Early Times Mint Julep bottle signings


It’s Derby time, folks! That means you need a ridiculously large hat or a seersucker suit and definitely an Early Times Mint Julep (possibly several). Luckily for you, I happen you know where you can get bottles of the latter signed by yours truly. I’ll be in Louisville to sign my name to your heart’s content Monday through Thursday of next week. Here are the details:

Monday, April 28th:

  • 3:30 – 5:00 PM, Kroger Hubbards Lane, 291 N. Hubbards Lane, Louisville, KY 40207
  • 6:00 – 7:30 PM, Kroger Prospect, 5949 Timber Ridge Drive, Prospect, KY 40059

Tuesday, April 29th:

  • 3:30 – 4:30 PM, Hunters Station, 236 Hunter Station Rd, Sellersburg, IN 47172
  • 5:00 – 6:00 PM, Bottles Unlimited, 427 State Street, New Albany, IN 47150
  • 7:00 – 8:00 PM, Bridge Liquors, 110 Knable Lane, New Albany, IN 47150

Wednesday, April 30th:

  • 3:30 – 5:00 PM, Kroger Middletown, 12501 Shelbyville Road, Middletown, KY 40243
  • 6:00 – 7:30 PM, Party Mart, 4808 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, KY 40207

Thursday, May 1st:

  • 3:30 – 5:00 PM, Liquor Barn Hurstbourne, 1850 S. Hurstbourne Parkway, Louisville, KY 40220
  • 6:00 – 7:30 PM, Liquor Barn St. Matthews, 4301 Shelbyville Rd., Louisville, KY 40207

Come say hello. My Sharpie marker will be eagerly awaiting to meet your bottle.

Commemorating Judith Kasdan

Judith Kasdan Scholarship

Earlier this year, I had the great honor of creating an award to memorialize one of Pittsburgh’s outstanding residents. Judith Kasdan, as her daughters describer her, “taught in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, owned a children’s shoe boutique, served as President of the National Council of Jewish Women, and earned her Law degree at age 56, subsequently passing the bar exam and serving as an Allegheny County Public Defender. She was a fierce supporter of programs to improve the lives of women and children and had a keen motivation to make the world a better place.”

To honor Judi, her three daughters established several memorial projects. One is an annual staff recognition award for an employee of the Hillman Cancer Center where Judi was a patient. Another is a scholarship at the Duquesne University School of Law where Judi earned her J.D.

It was a heart-warming process to work with Judi’s daughters to create a design with visual elements that symbolically represented her spirit. I was also thrilled to be able to use my current style of painting for what will be fabricated into a free-standing award.

Green Figbird on Blue

Knowing that I would have an unused original painting at the end of this project, I decided to push the artwork beyond what I needed for the award design. The image directly above is the finished painting, including a Green Fig-bird and a design in 22k gold.


In laying out the elements of this painting, I had to be very careful about where the Green Fig-bird was placed because I didn’t want it to overlap with anything else so that the bird could be easily removed for the award design in Photoshop. This required cutting out the bird drawn by hand on craft paper. This allowed me to move the bird around on the painting so I could decide where it looked best before committing to its final spot. Once in place, I lightly traced around the paper silhouette with paint and then went to work rendering the bird. The rest was freehanded around it.

Now the Kasdan’s have a personal design to commemorate their mother and recognize deserving medical staff and law students. And I have a new painting (and print) available, which you can see in person it at the Three Rivers Arts Festival!

Textile Thursday


I’m counting down the days until the Three Rivers Arts Festival, where I’ll be open for business in the artist market at booth 26. This is an exciting milestone for me because it will mark the launch of textile products printed with my paintings.

Today was an especially fun step in the textile-making process since test samples of a variety of custom fabrics arrived. The day flew by while I was calibrating colors by comparing my original paintings with the initial yards of test fabric and a color map with hex codes (a.k.a. color IDs).

Now I’m onto creating patterns of the single images so the designs repeat continuously. This is no easy task, I promise you. I’ll save that explanation for another day.


Bucket list commission: Early Times Mint Julep bottle


2014 Early Times Mint Julep bottleMy personal bucket list includes “make a painting for the label of a bourbon bottle.” It may seem obscure, but I hail from Louisville, Kentucky, and bourbon is to Louisville what ketchup is to Pittsburgh.

Several years ago, I pursued this dream and tried getting my foot in the door with the big wine and spirits producer in my home town. No bourbon label came of it, although some fantastic alternatives unfolded. I dropped the ball, moved first to London, then to Pittsburgh, and, well, just forgot about it.

Then last year, the Brown-Forman Corporation contacted me to gauge my interest in contending for the commission to create a painting for the label of the 2014 Early Times Mint Julep bottle.  Keep in mind, this is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby; over 120,000 mint juleps will be served the week of Derby at Churchill Downs alone. When I got the phone call informing me that I was selected for the commission, I started to look around the room for hidden cameras, thinking it must be a really mean prank that was being caught on tape.

It turns out it wasn’t a prank, and I did create the painting last fall (progress shots are below for your viewing pleasure). It has been very difficult not to talk about it until now, but thank goodness the word is out! Just yesterday (within one day of the press release), the bottle was featured on WDRB and Louisville Business First, and it got a quick blurb on Shaken News Daily.

This is just the beginning. I’ll be in Louisville the week prior to the big race, promoting the product at Dawn at the Downs and bottle signing events. I also hear talk of billboards and taxi ads. Pinch me, and cheers to checking things off the bucket list!

