the blackthorn project

On Wednesday Tim Thornton (half of The Blackthorn Project) emailed me asking if I would be willing to design some album covers for a new collection of songs called "Simple Series" they will be offering on iTunes, as well as from their website. Here are two ideas I created for them:

The Blackthorn Project Simple Series Version 1

The Blackthorn Project Simple Series Version 2

They have decided to go with the first concept, as they like how the two birds represents them. And with each new volume they release, there will be slight variations to the cover art. Whether it's a new layout or just simple color changes, each one will be unique. So make sure you subscribe to their podcast below, even if it's just for the artwork. :)

But honestly, Tim and Laurie Thornton are two wonderful people who I have had the pleasure of meeting. Their music is made with a heartfelt passion for the Heavenly Father. If you would like to support The Blackthorn Project by purchasing their music, hosting them at your house, or simply giving them a donation please visit their website →

You can also subscribe to The Blackthorn Project Podcast

Twitter Mix CD Design

Twitter mixcd10 Vellum Insert A few weeks ago my fellow twitterer @ableparris posted a tweet asking if anyone was interested in doing a twitter mix cd.


And since I'm a huge lover of music and design I knew this would be a be a fun project to work on. So this weekend I finally had some room to breath, and with a little creative nudge from my friend Alex I got crackin' on my mix cd packaging design.

I wanted to keep things simple and consistent, but I didn't have a clear vision of how I wanted it to look. So as I began rummaging through my old book collection I came across the perfect solution. It was a book of bird illustrations I bought a couple years ago and had forgotten about until just then. It was perfect.

Twitter mixcd10 Album Detail

twitter mixcd10 single album detail

The insert of the packaging is a sleek contrast to the exterior. I created my playlist and overlay templates in Photoshop. Then I printed the playlist on graph paper and used a heavy-stock vellum paper to print the overlay on. The results turned out quite nice for using just an all-in-one printer. But that's just my awesome design skills in effect, well that and the fact that I used the Archer typeface. mmm...

You can view the full set on flickr here.

PS - I have one extra copy to give away. So if you are interested in getting your hands on one of these beauties, and like listening to good music, leave me your best comment below. I'll pick the winner this Friday (the 15th).

Congrats to Garth Humbert (@iamgarth) for winning the extra copy.

the onset of winter playlist

The Onset of Winter Playlist

the songs that make you flip your collar up and watch your breath, like smoke, escape your lungs.

interview: kelly dyson

Kelly Dyson Self Portrait Illustration When I first stumbled upon the work of Kelly Dyson I was in awe. The magical, emotional view of his characters reminded me of a darker Alice in Wonderland ... as if it weren't dark enough. His use of grunge and splatter textures are refined and not overpowering to the main focus of his illustrations. So when he told me he would love to do this interview I was delighted. Please enjoy.

1 - I love your style. When did you first become interested in design/illustration?

Thanks. I guess I was interested in drawing from a pretty young age. I have memories of doing drawings in junior school and the whole class standing around my table saying how great my drawing was... I never made the link between drawing and illustration though, so when I left school I went on to mostly irrelevant courses, worked in factories, in care, etc. Eventually I landed a lucky job through a friend to do drawings for a leaflet he was doing - through that I realised that there was a whole world of people out there who do this illustration thing for a living. That's when I first became interested in illustration as a profession as separate from drawing as a hobby I guess.

2 - What is your background in art and design and what made you become a designer/illustrator?

I have a degree in photography which at the time felt like there was a point to it, but when I finished I didn't really pick up a camera in the same way again. My passion for many years has been creating music rather than anything visual. Why did I become an illustrator... initially because it seemed absurd that I could get paid for drawing I guess and it's a nice clean job that doesn't involve wiping bums or getting verbally abused by naughty kids or anything like that. It's taken about three or four years for me to develop an aesthetic that I feel is getting somewhere and to be able to say that I'm doing it because it feels good.

Kelly Dyson Tree Hair Illustration

3 - Who or what would you say has the biggest influence on the work you're doing?

Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Mount Eerie, Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc pretty much on shuffle all day long. Illustration? I really don't know. It's only recently that I've started bookmarking other illustrators websites and feeling excited about stuff to be honest. I don't know the name of any illustrators or designers off the top of my head and I don't really spend much time thinking about it. But I could name you loads of bands or poets or authors, but I couldn't honestly say that they had influenced my illustration work. Maybe that's why I feel like a bit of a fraud when it comes to illustration. I never trained at it and never really built at it. I really want to produce something meaningful but have to keep producing commercial work to pay my debts. So it goes.

