Music Inspired Art – Catching Up With Illustrator John Lihou

John Lihou is an artist from Southsea, Portsmouth who dedicates his work to portraying the weird, wonderful and psychedelic. Working with musicians and producing commissions for EP, Single & Album artwork for new releases such as Beach For Tiger, Lydia Kitto, Indigo Child, Sun Arcana, House Points and more…

So how do you start on a new piece? What inspires you? 
“Whenever I’m starting a new piece of work whether that be a commissioned piece or personal work, I mainly turn to music as the source of inspiration. With EP artwork I tend to listen to all the songs through and sketch ideas of how the songs may look and the colours that come to mind when listening to them, along with the medium I want to use to illustrate them. The inspiration also comes from outside influences such as previous album covers and other music based artwork, most of it from the sixties and seventies. That was the first time that artwork was used in a more experimental way for album covers and so its become a massive source of inspiration for me and is something that I always refer back to when coming up with my own designs. I think the first source of inspiration for me when I first started was the band ‘The Doors’. After discovering them I knew I wanted to make music based artwork and got most of my influence from them and other similar bands.”

House Points – Listen here

What about the planning process? Is there much direction before you begin the piece? 
“I find that when I first start designing, overthinking and planning of what the image is going to look like makes the whole process a lot harder. I usually get some direction from the bands I work with which brings out some ideas but I also tend to have a lot of creative freedom to come up with some of my own as well. I find that rather than thinking of the initial ideas too much, its better just to put on the music and just draw or design whatever comes to mind in quite a free way, and most of the time this is where my most successful pieces come out. Its only recently that I’ve noticed how much I struggle to come up with any sort of artwork without listening to music at the same time, even when I do have an idea in mind. I think the link between music and art is fascinating and so to collaborate with musicians in this sort of way is something I love doing.”

Are you a musician yourself? 
“I do play a bit of guitar myself and recently I have experimented with it in relation to artwork. I always use music as a starting point for imagery but I wanted to flip that and see if I could use artwork to influence music and so I’d create a design for a cover and then write a piece of music that I think illustrated the artwork musically. The music wasn’t anything too complex or brilliant but I found it a really interesting experiment to try and it also helped me in my usual work.”

We love album artwork on vinyl and all other mediums, we think it’s an important part of the release…
“For me, cover art is a really important part of music as its got to be perfectly paired with the music so that you can judge the book by its cover. We all know that this shouldn’t be the case but its something we all do and so I like to try and create a good representation of what the music sounds like through imagery…

Recently I was commissioned to do a series of ‘No Words Review’* images in which I reviewed new albums visually which also helped to really get a message across about what certain songs and artists/bands were like without the use of words.”

Hinds ‘Leave Me Alone’ – Listen here

Honey Moon – ‘Best in Town/ Summer Days’ – Listen here

Mild High Club – ‘Skiptracing’  – Listen here:

What about the techniques and the process? 
“For each band its something different, for example I used quite illustrative, hand drawn designs for ‘House Points’ and a collage style when working with ‘Beach For Tiger’. Every band and musician have a unique sound and so the artwork needs to reflect that. To begin with I was mainly focusing on a psychedelic style of working but with new commissions with musicians that are creating music in a different way I have developed my own work to illustrate them. This is something I found when working with ‘Lydia Kitto’ as it was a style of music I hadn’t listened to much before and so it opened my eyes to some new ideas. For all of these commissions however, I usually have the same process in which I listen to all of the tracks through several times and just see what comes naturally. The good thing about being commissioned by other creatives is the fact I can bounce ideas off of them and develop the work into something I may not have initially thought about doing myself. An important thing for me is to just keep experimenting with new processes and new ways of working as its just something I love doing and want to able to take further.”

Beach For Tiger – EP (Full Album)

Lydia Kitto – Ride –

What about your work away from music, what are you doing at the moment?
“In my current personal work I’m exploring the themes of nature and mans conflict with it, taking a satirical look at the modern consumer culture and the world of tourism. I’m trying to use a range of different media such as collage, hand drawn pieces and screen printing, even a bit of an exploration into film, matching that with music. I’ve still noticed however that I struggle to do any of these things without having music as a source of inspiration, I can sit and stare at a blank page with a lack of ideas until I put on an album and I just get on with it.”

– Connect with John Lihou on Facebook / Instagram –

More features on John’s work coming soon including a Spotify playlist.