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Paulina Almira on Creating The Rolling Stones’ Latest Album Cover

Paulina Almira

As legendary rock group The Rolling Stones edges toward releasing another album on October 20, I stumble into thinking that Mick Jagger and Co. have discovered the fountain of youth. Jagger is 80, his bandmates Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood 79 and 76 respectively, and this trio will be offering up their first new music in 18 years.

The album “Hackney Diamonds”

The Evening Standard writes that the term “hackney diamonds” is East London slang for broken glass. “Specifically,” they write, “it refers to shards of glass left over from broken car windows and shop windows as a result of robbery.”

Keith Richards, bespectacled in dark, round glasses, appearing with his bandmates in an interview with Jimmy Fallon, suggests that the name came about after throwing around other such names as “Hit and Run” and “Smash and Grab.”

Another cause of excitement for fans is the weighty list of collaborators such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, and Elton John. The album art is also eye-catching: a set of hands, feisty and sharp fingernails, a crystal heart pierced by a dagger and cracking under its weight.

This is the work of Cebu-born digital artist Paulina Almira

paulina self portrait4

Paulina Almira

Born in Cebu, Paulina realized a love for drawing and coloring as a toddler. She reflected on an early interest in clothes too–helping her dad pick out his shoes. “I feel my exploring art was bound to happen,” she says.

After completing her studies in Manila with a degree in Information Design, Paulina moved to New York where she completed the AAS Fashion/Apparel Design program at Parsons School of Design at The New School. 

A period of study and a year spent in New York’s warp-speed fashion industry pushed Paulina to conceptualize, develop, and execute ideas rapidly–moving her into the hustle-filled life of a digital creator riding the tide of demand for visual experiences on the internet.

Paulina is currently based in Cebu

At least until the end of October.

Having been featured on Goodtype, Vice, and Eater, and propelled by her ongoing relationship with  H+ Creative, a “graphic services agency, centered on the future of visual media, representing artists worldwide”, Paulina has been pouring her focus into just creating digital art.

In doing so, she’s created a landscape of radiant, eclectic work in celestial color palettes. Featuring oddities and ornaments, some of which are recurring like eyeballs, butterflies, hands, fingernails, and lips, Paulina creates strong imagery which could be imagined floating in outer space, slowly wending its way into a void. 

Fashion is a focal piece in Paulina’s pieces, as jewelry, footwear, and beauty products regularly find a zenith in her visual entries.

How the deal with The Rolling Stones came about

Studio Fury, a creative studio based in London, commissioned the work for The Rolling Stones in April.

“Studio Fury reached out to H+ asking for me,” says Paulina. The group provided Paulina with tools to get an idea of the direction while also maintaining her creative freedom.

“They gave me access to the album so I could get a feel of the vibe they were going for [and] they put together a design brief. I can't share the exact details, but the brief described the album being about strong emotions associated with romantic relationships and wanted the artwork to convey that intensity.”

Paulina was informed that this work would be part of a test round. Hence, this was a period of sending over rough sketches, working with Studio Fury to refine the drafts, and moving select sketches into colored digital submissions. “Any time I needed clarification,” says Paulina, “we’d get on a Zoom call, but that didn’t happen very often.” She recalls that the feedback was clear and concise. 

What perhaps wasn’t clear was the fact that Paulina was the only artist the group was then working with. 

“I can’t remember the exact context of the discussion,” she says, “but in the middle of the test rounds they basically told us they weren’t working with anyone else.” After the final round of submissions, she received what she describes as a casual email: “Well done, Paulina!”

“I only realized later on that that meant the band approved the artwork and [that] I was officially the Stones’ new album cover artist.” This was in June. 

Two beautiful hands and a broken heart, from concept to finished piece

“The heart and hands concept was part of the initial brief,” she says. “Right off the bat, I knew the concept aligned with my existing roster of illustrations.” Hearts and hands after all have been recurring elements in the digital artist’s work.

hackney diamonds

The Rolling Stones “Hackney Diamonds”

A prominent feature in the piece is the dagger, stabbing right through the center of the heart, cracking it from end to end, and splintering crystalline shards across the image.

“The dagger seemed the obvious choice to me,” says Paulina. “The album’s themes revolved heavily around the intense feelings associated with romantic relationships. Heartbreak and anger were apparent, and it was made clear that they wanted those emotions conveyed.”

“Daggers were something I’d illustrated in the past, too”, she adds, “and I was happy to be able to find parallels between my existing body of work and the direction for the album art.”

The Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds drops on Spotify on October 20. Stream the album here.

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