Canine Skull Scratchboard

For Christmas I try to do at least one homemade item each year. Cameron, my husband, is fascinated by animal skulls. This sounds morbid until you know that he has a degree in zoology and is preparing to teach Biology. He loves the structure, how everything all fits together, the teeth, all of it. With that in mind, for 2014 I wanted my homemade gift to have something to do with skulls. While looking through ideas one day I happened on an incredible scratchboard of a canine skull by Lori Dunn.

Canine Skull by Lori Dunn

The detail is amazing. I don’t know what possessed me, but after looking at it for a while I thought, “I can do that!” I studied how she did the crosshatching lines, the shading, the texture, and jumped in.

It didn’t take me long once I actually got scratching until I realized my ego had gotten the better of me. This was way more detailed and skilled than I am currently at. I got frustrated and put it away. Finally, Christmas was approaching and I decided to pull it back out and keep working on it. I got it done just in time for Christmas.

I didn’t know if I was going to give it to him. When I compared it to the original, I just laughed. I wanted it to look like the original, with the careful detail, the texture of the bone apparent, and everything just right. I nearly didn’t give it to him, but decided to wrap it up anyway.

He loved it. He turned it around for the others to see and I swear it wasn’t the same scratchboard. It did look okay! I was even proud of it!

Marquette LaRee Canine Skull Scratchboard

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve thought about that quote a number of times when I see my version of the scratchboard. I worked hard. This wasn’t an easy project. My lines aren’t as delicate, my details as refined, or my shading as subtle, but I accomplished something. I learned. I grew. I found a way to express creativity. I was letting my comparison of the two scratchboards rob me of my joy in the creative process and in the joy of gift giving.

Comparison doesn’t have to always tear down, it can build. Whatever we look for, we find. If we truly look for the positive, we will find it. That may be positive traits in others, things to be happy about with a finished project, life circumstances, or even finding the silver lining in a rough day. If we are looking for the negative, we will find that. Character flaws in others, places in projects where we didn’t match up to the ideal, gloominess in life.

I knew this scratchboard was a gift for Cameron, but I’ve found since Christmas that it has been a sort of gift for me as well. I think about Roosevelt’s quote when I see it and how I will find what I am looking for. It reminds me that I want to find good in the world and in life, but I’m not going to find it by focusing on the negative.

Rob’s Top 5 Gig Photos

I was chatting the other day with a work colleague. I found out that they were really into going to see bands and taking photos. She’s already booked 13 gigs for the year and planned out her holidays around them, now that’s dedication.

So I set a challenge to pick out her top five pics and I would do the same. So I thought I would share my choice with you.

01_BellX1_1Paul Noonan | BellX1 | Dublin 2006
03_Jon_SwitchfootJon Foreman | Switchfoot | Derby 2007
04_Dan_James_StarlingDan James | Starling | London 2010
Danny6_The_ScriptDanny O’Donoghue | The Script | Leeds 2010
02_IgniteUnknown | Ignite 2005

And of course I couldn’t leave it at that.
So here are a few others I like!

Steve1Steve | Dublin 2005
The_CoopersDavid Chatziliadis | The Coopers | Leeds 2011
05_Danny4_The_ScriptDanny O’Donoghue | The Script | Leeds 2010
BellX1_2BellX1 | Dublin 2006

Speak, Brother

One of the nicest things about running Creative Kingdom is that from time to time we get to hear previews of songs before anyone else does. It makes us feel very special!

Especially when the music involved causes involuntary head bobbing, goosebumps and even a couple moments of tears-welling-up. Which is exactly what happened when I got to listen to the preview of the self-titled EP by Speak, Brother.

Speak, Brother, is an indie folk trio made up of James, Matt and Nath, and before I tie myself in knots trying to explain to you exactly what their music sounds like, why don’t you checkout the video of their single; Dry Bones here and see for yourself.

Speak, Brother


OK have you recovered from that beauty?

I have no idea how these three guys create such a full sound but it is incredible!

I have been playing their upcoming EP on a loop for the last few days. I know music appeals to people for different reason; some are looking for a certain sound, others like songs that link them to memories, but for me, I love songs that tell me a story.

This might be the reason why I have fallen for Speak, Brother. Their music is full of stories told with passion, authenticity and catchy melodies that you find yourself humming throughout the day.

Whilst Dry Bones is undoubtedly the showstopper, (and is available to download now!) my personal favourite track on the EP is ‘Two Bands of Gold’, it is a beautiful piece; romantic, timeless and triumphant.

I will stop gushing shortly and give you the more practical details of how you can get your hands on this EP but before I do I must just say that vocals here are incredible; full of harmonies, soothing calm one minute, rousing you to get up and do a little dance the next!!

I have a strong suspicion that this will be a band worth seeing live and if after hearing their single, you agree, you can see details of upcoming gigs here.

