Author Archives: annekostecki

2015: A New Year

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I’ve seen quite a number of blog posts about the new year, and what people plan on doing with it. I’ve read a few, and a lot of them are more of the same: achieve some small business goals, “focus, balance, breathe…,” spend more time following a new passion or any number of vaguely positive things. I usually don’t really participate in new year’s resolutions because I don’t like waiting until an event, like January 1st, to come around before I decide to make a change. If I want to make a change or a goal, I usually prefer to make a plan immediately, because I lack patience and I often busy myself with work at any time of the day. I also don’t like feeling like I’m jumping on some productivity bandwagon that may be destined to fail, because more often than not, resolutions are forgotten or given up by February. I want goals that stick!

But after reading a few posts on resolutions, goals, and ways to keep up motivation throughout the year, I decided to think about the things I am hoping to achieve. I love writing down my to do list and crossing things off, so I am hoping to apply this behavior to achieve some greater goals this year. More than anything, I want to grow my freelance business and expand my portfolio. This is always my top goal, even if I feel like I am failing at it from time to time. I know I have the time to devote to this goal, it’s just the everyday things that I tend to use as excuses to procrastinate that seem to “get in the way.” I spend a lot of time doing lots of little things. I tend to sign up for extra responsibilities when I really shouldn’t (don’t we all do this as modern women? I feel like we are expected to do everything all the time. But that’s another conversation). So I have lots of little goals that I’m hoping all tie together into one “resolution.” Here they are:

1. Draw or illustrate something at least once every other day!
I miss just drawing or sketching for fun. It’s a great way to relax, practice, and figure out my style. I rarely do this anymore, and instead fill my day with reading articles or wasting time online. I want to prioritize drawing time and drastically reduce aimless internet time!

2. Be featured on a big design blog at least once this year.
I submit all of my latest work, even if I’m not proud of it, to different design blogs hoping I will be featured. I want to get the word out there about my work more. The first step to this is, of course, creating better work to submit! And that begins with drawing more, and creating more personal work. A lot of my recent work is not “feature worthy,” unfortunately, and I want that to change. I need to push myself creatively, even if I have work that is extremely limited and may not be something I am proud of.

3. Practice Spanish at least once a week.
My husband and I are most likely going to Spain in March, and I would love to be more conversational in Spanish. I am rusty at best, and I know learning a new language would be fun and something I can add to my resume. Win!

4. Start that (other) blog I have been meaning to…
I have been meaning to start a certain blog for quite some time now. I have a lot of interest and passion in this area, but I haven’t quite nailed down all of the details of the blog. Specifically, I need a good name for it! I have been wracking my brains for months to no avail. Once I have the name, I will unveil the blog and you all will be the first to know!

I have other resolutions, but I don’t know if it’s realistic for me to keep going. If I’m doing good on these goals, I may add later goals later in the year. This may be crazy, but what’s life without a little crazy?

-A.K.

Holiday Card Wrap-Up 2014

I know, I know: I am way late in the game on this! I can promise you I meant to post this on December 19th, before I left for the holiday break. I even had all of my photos edited and ready to go. But holiday madness being what it is, I just did not get this post ready in time. So here I am, on January 6th, posting about my two holiday cards I designed for the year. Please enjoy them anyway! I am hoping with the new year I will become more organized and keep this blog going at least on a semi weekly basis.

My first client card of the season was for my dear friend Heather Yeager. Instead of sending out birth announcements in the fall and then a separate holiday card right after, she decided she wanted a birth announcement/holiday card combination. I thought it was a great idea, because I had seen some very adorable cards like this and was excited by the opportunity to design something new. Heather is a talented photographer, and provided me with the photo of her newborn baby Penelope to use for the card. I designed the baby’s full name in calligraphy, and then decided to add snowflakes and “my first noel” to signal that this was a birth announcement as well as a holiday card. To match the baby clothing, I used unexpected, yet feminine pinks and purples. She was delighted with the result!

