Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2015: Desktop Wallpaper Download

Fa la la la la! It's the most wonderful time of the year, and the last month of the year. I can't believe how quickly the year has gone by. It seems just a few months ago I moved to Maine. I love December for all it's holiday cheer, snowflakes (hopefully), giving spirit, pine trees and bright lights. I hope this holiday season brings you much joy, good cheer, health and happiness.

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2015: Desktop Wallpaper Download

Here we are in November already! Sadly, the Long Dark Time is officially upon us with changing of the clocks. Shorter days are here to stay for awhile, but as winter approaches I am still admiring the last of the leaves changing from orange to dusty reds and golden browns. As usual, I love watching the seasons change. And as a side note, some of my favorite people have November birthdays—hurray! I hope you enjoy this month's calendar!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.
A variation of this month's calendar is also available as a print in my Etsy shop.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

October 2015: Desktop Wallpaper Download

Pumpkins and apples and gourds, oh my! October is here and it's decorative gourd season! September raced by and here we find ourselves experiencing all the wonderful things the new season has for us—changing leaves, crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin carving, and of course my personal favorite, candy corn. Don't think I wasn't tempted to make a calendar just filled with candy corn! Enjoy this month's calendar by downloading it below:

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 2015: Desktop Wallpaper Download

 Ah, the dog days of summer are upon us! Most people consider the last day of August the end of summer, but I still maintain that summer happily rolls in to September. The days may be slightly shorter and the nights a bit cooler, but there is still fruit to be picked and gorgeous, warm days to celebrate. I hope you make the most of these final summer days! Enjoy this September calendar:

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Upon Completion of Thirty Songbird Paintings

Yesterday I delivered the last set of 10 final songbird paintings to the publisher of my forthcoming book: Beautiful Songbirds. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the completion of my largest project to date. After 8 months and about 175 hours of work, it feels like I have crossed a monumental finish line.

Some of the many, many sketches used for creating the final paintings
I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to create such a body of work and I can't wait to be able to share the final product with everyone! First, I worked with my editor to choose the 30 birds I would paint, then it was on to photo research, sketches and painting. I love the variety of color and settings these birds represent. It was a challenge to keep each composition lively and unique, while still maintaining a cohesive look throughout all of them.
      I created the paintings in sets of ten, which was good for keeping things manageable, but also a challenge mentally, because each time I completed a set of ten, I would then have to turn around and start all over again on the next set. This isn't to say that it wasn't still an incredibly fun project! I will never tire of the amazing feeling of touching a paint-filled brush to wet paper and watching the color flow magically into place, slowly creating a beautiful scene.

Some of the in progress shots of the bird paintings

These paintings will be paired with inspirational bird quotes and interesting facts about each one. I am designing the book as well, which is an added bonus! I love being able to pair my paintings with typography in a pleasing way - it may be my favorite part about the intersection of illustration and design. The above photos are from instagram. Follow me @zephyr2403 to see more updates and stay tuned for future posts about my book, coming Spring 2016!

A video posted by Ashley P. Halsey (@zephyr2403) on

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Telling Room: Young Emerging Authors Fellowship

This summer I was lucky enough to be involved in The Telling Room's Young Emerging Authors Fellowship as a designer! The Telling Room is a fantastic nonprofit writing center here in Portland that works with kids ages 6 - 18. The Young Emerging Author's Fellowship (YEA) offers a select number of applicants the chance to plan, write, edit, design, and publish their own books in one year.

Because, Why Not Write? cover design and art in progress.

It was exciting to work with the young authors and to explore the many possibilities for the design of their books. Because, Why Not Write? is a non-fiction book written by Cameron Jury. There is a great article in a local publication here, that gives more details about the program and her process. The Presumpscot Baptism of a Jewish Girl is a poetry book by Lizzy Lemieux. I especially love the antique cover art she chose from the New York Public Library's digital image collection. It is such a fantastic resource!

The final products! All four YEA books are in the wagon.

I look forward to working with more young authors in the future! Being at the Telling Room has been a great experience both socially and creatively.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


I thought I would take a moment to share with you what fills my ears during the hundreds of hours I spend painting, drawing and designing.

Growing up, my art teacher always played classical music. I learned to love Debussy, Mozart and Bach, to name a few. In college I was excited by all the different types of music that would fill the studios. There was always some new band to learn about, and my love of music grew. Just after college, I discovered that I often would reach a point in my illustrations where one part of my brain could focus on the painting and the other could listen to an audio book. This was before podcasts were really a thing, and before I had discovered the wonders of NPR. Over the past eight or so years, my listening has grown to include a vast array of podcasts. I find audio books challenging because a book is created to be read, not heard. Podcasts use language and sound in a different way since their original format is made for the ears.

My endless curiosity is fed by the constant flow of new information. I love hearing the stories, both true and make believe that I listen to. They make me think about new and different things and indirectly influence my work. I'm always searching for more! Below are some of my favorite podcasts:

99% Invisible
This American Life
The Moth
Planet Money
Freakonomics Radio
Death, Sex & Money
StartUp Podcast
The Longest Shortest Time

And last, take a listen to episode 167: Voices in the Wire from 99% Invisible to truly understand the novelty and power of broadcast sound.