The Speak, Brother EP is launching on Monday 3rd November and will be available to download on itunes, amazon mp3 and the Speak, Brother website.

Speak Brother Happy Street

With Us

We all know what it’s like to feel black and blue – battered by life, beaten up and bruised by stuff that we go through along our journey of faith. Sometimes we feel like we’re on our knees and that God is no-where to be found. But He always comes through for us, and, whether we feel Him near or not, He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

Below I share two videos. The first video is of some powerful testimonies of friends who have gone through tough times recently, but who have come through with massive stories of God’s faithfulness.

The second video is our music video with a spontaneous time of free worship at the end. The track was recorded live at our pad in London, with a make-shift PA, but we trust that it’ll be a blessing for some struggling in their own black and blue times. We’ve gotta be better as church at walking through very tough stuff together and having songs not just of victory and faith-filled declaration but also of lament to enable us to boldly come before our Daddy God together, Who wants to know how we’re really doing.

My prayer for you watching this is that you would know the presence of Jesus with you wherever you’re currently at, whether mountain or valley, and that faith would arise in your heart that the very real, living and all-powerful Comforter is with you as you listen and sing your own new song.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-5




Original articles: With Us Live & With Us: Oikos (Behind the Scenes at Home)

The Fear of the Lord

In October 2006 I was renting a small attic room in Bradford West Yorkshire after finishing a degree in Leeds. Out of my skylight I looked out over a typical view over the industrial city chimneys. Wondering what to do, I decided to pick up the pencils again (after a long drawing pause since school!) Drawing something would certainly help pass the time in the winter months and something that would take my mind off of the city smog and noise! Being a lover of the great outdoors and to help take my mind away from the city I decided to draw an Eagle. Back home in North Wales growing up I used to enjoy taking to binoculars out to watch the Buzzards circling high above the woods, so a bird of prey like an eagle would do!


I began an A5 sized drawing and was making progress and about half way through the drawing I thought I wonder if I can give it as a Christmas present to someone! (I was pretty short on cash at the time and Christmas was quickly coming so a quickly drawn gift would suffice!) Who can this be for? I made a point of not telling anyone about the drawing, as I wanted it to be a surprise for someone.

A few days later I had a call from my Dad back in Wales, who asked me to come home for the night as they had a special guest staying with them, an old family friend. And apparently he wanted to meet me. I drove home after work that evening and met our guest, he was an older gentleman in his eighty’s and there was something different about him. We sat around the dinner table and later on during our fun conversation this man eyeballed me with a knowing look and a twinkle in his eye, and said “You’re drawing an Eagle!” Totally dumbfounded and shocked I was taken back as I had not told anyone about this, how could he have known I was drawing an Eagle? Yet almost instantly after he said this I surprised myself with a sudden statement “I know who I am giving the Eagle to now!” He laughed, I laughed, and then others around the table laughed! Drawn into a longer discussion with this gentleman I found he was indeed a man of God who had had over 45 years of experience in ministry. I was completely engaged and amazed by his exciting stories of ministry throughout his life so I questioned him more.


I also found myself on the receiving end of many personal corrections as this man had an uncanny way of identifying and picking out un-confessed things I had done in the past! But again how did he know these things? These were hidden secrets! By the end of the evening taking myself to bed I felt challenged and inspired, I didn’t sleep much but decided to do two things. The first was to finally and fully rededicate my own life back to the Lord as I had once known Him years earlier, yet had since drifted away from Him. The second thing was to restart the drawing of the Eagle and make it larger and more detailed, and then to give it as a gift to this man as a thank you to him for helping to re-direct my life back to God. Furthermore after these decisions I had a great and renewed sense of the Fear of the Lord. God had personally chosen to speak through this man to me. The Lord revealed Himself to me as very real, very close and very personal, He had been with me knowing all these things about me all of my life. I began to really feel a very tangible, very Holy and fearful presence of God, suddenly He was real to me, and I knew that He knew me.


Returning the next day to my attic amongst the chimneys in Bradford I scrapped the A5 drawing and began afresh on an A2 sized drawing. I tried to collect as many bird feathers as I could for observation. One day I was driving past the Yorkshire Falconry Centre and quickly pulled in on the off chance of possibly getting a few feathers to help with the drawing. I explained about the drawing to the manager and he allowed me into a £180 ‘Eagle Day Experience’ for free and a walk around the birds cages to collect as many feathers as I wanted! Following this amongst the business of life I tried to take every opportunity to draw some more of the eagle sometimes I would only get one feather a week done, yet at other times I managed to get time to complete large sections of the bird in a weekend. As I drew there was always an ease to pray even very late into the night as I slowly took the time over detailing each feather. At that time the Lord highlighted to me many encouraging scriptures that taught on the Fear of the Lord. And so it is named “The Fear of the Lord.”