4 - What tools do you normally use for a project from start to finish?

Straightforward stuff - if it's a regular commission then I'll start sketching ideas with pencils, then once a rough is agreed I'll try to do the whole thing properly with pencil, then scan it and do all the lines in Illustrator. This is what takes me ages - I create all my lines with the pen tool in illustrator. I mean I actually make the appearance of an inked line by creating a shape. It takes me a long, long time but I haven't figured out a way of getting a better line yet. I've recently invested in real pen and inks, but I'm still experimenting with them. I bought Corel Painter not too long ago, but I haven't had much time to play with it, so for the time being I'm stuck with the pen tool in Illustrator. From there I copy the 'inked' illustration into Photoshop and usually colour it with shape layers and muck about with transparency, layer effects, etc until I'm happy with the finished thing.

Kelly Dyson Garland Illustration

5 - What has been your favorite project you've worked on, and what has been the hardest?

That's a difficult one to answer. Without a doubt, my favourite and most challenging project has been the most recent album we've just recorded. It's the first time we have worked with a producer - do you know Adem? He's worked with us in the studio and really pushed us to create something that we wouldn't have forced out by ourselves.

As far as illustration is concerned, my favourite projects are self initiated work. When you have a quiet spell as a freelancer you get the opportunity to create work for the hell of it and you feel your work developing from day to day. Then when the work starts coming in again, you are asked to produce illustrations at very short notice to strict deadlines and so you don't get chance to mess around - you have to go with what you know just to get it done on time and to budget. I don't think that commercial commissions are the right place to experiment and have fun. That's until the next quiet spell when you can start playing again :)

6 - How would you say being a designer influences your life? Do you feel you have a different perspective on things around you?

Sometimes. Sometimes you feel really 'tuned in' to what you are doing, you have about five projects on the go and just walking down to the shops you start seeing 'hidden meanings' or messages (that probably don't exist) in advertising boards, juxtaposition of banal objects, poetry in things people say, that kind of stuff and you jot it all down and it feels great and that's what it's all about. On the other hand, most of the time you can be worrying about paying the bills or where the next job is coming from and that puts an abrupt end to creative thinking eh.

Kelly Dyson Polar Bear Illustration

7 - How do you spend your spare time?

I don't seem to have very much of it, but when I do I play with my band, I'm in a mountain rescue team, I like cooking vegan food, drinking in the local pub with friends then staying up all night on the Playstation, I take my dog for a walk, chill out with my girlfriend, run in the Peak District, do a bit of hillwalking, waste hours browsing crap on the internet, that kind of thing. I've recently started drawing in a Moleskine sketchbook for fun.

8 - What are your five favorite sites you visit?

9 - What is the meaning behind the name of you site "don't wake me up"?

It's the name of an album by the Microphones.

10 - Thanks for taking the time to participate. Do you have any last words of inspiration or a favorite quote?

I don't know, there are so many amazing words out there to quote but they wont mean anything out of context and part of the fun is finding them for yourself :)

Kelly Dyson Feral Illustration

Kelly Dyson Sleeping Rabbit Illustration

The commercial side of Kelly's work is more lighthearted and kid friendly.

Kelly Dyson Health Service Journal Illustration

Kelly Dyson Commercial Illustrations

Kelly is also in a band, Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love.

Kelly Dyson Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love

For even more Kelly Dyson: Don't Wake Me Up Kelly Dyson Illustration 20 questions with Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love Official Site

7 daily needs

Between my wife and I it would be fair to say that I enjoy the mornings a lot more. My wife is definitely the night owl. Not me. Maybe it's the four years that the military made me work 12 hour shifts and wake up at 4 am to exercise? Or maybe it's the fact that I have a dog who thinks it's fun to wake me up by stretching his fronts paws right in my face and then rolling all over me until I get up to let him out. But I like to think that the time I have in the morning is worth getting up for. I see it as a new leaf turning over, another chance to right the wrongs and to start fresh. The following activities help me on a day-to-day basis. I hope they help you too.