ET label sketch-winners circle-sm   2014 ET bottle artwork-progress shot 1-500x332px 2014 ET bottle artwork-progress shot 3-500x332px 2014 ET bottle artwork-progress shot 5-500x332px2014 ET bottle artwork-final

2014 ET bottle artwork-painting in progress

Editorial illustration for NTEN’s Change Journal

NTEN March '14 Change Journal cover illustration

Years of focusing the content of this blog on charitable causes and organizations has resulted in many wonderful friendships with nonprofit professionals. Sometimes those friendships have led to new work, which is the case with this editorial illustration for the cover of the Nonprofit Technology Network’s Change Journal (“A Quarterly Journal for Nonprofit Leaders”). The full issue isn’t available until later this month, but you’re in the camp of lucky folks who can get a sneak preview here.

I’ll be creating the cover artwork for all four of the 2014 issues, so why not sign up to receive each of them, for free no less!

Three Rivers Arts Festival, here I come!


Many times I have walked the rows of an arts festival and thought, “Where are the paintings?” or “I could do that.” Well, it’s time to bring the paintings and put my money where my mouth is because I’m officially exhibiting/selling at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in downtown Pittsburgh this June. Here’s the sketch I submitted along with my application proposing how I will set up my booth. Yep, original paintings, prints, reupholstered chairs, handmade pillows and scarves will all be available. Holy cow, I have a lot of sewing to do!


Painting in progress, February 25, 2014


At the start of this year, I promised myself that I would stop going to such painstaking lengths to get the first layer of my paintings down, which is the pattern design. My rationale was that the end product would look just as nice if I freehanded the patterns, versus spending hours meticulously laying them out in advance. Yet, after four hours in my studio today, I once again found my workspace covered with a ruler, triangle, drawing compass, painter’s tape, grids, calculator and a handmade stencil. So much for my new year resolution. Old habits die hard.

Cover art for Democracy and Leadership


There’s nothing like being paid multiple times for the same painting. Indeed, licensing is one of the beautiful things about being an illustrator, which is why I was thrilled to be asked by Eric Thomas Weber to license a painting from a few years back for the cover of his latest book, Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue. I bet those of you who started following my work back in my “Painting Activist” days would enjoy it, so check it out.


Wrapped up in my art



I just spent my morning at TechShop Pittsburgh sewing this scarf from fabric printed with one of my new paintings. This is a first prototype of what will soon be many.  I’m still figuring out color calibration and testing fabrics. Once I have it down, you too can wrap yourself in my art. The plan is to sell these and other textile products at art festivals and on my website (a shopping cart is coming soon). Is the suspense killing you? I’m pretty ecstatic.

Adorning the cover of Pittsburgh Quarterly


There’s nothing like standing in line at Whole Foods, browsing the magazine selections and spotting one fine publication sporting your artwork on the cover (it puts me in a better mood before finding out how much I owe the cashier for my fancy almond milk and strawberries imported from Chile).

This was an exciting illustration commissioned by Pittsburgh Quarterly, which required a little ornithology research since the art director specified that only birds native to Western Pennsylvania should be included – hence the beautiful Cedar Waxwing, Northern Cardinal and Red-Breasted Nuthatch.

The overall design was meant to have a holiday feel without becoming dated by February when the next issue is due out. How did I do?

Prototyping has begun

I have always loved snail mail (bills excluded), and especially packages. Since I have started making prototypes of tangible products printed with my artwork, spotting a box on my doorstep or a bulky envelope stuffed in my mailbox takes the excitement to a whole new level of awesome. This iPhone case is the latest item to arrive. It’s already been promised to a friend, but I wanted to try it out myself for a few days to test the quality of the case. I can say after having it on my phone for a mere 24 hours, I can now pass it onto my friend because I’ve already dropped it twice. I’m pleased to report the phone and the case survived without a scratch. Want to buy one for yourself? This case and others will be available soon through a shopping cart, but, in the meanwhile, send me an email (ashley.cecil@gmail.com) or leave a comment. I would be happy to send this box of snail mail love to your doorstep.

Bugs on Baby Blue

Would you rock out a scarf with dainty designs and gnarly bugs? Or how about a throw pillow? Well, you have time to think it over because I have two more of these mini-paintings to finish before printing them on fabric. I think a lacey pattern with a few bees and beetles would suit you well.

Paintings in progress, October 11, 2012

Chartreuse paintings in progress

I’m excited to use these paintings (plus one more not in this shot) as a first attempt at translating my paintings into fabric. Hold onto your   thimbles. I see DIY curtains and pillows adorned with my artwork in the near future.

Painting in progress, June 25, 2012

I’ve opted not to add a bird in this painting. I’m saving it for the three other canvases I prepped with the same chartreuse color. Instead, I thinking about painting a bright insect on the peony or leaves. Maybe a Dogbane Beetle or Swallowtail caterpillar. Suggestions are always welcome.

Blue Jays on Gray

Blue Jays on Gray
24″x24″ acrylic, oil and 22k gold on canvas
Email ashley.cecil@gmail.com for purchase inquiries.
See all artwork available for sale.

Although the Blue Jays in this painting were fairly laborious to paint, the circular design around the outside of the image was much easier to create than those in other paintings in this series. The more organic pattern meant I didn’t have to worry about symmetry. That’s comforting since this is one painting of a pair; the second one has the same design.

I’m off to New York this weekend to attend Surtex, “the global B2B marketplace for original art & design—where artists, agents and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category imaginable.” Maybe I’ll have an epiphany about what product these paintings can adorn. Wish me luck.