A Juno nomination is pretty big recognition compared with most of the accolades that have come the way of Marianne Collins during her art career.
“It was kind of a different experience just because it’s such a public award and a public ceremony. It’s televised, and I’ve watched the Junos since I was young,” Collins said during a phone interview from her home in Georgefield, Hants County.
Collins is in the running for a trophy this weekend on Canadian music’s biggest night, but it’s not for singing or playing. However, she was instrumental in putting together the package for a 2017 album by the Toronto rock group Do Make Say Think.
“A lot of my family members, direct and distant, are more aware of the Junos than they are, say, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition where I’ve won awards.”
Stubborn Persistent Illusions, which has her nominated in the album artwork of the year category, wasn’t her first musicrelated project. She helped her sister Colleen with an album package for her group, Construction and Destruction, and did drawings for the 2012 Wintersleep album Hello Hum.
Collins said there’s no formula for how she approaches an album art assignment.
“It depends on the band entirely. In the Wintersleep case I was kind of given no direction. Not in a bad way, but they really just looked for me to listen to the music and kind of interpret the album myself, whereas with Do Make Say Think, the band came to me with a poem and that had a concept attached to it and I kind of brought the visuals to that concept.”
Stubborn Persistent Illusions is the band’s seventh album. Collins had a connection with the group through having worked on a project with band member Charles Spearin, who contacted her about doing the artwork.
“They’ve been around for quite some time and I have frequently listened to their past albums. They hadn’t put out an album in, I think, eight years.”
While she eventually was able to hear the tunes, the Do Make Say Think collection didn’t provide any verbal cues because there are no lyrics. Collins said she submitted several visual concepts to the band and the members chose their favourites.
“I think it’s down to feelings. There’s times where it’s very triumphant or very sombre. It’s a very emotional album, I interpreted it as.” The poem she received as a starting point is reflected in the finished product, which features nature and nautical imagery.
“It’s kind of about the journey of the crow, in relation to the mind,” said Collins.
“So the idea of meditation, your mind leaves, experiences something somewhat existential and then returns, like the crow leaves from the ship and always returns to its captain.
“So, from that, the cover is kind of a visual journey of the crow, and the crow being able to morph into this majestic vision of the fawn at dawn.”
Collins used a mix of coloured pencil drawings and oil paintings to create the illustrations, and she praised the band’s Montreal label for displaying them at their best.
“Constellation Records did a very good job of going all-in on the album. They actually included a print in each LP. That was very nice. And also just the quality and the time they put into the display and everything,” she said. “It’s a keepsake.”
The vinyl itself also contains some of her work, as the fourth side of the two-disc set is an etching of a bird that appears to take flight when the record is spun on a turntable.
“That actually took quite a bit of work. Charles worked with me.
He was kind of the math part of it. We broke it down so that it actually animates like stop motion and makes the bird fly.”
Collins, born in 1983, grew up in London, Ont. She graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2006 and has been active in the Canadian visual arts community since then. The striking imagery she created for Do Make Say Think are among her sales.
“Several members of the band purchased them, so that was a compliment as well.”
And if her nomination generates requests for cover art commissions, Collins doesn’t have a problem.
“If it brings more albums, I would love that. It’s an interesting experience because you are working with another artistic medium that is very different. It is a nice marrying of the two.”
Collins said she won’t be in Vancouver to attend the award show, but a viewing party is planned.
“I will be watching and celebrating the nomination and watching the whole award ceremony at my sister’s house.”
The Junos will be televised Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC.