Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Amazing Album Covers: Okkervil River & William Schaff

I'd been hearing a lot about this band called Okkervil River. So I picked up their new CD, The Stand Ins, and I have to say I like them quite a bit. They have this very melodic and eclectic sound reminiscent of a lot of bands I've been listening to lately. Go to their site to check out their tunes.

One thing I didn't catch right away, though, was a very special detail about their album covers.

They're not done on a computer. They're not drawn or painted. That's right all my crafty friends out there... THEY'RE EMBROIDERED! How fucking cool it that?!

To top it all off (and to demonstrate how small Rhode Island is), the artist, William Schaff, is a local Providence musician who plays with the What Cheer? Brigade

What a small world...

Friday, September 5, 2008

International Covers and Process: The Gone-Away World

I'm currently reading THE GONE-AWAY WORLD by Nick Harkaway which, might I say, is one hell of a page turner. Here's the description:

There couldn’t be a fire along the Jorgmund Pipe. It was the last thing the world needed. But there it was, burning bright on national television. The Pipe was what kept the Livable Zone safe from the bandits, monsters, and nightmares the Go-Away War had left in its wake. The fire was a very big problem. Enter Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends, the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, a team of master troubleshooters who roll into action when things get particularly hot. They helped build the Pipe. Now they have to preserve it—and save humanity yet again. Equal parts raucous adventure, comic odyssey, geek nirvana, and ultra-cool epic, The Gone-Away World is a story of—among other things—love, pirates, mimes, greed, and ninjas. But it is also the story of a world, not unlike our own, in desperate need of heroes—however unlikely they may seem.

I'm reading the standard version which has this dust jacket:

Pops out at you right?! What's really cool and is not reflected in the photo is that all of the pink areas are actually felted with velvet material. So on top of being bright it's fuzzy too!

However, their is another cover floating around that I believe is the UK version, seen here:

The book has it's own website (which in it's own right is pretty fantastic) and they offer up a link to show the process of designing the UK cover! Well worth the visit.

Anyway, I highly suggest picking this up. It's been one of the better books I've read in a long, long time.

NOTE: Info on the designers from the author himself!

"The Knopf jacket is by Jason Booher. The Heinemann one is by Glenn O'Neill. There's also a painfully sexy limited boxed edition in black and red. I'm fairly sure that one's Glenn, too."

For more background info from Nick Harkaway's mouth to your eyes, check out the comments for this post.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Book 3, Background Info: VOX by Nicholson Baker

VOX is a novella which, in fact, is one long conversation. There are no chapter breaks. There are no separate sections. Just one long phone conversation. And what is this conversation about, you may ask? Ladies and gentlemen... everything you ever wanted to know about phone sex.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Amazing Covers: George Orwell & Shepard Fairey

Check out these very fucking cool new covers of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm as designed by Shepard Fairey:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book 2, Reimagined Art: Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

So, as you may have seen in the last Another Roadside Attraction post, I had a lot of elements I could have worked with for this cover. I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to keep it very simple and create a design that would jump out at you from across the bookstore. So, the two elements I chose to focus on were... hot dogs and Jesus. Didn't expect that now did you?

A little back story: The book is about a hippy couple, John Paul and Amanda, who open up a hot dog stand along the highway in Washington State named "Captain Kendrick's Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve".  At the same time, through a series of misadventures, their friend Plucky Purcell gets wrapped up in a militant Catholic secret society and comes into possession of the corpse of Jesus Christ... which he steals and brings back to the roadside attraction. 

So, in honor of Captain Kendrick's, I started off with a basic picture of a hot dog which I myself took and then ate (the hot dog, not the picture).

Then I imported this picture with an older painting of Jesus on the cross into Adobe Illustrator. 

I traced both photos with VERY bright colors, cleaned them up a bit and removed elements. To top it all off and to make the site a little more sacrilegious, Jesus is now nailed to a giant hot dog.

