52nd Street) firing a machine-gun at Rick James (on the cover of Street Songs), with Eminem finally shooting James in the head, spilling blood on Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp shoes (and that’s just the beginning). More recently, several individuals have worked to bring a number of our favorite covers to life either as “animated .gifs” or more fully-fleshed-out video creations. In early October, I located one animator – Juan Betancourt – who has received a lot of attention lately for his Tumblr site featuring an ever-growing collection of classic and up-to-the-minute animated covers and asked him to give us a look behind the scenes into his efforts to add new abstractions to already-familiar cover images…