Assignment: Secret 12

The Secret 12 is a spin off of the Secret 7. The Secret 7 takes 7 tracks from 7 of the best-known musicians around and presses each one 100 times to 7” vinyl. They invite creative artists around the world to interpret the tracks in their own style.

The assignment I was given was similar. We were given songs best suited to our personalities and tasked to design an interpretation of the song for a 12” record cover. It could not include typography and had to illustrate the story and meaning behind the song so our class will be able to guess.

I was assigned ”David Bowie’s – Space Oddity”. I first began to listen to the song for myself, deciding to find my own interpretation before I would read what others thought of the song online. I realised the song was about an astronaut set off into Space. This confirmed my assumptions by the date it was released; the same time as the Space Race was prominent in all of the media in 1969.

Though I knew David Bowie was known for his metaphorical lyrics and decide to envision other scenarios. Despite the song written during the height of the space race. I find it is more about Bowie’s looming alienation and fascination with space travel.

We know from his signature name ”Ziggy Stardust” that he has a a romanticised conception of Space and throughout his life found he wasn’t apart of the world and that many considered him by his odd looks that he was from another planet. Casting out from the normal crowd and becoming something new and different. Something Bowie had succeeded in doing throughout his life.

There are other scenarios besides from that. If we are taking the lyrics metaphorically, Major Tom can be a reflection of Bowie. Major Tom finds himself floating in space and all of a sudden is aware that he was never meant for life on earth. ”Planet Earth is blue” in both the literal and figurative sense can suggest it is a sad place and there’s ”nothing he can do” about it.

He marvels at the ”Tin can” that was his means of escape from the sad planet he has grown distant with. He’s serene; finding his element in Space and in that moment knows he’s Space traveler. Even his ”Spaceship knows which way to go” which suggests he’s returning back to his original home.

”And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.” suggests even while he is ”taking a large step for man kind” society still only cares for minor subjects like what shirt he wears. I think I can resonate with the lyrics of Space Oddity and the feeling of being alienated and being cast aside based on minor attributes such as appearance. He realises the planet is blue as in ”sad” for having flaws and selfish attributes like that.

When I finally did search online, I realised many people thought differently to myself and that they thought it was a metaphor for drugs. That ”Ground Control” is in fact his friend, or even a Surgeon asking if they can hear them after a bad ”come down”. That the astronaut ”floating in space” is revealing his death and that the soul will not reach ground again.

Sketches Space Oddity.jpg

After my research, I had many ideas I wanted to include on my 12” vinyl. I decided three sketches would give me enough time to play with layout and decide what one looked best.

The first one is a metaphorical example where he is ”High as a kite” representing the influence of drugs and the influence it has on the person. The astronaut sitting on a swing represents hallucinations and the ”Outer body experience”.
The middle panel represents the lyrics ”Major Tom can you hear me” where someone from Ground Control is attempting to contact the spaceman after all has gone wrong. It also features a drawing of David Bowie, which relates to the Singer but also my own interpretation that he sees himself in the Astronaut.
The third panel is taking the lyrics literally where he leaves the Capsule and begins ”Spinning in the most peculiar way”. This is also the part where he is engulfed in space and the spiral around him is whisking him away to the direction back to his home.
In the end I decided to go with all three ideas; having it remind me of a comic and that it told a story in its different stages. Incorporating all three ideas also allowed me to showcase all of my interpretations and highers the chance of people recognising the symbolism of the song.
I took the sketches into a drawing program and filmed the process of painting it:
I digitally manipulated the image by taking the paper sketches and taking it into Paint Tool Sail to digitally painted over, but then used a variety of Photoshop filters like Sepia to add an impression of age. I altered some original ideas such as the space station on the right which is now a planet, depicting his distance from planet Earth. I also had changed the astronaut in the middle to human remains which showcases decay and the mission going wrong.
Space oddity fin.png
I even Incorporated David Bowie’s trademark lightning strike that suggests the Artist behind the design. Overall, I enjoyed the assignment and it allowed me to develop my digital manipulation skills such as experimenting with layering different textures and altering proportions from the original sketch to make the art better.
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