Throw in a radial gradient background and some wispy, neon-like type and we have a very bright, very offensive cover:

Keep in mind, this is my very first cover exclusively using Adobe Illustrator (so be kind). The floor is now open for comments, questions, suggestions, and critiques.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CHECK IT OUT: Tales of Rocky Point Park

In the vein of classic comics like House of Mystery, Tales from the Crypt, and other early horror comics comes the newest (and, in my case, most local) offering: TALES OF ROCKY POINT PARKIf you're not from Rhode Island or have not seen the wonderful film You Must Be This Tall, let me let Wikipedia tell you about Rocky Point:

The Rocky Point Amusement Park was a highly popular landmark on the Narragansett Bay side of Warwick, Rhode Island. It operated from the late 1840s until its close in 1995. The park filed for bankruptcy a year later in 1996.

Brief enough for you?! Anywho, the short and skinny is that Rocky Point was an old amusement park that gave generations of Rhode Islanders years of enjoyment and fond memories.

Now, comic artist Jason Mayoh brings us the dark underbelly of this joyous place. Each issue starts with actual illustrated history of the park, particularly each individual ride or attraction.  After that,  things get creepy.

Mayoh takes the creepier elements of the actual histories and expounds on them with horrifying results. Issue #1 deals with the House of Horrors and it's awful life-like viking statue. Issue #2 talks about the Skyliner, a tram starting in the heart of the park and leading to a fairly creepy forest on top of a large hill. Oh, and did I mention UNDEAD MONKEYS!
The comic book nerd in me loves the whole  concept of the book but the graphic designer loves the supplementary material. At the end of each issue, Mayoh creates various pieces of "evidence" in the forms of letters and newspaper articles to back up his tales of terror. They're so well done, at first I thought they were real articles!

Anyway, whether your a fan of Rocky Point or love horror stories, PICK THESE COMICS UP! You will not be disappointed. Issues #1 and #2 are available for purchase at their website or local comic shops like The Time Capsule and Wildtime Comics.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fun Design! Totally Offensive!

A little musical play and lyrics book brought to my attention by my good friend, Jason McGill:

Does the fun orange moon background and the beautiful illustration of the woman take a backseat to how offensive this seems? Can you even get into the military if you have a stutter?

Jason suggested that I redesign this. But I have a better idea. I'd like to see how YOU would redesign this. Create a design changing the cover of "K-K-K-Katy" and email it to prettydeadtrees@gmail.com. You won't win anything but you'll get your work posted on Pretty Dead Trees in the near future! 

I Look forward to seeing what you got!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Book 2, Update: Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

So you may have noticed that I've posted book 3 before the reimagining of book 2, Another Roadside Attraction. No, you didn't miss it. I just haven't done it yet!

In my defense, I've hit one of those good problems with this book: too many great ideas. I've been thinking about what I'd like to focus on but keeping it simple. Keep in mind that these were the things discussed in the novel (in no particular order):

- a roadside hot dog stand with 30' X 9' sign -
- a flea circus -
- Jesus -
- a white man who has taken on an African Tribal lifestyle (see animal skins, filed teeth, etc.) -
- a woman who goes into trances and has visions -
- an anthropomorphic baboon -
- mushrooms -
- a black-ops, militant section of the Vatican -
- butterflies -
- a rock n' roll circus -
- a child named Thor with electric blue eyes -
- endangered garter snakes -
- the 60's counter culture -
- etc. -

I think I've finally figured out what direction I'm going to go in and will be working on the cover this weekend. Be sure to check back next week for the update!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book 3, Original Art: VOX by Nicholson Baker

Published by Vintage Contemporaries, Copyright 1993; Original Cover Design by Eric Leonard

"Jim and Abby meet over the phone when they both dial one of those 976 party lines that are advertised in adult magazines. After some exploratory small talk, they retire to the electronic "back room" for a more intimate chat. Baker has written a novel that remaps the territory of sex--solitary and telephonic, lyrical and profane, comfortable and dangerous. Written in the form of a phone conversation between two strangers, Vox is an erotic classic that places the author in the first rank of America's major writers."

Support an Independent Book Store! CLICK HERE to Purchase this Book!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Nightingales of Troy: Great Book Cover

Being that I work for Books on the Square, a independent bookstore in Providence, RI, I get the opportunity to preview and review books before they come out. A current collection of stories I'm reading (that's being released in July 2008) is The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton. While I'll be reviewing the book at a later time and place, I'd love to share the cover with you:

This beautiful cover was created by Kimberly Glyder, a designer out of Philadelphia.

