What I've Been Working On (May 2020)
by Anne Kostecki
Hello all! It's May. Things are starting to look better, I hope? Everything's mostly the same for me: working from home, watching my daughter, avoiding people and stores. I had a lot going on this month, as you will hear. I dedicated time to gaining new career skills, which is something I have trouble motivating myself to do. If I EVER find myself with free time, I usually think, "I should go paint something," even though I paint nearly every day. This month, not only did I learn new digital illustration skills, I worked on my financial data, cleaned up issues with my website, networked, and streamlined by online fulfillment process. And, I cleaned up (a.k.a. reorganized) my closet. If you know me, reorganizing my closet is an adventure. It's basically moving heavy boxes back and forth, which is not easy when you're pregnant. But it's DONE.
As part of the Laumeier Art Fair, the artists were offered to interview with HEC TV. I jumped on the chance, because I had really wanted a high quality video for my website. I spent time washing my hair and doing my makeup, which in this current environment, I almost never do. The interview went really well: my interviewer, Christina, was very friendly and asked great questions. She explained how the video would be played back and edited. I offered to share my 4K hyperlapse art videos and photos to add to the video. The only thing that I noticed and thought, "ugh," was that I left my large standing reflector in the background during my interview. It irks me a bit, but can't change it now. But overall, the video is fantastic, and I'm happy to share it with you!
This month was the big Minted holiday challenge marathon: the foil and non-foil photo card challenges. We are allowed up to 35 entries across both challenges. Ha! Don’t worry…I’m not close to that. So far, I have 5 entries. For my first entry, I modified I design I worked on last December for my own Christmas card. It was holly branches I drew in Procreate. It was super challenging for me to add typography to this design. But I’m happy with this entry.
Mistletoe, I thought, would be a great idea for a couples or wedding-themed card. I spent a long time painting a mistletoe wreath in Procreate without much of an idea of how it would end up in a design. After it was finished, I incorporated it into Illustrator, and literally just moved it around until I got an idea. You would not believe how much time I’ve wasted in my life doing this! It’s really a lot better to sketch thumbnails before you work in Illustrator, or at least have an idea in your head of what your design should look like. Anyway, I was delighted when it came together with a black and white photo of a couple kissing, and I added the mistletoe above. It was a visual representation of “kissing under the mistletoe”! Yes!
My last entry featured some swooping pine boughs and holly branches. I made the illustration first, then figured out how to add the image and text. This is not the best strategy - I think the photo and text don’t look fully integrated here, but it’s the best I could do. I actually finished this on May 17…which was two days before the deadline, as I realized. I also did a penguin design, but after I submitted it, I realized I didn't like it. Here it is anyway. In the spirit of designing more multi-photo designs, I also created a a non-foil “Joy” 8 photo grid.
I modified another design I ended up using last December for my Christmas card. It featured my hand lettering for “merry & bright,” that I designed in Procreate. I used mine as white text on a dark photo, and this one I thought would look great in foil. The final design has red foil, a modern cropped photo, and a simple holiday greeting.
When I thought about what kinds of holiday cards my family sends, I see an overwhelming number of cards that have multiple photos. I have a big family, and I don’t think they could pick just one photo for their holiday card. When I looked through the Minted submissions, I didn’t see a lot of multi-photo designs, so I decided to work on a few. I have a foil “Merry Christmas,” with 8 photos. After working in Procreate, I created a “happy holidays” lettering piece I liked, so I modified that, adding some branch and sparkle vectors, and designing another multi photo grid. Even if this design doesn’t place, I might use this for my holiday card! I found a new foil vendor, and I can’t wait to receive my sample booklet. It would really expand my offerings if I had a trusty foil vendor.
On May 19, the last day to submit, I woke up with an idea. I jumped out of bed before my husband or 20-month-old, and quickly began lettering on Procreate. After many layers of stars, branches, and metaphorical holly berries, I created the final version. I think this design could be great for families, babies, even newly married couples. Even if this one doesn’t place, I’d love to use it in the future!
Religious Holiday Challenge
I was not sure I would have time to dedicate to this challenge, since the timeline was shorter and I had two painting commissions come in. But somehow, I managed to create three new designs for this challenge: one foil, and two non-foil. All of them were created in Procreate, and you can probably guess which one of them took the longest.
The first one was a lettering piece with a short rhyme about the nativity. Lettering does not come naturally to me, and since I rarely have business projects with lettering involved, I don’t get as much opportunity to practice. But, I really want to get more proficient. So I forced myself to make a piece I was proud of; which involved drawing, editing, erasing, and lots of redrawing. Thankfully, I had a lot of amazing inspiration to work with; Minted is full of talented lettering artists. Once I had a final black and white version, I made two color versions, and started a poll to see which is better. So far, the darker color palette is winning, which is the one I prefer.
