Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I've always liked to see start to finish projects from artists I admire.  It's neat to see a simple sketch come to life and I've been meaning to do this but often times I'm just caught up in painting and forget to snap a few photos.  I hope to share a little more insight into my process this year (#goals).  

There is somewhat a method to my madness, but not always.   When I'm going to do a design that fills an entire page, this is how I like to start.  I measure off my paper to make it a standard size in case it ends up being a worthy print for my shop.  Then I'm able to scan as is without cutting off any florals, clean it up, and it's ready to go (although I'm not this lucky!).  Also, when making a print where I want the elements to overlap, I start with a very light pencil sketch so I have a guideline.  Since I was going for a layered look I started with my greenery.  In most of my designs you see that my greens float around the page from underneath florals, so they typically do get painted first.  Next I went for my focal point, in this case the dusty blue large florals.  If I feel something is harder to shade, I like to do this in the beginning because if the shape and shadowing isn't right to me I won't end up finishing the piece (there's only so many changes you can make with watercolor).  Once that is out of the way and I like it, I will begin to fill in the smaller florals.  Once all that dries I go back and add centers to the florals that need some.  Once it's fully dry I have to erase all my pencil marks, sometimes if they are still visible I will clean them up in photoshop. And Wala!  This photo seemed to be well liked on instagram this past week so I do believe I will have some prints made for the shop! 


Friday, January 23, 2015


I typically roll my eyes at the "national [insert random object] days" but with one like handwriting, I guess I can't help but indulge in the silliness of honoring this special day. 
I looked for some quotes about handwriting to letter for this post, the only thing that really struck me were a few about it being a lost art and to think about how important handwriting used to be.  There was a day when letters were the only form of communication, I mean that's crazy (and kind of awesome). 

I was then lead to think about my journey and love for lettering.  How did this happen anyways? That I have created a job partially dealing with my handwriting?  If you would have told me this years ago it would have been confusing and funny. Years ago when I was lettering my name and the names of my friends over and over on wide ruled paper instead of listening to my teacher in class… I guess that's how it started. I remember getting boxes upon boxes of new markers all the time.  I had all the fun crayola ones.  I'm not sure when I had time for this in class but I made tons of "signs" for my friends all the time.  I was constantly writing my name on a page underneath the paper I was taking notes.  I was a cheerleader and would always be asked to make signs for the games, our hallway, any school event really.  Heather would do it with me, which is just hilarious because she is designing stationery these days as well (hi Paper Please!) To make a long story short, fast forward all those years (while keeping in mind that every stage of my life that involved me being in a classroom, there was doodling involved) and "modern calligraphy" started popping up around the web.  It was funny to me that people were "selling their handwriting".  I thought, I know and love this, I could do that.  With the help of some friends passing on a few small jobs, I tried my hand in professional handwriting.  Over the past three years I've written and written and written some more. Through many trials and experiments, my writing grew into something I love.  Something I am proud of and excited to share with others.  It…is…mind-blowing! 

I'm going to wrap this up with a story.  For the majority of my life grandparents have lived out of state.  For as long as I remember, my grandmother has sent me (and many others) handwritten cards and letters.  They didn't mean as much as a child but as an adult calligrapher it is truly a prize.  She still loves to write letters to this day.  She writes A LOT of letters. When I visited them early last year she made a comment about being proud of me for writing and making handwritten things.  She mentioned that schools once taught penmanship and today most people don't even know a true cursive alphabet.  This year for Christmas, she gave me a book filled with some photos, letters I had sent her as a child, and then pages upon pages of her handwriting telling her story.  Tears filled my eyes as I opened such a priceless gift.  Something I will always treasure. I can't wait to finish reading it and then visit them again to hear more stories.

Leaving people notes and sending letters is so special and personal.  I'm thankful I will always have something written from most of my family members and my close friends.  Step away from the e-mail today and send someone you love some snail mail.  Your handwriting doesn't have to be perfect, just meaningful.  


