A Queens-based designer is using her talent for good by selling Astoria-inspired drawings to raise money for local relief funds.
AJ Riccio, a creative director at a branding and advertising agency, is making detailed pen and ink drawings of neighborhood haunts, from the famous Astoria Kaufman Studios to popular blocks with cafés like Queen's Room and Pye Boat, as well as small shops ranging from wine stores to meat purveyors.
While she's been doing these drawings for four years—selling them at various craft fairs and having them featured in several Astoria restaurants—she saw a way that she could use them to help people.
"Recently, I've witnessed so many of our local businesses struggling from the shutdown," she says. "So, I began to sell my prints of Astoria to raise money because it's the right thing to do. I have sold my Astoria-centric artwork for years and made a profit on it—what kind of monster would I be if I didn't give back (especially) in its time of need? You can't claim to really love your neighborhood if you're only willing to profit from it but not give back to it."
Classically trained as portraiture artist as a child, she started doing her Astoria artworks for her Illustrated Astoria Calendar, which comes out each year. Though she's changed mediums and subject matters, she says she "kind of likes" what she's doing now.
Riccio tries to include all kinds of places in her work: new establishments, old places, scenes from the north, south, east and west sides of Astoria. She also aims for a mix of both well-known and off-the-beaten path places.
"I also try to represent the many different cultures that you find in this area," she says. "I want to be inclusive of every aspect of this neighborhood because that is what Queens represents to me. It's this giant mosaic of mismatching things that work so well together which is totally reflected in the different styles of architecture."