By Robert Benson
Album cover art has a fascinating and long history. From the days of Alex Steinweiss to pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roger Dean, album cover art has evolved; with some highly praised covers (i.e. the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper LP) to the controversial, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” that featured nude women.
But using old, generally unplayable vinyl records (LP’s) as a canvas, artist Daniel Edlen is creating one-of-a-kind ‘Vinyl Art’ masterpieces, adding a new dimension to the art of vinyl albums.
I spoke with Daniel about his love of art and music and how he is able to merge the two on the unique canvas of a vinyl record.
“My Dad introduced me to records with the Beatles’ “Revolver” album,” explained Daniel. “My Mom volunteered for the local library, running the used book sales. They would get records as donations and I got first crack at them because they were usually too beat up and they didn't sell well. Then I had an art project in my teens with white pencil on black paper and I thought, why not try to paint on some of these old records.”
But as a record collector yourself, isn’t this almost blasphemy, using a vinyl record as a canvas?
“I have struggled with that question, especially after the reaction I've gotten from some collectors. My answer is that I do try use albums that would practically ruin a good phonograph needle, and also, I'm turning something that likely would sit in a box in someone's garage into something they can hang on their wall to celebrate their musical culture. It's something unique and creative that is a great ice-breaker, starting conversations about music, art, and all things retro.”
When asked about the process, Daniel detailed:
“The actual painting part of the process verges on meditation for me, it just flows. I'm always listening to music while I work, often whom I'm painting. It's a joy to do what I do, and when I write my blog posts, I often end up adding how lucky I feel that my passion allows me to touch people. The tricky part is finding and sizing the right image of the musician. I place the portrait so the label becomes part of the composition, sometimes highlighting specific information, like the title of the album or certain tracks that make that particular record special or important. I use just white acrylic paint, using the density to create the shading. The whole process takes about a day."
Recently, Daniel has also begun creating time-lapse videos that he's uploaded to YouTube http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=dedlen. These show the development of the paintings, using about twenty-five pictures taken as the painting goes through its stages, and are backed by music recorded by the subject of the piece.
So, just who is Daniel Edlen? Obviously a very talented artist, he would draw and paint for fun and enjoyment throughout his formative years and after experimenting with other art media (such as sculpture), he did a few pieces of what he now calls ‘Vinyl Art’ for friends and family as gifts.
His audience not only loved his work, they encouraged him to try selling them. So with the support of his wife, family and friends, Daniel decided to utilize his talent and passion to, not only make something new from something old, but to create a whole new way for music-lovers to share that passion. For Daniel, the payoff is peoples' reaction when they see the pieces for the first time.
Daniel has opened up a web site and online gallery http://www.vinylart.info/why.htm so the public can see just what he does. Framed simply in a black metal LP frame with the album sleeve behind, the focus is on the original painting.
As a vinyl record collector and enthusiast, I am excited and just marvel at the ‘Vinyl Art’ history and one-of-a-kind paintings that Daniel Edlen creates everyday. Daniel keeps his audiences craving more, and as an artist, that is all you could ever wish for.