Off the Drawing Board Forbidden Style

When Chris recorded DC Standup vs. Earth, he also recorded an extra-long set for himself for his own personal CD. He asked me to do the cover art for this one as well.

He presented me with a whole list of titles, most of which were parodies of other album titles - The Black Album, Live at Red Rocks and so on. None of those did anything to get my creative juices flowing. He also had a few titles based on parts of his act - the only one that caught my eye was Forbidden Style, a short bit about martial arts movie cliches.

I mocked up some preliminary artwork for both Forbidden Style and another idea I'd had and brought them to the show. The other idea was based on Chris's personal web site - Chris White Sucks - and featured Chris's name carved into a filthy men's room wall. I liked the concept and execution, but I can understand why Chris didn't want to go with it. So Forbidden Style it was.

While eating dinner with Chris after the show, I had a sudden epiphany about what the cover needed to be. And what you see below is almost exactly what I envisioned.

Forbidden Style CD BookletForbidden Style CD Booklet

With a title about martial arts movies, it seemed appropriate to go for a martial arts motif for the cover design. The kicking figure is taken from an image on, which I pasted Chris's head on to and then processed in Photoshop to get a nice Mignola-esque look to it. Then I printed it out and traced it on a light table, cleaning up some of the shading to give it a slicker look. I'm a bit disappointed that the final image bears only a passing resemblance to Chris - I should have drawn his head separately so I could cram in more detail.

I colored Chris's figure in Photoshop by just filling in areas with solid color, and then overlaying the original black lines at 90% opacity. That's why everything has a slightly washed-out look to it. While I was in there I also lightned up some of the areas in Chris's face and chest so that they weren't totally overwhelmed by the blackness.

The background that he's flying over was made by motion-blurring a field of stars on a red background, and then masking the edges. Then I used a paintbrush with wet edges to get the sparkle effects. And finally, the zooming stars were added to fill in the area beneath chris and to give everything more of a '70s looks. There's room for a few more stars in the lower left-hand corner, but oh well.

The logo itself is just regular old Impact, with a slight arc and a large drop shadow. Not bad, if I must say so myself. My original idea was to do a sort of "Superfly" logo with big '70s balloon lettering, but I couldn't whip up a logo where "Forbidden" wasn't completely overwhelmed by "Style." In the end, the more basic approach won out. The only tweak I made between the initial and final draft of the logo was to bump up the font size on the "S" and "E" to make it look less bland.

I agonized for days over the correct positioning of each element on the cover. I think what's there now is really damn good, and I can't think of many ways to improve it.

Forbidden Style Tray CardForbidden Style Tray Card

The idea behind the back cover was to show some ninjas rushing forward to attack Chris.

I actually drew seven ninjas in a variety of action poses. However, I wound up using only a handful, partly because two of the ninjas looked terribly but mostly because the few I did used filled in the area quite well. I really like the guy in the foreground and the leaping guy in the background.

As an aside, ninjas are hard to draw. Make 'em too detailed and they don't seem mysterious enough. But if you don't detail 'em enough, they look way too simplistic. I dunno how Frank Miller and Walt Simonson make it look so easy...

The background, of course, is just a flopped version of the CD booklet's motion blur. I dropped the zooming stars, mostly because the ninjas and the track list fillied up so much space that the stars weren't necessary as filler.

A variation of this image is used for the back cover of the CD booklet. The major difference? No text, plus an additional ninja in the center reeling from the force of Chris's kick.

If I had to change anything, I'd screw with the positioning of the logo and text on the cover and also reduce the size of the spine text. Which is sad because I made the same damn mistakes on both CDs.

Forbidden Style DiscForbidden Style Disc

The CD design, of course, is just the B&W version of Chris leaping on a plain red background. Very simple and elegant. The interior of the logo is white mostly to draw extra attention to it. There's absolutely nothing I'd change here at all.


I think Forbidden Style came out really well, mostly because I had the extra time to work on it. There's not much I would change at this point - other than a few minor tweaks, it's just about perfect.

If you're interested in ordering a copy of Forbidden Style when it's released, contact Chris White at DC Standup for more information. He'll also be having a big CD release party at the State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia on the 28th.

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