Wednesday, January 21, 2015


 I know we are more half way through January already and I'm just writing my New Years post...there has been some radio silence while my sister and I were traveling this past month and I used this week to recoup (which was seriously needed).  I thought about what I had to say about 2014 and the new year and I've honestly been at a loss. Even my sketchbook page, I couldn't figure out an image for this post so I decided to use this photo of my scattered sketches instead. My emotions are spread wide across a spectrum of highs and lows.  Things have been crazy.  Business wise, I have been busier than ever before, almost too busy to keep up with everything now.  Which is just mind blowing for me. When you see something come to fruition that you've worked so long for...it's just hard to believe (but really amazing)  Personally speaking, I have been long ready to put 2014 behind me, that's all I will say about that.

This past year I worked with more brides than ever before.  Making people happy by providing them with something unique, painted from scratch, and designed in togetherness to represent their wedding day has just been the best.  I got in over my head this year and committed to a little too many custom projects (you live and you learn). One thing I learned through this is that my dedication to each project has to override the guilt that I feel by saying no.  I hate saying no to wedding projects but as my business grows I am seeing more brides want every paper / stationery aspect designed… to give the level of service required and deserved by my clients I am just simply not going to be able to take on as many anymore.  This is something I struggled with most of last year.  Of course a blessing to have plenty of work, but I feel the growing pains most when I sadly have to walk away from some requests.

Another highlight and reason my custom work will be slowing down is for different types of illustration projects.  I began my career out of art school doing freelance illustration and surface pattern design.  A long term dream of mine has been to collaborate and illustrate for / with other brands.  I would just die to see my illustrations on different items like home goods, more stationery products, in stores, etc (just ideas right now).  I'm pleased to say (while unfortunately I cannot disclose details yet) I've been approached by a few this year to begin collaborating and I am BEYOND excited about it and what this means for my company.   I know I'm being vague about all this but I will be sharing more soon.

For my brides, I have been working to create a booklet full of information about my process, faqs, helpful information about general invitation etiquette, timelines, etc.  I'm dying to get this completed as I  think it's going to be so informative and save everyone so much time in correspondence.  It will hopefully cover all design related questions and a new pricing structure for my "collection" versus custom designing. Really so exciting!

This leaves me with resolutions.  I am finally being honest with myself about new years resolutions, I hate them.  I feel they create undeserving and unrealistic pressure. If I were to have list, putting pressure on myself would be at the top anyways. We have January 1 in our heads like suddenly a reset button gets hit.  I've often found myself coming to the end of the year thinking the new year will be my deadline to start / stop whatever it is I want to change.  But to improve or change anything, time and dedication are needed most, not a sudden restart. I've realized that I work better when I create realistic short term (monthly and weekly for my business). And of course I have larger long term goals for the growth of my businesses and things I want to personally accomplish. With a freelance business, things can change on the daily and sometimes goals have to be flexible. I think most creatives and business owners are hard on themselves in general, being flexible and realistic about things we want to accomplish can definitely save some heartache. I post them by desk as a reminder of what I am striving for.  Do you have a way of tracking your goals that keeps you in line for accomplishing them on time? I would love to hear how others hold themselves accountable and implement changes!

If you've made it this far, congratulations.  I know I typically don't write too much here but I have been thinking about this blog a lot lately and what it means to me.  I have come to enjoy writing and sharing more this past year, especially as interest in my work has grown.  It is fun for me to give some behind the scenes insight and share full projects I've worked on rather than just one photo on social media.  I have some plans for more interactive (maybe diy type) projects, travel stories, and some more tips on illustration (since my first post seemed to be popular and I still get a lot of e-mail questions!).