This collection of short stories follows four generations of women (from great grandmother to great granddaughter) and the intriguing stories that connect them all. This cover perfectly reflects each story with the old clip art images on weathered pieces of paper each connected by a subtle dotted line. I also must commend Ms. Glyder on her use of fonts and decorative pieces (especially the adornment emanating from the bird).

I'm really enjoying this book so far. Be sure to check it out when it's released next month.

Support an Independent Book Store!
CLICK HERE to Purchase this Book!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Winnipeg: Great Movie Poster

I absolutely loved Guy Maddin's film The Saddest Music in the World. Now he's coming out with a new movie called My Winnipeg which is described as "a hilariously wacky and profoundly touching goodbye letter to his childhood hometown. " 

I LOVE this poster! I find the muted colors, scratched film and worn corners very appealing. It's like the most screwed up photo in your family album. The unique elements jump out at you. I like the jumper's tropical looking shirt and the look of utter indifference on the older lady's face. I also find it hilarious that Winnipeg is being compared to suicide.

Check out the trailer:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book 2, Background Info: Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

The reason I originally picked up Another Roadside Attraction was the fact that it had to do with… wait for it… roadside attractions! In the novel, a circus/naturalist/mystical/hippie couple open up a hotdog stand in Washington state called “Captain Kendrick's Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve”. The draw to this site is the 30-foot tall hot dog sign on the roof, an endangered garter snake habitat, flea circus, and a certain corpse of a Christian persuasion.

I think I’ve a certain affinity for these slowly disappearing roadside oddities. I could be due to the fact that I’ve grown up with one in my backyard ever since I was little.

The Big Blue Bug is Rhode Island’s strangest and most visible landmark. Directly looking out over I-95, its New England Pest Control’s highly inventive piece of advertising. I don’t think there’s a single person in Rhode Island who doesn’t know the name New England Pest Control because of that giant blue landmark. If you’re ever driving through Providence, RI you can’t miss it.

Some other sites you might also be interested in:

The Thing?, Dragoon Arizona
What is The Thing? Drive out to the middle of nowhere and find out!

Along I-75, it’s the county’s tribute to the peanut.

Clark’s Trading Post, N. Woodstock, NH
My Favorite place in the entire world! Check out the performing bear shows and get chased by the crazed hillbilly “Wolfman” on a scenic train ride… I’m not making this up.

To learn more about roadside attractions near you, be sure to check out Roadside America, the definitive website for those weird little places around the country.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Book 1, Revamped Art: Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

Thanks to the great comments from my friends in the last Pedro Paramo post, I am instituting a new element to PRETTY DEAD TREES: the Revamp! I'll take your suggestions and give it one last go.

It was suggested that the big black title block in the upper lefthand corner took away from the image. After studying it, I had to agree. So I ran with the old photo motif and decided to incorporate an old looking (possibly blood spattered ) label. And here's what came out of that:

I think it looks much better. But what do you think?

Friday, May 16, 2008

House of Mystery #1: Great Comic Cover

DC Comics, Vertigo line (who might I say always has some kick ass covers from the likes of James Jean, Brian Wood, Dave Johnson, etc.) has just released a new comic called House of Mystery with covers by Sam Weber.

From Vertigo: "House of Mystery focuses on five characters trapped in a supernatural bar, trying to solve the mystery of how and why they're imprisoned there. Each one has a terrible past they'd like to forget, and with no books, newspapers or TV allowed in the House, they face an eternity of boredom. But stories become the new currency, and fortunately, the House attracts only the finest storytellers." 

The cool concept with this comic is that the regular writers (Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham) and artists (Luca Rossi and Sean Murphy) work on the "5 people stuck in the house" story while a guest artist comes in every issue and create the guests' tales.

What makes this cover interesting is the unified split image. The ghostly visage of a woman's head pouring out of a dark house definitely hits the mystery nail on the head. But the blood drops surrounded by flies making her eyes creates a sinister air (and perfectly ties in the extremely f***ed up story inside). I also love the vintage font used for the title. I don't know why the T in the middle of Mystery is more ornate than the rest... but I love how it looks.