By November 2007 eleven months later the drawing was complete and after framing it I took it to the man in the south of England and gave it as a present. The first thing he said when looking at it was; “A lot of prayer has gone into this!” We had a very blessed and memorable time together. Since then we have remained in contact and met many times.

I will never forget drawing this Eagle as it is intertwined in part into my personal testimony and a little look into a time where God helped me return to Him and to Fear Him. I pray that it may also be a reminder to you to renew your sense of the Fear of the Lord.

God Bless

Jonny Thelwell

Fall into me

It’s a well known fact amongst those who know me best that I’m a bit of a “space cadet” at times; which is often the perfect setting for a songwriter. You need to see the world differently, give yourself chance to read between the lines and quieten yourself in order to hear things other miss.

However the time always comes when you need to pop that thought bubble, exit the dream and begin working hard to build what you’ve been imagining.

Although the ideas for “Fall into Me” were born in a flurry of emotion and lines upon lines of verse; it was actually written around a solid songwriting structure.

It is over a year ago that I joined Taxi Music, an A&R company based in the US and began writing music to brief. It gave me the chance to pitch my music for commercial use and get useful, constructive feedback from industry professionals on how to improve. The whole experience has made me a better, more honest songwriter. It has taught me to be tough, critical of my work in the best sense and to deal with rejection with dignity.


The brief for Fall into Me was essentially this: “A Major Record Label is looking for SINGER/SONGWRITER SONGS to be re-recorded and released by one of their TOP FEMALE ARTISTS. “

They requested that the song be in the stylistic ballpark of the following artist: Lana Del Ray, Sia & First Aid Kit. They wanted dark, moody minor chords, a down tempo feel and a stirring, soaring melody.

This gave me a set of keywords to use as a guide in my songwriting session: singer/songwriter, moody, dark, minor chords, down tempo, stirring, soaring melody, Lana Del Ray, Sia, First Aid Kit.

These were my parameters, and what the client was looking for.

Give yourself limits
Which brings me to my first point. Surprisingly, it’s a good exercise to give yourself restrictions and limits which sounds like a contradiction to the creative soul. However, it is good practise to give yourself keywords to work with. If you set out to write a song in the style of Lana Del Ray, then it will only distract you to look at the work of Jay Z. They are polar opposites and will only water down your songwriting efforts.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’ve end up with a kick-ass reggae dance anthem, the client stated what they wanted, and reggae wasn’t on the list.

It was in this narrowing that I found flexibility and room to mould my ideas. Where I thought I would find restriction, I found freedom. I could discount certain ideas and styles; when forced not to go off on a tangent it freed me up to focus on what was in front of me.

With the parameters in place, it’s time to research and review. You might have a few existing ideas; a melody line, hook, rhythm or lyric. It’s time to build around those ideas by what is essentially “Pinterest for song ideas”. The client gave three artists to reference, so it’s was time to hit YouTube and make notes of the similarities in the three tracks.

Using the keywords, I made note of similar chord progressions, instrumentation, harmony and form. This helped me build around my existing ideas.

Make yourself an oasis
First of all get yourself centred. Find yourself a good, tidy creative space with no distractions. Do everything you can to make yourself as comfortable and confident as you can! Whether that’s a slick of lipstick or looking at your previous work that you’re proud. I have a friend who loves to light candles to get themselves focussed; do all you can to get confident.

Get yourself a cup of tea, plenty of paper, your instrument of choice and a method of recording.

Know your Audience
If you are writing for yourself, locate the best parts of your voice, remembering to reserve the higher, more “sparkly” notes for the chorus and bridge. This will help give the piece momentum. If you’re writing for others then be aware of vocal ranges and whether the piece of music is a stand alone piece or congregational.

Once I’ve figured this out, I sit down and start playing around with some ideas.

Blue Micraphone

Record Everything
You don’t need to have a sophisticated piece of equipment at this stage; your mobile phone, a dictaphone or laptop will do just fine. Make sure you make notes of the key you’re in, the chords and if you read music notate everything.

I’ve learnt the hard way in this regard. You’ll come back to your work the next day, draw a blank on that great idea and panic! What was the key again? I had a KILLER hook and now it’s gone!

Save yourself the self-deprecation and write it down!

Don’t let fear hold you back
Write as often as you can and remember inspiration can strike at any point. Sit at your piano for hours and just enjoy playing. Scribble lyrics on napkins, keep your eyes open and go experience the world live your life! After all, how can you write about what you don’t know.

When it comes to songwriting, it is fear that holds us back the most. It’s a personal and exposing art; your insecurities will try to bait you at every turn. I’ve had and still struggle with these emotions. Do not give in or stop trying.

Remember; this is a skill like any other where only experience, practise and putting yourself out there will make you a better songwriter. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.

Develop a tough skin; not everyone will get you or like you’re music. But as long as you are working hard and writing music that you are proud of first, and for accolades second, then you are on the right track to creating the right track.