 I'm excited to see what this year will hold and I hope everyone's has gotten off to a great start so far! I will be back soon with some fun travel photos from my trip to Antarctica and Argentina, it was beyondddd! Then I promise we will be back to regular painting programming soon.  Thanks for sticking around and visiting my little corner of the web.  You are loved and appreciated!  xox

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Greetings from Ushuaia, Argentina! What a freaking year this has been! We are about to embark on our journey for Antarctica this afternoon after three long days of traveling through Argentina. We are beyond excited.  But first, I had to check in and say thank you for an amzing 2014.  Things have grown and changed so much this year.  I am beyond grateful for all of the support, kind words, brides I have woreked with, sales in my shop, blog / press features and all the other amazing projects I've been lucky enough to work on this year.  It's truly been amazing and I am so thankful.

The above photos are some of my highlights from 2014; some of the new products in my shop, my favorite wedding suites like the Palm Springs cactus collection, Sophie's watercolor invitations that were featured on Vogue, and the grey washed calligraphy suite that was sent off for a photo shoot in Mexico! I also had the honor of contributing to a Southern Weddings Magazine shoot, a Florida inspired shoot  shot by Best Photography and featured on Ruffled blog. Our Valentines shoot with Michelle March and Styled by Flutter Fete was featured on Style Me Pretty and pinned all around the web! I had the pleasure of being included in many other features and round ups this year which is always so exciting.  Among one of my most favoritte moments is the limited edition art I created for Buddy Editions, it was such an honor to be a chosen artist for Katie Armour's  newest venture! I already have some exiting projects in the works for 2015  but I can't even imagine what else it will bring.  So much has happened just in this year!

As I sit here in Argentina, wating to board a ship for Antarctica, I feel extremely grateful for how amazing 2014 has been, personally and business wise.  I can't wait to return to work after this adventure.  Wishing you all a veery happy new year! See you in 2015!!! xox 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


This is the day! My sister and I leave for our epic Antarctica adventure this afternoon.  I'm beside myself.  I really can't believe this is happening! I've been dreaming in shades of icy blue for weeks and can't wait to share photos when we return.  We fly to Buenos Aires tonight, stay there on Sunday night.  Then we head way down south to Ushuaia where we board the ship.  We cruise the Antarctica Peninsula and beyond for ten days.  When we return we have three nights to play in Buenos Aires before we head back home (any recommendations for Buenos Aires are welcome!).  I'm already looking forward to 2015 and diving into work.  The new year is going to bring great things (there are already a few in the works) and I'm just so excited.  You can follow our adventures over the next couple weeks on instagram @shannonkirsten 

I have an away message up on my Esty shop for the time away.  If you're interested in inquiring about a custom project feel free to e-mail or etsy message me with details.  I will be looking forward to responding and starting some new work once I return home mid January! 

Monday, December 22, 2014


If you're up for some mad holiday baking this week, I highly recommend this simple and delicious cookie bark.  It's pretty ridiculous and super easy to make!

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk 
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped candy canes or herseys candy cane kisses
2 ounces white chocolate

*Preheat oven to 350.  Spray 13 x 9 pan with non stick spray and line with parchment. You'll be using this as a "handle".  Beat butter in a large bowl until creamy.  Gradually beat in sugar.  Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla then egg yolk. Gradually add flour and salt, beating on low just to blend.  Drop dough in prepared pan spacing evenly.  Use moistened fingertips to press dough evenly along the bottom of the pan.  Pierce dough all over with a fork.  Bake the cookie base for about 30 minutes, until light golden brown and the sides start coming away from the sides of the pan.  Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips on top and let stand until they soften, just a few minutes. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly.  Immediately sprinkle chopped candy cane on top.   Separately, microwave and stir white chocolate in small bursts until smooth.  If it's too thick add a little vegetable oil.  Use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate on top.  Cool until white chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes. Using the paper as your handle, remove from pan and place on a cutting board.  Using a large knife, cut the bark into irregular shapes or squares if you prefer.



Sugar cookies are the best mainly for decorating purposes.  These were really fun to make with my family and bff this past weekend.  You can follow this simple sugar cookie recipe here but the frosting is the key to these so they harden and look pretty to decorate! 

