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.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

MATS A, Week 1: Bolt Fabric

The first week of MATS (Make Art That Sells) Part A went really, really well.  I was so anxious and scared to begin with, but I felt right at home illustrating the mini, and then later the actual assignment.  My fellow classmates were super supportive, and their work is really great!  It's awesome to see what others are doing and it helps me to figure out what to tweak next.  I see how they handle certain elements within a design and it sparks a solution in me.  Lots of zeitgeist, enthusiasm, feedback, and visual inspiration!

I also like that the turnaround times are short in order to force me not to spin my wheels.  I have the tendency to overthink things if given too much time.  The deadlines of the course plus the unpredictability of the baby's toddler's schedule make for a nice sense of urgency that makes me productive!  This past Thursday night I turned in my final, and here's what it looks like...

This was the layout that I turned in, and I'd like to change certain elements moving forward, but I'm happy with the overall direction I chose.  Our mini theme was "pretty peppers and pyrex" and then the big assignment was "vintage kitchen" as the target niche.  I kind of tweaked the theme to "I love Tex Mex please join me in celebrating my love for enchiladas through the lens of 1972."

As many of you who know me already know, I lived in Texas for a few years and my husband is Texan.  His family live in the southwest and we visit nearly every year.  Here in Germany, Tex-Mex can be found, but it's not the same.  When I visit TX and NM, the food is something I enjoy very, very much (I nearly went with vintage + BBQ!).

Interestingly enough, living in Germany for so long seems to have rubbed off on me.  One of the coordinates ended up looking like one of my favorite traditional dirndl fabrics (the green/white one on the lower right).  I think it would be really cool to have a dirndl with chiles on the bodice or apron!!

Mini: peppers n' pyrex
Original Mood-board

first linocut in over 10 years!

To give you a breakdown of what I was working with, I scanned in my images and isolated roughly 80 to 90 individual icons. Once the additional category of "vintage kitchen" was given, I shopped among them for the most appropriate ones.  I had already digitized them, but not yet colored them.  Next, I added textures, finessed the little details... but there's always more to do.  If anything, I've already learned that.  The details make or break the illustration.

Thoughts on Week 1 Course Materials
I found the break-down of the assignment to be very helpful.  I love the act of chunking the work into tasty morsels, and so the structure of the class suits me well.  Most days we had a post to read, an interview to watch, skills to learn and/or industry tips and tricks to absorb.

The information given in the class materials is really specific and valuable.  This past week there were even additional workshop materials from the Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design course that I considered taking.  I think I'm in the right place because I already have a pretty good understanding of the technical aspects of making a repeat through my background experience with Illustrator and the Creative Live, Skillshare classes from Bonnie Christine and Elizabeth Olwen, and the books I read on pattern design.

But, the interview with an industry professional was invaluable.  So was the style analysis worksheet and Lilla's advice.  In short, I'm so glad to be taking this course.  It's exactly what I needed!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sewing Knits: Vogue V9056

I always knew the three-quarter view was the most flattering!  Hah!

deep INHALE!
This was my first knit top of the year, and I think of it as a "lukewarm" project.  The cut of the pattern is not too friendly for those with poochy bottom-belly pouches like myself.  It makes the wearer look a bit "full" in the belly with just the slightest exhalation.  I'm still going to wear it, but possibly with shapewear underneath. It's not my favorite top, but I'll be wearing it anyway because I love the fabric.

And somehow I managed to mistakenly align the stripes along the sleeve and create a mobius!  That made for a heck of a time when I was doing the twin-needle top-stitching.  I had a big laugh when I realized what happened.  I could've sewn a spiral up the sleeve! HAH!
EXHALE again...
My biggest frustration with Very Easy Vogue's V9056, though, is the sizing.  Its sizing is so off!  I even checked with the finished measurements, and made the size 12 with 14 sleeves.  I made an adjustment to the torso and lengthened it to make sure waistline really hit where it said.  I've never had to do that.  I'm short-waisted usually.  After trying it on, I was swimming in it!  I had to take it to the serger and lop off 3/4" on each side seam.  Yes, 1 1/2" total of fabric removed which in woven fabric patterns is ridiculous, but in a knit it's upsetting.  Negative ease, people! Cutting off the fabric, in turn, affected the drape of the peplum, but I can deal with that.  Just argh.

And the pattern illustration looked so promising, too!  One of my friends made it, and she looks awesome in it!  I asked her about the fitting, and she admitted to ignoring the measurements and just making the smallest size regardless.  So much for following instructions!  Hah!


Well, it's a non-maternity, non-nursing top and I need those so I'll keep making them!  Next on my list is Colette Pattern's Moneta.  We'll see how that one goes.  They're a bit more conscientious about modern fit, so hopefully I won't have to make too many changes to the pattern.

