African Drums: the Djembe

“Where I come from we say that rhythm is the soul of life, because the whole universe revolves around rhythm, and when we get out of rhythm, that’s when we get into trouble.”— Babatunde Olatunji

I've always been attracted to and influenced by traditional African art, with it's bold patterns and stylized imagery. That same boldness is also part of traditional African music. And of course the first instrument that comes to mind when considering African music, is the drum.

The goblet-shaped drum, called the djembe, is played with bare hands and produces a wide variety of sounds. It's traditionally been used in the western part of Africa by men (women djembe players are extremely rare) for centuries.

While some African drums were used as a sophisticated means of long distance communication, the djembe's primarily use was in ceremonies and celebrations, in short, to get people moving and to stir their souls.

Here's a clip of the late Babatunde Olatunji, a great Nigerian drummer famous for bringing the traditional style of African percussion to a worldwide audience:

All-American Horror book cover

Here's a recent job that involved designing and illustrating the cover for a soon-to-be-published American horror anthology edited by Mort Castle and published by Wicker Park Press. It's a little different from the more whimsical style I usually work in,  so I was looking forward to taking a crack at it.

The assignment was to do something appropriately creepy but work in the Americana aspect somehow. I came up with up a few sketches, and though I kind of liked the idea of doing a needlepoint sampler with the suggestion of a skull and some macabre folk-art images, it was decided that we should go with something iconic and stark, so we settled on a weathervane topped with a ghostly raven.

It took a couple tries to get the silhouette looking OK, though the skeleton isn't quite accurate, but I was more concerned with an impression than getting the anatomy right and with enough fog, I could cover up the fact that I'm no ornithologist.

It was a fun project and I look forward to the year 2020 and volume two.

2nd "Sweet by Design" book cover proposal

This is my second entry for author Steffan Postaer's contest to come up with a cover design for his latest novel "Sweet by Design" which can be read in its entirety here. There are about sixty entries, many of which are very clever. While I usually don't take part in "crowdsourcing" artwork, I thought the idea of rolling out a book by posting it online chapter by chapter was fun and different and I enjoyed the collaborative nature of the contest.

The book is a mostly light hearted "road trip" story, about a Chicago interior designer who, along with his faux fianceé,  makes a visit to GreenBay, WI for his father's 80th birthday party. It's a fun story with good characters.

Steffan himself has just announced on his blog that he's leaving his post as Chairman & Chief Creative Officer of Euro RSCG Chicago. Best of luck to him in his next venture.

"Sweet by Design" book cover submission

Author and adman Steffan Postaer has found a clever means of introducing his latest novel. He's been posting the entire book, Sweet by Design, chapter by chapter on his website and has invited the public to submit proposed covers which he also posts. The book itself is a great read and many of the cover entries are wonderful. Here's mine. Feedback is welcome, here or on Steffan's site!