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For my holiday card, I knew I wanted to do some hand lettering, but I really didn’t have any other ideas for a while. I wanted to include a photo of my husband and I from our trip to Europe this summer, but I did not necessarily want an overly European holiday card. I chose a photo we took at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, Austria, because it had incredible lighting at the interior of the building was stunning. From there, I designed a thick, festive “season’s greetings” lettering motif, and decided to add checkered snowflakes to the edges of the card. I was very happy with the result, but this reminded me that I need to keep working on my hand lettering technique. I also seem to run out of time to actually finesse the curves in Adobe Illustrator. And, me being me, I took on the extra task of doing red ink calligraphy for each and every envelope. The result was beautiful, but there were definitely some late nights furious cleaning my calligraphy pens so that I could go to bed!

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This is going to be a more organized year for me. I’ve got my resolution(s) set, and I will be posting about them hopefully later this week! Thanks for looking and I wish you a happy, healthy, and harmonious new year!

-A.K.

Tis’ The Season: John Early Society Christmas Party Invitation

It’s getting to be the happiest time of year! I’m just starting to get into the holiday spirit now that it’s December. This project included a save the date card and invitation suite for the John Early Society, a donation organization for Loyola University Maryland. We began the project in August, with a goal of mailing the invitation in October.

My client asked to have a “traditional Christmas” feel, with a festive wreath or ornament. I sketched 3 different types of wreaths: an ornament wreath, a citrus fruit and leaf wreath, and a pine and holly wreath. My client selected the pine and holly wreath, and requested that the ribbon include Loyola’s logo. I painted the wreath in watercolor, and digitally added the logo, so that the integrity of the typography would remain intact. The client loved the wreath, and we agreed to have a close up of the ribbon on the save the date, and wait to reveal the full wreath on the invitation. The save the date turned out beautifully.

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For the invitation, we still had extra green square envelopes in stock to use, so the invitation itself needed to be square. However, I did not realize that the RSVP card and envelope needed to remain a rectangle, so that our audience would not be expected to know and add the additional $0.21 in postage. Thankfully, the RSVP card fit well inside the square invite, so there was not an issue with fit; but sadly the whole suite could not be square. To add an extra layer of prestige, we decided to print the invitations on metallic Stardream Crystal paper. The result was stunning and eye-catching. The suite includes a square folded invitation, an RSVP card and envelope, and a square enclosure envelope. The save the date was printed digitally on Mohawk Superfine UltraWhite Smooth, and the envelope was Mohawk BriteHue green.

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These types of projects are my favorites because of all of the wonderful details and possibilities. And, I was lucky enough to illustrate a portion of the invitation. In fact, my illustration caught the attention of another coworker of mine, who asked for me to design and execute chalkboard lettering for an upcoming event. I’ll be sure to include that project for next time!

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-A.K.

Work in Progress: Flora Series

Hello! I’m going to give you a brief sneak peek at a new watercolor series I am currently working on. I have been working on this for a very long time, but just have not been able to set aside the time to finish it. Originally, I wanted to make a series of watercolor paintings of 8 popular flowers, each with a caption including the Latin binomial name and the flower’s associations and meanings. I chose my 8 flowers, gathered some research, and began sketching.

My process includes a light pencil sketch of the flower. I look for balance in my compositions, so I look for a good mix of smaller and larger flowers. I also wanted each sketch to be self contained, so the bouquet had to have a clear cut near the bottom of the stem. I try to include a bud and a fully opened flower in each, to show the stages of the flower’s life.

Rose ink drawing

Rose ink drawing

After pencil sketching, I draw over the lines with a .01 in Micron waterproof ink pen. I try to be very careful at this stage, because one tiny twitch can make a big mistake. After inking, I erase all pencil lines. Then, I scan the inked drawing in, just in case the watercolor stage does not go as planned!

After the initial scan, I begin painting. I like to begin with the stems and leaves. Then, I begin to paint the flower petals. I specifically chose a variety of colors for this series, to have an interplay of warm and cool colors. After I am satisfied with the painting, I scan it in again. I don’t like to depend on the computer for help, but if I’ve made a gross mistake (like my paintbrush spits up a bubble of water and streaks paint far outside of the lines), I’ll go into Photoshop to correct it.

