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The voice behind the art: an interview with Great Lake Swimmers’ album cover artist

By Carly Digweed, Communications Intern, WWF-Canada

gls album cover art

When Nick first picked up the phone, he seemed a bit caught off guard. It just so happens that the Wisconsin-based artist was in the middle of a woodcut and had somewhat “lost himself in the process.” Right then, we knew this was going to be an insightful chat with the printmaker – which only got us more excited.

Can you tell us a bit about why this project with the Great Lake Swimmers worked so well?

Well I’ve definitely had an interest in the band for a long time now, and I can see a lot of the same nature-focused inspiration in both of our works. So when Tony (Tony Dekker, lead singer of the Great Lake Swimmers) contacted me for this project, the collaboration seemed natural. Typically, my work can be separated into two types: representational – landscapes, animals, nature – and abstract, which Tony was more drawn to for this particular project.

Did this abstract approach lead the way for the New Wild Everywhere album design?

Absolutely. The title, New Wild Everywhere, played a being role in terms of my inspiration. But from there, Tony and I went back-and-forth with what we thought worked and what didn’t. One of my sketches featured a kind of abstract ‘flock map’ which was an image of a group of birds flocking, connecting each one with a line, representing how animals tend to move as one organism. The map created a beautiful idea as to what this New Wild Everywhere was – a kind of interconnectedness.

What was Tony’s input or feeling about the process?

Tony was drawn to the technique involved in woodworking and the idea that all material used was once living. He liked that it was an entirely handmade process; you’re not creating imagery from a computer, you are carving the imagery yourself.

Did you and Tony discuss the connection between the album and the album artwork?

To me, I find the album piece unique because it’s not completely literal. I think the best interpretation of their lyrics is poetic. Tony can’t fully translate the feelings he experiences, so he uses metaphors to give listeners a hint, as I do with my artwork.

nick gls

How does one of your pieces typically come together?

I try to put myself into natural environments and open myself up to observation. I like to simply witness what’s around me and truly experience beauty. For example, one of my works, “Frost Descending,” came together after a walk I took. There was an abundance of frost and a certain quality of atmosphere that I felt compelled to translate into a piece. For this particular instance, I had a camera with me that I used to capture the idea. Generally, I start by sketching the idea onto a woodblock, in reverse of course, as the image prints as the opposite. This forces me to observe things considering positive and negative spaces; when I see a tree, I actually see the spaces between the branches. It’s an unconventional way to experience nature, but that’s how I do. It’s almost as if you are deconstructing an object anatomically, in attempt to capture the gesture of it.

What do you hope the people will take away from your work?

I believe that it’s the role of the artist to interpret and share their particular manner and experience of nature. Because I’ve focused on the visual aspect, I hope folks can appreciate the nature I’ve chosen to share, and the reverence. I mean, if I can translate that feeling and beauty for anyone, I hope it’s ultimately enriching. That’s the experience I have when I listen to the Great Lake Swimmers; it enriches my environment and helps me to appreciate what we have. I think that’s such an important thing to gain from art.

Nick has generously donated a print of the original artwork for Great Lake Swimmers’ “New Wild Everywhere” album cover through Gift-It.com. You can purchase it here. Proceeds of the purchase goes to WWF.  

Learn more about Nick Wroblewski, please visit www.nickwroblewski.com