Monday, March 30, 2015

Surface Design, Botanical #1



After taking some general online courses on Surface Design, I came upon this one by Bonnie Christine on Skillshare.  I started this project in late February, and kept a lot of detailed notes on my progress.  Can I tell you how much I've learned in the videos from Bonnie Christine's class?  It's crazy!  I have been using Adobe Illustrator for over 10 years, and I thought I knew my way around, but I learned so many new tricks in this class that I hadn't ever even thought to try!

I was humbled by the class and how much I have left to learn about design and my favorite software.

Also, as you know, I've spent all of March working on MATS projects.  So, in between my projects and the fast-pace of each week, I've been tweaking and applying my new skills to this pattern repeat.

Here's what I did for the class:





And here's the diary of my entire process...
February 23, 2015
Choose a word, short phrase... Bloom?  Blossom?  Botanical?  Not sure yet, but I think I'll go with one of those.
Favorite things in nature... red squirrels, muscari azureum (grape hyacinths, and also bluebonnets and bluebells), new leaves, buds of flowers, dogwood blossoms, peonies and round blossoms, cacti, lithops & succulents, daffodils and narcissus, orchids, etc.  Bright saturated colors.

1 colorful photograph (for palette) & 3-5 photographs (thematically related, to draw from) -- See mood board labeled "Botanical #1".  I love this bouquet I found on Pinterest.  And, I found other beautiful photographs on several photography sites.  I'm personally not that great of a photographer and so I looked on Pinterest, Flickr, and used keywords of my favorite things to find inspirational photographs.  

Mood-board Photo Origins: I searched for the origins of the peonies bouquet, but to no avail.  The leaves, curled seed pod are from photographer Alan MacKenzie a very talented wildlife photographer.  The daffodils and muscari azureum on the top right of the moodboard are from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  And the red squirrel is from Birds in Berlin blog.




February 24, 2015: Choose 10 - 15 simple/med complex sketches  I'm thinking the squirrel, hyacinths, and the succulents will be my complex elements and perhaps I'll simplify everything else into 1 or 2 colors.  Maybe I'll use just the filled-in outline for some, and/or the line-art.  Time to play!

February 25, 2015: Digitizing the sketches
This was somewhat tedious, but in a zen-like way.  It's digital tracing using a bunch of different techniques.  Some I used my own custom brushes in Illustrator, then expanded the stroke.  Others I used the blob brush as instructed in the videos.  Then Others I used a black marker and filled in areas using my tracing table, and then scanned, and did "live trace".
March 1, 2015: Simple Repeat
Alright.  I have to say it.  This class is ROCKING my world!  I just tested my simple pattern repeat, and using my palette, I "recolored" the artwork.  To my amazement and wonder, I now have 3 colorways that I absolutely love.
What do you think?

March 4: Complex Repeat WIP  
Here's where I am with the motif for the complex repeat.  I've struggled a bit to get it where I want because one of my goals was to add texture to my work.  So, I made some textures, scanned them, etc. and got them to be vector-friendly.  Then, I learned that you can't make a pattern repeat from something with a pattern in it... so be sure to expand all your elements before trying to make a pattern from it!  I learned that after a while of trying to drag it into the swatches panel with no success.  Oops!  Lesson learned!
March 18, 2015: Complex Repeat WIP The past few weeks I've learned a few things about repeats.  I bought and read several of the books that Bonnie recommended (mastering the art of fabric printing and design & the field guide to...).  I also learned some new work-flow for Photoshop and back to Illustrator in order to add texture and correct alleys and holes  and too easily recognizable repeated motifs.

Also, I went back and re-inked some of the original motifs that felt a bit lacking, and here are the newly inked icons.

March 30, 2015 And, if you look at the version I submitted, you'll see the versions above were the ones I used.  

