Shearwater "Animal Joy" | Skillshare Projects



Shearwater "Animal Joy"

Final Project/ Completed Piece

I added some additional texture and made the background more appealing. While I enjoyed the simplicity of just the bear and wolf, I really thought the background needed to be enhanced to do the album's tracks justice in their audio complexity.

So I added a Drop Shadow to every layer and the text and then created an inner shadow and inner bevel to the tree line so that everything appeared as layered paper or paper cut outs.

I think the band name may be a bit difficult to read with the heavy texture, but I am pretty happy with the end product!

Digital Illustration Proof (with texture)

The bear and wolf are done and I'm VERY happy with them! I tried the original placement of the wolf in front of the bear, but it looked... er... phallic. So I moved the wolf to the right side which then leaves me room to put the band name on the left. The bear received an eyeball because the layers of the wolf made the bear look plain. I may add some more "fur" to the wolf because his lines are rather simple compared to the bear, but I'm liking how things are coming.

Any suggestions on font or placement of items? I tried the texture as shown in the video lesson, but I really felt the dissolve method and overly grainy texture cheapened the elegant simplicity of this piece (I know, I sound boastful...) so I used monochromatic "noise" instead to acheive a desired grit. Very subtle, but I like it better than the exaggerated stippling effect.

Color pallete... while I had originally thought blues and blacks seemed to come together so much better in neutral grey/browns and blacks.

Font is called Angelic War (downloaded for free from

6/27/13 (PM)
Digital Illustration Proof

I decided to go with the bear and wolf combination idea with the black and white contrast cut out look from one of my sketches. I pulled up a few images of bears and then, using the Pen Tool in Photoshop, created my black bear image that would become the backdrop for the white wolf. Trying to think about fonts as I go... I'm not sure either of the ones below are really doing the piece justice. And obviously, thus far I've again strayed from my original idea on colors... but I kind of like this neutral tone to things.

Now on to the wolf to complete the initial digital illustration!


6/27/13 (AM)
New Sketches

Now that I have completely abandoned the drowning girl idea, I have in my mind something located in the forest, tying in with the mysterious aspect of the album's sound. And I keep coming back to this imagery of wolves or bears... something not necessarily Native American, but the idea of powerful creatures with edginess and simultaneous majesty but connected to nature just as listeners are connected to Animal Joy's sound.

Thus far, I enjoy the middle bear sketch the most and keep spawning more ideas from that image, so I'm going to use that as a basis and settle on more concrete ideas from there.


The more I develop the drowning girl image, the more I hate it. I am growing discontent with it and its lack of relevance to the gritty side of the album. Looking at the existing cover artwork, you see dirt, rocks, grit, slag under a creatures taloned feet... edgy, dark, powerful, mysterious... it fits the music, the drowning girl doesn't.

So I'm revamping the idea; I listened to the songs again and started this time with the color pallet that I knew fit my mind's eye. Dark blues, eerie greens and light somewhere...

New Colors and Mood Board

The first thing that came to mind was a forest and when I happened across this picture with its awesome lighting, I began thinking of the Native American tribes that go on spirit journeys in the forests... so I started looking at Navajo art and totem pole animals.

The more I started looking, the more I fell in love with darker, foggy forests and images that hinted at potentially dangerous mystery...

I started by listening to the album all the way through again, jotting down notes on details of the audio I had not been as alert to before this project started, making observations about the mood I was put in because of the music. I wanted to use these details to create my mood board and start formulating a design.

Some things I came up with:

  • Somber yet gritty
  • Levity/ resilience/ just short of punky anarchy at times
  • Falsetto
  • Oppressive sound/ resonance
  • Mystery
  • Serenity
  • Glistening piano and violin... perhaps a hammer dulcimer in there somewhere

Mood Board and Colors

I saw this photo on Instagram while I was listening through the album, and I liked how the artist used the gold to highlight some areas. It reminded me of some of the piano pieces in the songs on Animal Joy. The abstract lines gave me the idea for the woman in the water with her hair swirled above her head.





None of the songs have a sound of despair, more, as I said earlier, a melancholy ebullience, and the more I listened, the more I could not shake the image of a woman drowning... her elegance, and visual serenity amidst a dire situation... being swallowed just as the listener is by the sounds of the album.

So I started sketching, but the woman seemed to be missing something, though I already doubt the ending artwork will revolve around any of the actual imagery from the album, she seemed to be missing a purpose, some point of clarity about why she had anything to do with Animal Joy. So I'm not sure, she sprouted antlers. And fawn-like detailing on her skin and dress.


Formed in 1999, Shearwater is a band that packs a punch from Austin, Texas (my home state).

I've decided to do some album artwork for my favorite album by Shearwater, their seventh studio album release, Animal Joy.

Animal Joy was released February 14, 2012 (Valentine's Day... fitting, because I fell in love with this album!). Animal Joy is an audiophile’s dream, an auditory assault compared to the other albums in their repertoire. To quote Sub Pop Records editor, "Where past albums often sounded like a soundtrack for sunlight resting on water, Animal Joy plays like the soundtrack to a desperate car chase in a grisly action picture."

Lead singer of Shearwater, Jonathan Meiburg, has a falsetto voice that resonates in your mind and haunts you in the best way possible. And thanks to Meiburg, there's a certain sound, an oxymoronic melancholy ebullience, throughout the album. With keyboard washes, percussive attacks and simultaneous compact symphonic sounds, every track on Animal Joy is earworm worthy.

The entire album is dense and mysterious, peppered with odd sonic details and sometimes overwhelming walls of sound.

1. Animal Life
2. Breaking the Yearlings
3. Dread Sovereign
4. You as You Were
5. Insolence
6. Immaculate
7. Open Your Houses (Basilisk)
8. Run the Banner Down
9. Pushing the River
10. Believing Makes It Easy
11. Star of the Age
12. I'm So Glad

What I've decided to construct in terms of artwork is something visually unrelated to any of the nomenclature on the album. I really wanted to play on the idea of the sound emitted from the album and want to focus on the haunting yet cheery sounds riddled throughout Animal Joy.

Existing Cover


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