I opened up the Photoshop file for the new album art, getting to look at the guts of how another designer had put the whole thing together. “Oh, that’s interesting,” I said to myself, looking at the adjustment layers, reverse engineering how she’d constructed the visuals. A lot of choices I’d likely never have given myself permission to take, let alone had even thought to try. I just had never been quite so outrageous and bold, visually. Or otherwise. Not that I needed to be able to make everything, but honestly that’s how I feel about things. Like I should be able to do that, too.
It was a remix album for my friend’s reggae band, and this artwork was also a remix of her original album art, and there were traces of the old album, remnants in the file unseen, undeleted, hidden. One by one I check and uncheck the boxes like circuit breakers, examining the construction and layers almost like a geologist might, peeling back the sediment of pixels to decide where I would excise and transport the concept into a video. There were sometimes traces and notes in the labels, but often times very little commentary as to how the whole thing went together. “Untitled Layer 20” above “Untitled Layer 17,” hints at a chronology of the work and signature of her profession. It was a little puzzle to pull apart, isolating the three pieces in such a way that their interactions would work in an animation, the back and front moving in opposition, the middle piece rotating around.
I also felt tenderly toward the designer, looking at the pieces of her creativity in a way I was’t quite certain if she would have minded. Not quite like I’d gone through the top drawer of her dresser while she wasn’t home, reading the first page of her diary. Like I saw the diary and that she kept it next to her socks that were in an old shoebox, but none of them matched.