kristina baumgartner

Purity Ring + Kristina Baumgartner = Shrines' supernatural sheep guardian

Purity Ring: Shrines [July/2012] — Crafting images to complement the stirring mystical ecosystem of Megan James’ lyrics and voice and the heart-jacking, spine-jangling textures of Corin Roddick’s soundscapes can’t be easy. And Kristina Baumgartner admits to sketching out a lot of different ideas for the cover of Purity Ring’s much anticipated full-length debut before she had the right one. But once it took shape, the rest of the Shrines packaging illustrations flowed from there.

Baumgartner didn’t have a lot of cash to spend on art supplies when she was creating the drawings, so she worked with what she had. “I drew everything with pencil crayons and wax pastels on large sheets of brown construction paper, which I cut into 12-inch squares.”

Improvisation seems to be one of Baumgartner’s habits; just this month she released her first zine, called House Plant, which she painted and self-produced. She describes it as “10 little paintings [like the one below] all done in ink that represent my home life this winter. I spent most of the season alone in this big apartment with my cat, and I got sucked into my own little world. The paintings are about that.” Baumgartner is selling House Plant in some Montreal shops and online (or you could pick one up at Purity Ring’s merch table on their North American tour in April and May 2013 — for which she also designed a new poster and tote bag).

LPWTF: I read about how the illustration with the coffin was entirely based on “Crawlersout.” Can you tell me about the specific lyrics or ideas that inspired the Shrines album cover image. Also, how did sheep originate as an appropriate symbol for the band and its music?

KB: For the Lofticries 7-inch [see below], I had cut out dozens of photographs to collage together for the cover. Corin really liked some of the sheep ones I had. I was interested in Catholic imagery at the time and so I came up with this image of a girl watching over her flock of sheep. To me, sheep represent a kind of innocence and purity and so I thought it was an appropriate symbol for the band.

When we were coming up with ideas the Shrines cover, I originally wanted it to be a photograph of a girl laying with her sheep in some kind of sacrificial setting. However, Megan and Corin really wanted me to draw the cover. So it’s essentially the same idea only simpler. The lungs overhead come from a line from “Fineshrine.”

[Get a little closer, let fold / Cut open my sternum, and pull / My little ribs around you / The lungs of me be crowns over you]

Why are hands and fire also good symbols to represent the songs on Shrines?

A lot is based off some of the meanings of Megan’s lyrics. And since she doesn’t reveal what they mean, neither will I.

Without going to deep into it, Megan often writes about people’s spirits and about some type of motherly figure looking out for her. The ghost hands and then the human hands that surround the girl under the coffin are meant to represent those two forces.

All of the images seem to be set in some sort of dreamscape or non-physical space, which I think gels nicely with the record’s lyrics and textures. Was this what you intended?

When I listen to Megan’s words, they all seem to be set in some non-physical space and I wanted the artwork to reflect that. The girl is a guardian of sheep and a dead loved one, and she lives in her own world.

Who is the girl?

No one specifically.

Where are the original illustrations now?

One illustration is framed in my living room, one I gave to Megan. The front and back cover are somewhere in the shed.

What do you like about these images?

It feels weird for me to say what I like about the images when I made them. The only thing I can think to say is that I like how homely they are. And by that I mean that I like that they look so handmade. You can see all the pencil marks and texture on the LP. You can’t tell after it was all printed, but I coloured in all the black background and it took hours and hours. It left smudges, because I used a black wax pencil — well, I really went through like six of them — but we didn’t edit them out. I like the mistakes.

All images by Kristina Baumgartner. Story by Eric Rumble. Buy Shrines from 4AD.