Friday, July 31, 2015

August 2015: Desktop Wallpaper Download

  . . . Annnd we're back! I am rather disappointed that I wasn't able to complete a July calendar, but at least I've managed to squeeze August in on time! August is a special month. It reminds me of December, where there's a lot of parties and not a lot of work being done. It's a month that's good for campfires, swimming, picking peaches, watching the moon rise and the fireflies come out. I hope you have a beautiful month!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

June 2015: Desktop Wallpaper Download

 At long last, here is June's desktop calendar! Sorry for the delay - things have been pretty busy and I fell behind. But at least there's strawberries! I have been daydreaming about all the strawberries I'm going to pick in Maine and all the things I'm going to make with them including strawberry jam and strawberry rhubarb pie! Enjoy!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

May 2015: Downloadable Desktop Wallpaper

Happy May! This month's calendar is inspired by the tiny seedlings that are sprouting in a pot in my kitchen! I love seeing everything appearing after the long winter. Each day we get a little more sunlight and a little more greenery. Click below to download your wallpaper calendar. Enjoy!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moving (again)

Don't worry! I didn't move to a new city or state, just to a new, and better, apartment in Portland. Moving is truly a double edged sword. On the one hand, I hate pulling all my stuff apart and fitting it in boxes, on the other hand, it's great to be forced to take stock of what I actually own and it's even more worth it when the place you move to is better than the last! I'm so excited to be in a larger place that has, wait for it, a washer and dryer!! That is unheard of in New York. Of course, what I am truly in disbelief over is the fact that I now have a studio in a separate room! I have dreamed of having a studio space since I graduated from college and at last the dream is a reality. I had a great time deciding what would go on the wall.

I won't go into all the boring details of our move, but I will say that I do not want to visit Ikea again for a very, very long time. We spent too many hours building things over the past few weeks, but I'm so pleased with the results. We were also lucky enough to get some furniture from my parents. I love painting furniture, so the task of washing, sanding and painting two old bookshelves was very satisfying. Below is my Flipagram of the process of rejuvenating one of the bookshelves that was in my dad's childhood bedroom.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 2015: Downloadable Desktop Wallpaper

I'm in shock that a month has flown by already! However, with the longer hours of daylight and the slightly warmer temperatures, I'm not complaining. For April's calendar I chose tree branches that show just a hint of the first leaves coming out. Arbor Day (4/24) and Earth Day (4/22) are both celebrated in April. I love trees, and one of my favorite times of year is when all the leaves are coming out and there is an electric green everywhere that is so bright and wonderful I could never paint it. It signifies new life and a new season! Enjoy the digital decorations you can download below:

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 2015: Downloadable Desktop Wallpaper

Despite all the piles and piles of snow outside, we all know Spring will make it's appearance eventually! Believe it or not, Friday, March 20th is the first day of spring. Daffodils are my favorite flowers and it just so happens they are the birth flower of March. Enjoy the digital decorations you can download below and the beginning of spring!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

My First Winter in Maine

My how time flies! I've already been living in Portland for four months now. I'll admit that during the first couple months between painting during the day and traveling for holidays I felt a little like I was on vacation from New York. However, once I got back to Maine after New Year's and experienced a real Maine blizzard I came more to terms with the move I had made. Luckily I do generally like winter and love snow, so my first Maine winter hasn't been too bad. However, considering this is almost the coldest and snowiest winter on record here, I think I am allowed to complain about the weather from time to time.

Above are a selection of my favorite instagram photos from the past couple months. Even though wearing my Bean boots every day along with a giant coat, hat, gloves, scarf and long underwear gets tiring, when I've had the chance to do a little winter exploring up here it's been beautiful. My boyfriend and I tried cross-country skiing (him for the first time, me for the first time in 17 years), which was fun, and we also went to Sleigh Day at a local farm and got to take a sleigh ride, which was a first time experience for both of us. I'm still looking forward to trying snow-shoeing too!

As far as working goes, learning to balance the freelance lifestyle is a new challenge. I enjoy it, but obviously, as with any kind of self-employment there are uncertainties that differ from having a full-time job. So far, I love the freedom of being my own boss and finally being able to pursue ideas I have during the day, rather than at night and on the weekends. On the other hand, it's sometimes tough to decide what is a priority when there is no specific deadline for a self-imposed project. In any case, I'm looking forward to seeing what this year has in store. If you're curious to know more about my thoughts on being a self-employed artist you can check out this interview I did for Work Your Art.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 2015: Downloadable Desktop Wallpaper