Next, I wanted to create a foil design with lettering. I have a favorite Procreate brush that I use for lettering, and I played around with writing “blessings,” in calligraphy. It needed something more, and since this was a religious challenge, I decided to add a cross in “Christmas.” Originally, this was meant to be landscape format, but it ended up looking better in portrait.
My last entry was an illustration-forward, rather than lettering-forward, piece. I wanted to create lush pine boughs layered on top of each other, and have lots of texture. So I played around with many many brushes, over and over, trying to get the right feeling. I can’t tell you the number of times I deleted layers because they didn’t look right. There is a great feature in Procreate that allows you to draw symmetrically on multiple axises, so I used that to my advantage, while also moving elements around so it wasn’t strictly symmetrical. I’m pretty happy with the result, although I still didn’t get the exact pine bough image I was imagining.
Art Fair Results
So, I had my first digital/virtual art fairs this month. I didn’t know what to expect, because both fairs were brand new to me this year. In the spirit of full disclosure, one was disappointing in terms of sales, and another was a nice surprise! Obviously, I think I would’ve done better if both fairs could have been in person. It’s much easier to sell art products when they’re right in front of you.
I had a feeling that due to the pandemic and the massive amount of unemployment in this country, that many potential buyers would be financially strapped. Which is so depressing when I think about it; because even though I spent a lot of money and time building inventory for these fairs earlier this year, I feel so depressed knowing that so many people have it much worse than I do. I know people who have been laid off, furloughed, and have lost much or all of their potential income. All I can do is hope for the future: that we may be able to recover, and there is still a place for art and artists in this economy.
My First Online Sale
How about happy news? I got my first online sale from a new customer! After some website trouble, which I will tell you about, I finally got to experience the order fulfillment process. PayPal, even though it takes fees, has some great perks: invoicing, packing slip generation, shipping label generation, and other things I haven’t even discovered yet. I liked packaging up my work, adding a handwritten note and business card, and dropping it at the post office like a real online vendor. Here’s to hoping there’s many more orders!
I’ve been cranking out paintings really quickly. I finished up two gouache paintings, one of a colorful mountain landscape and another of a sunset on a beach. These were both submissions for the Everyday Mother design contest, of which I did not place in the top ten. I’m going to save the original paintings, and probably sell them at my next in-person art fair.
For Mother’s Day, I started an iris painting, for no particular reason. I sketched the flowers, then absentmindedly painted them. It turned out, I became more laser-focused than usual, and ended up painting everything in a very detailed manner. I decided to make a full painting out of it. Should I sell it, or possibly enter it to any juried shows?
I painted a space watercolor, and a “flower moon” for the last super-moon of 2020. Here's a quick mountain I painted too. I took another hyper lapse video of me painting a sky. If I try to upload a video to Wordpress, I'm pretty sure the universe would implode. Just uploading simple images to this blog post has been worse than pulling teeth. Here's a quick painting I did for Mermay too.
I had a commission request come in on May 18, but thankfully I had plenty of time before the Father’s Day deadline. My cousin wanted a painting of her husband’s recently passed beloved dog. It’s such a thoughtful idea to get a painting for a gift, I think. She had a great photo too, which is one of the challenges with commissions.
I wanted this to be perfectly prepared, so I used my Arches Cold Press paper, stretched it properly, and taped in down before sketching. I sketched the dog, and loosely figured out the background details, before deciding to paint the dog first. Cold press paper behaves very differently from normal watercolor paper: it absorbs a LOT of water, and it has a heavy tooth, meaning you have to pull the brush more than with hot press or smooth paper. I tried a different technique where I put darker splashes of color in certain areas, then let the water pull the pigment in a nice gradient. It surprised me!
Another commission came in on May 21, this time more pressing. My mom is a nurse at an SSM hospital here, and her staff needed an artwork to honor the department head of nursing, who is male. They had already received two donations, a painting of the hospital and a generic drawing of a female nurse, and they needed something more applicable to a male nurse. There wasn’t a photo of him, or a stock photo option available, so my mom took a photo of my dad and grandma’s hands! And, I had maybe 4 days to get it done, so she was expecting a pencil sketch.
Well, I wanted color, so I ended up painting it. Skin tones are notoriously difficult, so I spent a lot of time mixing colors to get the right balance. When I first painting visible veins and lines, it started to look scary and skeletal, so I had to tone in back a lot. I didn’t get slavishly accurate with wrinkles, age spots, hair, etc., that would have taken way too long. I’m actually quite happy with the result, and I’m glad I had an exercise in figure drawing/hands/skin tones, which are the more challenging things to do.
This month has been busy. I didn’t have time to do my monthly Paint With Me challenge, and I had no time to work on my drawing course or passive income projects. I applied again for the third round of Artist Relief, and I applied for a grant through my alma mater, Wash U. My friend pointed out to me that even though I’m missing out on art fair and other income this year, I can use this time before the baby arrives to build up more inventory, design a plan for the upcoming year, and apply for all of the available art fairs/shows that I can for 2021. I’m hoping that next year we will be back to safely having art fairs and shows.