This doesn't necessarily mean spending an hour on your knees in a solemn state of mind. Maybe you pray in the shower, or before you eat breakfast. I don't know, that's between you and God. But from personal experiences I've found it's impossible to have a heart-to-heart with God when feeling obligated to pray. My best advice is just be real with God and allow your heart to be open.

Some of the most intimate moments I've had in prayer have been when I laid bare all my doubts and fears and allowed The Lord to wash over me with His Word. If you have never prayed out loud, or at all for that matter, I highly recommend you give it a try. Once you start a journey for the Truth, God will find you.

There is a great book called "The Artists Way". It's marketed as a spiritual path to higher creativy. Maybe, like me, you are a creative person and think why do I need a book to help me be creative? From my own experience the book is not meant to teach you how to be creative but to assist you in letting your creativity flow freely.

Writing is something I enjoy, but not something that comes all that easy to me. And keeping a journal is a perfect way to throw out all the rules and express your desires, your opinions or your next great idea for a project. If writing is not your style why not keep a sketchbook or collage book? There are plenty of great resources online and in bookstore that show you how to make your own journals.

Think of it as a way to clear out all the clutter that might be clogging up what you need to be focusing on.

Eating healthier and in moderation helps me feel better about my self. I think it's sad how our modern culture has chosen fast food as a respectable choice for breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It sets the tone for your bodies daily nutritional needs. I'm not saying that we should be stuck in the 50s. Times have changed and it's tough in our fast-paced society to sit down as a family. But even sitting down with a bowl of cereal and some juice will do your body good.

Following suit with eating a good breakfast, it is also important to choose wisely what you drink in the morning. I think most everyone would agree coffee is the "best part of waking up". However, while coffee is a good place to start, as your body actually benefits from caffeine (in moderation), there are other alternatives such as hot tea. Most parts of the world actually drink hot tea instead of coffee. With the vast amount of herbal teas available there would seem to be an extra health benefit from choosing tea over coffee. And lets not forget the classics. Orange juice (complete with 100% Vitamin C), milk (try to stay on the organic side and you're body will love you more) and of course there is always water. I actually find water to be quite refreshing in the morning while my stomach is not ready for something more acidic.

Maybe it's the first thing you do when you wake up, or maybe you wait until later. Whichever time you chose you'll notice you feel healthier throughout the day. My daily workout consist of taking my dogs on a walk. Walking is the perfect way to stay in shape your whole life and is actually the most popular form of exercise in Japan.

In America we live by the creed "bigger is better!" So all you see in fitness magazines are perfectly sculpted, bulky men and women. For me, simple is always better. Why try and kill myself over attaining a body that I neither need nor really want. There are tons of workouts that can be done at home. Pushups, crunches, lunges, squats, chin-ups, stair climbing (works great if you live in apartments), and if you add a core exercise ball or a small set of free weights you can increase the intensity of these basic workouts. I think the best advice I've heard about working out is listen to your body and know what your limits are.

I love to hear what the world sounds like. And where I'm located that includes the sounds of birds, cars passing on a nearby road, dogs barking, lawn mowers and the wonderful sound the wind makes. Most of all I like to listen in between those moments for the silence. Wherever you live, whatever your surroundings, open your ears and explore how amazing it is to be alive.

Another way I enjoy starting my day is turning on a favorite song. If I feel like relaxing I'll turn on some Iron and Wine, or if I'm feeling energetic I'll turn on some Arcade Fire and if I feel like I need to let some steam off I like to listen to Underoath. Whatever your taste in music, find something that suits you.

When God created man He gave him rule over all the earth, but one thing was lacking, a help mate. God saw that it was no good for man to be alone and so he created woman, a perfect fit for him. My intention here is to show that as humans we were designed to live with support in our lives. We were never meant to be solely independent. We all need someone we can talk to, about anything and everything. Sure, keeping a journal is a good place to start, but a journal doesn't talk back. We need people in our lives that will talk straight with us, and tell us when we're screwing things up. We need those relationships in our lives where we can confide in the other person and vice-versa.

For the record I hate "step" programs. That's why I chose not to use a title like "7 daily steps to a better you" or some junk. They never work. I think we are easily drawn to self-help books and articles like that because we want the easy way out. We want to know the answer to everything and how to fix every problem. But that's the beauty of life, we never know what each new day will bring. Every day is another chance to start fresh.