I’m not a big fan of death metal, yet somehow I’m surrounded by it for most of my life. My brother was into it, the kids I used to hang out with in high school were into it. Even in my Catholic junior high school I used to have a side hustle drawing death metal album covers on some of the guys’ Trapper Keepers. I was all kinds of nerdy and a weird ass kid back then, but if the guys wanted depictions of Cannibal Corpse albums on their binders, they knew better than to give me a hard time.

I thought those days were behind me, but apparently not. I was asked to create the two versions of the same album “Once Upon a Cross” by Deicide, a band mired in controversies, hence the two versions of this cover. The buyer was extremely concerned about my mental well-being when I was working on it, and I am quite touched by their concern. Sure, the subject matter is a bit grotesque, but I saw it through a clinical eye, as I had once contemplated going into medical illustration and had gone through all of my brother’s anatomy text books (he was a med student at the time) with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also been starting my work nights by going back to the roots, doing some warm ups by painting beetles.

The mainstream album cover plus the original version which the band themselves were afraid would offend their listeners.

The first doll had me contemplating for days as to what to use as a sheet. I finally came up with the perfect thing: A white plastic bag, which was painted over with acrylics. It was a surprisingly malleable material to work with and the variety I had gotten was almost wrinkle resistant so I was thrilled with the result. The second one involved some engineering, as I wanted to not just paint the bowels but make it 3D with removable parts so it can be stored inside the doll when not on display.

The Hubs helped me with that since I’ve been forbidden to touch the 3D printer but I did all the sculpting myself. I was thrilled to find there were miniature surgical tools for sale to further mimic the album cover even more. The sculpting wasn’t as hard as I’d thought, but trying to bury tiny yet powerful magnets inside was a bit taxing.

The buyer and I discussed my mental health throughout the process and after. I usually work on about 6-8 projects each night and streaming TV shows, movies, or listening to podcasts and audio books while I’m working. Lately my friend had recommended Peppa Pig, which is, of course, for children, but it’s so delightfully British that I couldn’t help but get sucked into the innocent little world of Peppa and her little friends too. It also helps that I tend to leave my emotions at the door when I’m working as not to get too attached to the pieces of art I create. There’s nothing worse than selling someone a project and then realising you can’t bear to part with it when it’s finished.