I wasn’t sure I’d get to design the new Mute Duo record but I’m very glad it happened. I’d done the artwork for their first CD, then the first record, then a tote bag; I had the feeling they were thinking of a different direction. But then Sam, Skyler, and I met up for lunch sometime last summer and they said they wanted me to do it.

They wanted groups of birds and fish. Sam sent me videos of murmurations. I drew sketches in the studio the day they were recording a track with Doug and Andrew playing dueling basses. I made several watercolors of twilight landscapes and schools of fish. I drew clusters of birds, then scanned them in and doubled, tripled, and quadrupled them in Photoshop to form different undulating shapes. I lifted segments of one watercolor and mashed it into another. There were many images for the guys to choose from.

Album design is probably my favorite kind of commission because music is so central to everything I do. Few days go by when I haven’t found something new to listen to. Playing a small part in attracting a listener’s eye to something they should hear is a big reward even if I wasn’t paid to do so. But getting paid is important because it’s a recognition that what I do isn’t a hobby or just for fun. It’s what I do.

Of my collaborations with Skyler and Sam, this feels like the most accomplished one. Maybe because it went through the most permutations or because I wasn’t expecting to get the chance. If they ask me to do the next one, I’ll be happy to do it; if not, I’ll feel honored to’ve done the ones I’ve done. Mute Duo is one of my favorite bands. They would be if I had nothing to do with their album design but the fact that I have definitely doesn’t hurt.

If you’re in Chicago this Thursday, you should be at the Bottle for their record-release. Come say hello. I’ll be the one in the Tall Guy Corner, stage right, sketching.

Speaking of migrants, I recommend the Dardenne brothers’ latest, Tori and Lokita, in this week’s Cine-FILE. It’s a real gut-punch. And The Worst Ones is pretty damn good.

Listen to my talk with artist/dancer/friend Wendy Clinard.

Lisa printed up some more tote bags from the design I made for Tangible. Drop them a line if you want one. Only $10!

I made a little book of bottle drawings. Only 30 of these. When they’re gone, they’re gone.