Category Archives: Illustration

Quick update: Watercolor Portrait of Otto

Welcome to the new year! I still can’t believe it’s already 2017. I just turned 29 (almost 30!) and it feels unreal. I feel very old.

My husband and I traveled to Morocco right after Christmas, and so I’ve been off the grid for almost 13 days. And last fall, I really focused on school and only had time for a few freelance projects. This semester will probably be busier, since it is my penultimate semester (I rarely get to use that word, so I felt obligated to use it here). I only have 3 classes to complete before I receive my MBA in Management!

Anyway, I do have one little project to share: a watercolor portrait I painted for my dad, for Christmas. It’s one of his favorite subjects.


This is Otto the Old English Bulldog. My dad loves his dog, and I knew a painting of him would be well received. I painted Otto first, but then couldn’t really decide on a background. I knew it would be kind of expected to have him in the yard or in the house, but I thought it would be hilarious to have him set as if he were a king in a royal portrait (with rich fabrics, tapestries, jewels, or intricate architecture). So, with little time to spare, I did some research and quickly painted a portrait background fit for a king.


I have to admit, this was very hasty. I’m not very proud of the background, but since I had so little time, I had to make it work (thank you Tim Gunn!). My dad treats his dog like a king, so my family and friends immediately recognized and laughed at the context. Some people have said I could keep painting dog portraits because there is definitely an audience for this type of work, but honestly, I do not see that many dog portraits in my future!

I have a huge website redesign currently in the works, so I’ll be working on that as my (cough) New Year’s Resolution. Normally I avoid resolutions because I don’t like saddling myself with obligations, but I really need to buckle down and clean up my website. My web design skills are rusty and I desperately need to add some new work… speaking of which, I’m happy to say that I will have several new wedding clients this year, so look out for some new work!

Stay warm,


Costa Rica Watercolor Painting

Hello! I have a new painting to share with you. It was a gift for my husband’s birthday this weekend, and now that he has unwrapped it, I can share it with you!


I chose a viewpoint from a restaurant we visited on the road. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant (or even where we were, exactly) but the restaurant had a huge, wooden porch with this view surrounding it. I usually prefer to sketch lightly in pencil first, but I didn’t think this would work well for this painting. Pencil tends to bleed into light watercolor washes, and it can ruin the color work. So I took a risk and lightly painted the outline in light green, because I needed to have some basic idea of where all of the foliage would go. The view was panoramic, and the horizontal orientation of the painting was not exactly the right dimensions for the picture, so I had to change some elements.


I started adding in more details from right to left. It was especially difficult painting in the high contrasts of light and dark. Dark shadows in watercolor tend to look muddy, and it’s never easy for me to figure out the right balance for them.


For all of the intense labor I put into the landscape, I was so exhausted by the time I got to the sky, that I painted it as loosely as possible. The irony of course, is that I think the sky looks the best! I always find that the less I “care” about how I’m painting, the better it turns out. It is not easy to kick back and just paint “carelessly,” because there is a certain level of unconscious focus that needs to occur. I can’t explain it, and people have various names for it, like “in the zone,” “meditation,” “in flow,” etc. I prefer to say “unconscious focus.”


Now that I’m looking at it, I see how compressed the landscape looks. It’s more exaggerated than I thought it would be, but that is not necessarily bad. It has a lusciousness to it, I suppose, even though now I’m looking at all of the flaws. It’s always difficult for me to say “it’s done!” but this one is done!


Australia Watercolors

Hi all. I’m resurrecting a project from my past – some watercolor paintings inspired by my honeymoon in Australia. I finished one, but not quite the other. You can probably guess which on is incomplete!


This is a painting of the farmland of Malanda. It was one of our favorite spots. Completely beautiful and idyllic, with rolling hills, lush greenery, and plenty of cows.


Yes, this is the incomplete one! This was a riverbed in Queensland, on a hiking trail we visited. It had a particularly blue-green color to the water, and the rocks with smooth and white with deep gray shadows. It was quite secluded, except for the flies.

I may or may not finish the second painting…I’m busy working on a birthday watercolor for someone special’s birthday!


All About Apples!

Hello friends! For some reason, apples have become a favorite subject of mine. I had a few work projects that involved apple illustrations, and I had some ideas for fabric prints with painted apples. I have a few different versions I have been working on, and all are very different from one another.


One of my projects involved drawing a woodcut-style apple for a logo. I was inspired by 17th century German woodcuts.


Another iteration from this project involved a different version of this apple.


And for my personal project, I wanted to design a fabric print of 4 different apple varieties. I have a Golden Delicious, a Pink Lady, a Granny Smith, and a Fuji. My personal favorite for eating is a Granny Smith.


I hope to have time to clean up these paintings and design a print. I’d love to have aprons, oven mitts, potholders, or tablecloths with this design!


Asian Nature Motifs

Hello friends. I’ve got a little sneak peek for you! I’m working on some new t-shirt designs, and one of them includes Asian-inspired nature motifs. I drew a tree, clouds, and waves. I’m going to be honest, I was inspired to draw the clouds from the opening sequence of Disney’s Mulan (do you remember the ink drawing at the opening sequence?). I found some ancient illustrations of waves and trees and drew my own versions.

asiannaturesquare asiantree

I’ll show you the finished products when they have been printed. So far, so good!


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.


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.

jes_savethedate jes_vertical jes_wreathclose jes_rsvpclose

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!



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!


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.

serbowedding_closeblur serbowedding_leftangleclose serbowedding_leftnoribbon serbowedding_longangle serbowedding_longclose serbowedding_lowangle serbowedding_lowcloseup serbowedding_menuclose serbowedding_paintclose serbowedding_programclose serbowedding_programcover serbowedding_ribbonrightangle serbowedding_rightcorner serbowedding_tablecardclose serbowedding_thankyouclose serbowedding_upnoribbon serbowedding_upperleftangle serbowedding_upribbon

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!


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.

auntjane_abovecropped auntjane_anglewords auntjane_justinvite auntjane_lowerangle auntjane_up

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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

valentines_closechinese valentines_allangled valentines_up4

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!