Emily Balsley: The Artwork Behind "Under the Big Umbrella"

Photo by  Nicole Hansen

Photo by Nicole Hansen

Emily Balsley is an artist from Madison, Wisconsin whose colorful and playful illustrations have appeared in American Girl Magazine, numerous children’s books, on toy packaging and much more. What a joy to collaborate with this talented whirlwind of creativity for the new album! 🌪🎨 Full of heart and soul, Emily’s work perfectly reflects the spirit of the music. I love how she gave these songs such happy, colorful faces full of kindness, warmth and hope!

Enjoy this chat about creating the look and feel for Under the Big Umbrella.

Emily’s  Under the Big Umbrella  album cover.

Emily’s Under the Big Umbrella album cover.

What were your thoughts when you started drafting the imagery for Under the Big Umbrella?

An early sketch of the band…

An early sketch of the band…

I was quite honored when Brady first reached out to me about collaborating on the art for his album! Even though I was super busy with client work at the time, I knew this was a special project and I was going to do whatever I could to squeeze it in. At first we were really going to focus on including lots of illustrated kiddos - but the more I listened to the music, I was inspired to include so much more!

Final version of the album art.

Final version of the album art.

How do the song lyrics resonate with your philosophy and style as an artist?

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As an artist, I have the opportunity to create imagery to put into this world - therefore, my art includes messaging that I want my daughter and future generations to see: love, bravery, compassion, and inclusivity. Because of this, my illustrations often include a lot of color, people, flowers, hearts, sunshines and rainbows. When I listened to Brady's song lyrics, the imagery practically drew itself! The songs of Under the Big Umbrella encompasses all of those loving, happy, encouraging messages - which in turn, ended up making this the perfect collaboration.

My art includes messaging that I want my daughter and future generations to see: love, bravery, compassion, and inclusivity.
— Emily Balsley
COLORING PAGE! (Right click, save and color YOURSELF!)

COLORING PAGE! (Right click, save and color YOURSELF!)

what was the process like creating the Under the Big Umbrella album cover?

First, I listened to the album and read the lyrics that Brady gave me. I highlighted words and phrases that spoke to me, and then started drawing in my sketchbook. As I started sending Brady my sketches, we were able to chat about what he was seeing and that's when it truly became a collaboration. There was a lot of back-and-forth about where we could push the imagery. Once the sketches were dialed, then I started painting. Using my sketches as a template, I essentially painted over them on my light box. I tend to build my art up in layers - so the background washes came first, then the rest of the color, and finally the line work and text was done in ink. Then I scanned all of those pieces into my computer, cleaned them up digitally, and layered the final composition in Photoshop. 

Your artwork has appeared in books and magazines. Is this your first time doing an album cover? What is it like to capture music in illustrations?

I've done a few gig posters, but this is my first album! I am so excited to add this to my roster! I love the challenge of spinning lyrics into an illustration - especially when they're so in-line with my ideals, as this album was.

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I love the challenge of spinning lyrics into an illustration - especially when they’re so in-line with my ideals, as this album was.
— Emily Balsley

What is your favorite song on Under the Big Umbrella and why?

COLORING PAGE! (Right click, save and color YOURSELF!)

COLORING PAGE! (Right click, save and color YOURSELF!)

Ooh, DEFINITELY "Under the Big Umbrella"! I love the message, first and foremost. It's super catchy, and I love how Brady incorporated different languages, the singing kiddos, and my favorite part - "a capella - pella - pella - pella!" AND my favorite pizza is pepperoni (with mozzarella)...so there's that! :-) 🍕

Learn more about Emily and her work at www.emilybalsley.com and follow her on social media at @emilybluestar.

Order a CD and see her lovely work in person! Amazon.com