The next steps for this project:  
  • add more geometric/abstract patterns
  • refine the color palette
  • find a fabric manufacturer who would like to work with me to print the collection!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

MATS A, Week 4 Wall Art

This week was a very freeing experience for me.  Before this year's Bootcamp and MATS class, I hadn't done a proper painting in forever.  I was a scenic artist for half of my 20's and had painted giant scenic backdrops, kitschy scenic flats, furniture, design illustrations, etc.  And, this week felt like I was taking all that experience, plus a distinct perspective as an adult and I was able to just let it flow.

Here is the final mocked up in a frame...


The assignment called on several specific requirements - choose a pair of colors based on our zodiac sign, use collage, include text.  My sign corresponded to the colors pink & yellow. I was really excited about pink & yellow, but truthfully, I would have been excited no matter what the color combo.  I love getting direction and parameters to work within, and I also love color.  Yay color!


Next we had to collect 2-D and smallish 3-D items that were in our colors, a color scavenger hunt!  My studio is lightyears beyond the mess that it was last year.  I've tossed so much, and even then, I managed to have no shortage of things in these colors.

button collection and swatch for gloves WIP
ancient i-pod and lovely silks
And, once I figured out how I was gonna work, I was off to the races.  I didn't have a large enough canvas so I worked on five little canvases that I would seam together digitally.  Dekopatch, gesso, matte medium, acrylics, markers, pens, post-it notes, paper, rice paper, fabric, buttons, tissue paper, cardboard, and stamps... to name some of the things I used to make this piece.  While things were drying, I rotated the canvases and made linocut plates.  I had a really good flow going, and I was listening to my fave tunes on the ancient i-pod.

lino cut and watercolor dots
The next part, the digital seaming, was a bit more tedious, but it allowed for a kind of freedom that I hadn't had before with paint.  The ability to "undo" is an amazing weight lifted off one's shoulders.  The fear of making the next mark is completely gone, and it was great!



This project was tons of fun, y'all.  Tons.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MATS A, Week 3 Picture Books

This week was a real eye-opener.  I've illustrated for books before, but never children's books, and that was the big theme this week.  It was exhilarating.  I had so much fun illustrating the goats and then the trolls, but I was left a bit sad afterward.  I want to keep going... I had so many ideas that I didn't get to illustrate for this one!!

Let's get to the meat here... Here's my image.  I think it's fairly easy to figure out which fairytale this particular scene represents, but just in case... it's from "The Three Billy Goats Gruff".  It's when the littlest goat first meets the troll.


During my research phase (all of 30 minutes), I found out that goat farmers don't like calling male goats "billies" and they prefer the intact male goats be called "bucks" or "rams."  There you have it!  And, this story is really, really violent!  I cannot imagine illustrating the traditional story for super young kids.  I left that to my peers and they did some lovely innocent twists on the story.  I took the assignment as-is, and my direction aimed toward a bit older audience (kids maybe 8+ years old).

I thought it would be really cool to do a comic/graphic novel-type hybrid with the picture book and proposed inserting two panels to illustrate the fear and panic of the littlest goat, but my peers thought it took away from my illustration. The leftmost inserts would have been black and white and shown the hooves of the little guy as he first steps onto the bridge. Dramatic!!  I'd love to hear what you think!


I found that my scenic art background came in really handy in this assignment.  It's what I enjoyed the most.  I loved painting the background and creating the forest and the waves.  AAND, I especially loved doing the troll.  So much fun!  His back absesses and hair and six fingers, yellow teeth, etc. etc.  Had I more time to develop my characters I wanted to add a bat and mushrooms, dead animals, etc. to his fur.  So many ideas!

And, for my fellow artist and illustrator friends who are curious about my process...

Here's are a few WIP screenshots...



And the character development phase...

These are the two fave pages of goats.  There were maybe 10 or 12 sheets full of goats. :D

"Friends" or maybe "Three's Company" meets "3 Billy Goats Gruff":

Baby Goats!!