2 cups confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp milk (add more if it is too thick)
1 tbsp light corn syrup 
1/4 tsp of lemon extract (you could also do vanilla or almond!) 

Cream the first to ingredients together so they become light and fluffy.  With a mixer, add the light corn syrup and extract.  It should be really smooth and glossy, this is key to hardening after you frost them.  

Happy Baking!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


A little last minute Christmas project.  I was playing around with some painted poppies the other night when I messed one up and decided to cut it off of my page (don't ask me why?) ha.  Then I thought, how cute would my little painted florals be as gift tags (or even place cards) to top on presents or tie around a bag of baked goods?! Tada! They obviously don't have to be perfect, even some paint splotches or a stroke of color with hand written names would be a darling addition to any gift.  Hope you can use these (and my last post) as inspiration for wrapping the rest of your gifts this weekend. Painting is supposed to be fun, there are no rules or the "right" tools, seriously.  Practice and playing is the way to find what works for you, just have fun with it!   xx 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I get really excited about wrapping presents around the holidays.  I like to take the time to make each package look pretty and incorporate some natural elements.  I guess my color choice could be more exciting, but I like to keep it simple.  I got my wrapping paper from paper source, they have an assortment of colors which is perfect for decorating / DIYing yourself.  All my fun ribbons (that I'm clearly obsessed with) come from various Etsy shops.  Finally, I just cut some pine sprigs from the back of the tree for toppers.   Below is a couple photos from my wrapping post last year.  Still natural elements, still loving plain paper.  I used rosemary and a variety of ribbon scraps last year.  

I'm all about presentation, it's nice to put extra love and thought into something, when you take time to hand make, hand letter, etc your gift recipients will appreciate. And remember to have fun with it! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I love making these lavendar cookies and at the request of Cami, I whipped up a batch these week to bring to her studio.  I haven't quite mastered these appearance wise, but they are definitely delicious.  I foresee more baked gifts in my near future, so stay tuned!

Lavender Shortbread Cookies: 

5/8 cup butter 
1/2 cup white sugar 
1 egg 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 tablespoon lavender flowers 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
(we've made this with substitutes to be gluten free and they still turned out great!) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
Grease cookie sheets 
Cream together the butter and sugar
Beat the egg and blend it into the butter and sugar
Add vanilla, mix in lavender flowers, and the flour
Drop by taespoonfuls onto cookie sheets
Bake about 10 minutes or until golden
Remove to cooling racks and sprinkle with decorative sugar (optional)

Friday, December 12, 2014


It's been a whirlwind lately with the holidays in full swing.  Here is a little glimpse inside December so far.  My favorite month! 

(above) Some of my favorite cards from my shop.  Remember, this is the last weekend to shop! I'm closing my shop for holiday at the end of next week. Thursday will be the last date to receive orders in time for Christmas! 
 Client meetings with beautiful and delicious lattes at Oxford Exchange 

Some office snaps: A little corner of my studio (looking forward to get a little more organized up in here for 2015) / Calligraphy in grey tones (favorite!) / More poppies of course / some of my favorite greyscale floral prints available in the shop

The art of preserving flowers and my velvet ribbon obsession continues

My renewed passport aka daydreaming a lot about my upcoming trip to Antarctica.  Only 15 more days until we leave.  I am over the moon excited for this experience. 

Celebrated my birthday (a few times).  As usual my family, friends, and Hunter made the whole week exciting and special.  There were lots of flowers, cocktails, and cake.  Brunching and dinner. And my mom and I went to Orlando for the night.  We stayed at the Grand Bohemian, got massages, and did some shopping.  It was all perfect! 

Finally, my favorite little Christmas scene in the house. I love everything smelling like fresh pine right now.  


As for this weekend I will be catching up on painting and editing, wrapping presents, beginning to bake, and working on some fun projects for this little ole blog.  Hope everyone has a lovely weekend as well.   xox