⁃ Fabric: grey and cream stripe knit
⁃ Pattern: Vogue V9056
⁃ Year: contemporary
⁃ Notions: twin-needle
 Time to complete: 4 hours
⁃ First worn: this week
⁃ Wear again? Yes, but with reservations.
⁃ Modifications:  bodice dropped, side-seams taken in

March 19: I made a rookie mistake.  I forgot to wash the fabric before sewing, but in this case it's worked in the favor of this piece and it fits really well now!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Friends at Camp

As a member of 2015's MATS Bootcamp, I've met lots of lovely people.  Some of them wanted to do a blog-share type thing as many of them are just starting blogs, re-booting their careers, and/or starting new careers.  I'm re-booting my illustration work, and thought it would be a nice thing to do.  I was nominated by Melissa Iwai for a Liebster Award which functions as a kind of internet chain letter, but with the intention of spreading the word on small blogs and the people behind them.  The Liebster Award asks that the recipient share 11 random facts about themselves, answer 11 questions, and nominate 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers.

11 Random Facts About Me

1.  I'm really short, but people who haven't met me in person often think I'm tall.

2.  My favorite dessert is Tiramisu.  This happened as a result of a neighbor telling me he tries it at every restaurant that offers it on the menu... and then I was hooked, too.

3.  Although coffee ice-cream is my favorite flavor of ice-cream, I don't drink coffee.

4. People are often confused about my accent when they hear me speak English, Spanish, or German.  It seems like people hear an accent in each language, but no one seems to correctly guess my origins. That's most places except my hometown of Miami, where others have a similar Cuban-American accent.

5.  I really love dancing.  I did Irish Dance for 3 years before the baby came, and have done all kinds of different dances - tap, jazz, swing, cheerleading, and even Mexican Folkloric ballet (see photo above).

6.  I'm kind of a silly person.  Okay, I'm just silly and I love bright, saturated colors.

me wearing everyone's hats, purses, and accessories at Oktoberfest
7.  I can type really fast (65-70 wpm).

8. My hair has been just about every length from pixie-cut-short to waist-length.

9.  I love making dumplings of all kinds (gyoza, bao, shumai, etc.).

10. I was filmed for a deodorant commercial, but it wasn't picked up and it never saw the light of day.

11. I love using ellipses... and ellipses ().

Melissa's 11 Questions:

1.  What are your art goals for 2015?
I would like to make more marketable art.  This includes trying to master pattern repeats, source packing materials for shipping my work, and opening an online shop of some kind.  I'd love to see my work on fabric especially.  It would be a real thrill to see my work in someone's quilt or on their clothing.

2.  What medium do you use?
I use pen, ink, color pencils, watercolors, acrylic, pretty much any mark-making tool within grabbing distance... and Illustrator.

3.  What is your process of late for creating a piece of art from concept to finish?
I research> sketch > refine > sketch > select > refine > finalize > publish on blog and intermittently share images of my process on various social media outlets.

4.  How did you come to be an artist? Did you do other things before this?  How did you know you wanted to become one?
I have been so many things while still illustrating.  I've been a classroom teacher, scenic artist, prop painter, knitting pattern designer, in-house illustrator, and so many little random jobs in between.  I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I've always loved working with my hands.

5.  Have you traveled much?  What is your favorite city, town, or place and why?
I have traveled a lot and have lived in a lot of different places across the U.S. and in the EU.  Fave places - Santa Fe, Innsbruck, and Park G├╝ell (Barcelona).  All 3 places are surreal. They're real places that feel like a story book or fantasy become reality.

6.  What do you do when you get frustrated with your work?
Back in my theatre days, I used to angry-cry.  It's a term a friend of mine came up with to describe me when I was in set design during technical rehearsals and things went badly wrong.  These days, though, I don't angry-cry very often.  Usually, when I sense that something is stymieing my progress, I switch gears and work on something different and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  Often, I will switch from digital to hand illustration or vice-versa to keep things fresh.  My time is better spent taking a break than bulldozing a project into submission.

7.  How do you manage your time -- that is, how do you carve out time in your life to do your art?
I use Google calendar a lot.  It's on my phone and I also use the project management software Asana to help me manage my time.  I'm a full-time illustrator & designer, so I divide my time between designing for knits or graphics, and illustrating.  My baby is at home with me, so I try and work in chunks of time working around his daily routine (and non-routine).

8.  What is something you are grateful for?
I'm grateful for my relatively good health and that of my family.

9.  What is an inspiring quote that you'd like the share?
"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." --Mark Twain

10.  What is the best art tip/advice you've been given?
One of my friends told me to "Stop waiting for the perfect time.  There is no perfect time." And, they were/are right!  There's something to be said about timing, but waiting for the perfect moment to start following your dreams is a trap.

11.   What would you tell a child who says they want to become an artist when they grow up?
Do it.  Draw, draw, draw.  Paint, paint, paint.  Make, make, make.

11 Artists from the MATS Bootcamp:

Nadine G. Messier

11 Questions for the next takers:

1.  What are your art goals for 2015?
2.  What medium do you use?
3.  How do you keep your projects and paper-flow organized?
4.  When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
5.  If you could see your work anywhere in this world, where would that be?
6.  Where do you like to work?
7.  What are your favorite resources for learning new skills?
8.  Do you follow any other art or illustration sites?
9.  Are there any quotes or words of inspiration that you keep close when you work?  What are they?
10.  What do you do when you can't figure out the solution to a problem in your work?
11.  What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an artist?