Kiss Kulture Klash

April 17, 2013 on 5:19 pm | By | In Gigs, Notes, Wayback Machine | 1 Comment

When I was asked to design and do the art for KISS’ 4th studio album Rock and Roll Over, I was fairly ignorant of the culture that was forming around the group. I was unencumbered by any preconceived ideas as to what the group and their music was about. Many are surprised to hear that Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter had to explain their different personas to me before I started working on the design.

I’d love to be able to show my working pencil sketches, but over the years they’d gotten lost or destroyed, and the only record left was the original colored pencil comp that I used to explain my concept to the group. A few months earlier I had done a cover for IDEA, a Japanese art magazine that had done an article about my work, and for whom I had created a cover. I really loved how that cover had turned out, so my thought was to try to emulate the look I had come up with on this new cover for KISS. My cover for IDEA had certain gamelike, and very graphic elements that I thought would work well telling the story of what KISS were about.

Since their makeup reminded me of classic Japanese Kabuki players, I thought the look would be appropriate. So I created a little story around each character and put them all together in a sort of “mandala” motif surrounded by a sawtooth blade with lettering. I kept the colors simple and bold as I had done with my IDEA cover. Here (yellowed and a bit worn with age) is the original colored pencil sketch I created for the group’s approval:

The meeting went particularly well, since I was expecting outright rejection of my idea—which at the time was pretty unorthodox for an LP cover. The changes gthey asked for, I felt, were fairly minor—adjustments to the faces (with the exception of Peter Criss), and rotating the lettering 90°.

The KISS logo already existed, but I felt it needed some help to work better with my design (Paul told me he had drawn it on his dining room table). So I redrew it, making the design more consistent, and adding the lightning strokes to help give movement to the sawtooth blade.

After the cover was done, I didn’t think about it very much. It was only years later that I came to understand that this cover had taken on a life of its own and become sort of a cultural icon. I started to realize that when I discoved all the incredibly blatant and poorly done rip-offs of my design. Rather than upsetting me, seeing all that was quite amusing . . . after all, isn’t imitation “the sincerest form of flattery”?

Another indicator to me of how pervasive this design had become in the culture was that people were having it permanently etched onto their bodies. This both horrified, and delighted me at the same time! Personally I would never have anything tattooed on my body—especially one of my own graphics: I’d get bored with the design way too quickly, and then it would be too late to do anything about it. Here are some shots of the process of one lucky soul having the complete Rock and Roll Over art permanently engraved on his right flank. The tattoo artist did a pretty good job, if you ask me!

And below, for your viewing pleasure, a few more of my favorite RaRO tattoo shots. I especially like the one of the guy getting his back autographed by Paul Stanley. Now that’s what I call Kiss Kommitment!

Speaking of Paul, he contacted me again recently. It seems that KISS were about to record their 19th studio album. They hadn’t done one of those for eleven years, and he told me they wanted to recapture some of the magic that the Rock and Roll Over design had provided for them when they were starting out. So, in a way they kind of wanted Rock and Roll Over All Over Again—the same . . . but different.

Attempting to recreate the success of an iconic image is a thankless task. You can’t realistically have that as a goal. The most you can do is to give it your all and try to do the best piece of art you’re capable of doing. Here are a series of rough sketches that led up to the finished design

The hardest part of this process was figuring out what to do with the four faces. This time Paul wanted them to be photographic instead of just plain old graphic—as they were the first time around. And I couldn’t get new photography—it had to be taken from existing files. The approach I decided on was to take the best photos I could find with the most contrast and shadows, and translate them into flat graphics that I could make work with the rest of the art. I’ve simplified the steps a bit, but here’s an example of what I did with the faces, using a photo I found of Gene’s face:

Everybody’s got an opinion as to whether the art for Sonic Boom is better or worse than that for Rock and Roll Over. Being so close to both designs it’s difficult for me to say. As far as Sonic Boom is concerned, I did the best I could within strict limitations provided by Paul. I think it solved the problem, and I’m quite happy with the results.

I’ll leave it to time, to posterity, and to others to decide if Sonic Boom becomes as much a cultural touchstone as Rock and Roll Over did. If it does, we may soon start seeing . . .

Purchase an original “Rock and Roll Over” press proof HERE 

Oversized Album Cover Prints Available on Official KISS Website

June 18, 2012 on 8:38 am | By | In News, Wayback Machine | 1 Comment

2/1/13 NOTE: Due to “human error” these prints are currently unavailable for purchase from the Live Nation website. However they will be back—please check back here again soon!

These two signed (signed by me [Michael Doret] and the members of the group), limited edition, large scale fine art prints (not lithos) are still available through the official KISS Online Store. RaRO is signed by myself, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Sonic Boom is also signed by the two newer members of the band. These prints made from my original artwork of Rock and Roll Over and Sonic Boom are the best incarnations you will ever see of my art for these two iconic KISS releases (please ignore the fact that it says “Pre Order” on Sonic Boom – that’s a typo).

Rock and Roll Over

I have digitally redone my orignal art for Rock and Roll Over (after 30+ years the original original art is long gone), and so now it’s cleaner and crisper than ever before. The art for Sonic Boom was digitally created to begin with, and so enlarges to the 20″ size perfectly. To give an idea of the print quality and clarity of these giclées, here’s a detail of Sonic Boom showing the watercolor paper texture:

The print images are 20″ square printed on 25″ square “Museo Textured Rag” digital Watercolor paper. These are archival prints and will show no visible signs of fading for 100+ years under reasonable lighting situations.

Printed by Art Works Fine Art Publishing in Los Angeles, these editions are limited to 250 prints each, and each print will come with a certificate of authenticity signed by me.

As the creator of these two pieces I am very critical of print quality, but suffice it to say that when I saw the final proofs of these two pieces I was blown away by the color intensity and the quality.

To see my other blog posts on Kiss…here are the links—earliest first:

1) For All You ‘KISS’ Fans Out There…

2) The Return of . . . KISS (#1)

3) The Return of . . . KISS (#2)

4) The Return of . . . KISS (#3)

5) WXRX/Live Radio Chat

6) Podcast Interview on PodKISSt

7) Signed Prints Available on Illogator

After Delayed Release—KISS Wants to Announce…

January 15, 2010 on 2:53 pm | By | In News | 1 Comment

Get them while they’re hot: “Sonic Boom” & “Rock and Roll Over“.

Click HERE for more information.

I recently recorded this SHORT INTERVIEW with the kind folks from Podkisst, discussing these limited edition prints.

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