This week's course materials were really great. The interview with Mike Lowery reminded me that illustrators are people.  Yes, I know, I'm an illustrator and also qualify as a person.  But, sometimes we make such a pedestal out of our dreams that we forget the daily steps it took for regular people to get there!  There was also an interview with a Hatchett Book art director which was really great for learning the process by which picture books become a reality.  It sounds lengthy, but I know a thing or two about that (see my knitting designs)!

Aaaand, this week's favorite for me was actually a bonus by Lilla.  She included this really great worksheet about dealing with self-critique and envy.  I'm constantly at odds with myself.  "Is my style good enough? Marketable enough?  Is it even a style?" All these doubts!  It's great to hear I'm not alone.  Although, it would also be great to have actual answers to these questions. HAH!  Whatever the case may be, I look forward to "Wall Art" which is next week's assignment.

Monday, March 16, 2015

MATS A, Week 2: Home Decor

Review of Week 2, MATS Part A which focused on Home Decor.


We started the week with Monday's Mini Assignment which was "go crazy with paisley!"  And I did!
I went ahead and went crazy doing different graphite illustrations on wacky paisley motifs thinking we were going to do bedding or bathroom textiles, maybe even upholstery or a room.  I imagined paisley swamps and bogs and that's where my head was when I started illustrating for this project... some kind of paisley pond world.

And then we got the main assignment: plates.  One of the worksheets that came with this week's assignment had this very important question when thinking about plates: Would you eat off of it?  My stomach had a sinking feeling when I came to that question.  It had never crossed my mind that we'd end up focusing on plates!  Some of my illustrations were not really food friendly... frogs eating flies, hungry anyone?!


It is a tough question, isn't it?  If it's a decorative plate, then no, I wouldn't eat off of it.  But, my utilitarian tendencies wouldn't let it go at that simple solution.  I couldn't just design decorative plates.  I don't own any purely decorative plates, and it was an important aspect of this week's project to be your own customer.  I worked through the designs until I felt that these were a series of plates I could see myself picking up and serving desserts or summer drinks or a festive picnic meal.  I learned this about myself - I am picky.

Here's the progression of one of the plates, the upper right one in the layout.

And then of course, there's the real-life stuff that kind of stressed me out.  We were traveling and we had no internet access, and I bought a hot-spot card to use the city's wi-fi, but it was spotty at best. Little dude was finding everything exciting and did not want to sleep or nap, which made it a bit of a a time crunch. We were at this ridiculous cloister atop a giant hill in a tiny town in Germany, and it was beautiful... but technologically desolate.

Thoughts on Week 2 Course Materials

With this week came a wonderful set of worksheets that had some great questions about this market and specifically plates.  These are the kind of questions that get you un-stuck when you've made progress, but aren't "finished".  I am treasuring them.  They're the "Hey did you think about this or that?" aspect of illustration.  I tend to sketch quickly and get things into the computer and then find myself all self-doubty at some point.  Those questions are invaluable!

The interview this week was with a Crate + Barrel art director and it was interesting to read how she makes decisions on artwork.

So, is the Home Decor market for me?  I think it could be, but I still like the puzzle aspect of bolt fabric better.  Home Decor felt like the ocean to me, and I like knowing where the edges of the pool are when I'm illustrating.  Maybe I'll feel differently depending on the item.

Also, a special shout-out to my fellow MATS-ians.  Thanks for your help pushing me forward this week!  I needed it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Picante Dirndl

When I was a kid, I loved comics.  I was a big fan of the "what-if" and alternate reality issues that comics would sometimes print.  This idea of "what if's" popped into my head as I posted about this past week's MATS Bolt Fabric Assignment, and it wouldn't let go.

What if... I did make a dirndl out of my own fabric?

I imagine it looking like this!  I used Burda's Dirndl Pattern 8448 as the basis for this visual mock-up.



I think that would be really unique to wear to Oktoberfest 2015!

Please note that I do not have any affiliation with Burda or their patterns, and I do not represent Burda or their parent company in any way.  Just an illustrator and DIY-er here.