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.