This painting is more of an "add-on" to the series, since it is not a standalone flower, but a collection of desert plants.

This painting is more of an “add-on” to the series, since it is not a standalone flower, but a collection of desert plants.

Currently, I have all of my paintings complete, and now I just need to do the calligraphy. This stage may take a fair amount of time, because I need to actually write the passages that go underneath the flowers! I’m hoping to get a good head start on this before Halloween, because I’ll be starting another graduate school class and I’ll have even less time to work on this. I’m really enjoying this series, and if all goes well, I may start another different series!

-A.K.

Colorful World Travel Wedding Suite

Hello! I have always said I love to do unusual, unique projects, and today I have a good one. I have for you a wedding suite that was inspired by travel, bright color, and modern style. Marrying many design ideas together can be tough, but the result was truly unique and beloved by the couple and the wedding attendants.

When two of my friends became engaged, I was so thrilled with the opportunity to design wedding stationery and signage. This project consisted of guestbook signs, menu card, program, table cards, thank you cards, and a welcome sign. The palette consisted of saturated violet, orange and teal, with clean sans-serif typefaces. The bride had a world map outlined in colorful paint splatter, and wanted to incorporate that visual style into the travel-themed wedding. I designed signage (not pictured) that included a “Come Travel The World With Us!” sign encouraging guests to sign a guestbook, a small instructional sign guiding guests to pin where they had traveled from, and a “Choose a seat, not a side…” chalkboard style sign. The thank you cards featured “thank you” in different languages, and the table cards featured illustrated landmarks from cities that the couple had traveled to. The menu card, program, and escort cards all continued the colorful travel theme, with hints of the paint splatter and hearts inscribed with continents.

The thank you cards, programs, escort cards, and menu cards were printed digitally on Cougar White Opaque #70; and the table cards on Cougar White Opaque #100 cover. The signs were printed on canvas, vinyl, and Cougar White Opaque paper.

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I’ll add photos of the signage if I can get it. The biggest challenge was definitely the table cards: finding and creating notable skylines from cities of all sizes was difficult, but I managed to create vectors out of whatever imagery was available. It was a bit of challenge finding different typefaces to represent “thank you” in multiple alphabets too. But I learned that the best way to tackle these large scale projects is to prepare and schedule extra time – I always end up using it!

-A.K.

Rustic Yellow & Gray Wedding Suite

Hello again. I’m here to share a wedding stationery suite I designed for a family member who recently tied the knot. The ideas for the aesthetic were eclectic: she wanted a rustic, country feel, in yellows and grays, with Art Deco shapes. I took some time to explore some typographic options, knowing the bride liked script typefaces, but wanting to choose just the right one. The full suite included a save the date postcard, an invitation suite, and a program.

For her Save the Date, I designed a simple postcard featuring her engagement session photos, simple typography, and a mini-calendar on the front with her date highlighted. For her invitations, I designed a typographic card with yellow ornamentation that combines rustic charm with a touch of art deco. The program also features the ornamented shape, with an emphasis on clear hierarchy of typography. The bride loved the full suite, and was so happy to have it for her special day!

The Save the Date postcards were printed digitally on Cougar Opaque White Cover #70. The invitation suite was printed two color on Cougar Opaque White Cover #70, with bright yellow A7 envelopes. The programs were printed digitally on Cougar Opaque White #80.

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We were so happy with the result; and the wedding was wonderful. Thanks for looking!

-A.K.

Summery 80th Birthday Party Invitations

Well, summer is usually considered over by Labor Day, but I like to counter that by pointing out that summer technically lasts until the Autumnal Equinox (which will be September 23rd this year). So, to enjoy these last few days of summer, I am bringing to you one of my latest invitation designs.

I was asked by my mother to design an invitation for my great aunt’s 80th birthday party. She wanted something summery and upbeat, and suggested that perhaps sunflowers could be included in the design. I decided to design a hand drawn typographic lockup to contribute to the rustic summery feel, and I drew several styles of sunflowers before settling on the marker style.  A light, peachy pink gradient finishes the background of the invitation.

I designed and illustrated the card, and had it printed on Cougar White 80lb uncoated stock. The invitations were mailed in 70# white opaque envelopes.

