Carson Ellis is an illustrator living in Portland, Oregon, most famous for creating album covers for The Decemberists, an indie/folk rock band from where she currently resides. She also illustrates for bestselling books such as The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket, and a new piece of work, Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parry Heide. Other bands she has provided artwork for include Weezer and Beat Circus, but she has mostly been involved with The Decemberists, creating not only album artwork, but also illustrations for their t-shirts, websites, posters, and stage sets.
The album artwork I posted is for Hazards of Love, which tells a story about a woman named Margaret, William, her lover and shape shifter, and his forest queen mother. The illustration is simply the album’s title in a type she created with ink wash and probably watercolors to look like intertwining tree branches, which goes along with the forest story setting. You can read more about the story here.
I think Ellis is a perfect fit as an illustrator for The Decemberists. After learning a bit more about her, I found she is very much drawn to the culture and history of Russia. Coincidentally (or is it?), The Decemberists’ name is a reference to the Russian Decemberist Revolt. Looking through her portfolio, I noticed that a lot of her work incorporates nature and references to history, which is kind of what I immediately think of for a folk band. Her illustrations are simple and elegant, mostly in watercolors, ink, and ink wash, with muted colors. She seems to keep a certain style in the way she draws figures: very innocent looking, creepy, and beautiful at the same time. I also noticed a somewhat consistent style of how she creates settings with an interesting and sort of wonky perspective. None of the lines are really clean cut, so it looks very hand-drawn, and objects in her settings do not seem to sit on one plane of field, creating a subtle uneasiness. This is not me downing her artwork, I think the way she creates settings totally fits a particular and interesting style which I enjoy. In an interview with The Morning News, she stated, “I like things that seem shabby, historical, sort of haunted, vigilante, archetypal but not overused…”
I’ve also posted an example of her book illustration, which she received her first illustration award for. The image is a cover for Dillweed’s Revenge, which is a dark story about a boy named Dillweed, and how he seeks revenge on his parents with the help of magical runes an his only friend, Skorped. The cover art was done in ink and gouache, and she actually created hand-lettering for all the writing in the book.
PS. very sorry about the late post. and my late arrival to class.