Check out the covers for #2 & #3:

With great covers and an equally great story concept, I'm definitely making this a monthly purchase.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book 2, Original Art: Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins


Published by Bantam Books, Copyright 1991; Original Cover Design by Les LePere

"What if the Second Coming didn't quite come off as advertised? What if 'the Corpse' on display in that funky roadside zoo is really who they say it is--what does that portent for the future of western civilization? And what if a young clairvoyant named Amanda reestablishes the flea circus as popular entertainment and fertility worship as the principal religious form of our high-tech age? Another Roadside Attraction answers those questions and a lot more. It tells us, for example, what the sixties were truly all about, not by reporting on the psychedelic decade but by recreating it, from the inside out. In the process, this stunningly original seriocomic thriller eating a literary hotdog and eroding the borders of the mind."

Support an Independent Book Store! CLICK HERE to Purchase this Book!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Book 1, Reimagined Art: Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

As a work of magical realism, Pedro Paramo places the "main character" Juan Preciado in a literal ghost town. He is the only living being within the village of Comala and yet he is able to interact with deceased townsfolk. We the readers learn about the seedy history of this small village and the evil deeds of Juan's absentee father, Pedro Paramo, through the stories of the dead.

Thinking of imagery for this novella, my mind had gone to Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration and their skeleton motifs (in decoration and dress). The thing I like about this holiday, in relation to the book, is the belief that it is the one day where the dead can visit the living more easily. 

After a little poking around the web, I came across this wonderful piece from artist Laurie Lipton called "Family Reunion" :

Used by Permission in thanks to Laurie Lipton

Great, huh? What's more perfect for this novella than the dead at a funeral?

I aged the image a little bit, giving it a sepia tone with pops and scratches, mimicking an old photograph.

What made this piece absolutely perfect for my needs was the "hidden" character. If you look real closely at the top of the group, you can see one living person among the dead! I lightened this man ever so slightly to make him subtly stick out from the group.

Putting together all of these elements and borrowing a layout choice from the original cover, I came out with this final version:

My first reimagined cover: Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Again, I would like to graciously thank Laurie Lipton for the use of her artwork.

The floor is now open for comments, questions, suggestions, and critiques.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book 1, Original Art: Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

PEDRO PARAMO by Juan Rulfo
Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

Published by Grove Press, Copyright 1994
Original Cover Design by ???

"Beseeched by his dying mother to locate his father, Pedro Paramo, whom they fled from years ago, Juan Preciado sets out for Comala. Comala is a town alive with whispers and shadows - a place seemingly populated only by memory and hallucinations. Built on the tyranny of the Paramo family, its barren and broken-down streets echo the voices of tormented spirits sharing the secrets of the past. First published to both critical and popular acclaim in 1955, Pedro Paramo represented a distinct break with earlier, largely "realist" novels from Latin America. Rulfo's entrancing mixture of vivid sensory images, violent passions, and inexplicable sorcery - a style that has come to be known as "magical realism" - has exerted a profound influence on subsequent Latin American writers."

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CLICK HERE to Purchase this Book!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You CAN Judge a Book By Its Cover.

As a self-taught designer, my schooling is based on the things I see around me: magazines, advertisements, posters, t-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, television, film, postcards, album covers, theater, and… book covers.

An avid reader, bookshelves have always surrounded me. Books have always been an important part of my life and I wholeheartedly agree (to summarize years and years of literary propaganda) Reading is Good.

I’m currently enrolled in Rhode Island School of Design’s Print Design Process + Production program where I will begin to learn how to take my own design ideas and properly incorporate them into professional looking products. Right now they look like printed-off-the-computer-that-I-got-for-free-with-my-computer products. In other words, a little crappy.

My dream is that I will one day design book covers professionally. Pretty Dead Trees is my foray into this field. By regularly creating new designs and showcasing them for creative criticism, I hope to improve upon my skills.

This is how the project will work:

1) I pick a book to read based off a ridiculous method of page counting and coin flipping.
2) I post a link or picture of that particular edition’s cover and summary of said book.
3) When I finish the book, I create my own cover design and post it here for your comments, questions, praises and ridicule.
4) Interspersed among these designs, I’ll be dropping some interesting links and commentary about various design (and cultural) things you might find interesting.

So there you are, Pretty Dead Trees in a rather large nutshell. Hopefully, this blog will be an interesting record of my progression as a designer and it might even be interesting… hey, anything can happen!

Stay tuned!