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I am really pleased with the invitation, and my family loved it too. I think I will try out more illustrations with Prismacolor markers, because they had an unexpected texture that I liked. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy these last few days of summer!

-A.K.

Introducing: my new work blog

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Hello! It’s been a while. I have not been able to post lately because I’ve had two semesters of accounting classes squeezed into one summer. And as I continue in my graduate education, it becomes clear that I cannot keep running my blog as a travel + design blog. I simply don’t have the time to do the research, plan posts, edit photos, and write posts for such a specific topic. I’m unhappy about it, and I wish I could continue it, but it just really isn’t an option right now.

But, on to the good news: this will be my new work blog! I think it’s long overdue that I have a space where I can update the world on my freelance and personal work. I can show my work in progress, my creative process, and my creative failures. I’ll hopefully post some publishing updates if my work is featured on another blog. And, I really hope to hear some feedback from you! So, here’s to new beginnings!

-A.K.

Love Language Idioms for Valentine’s Day

Hello and Happy Valentine’s Day! I wanted to design some Valentines this year, but as usual, I started on the project far too late and barely managed to finish the project right before the holiday. I need to give myself more than a month to complete something of this scope, but I don’t seem to get my best ideas until right before the holiday spirit sets in!

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For this series, I designed four different cards featuring a love-related idiom in a foreign language. I envisioned a lettered illustration on the front, plus a witty translation on the inside. I chose a variety of languages (Spanish, French, Chinese, and Russian) and I tried to convey a concrete object from each idiom. Drawing the compositions proved to be more difficult than I thought, but the watercolor painting actually elevated each illustration more than I expected.

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The first one completed was the French idiom, “Le coup de foudre.” That translates to “bolt of lightning,” and refers to instantly falling in love at first sight. I wanted the words to looks like lightning coming from a stormcloud, and the lightning to strike a heart. I really love the indigo-violet halo around lightning, so I outlined the words, and once I painted them striking the heart, I realized how similarly they also look to veins. I was very pleased with the result.

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The second one completed was the Russian idiom, “Po yshi vlubitsya.” That means “up to [your] ears in love,” and means to be completely in love with someone. This one was difficult to execute because of the odd imagery and the composition of the letters. I tried not to be too rectilinear with the composition, but I didn’t want to overdo the fluidity on the Russian characters so that they became illegible. I decided the hearts will have to balance the composition. The ears were difficult to paint, because not many people enjoy illustrations of disembodied ears. But after loosely painting them and attaching them to the Russian word for “ears,” I liked it a lot more.

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The third one completed was the Chinese idiom, “(yí) () (sān) (qiū),” which translates to “One day, three autumns.” That phrase means to miss someone so much, that one day apart feels like three years (isn’t that beautiful?). The characters themselves are beautiful, and fit into a snug rectangle, so I had a lot of issues with composition here. I wanted to add leaves to the longer strokes, but since I am not fluent in Chinese, I didn’t know if that could be misconstrued or mistranslated. I painted a lot of leaves and just placed them around the letters until it felt right.

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The last idiom was one of my favorites, the Spanish idiom “media naranja,” which translates to “orange half.” It’s an expression meaning your better half or soulmate. I knew this one had to be cute, so I wanted to do thick, happy letters inside of an orange. I am not the best at drawing circles, so this ended up looking more football shaped than round, but I am still happy with the result.

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So there you have it! I am not in time to start selling them this Valentine’s Day, but I’m hoping to clean them up a bit and sell them next year. Maybe if I find more lovely idioms, I’ll add them to the series.

Happy travels!
-A.K.

My Holiday Card 2013

Happy holidays! Our holiday card this year is, of course, travel-themed. My husband wanted to incorporate our new home (Mt. Vernon) into our card to share with our family and friends. I decided to draw a line drawing of the Mt. Vernon monument, and only add color to the holiday string lights that are added every December. A simple hand lettered salutation at the bottom finishes the design.

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I also chose to use a festive red ink for the envelope calligraphy. I’m really happy with the result and I am looking forward to designing more travel themed works.

Happy travels,

– A.K.