When it comes to being creative, most of us settle for a signature talent – say, drawing or juggling or composing dirty limericks. But Sam Beam (aka Iron and Wine) is one of those vexing all-rounders.

Not only did he record The Shephard’s Dog, which has introduced his music to a wider audience and received much acclaim, he’s also responsible for the striking cover art.

“I went to art school, wanting to be a painter,” he says, “and then I got into photography. Then it was movies, and I liked the images. One of the things that interested me in film was that I was communicating in images. That was something I did intuitively and could not even talk about until I started having to do interviews.”

He was content teaching college filmmaking when Sub Pop decided that his music should become much more than a hobby. Beam would go on to successfully escaped the “freak-folk” ghetto as his music matured and became at once more adventurous and accessible. This is the kind of album you can’t put on without someone asking who’s playing.

I really like the dog on the cover. There’s something about the pose that seems to perfectly capture the movement and gestures of a canine. We all love cool album covers but unless we live in a dorm, most of us don’t want them on our wall. But take the (solid) typography off this picture and I’d hang it in a second.

Here’s another painting from the same series:


This is “The Shepherd” that owns the dog. They both have those same creepy yellow round-eyes, probably because most people end up resembling their pets.

And while we’re on the subject, what is it about folk singers painting their own album covers anyway? As a singer, Bob Dylan makes a very good songwriter. As a painter, he makes a very good singer. Here’s the cover from his 10th (and some say worst) studio album, Self Portrait:


Hmmmmmm. Much handier with a paintbrush is serial offender Joni Mitchell:



Alright, art appreciation is over for the day. Time for group discussion – can anyone think of some other examples of musicians painting their own album covers?