February 2015 Downloadable desktop Calendar © Ashley P. Halsey

February 2015 Downloadable mobile Calendar © Ashley P. Halsey

Naturally, my February calendar download is Valentine's Day themed, but really that's because for me Valentine's Day is an excellent excuse to eat chocolate and conversation hearts in the somewhat bleak month of February. The teapot and teacup also make me think of winter and how I enjoy sharing hot drinks with friends. Click the links below to download. Enjoy!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Swoon Reads Cover Drafts

When I worked at Macmillan Children's books I was helping to design covers and interiors for Swoon Reads, a new crowd sourcing YA romance imprint. You can read about the process of designing the interior of a book in the blog post I did for Swoon Reads: Pulling Back the Curtains: Interior Design. Now that I'm freelancing for them I thought I would take a minute to post some old cover comps I worked out while at Macmillan. Some of these appeared on the Swoon Reads website during the voting process, but none were chosen. However, I think the process of designing a book cover is an interesting one, and I wanted to share a little of what I had in my archives.

The first manuscript to be chosen and printed by Swoon Reads was A Little Something Different. I was experimenting with different fonts and images with this one. I loved the black and white pencil sketch of the boy and the girl (you can see the original art by Genevieve Santos here), but it was ultimately decided that they looked too young and were replaced with the older couple you see on the left.

I really enjoyed reading the manuscript for Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, and as a result had a number of ideas about the tone and feel of the cover. I wanted it to be fun and playful and show the idea of a town that believes in love while playing with the idea of the physical fortune that people receive.

For Velvet, I found a number of really atmospheric photos that inspired me to go for a look that would convey the mystery and fantasy I found in the manuscript. I especially loved the light in these images and I enjoyed choosing some elegant fonts to go with them.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January 2015: Downloadable Desktop Wallpaper

This year I've decided to create a free downloadable desktop calendar each month. This one is coming a little late as I was caught up in New Year's celebrations and such, but I promise February's will be more on time! I've also created a version for smartphones. Click the links below to download. Enjoy!

Download the desktop and laptop version HERE.
Download the smartphone version HERE.

These are for personal use only. All illustrations © Ashley P. Halsey 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Year in Review

2014 was quite the year and I can't believe 2015 is already here! I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the past year and consider all the changes, accomplishments and beautiful moments that 2014 brought. Above are nine photos that I think best represent my year. Below are my thoughts (following the photos left to right, top to bottom):
  1. The Sketchbook Project: The year started off with me racing to finish my sketchbook by the deadline. Little did I know that my theme of hand lettered quotes related to Carpe Diem would prove to play such an important part in the forthcoming year. I just ordered my next sketchbook —I can't wait to fill it up!
  2. Cross-country road trip: My boyfriend and I were called into action when my aunt, who was moving from Sacramento, CA to Stonington, CT needed help getting her car across the country. We spent 11 days and over 3,000 miles driving from Sacramento to Pasadena to Tuscon, AZ to Fort Stockton, TX to Houston, to New Orleans, LA to Montgomery, AL to Atlanta, GA to Roanoke, VA to Scotch Plains, NJ and finally to CT! It was exhausting and fantastic!
  3. 5k at the Bronx Zoo: At long last I finally completed my first 5k, and at the Bronx Zoo none-the-less! The race is called Run for the Wild and proceeds went to help protect elephants.
  4. Manhattanhenge: In case you don't know - this phenomenon is when, twice a year the sun sets directly in line with the Manhattan grid. A friend and I got tickets to the American Museum of Natural History event where you learn about how and why this occurs, and then we went outside and watched! The best part was that at the same time the sun was setting a huge full moon was rising directly behind us on the grid too! It was an incredible event to witness.
  5. Whale watching: While I had been on a whale watch once before, this whale watching trip off the coast of Plymouth, MA was spectacular. Not only did we see MANY humpback whales up close and far away, we saw a full breach! I am still in shock that we were lucky enough to witness that!
  6. Leaving MacKids: My boyfriend got a job in Portland, Maine and moved there in March. After doing long distance for 6 months I decided it was time to take the leap and join him. Unfortunately, that meant leaving a job and co-workers I loved. It was a fantastic three years! I learned so much and I am so lucky to have had the chance to be a part of the MacKids team.
  7. Moving to Maine: Onward and geographically upward! In October I packed up my things, bought a couch, and off we went in a Uhaul to Portland. It was sad to say good-bye to my neighborhood that I cherished for all 6+ years I lived in Brooklyn and my wonderful room mate and friend of 4 years.
  8. A new life in Portland: Despite having to leave so many wonderful people and places behind in New York, I was and am equally excited about starting a new chapter in Maine. I did not plan to move to Portland, and wouldn't have predicted I would end up here, but I think it was just the right time for a change. I always knew New York wasn't forever, but getting to live my 20s in such an amazing city was absolutely the best. So far, working for myself is going well, and I love the variety of work I'm getting to do. I can't wait to see what 2015 brings!
  9. Turning 30: Being 30 seems like the right place to be. It's not too old, it's not too young. It's an age where you can call yourself an adult with certainty, own who you are, and not worry about what others think of you. I know my fourth decade will undoubtedly bring more changes, and I welcome them.