My sister, Shenandoah Davis, released her third album, Souvenirs, earlier this year. Shenandoah (or Shenni, as she is known to her family and past acquaintances of her pre-20s) asked me to create an illustration inspired by the lyrics from her album; she sent me all of the words to her songs and left me to sort through the poetry and see what image I would pull out.
In the song Tilden, the line "and I should have heeded my previous notion to stay out of the ocean" instantly revealed a clear scene that I wanted to draw. I thought of Shenni swimming in the ocean--the waves too big, the overall situation very murky--and as she tries to realign and get the bearings of her body in the sea, this well-phrased perfect little rhyme flashes panic into her head. Just as you'd except a non-poet to think I'm in trouble or I regret everything, I love the idea that a musician's consciousness would naturally spit out lovely writing when in crisis.
My initial sketch featured Shenni helplessly drowning in the sea, face-down with a spray of curls just visible above the surface, one hand up looking for help and the other hand settling into her dreary fate (this may not have been an image that was unwelcome during our torrid childhood sisterhood).
For the final illustration I lifted Shenni's head so that one eye is looking out at the viewer from over the waves. It's a tad less morbid of an image, and gives a bit more mystery to the story--is she drowning? is she swimming? Is she looking at us for help, or is she inviting us into the water?
The illustration was used for 11x17 tour posters in its original, subdued palette. Shenni handmade 5-color screen print posters and t-shirts of the illustration for the tour, so now our mother can wear her second daughter's drawing of her oldest daughter's death-by-drowning. It's every mom's dream.