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      Meet the Illustrator Behind the Sunflower

      Maria Funk, or better known as Frau Buchstab on Instagram, is a brilliant artist who we recently commissioned for the Sunflower graphic for our latest Estie released on November 5, the Sunflower.

      We have been a fan of Maria's work for quite some time. Her ability to add a personal touch to her illustrations, while painting in vibrant hues and details, has made for a wonderful collaboration with this artist.

      We recently interviewed Maria to better understand her process, her history with fountain pens, and her advice to young illustrators.

      Please tell us a little about yourself.
      My husband and I moved to a tiny village south of Cologne in 2015. We bought a very old house with a big backyard and lots of work to be done, because we didn’t want to raise our children in a big city. Before that I spent most of my adult life in Berlin after coming back from my Master Studies in Eugene, OR. Our family includes our two boys – aged 5 and 10 – and a very funny little rescue dog from Sardignia.

      Are you a fan of fountain pens?
      I have always loved fountain pens and did all my note taking during my studies and my professional life exclusively with fountain pens, however the brand Esterbrook wasn’t really on my radar until Bryan approached me a couple of months ago about a possible cooperation. I instantly fell in love with the beautiful craftmanship, the elegant design and the outstanding writing characteristics of Esterbrook pens.

      What is your professional job? Are you a full-time illustrator?
      After teaching German as a foreign language both in the US as well as in Berlin in my early twenties, I started to work as an editor for schoolbooks. When I moved away from Berlin I became a freelancer, working as an editor and copywriter for different companies. I always had a huge interest in arts and creative processes, but hadn’t really pursued that passion anymore after I first started to work. When my youngest son was born five years ago, I came across handlettering during one of those sleepless nights scrolling through Pinterest. I instantly felt the need to try it out and have really gotten into it ever since. After a while I remembered that I still had a lot of my old art supplies laying around in one of the unpacked boxes, so one thing led to another and soon enough I found myself buying more brushes, watercolors and paper. I have been drawing and painting pretty much every day since. I still mostly work as an editor and writer but every now and then I take on commissioned work or teach small classes. It is more a hobby than a career, but definitely a huge part of my life and I couldn’t live without it.

      How did you first hear about Esterbrook? Do you have a favorite pen of ours?
      I think I saw a post from another artist with some Esterbrook pens and I commented on how pretty they were. And then Bryan noticed my account and approached me for a collaboration. If I had to choose I probably would go with the Pumpkin Latte, it is a bit smaller and fits perfectly in my purse.

      When Esterbrook reached out with this assignment, what was your process for creating the graphic?
      When Bryan told me about the Sunflower pen I was really excited. During the summer months we had endless sunflower fields in our neighbourhood and I had already really gotten into painting them. It was a bit tricky though, because the assignment was to include the esterbrook logo. After sleeping on it a couple of nights and visiting more sunflower fields I started sketching on my iPad. I usually do first drafts for assignments digitally, since it is easier to move everything around in order to find a perfect composition. Once that was achieved I got out my favourite watercolor paper, some watercolors paints (some of them I had even made myself) and my brushes and started sketching a couple versions before I drew the final sunflowers wrapped around the Esterbrook logo.

      Do you have any advice for illustrators just starting out?
      I feel nowadays the endless possibilities of both analog and digital work, combined with the great variety of available materials can be a bit overwhelming. So my advice is to focus on one medium first. In the beginning it can be really helpful to take some classes (online classes or tutorials are great, they are usually affordable or free and you can fit them easily in your own time schedule). Get on Instagram and search for artists you like and whose work speaks to you. Let them be your inspiration. Personally I am also a big fan of art books to broaden your horizon and to learn about different techniques. But don’t let Social Media fool you into constantly comparing yourself to other artists. Always just measure against yourself and you will be able to see and to appreciate your own progress. Creating should be fun, it should speak from your soul and it should make YOU happy. But you only get better actually doing it.