Friday, May 25, 2012

Surface Design - Week 4 (Pattern - Part 1)

Week 4 of the Surface Pattern Design Course with Rachael Taylor was all about the exciting world of pattern. Pattern is one of those things - you know a good one when you see it, but it's tricky to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it work (and even harder to create one that works!).

Orla Kiely - brilliant at pattern!

First, Rachael gave us a breakdown of the different genres and categories of patterns (for example by style, and how they are described). She also went through the key areas of surface pattern design being:
* illustration (i.e. a stand alone drawing or artwork used on its own, for example on a greetings card or T-shirt)
* placement prints (i.e. a design that doesn't need to be in repeat, for example on a tote bag or stationery)
* surface pattern concepts (i.e. a design which suggests a pattern that fills the entire area of the design and contains some repetition but isn't in a technical repeat, for example that might be used on a teatowel or duvet cover)
* technical repeats (i.e. where a pattern is put into a repeat so that it can be used for rolls of wallpaper or fabric)

Rachael emphasised that surface pattern design is about so much more than being able to produce a technical repeat and, in fact, she rarely gets asked to produce her patterns in a technical repeat. Her clients are paying for her skills as a designer, not as a mathematician. The design should always come first and shouldn't be constrained about thinking how the design will repeat. Nevertheless, understanding how to set up technical repeats is a necessary skill for a pattern designer and can save you incurring artwork fees from printers and so this was covered during the week.

This week I decided to try and use some of my photographic images in the exercises, as I'd like to experiment with combining photographic images with drawn and mixed media motifs in my designs.

4.1. Box Repeat Concept

The first exercise this week involved understanding how a box repeat works. Box repeats can be repeated by placing the box pattern either side by side or in drop/step pattern.  To get a feel for this concept, we were asked to make a physical box repeat by drawing a square and then placing elements in the box and around the edges that would result in the pattern being repeatable once multiple boxes are placed side by side and top to bottom.

Rachael used buttons in her example, but, lacking in any interesting colour buttons, I took two photographs that I had taken in the winter, one of snow on a tree the other of snow which had landed on the decking of my balcony creating a striped pattern. In Photoshop I cut circles out of these images, and placed them in a new blank document and copied them in various sizes. I printed these out, cut out the circles and used these for this exercise instead of buttons:

Of course, this wouldn't result in a precise technical repeat and the photographic images would have retained better resolution had I created this all digitally, but the idea was to give a sense of how a box repeat works by creating it manually.

4.2. The Layered Look

The next exercise was another physical (as opposed to digital) one. The idea was to create a "surface pattern concept" (not a technical repeat) by taking a couple of motifs, scanning and copying them in different scales, then printing them out and creating a collage with coloured paper to create a complex, layered look.

I decided to use the same photographic motifs as in exercise 4.1, to see how I could develop this theme further into a surface design concept. As a background, I used one of the cross-hatching patterns I painted in Week 2, scanned this into Photoshop and changed the colours to make the cross-hatching a pale blue on a dark blue background (it was originally black on white). I then set about assembling my collage using the photographic motifs and some circles and strips of different coloured paper and transparent tissue paper.

I didn't think I would be very impressed with this collage technique, but I actually quite like the result. It's a little busy for my taste, but I like the different textures and layers and how it feels uniquely mine because of the photographic images. I think it has a little of the Scandinavian aesthetic which is something I really admire. It has definitely opened my eyes as to the possibilities for using photographic images in a pattern and providing depth with layering.

4.3. Interview with Marie Perkins of Print & Pattern

On Wednesday we were treated to a rare interview with the founder of the hugely popular blog Print & Pattern, Marie Perkins.

Marie showcases new patterns and designs from designers all over the world and her blog has not only become a daily read for those in the design industry (both designers and licensing companies) but has also been turned into two books (with a third on the way). Marie talked about her love of pattern (her fear is of living in drab surroundings!) and what, in her view, makes a strong pattern design (colour first, then a strong motif and then the subject matter). She particularly emphasised the importance of staying true to your own design aesthetic to keep your work unique and original (and less copyable).

4.4. Developing your signature style - Pattern Love moodboard

We were then encouraged to home in on our own signature style by (1) considering the patterns and colours that we are drawn to (looking outward), (2) understanding our own sketching style and subject preferences (looking inward) and (3) experimenting!

Looking around me at home, I guess I am drawn to prints and patterns which are fun, often simplistic (as found in mid-century Scandinavian patterns) and with limited but bold colour palettes (often 2-3 colours).  I also find a lot of inspiration from fashion - I love seeing what textiles, patterns and colours the designers use each season.

Some of my pattern inspirations

As for my own sketching style, it's varied. I have learnt that I can draw in a detailed way, and I have a good understanding of light and shade from my photographic background, but to be honest, what I really love is experimenting with simple line drawings and doodling abstract patterns.

Doodles from my sketchbook

I've also enjoyed experimenting with textures in printing techniques such as monoprinting, linocutting and collage printing. And, of course, photography is a huge passion for me, especially photographing nature and in particular trees! So it will be interesting to see how I combine all of these in my designs.

To get a better feel for the style I like, I created a pinboard on my Pininterest page. Here are a few screen shots:

This exercise really helped me focus on the type of design that I like best - I'm clearly drawn to simple, playful, Scandinanvian-inspired designs, while circles, trees, flowers and photography of nature are common motifs among my favourite images and in my own work. Understanding my design likes will in turn influence how I develop my own signature style.

4.5. Technical Workshop: How to turn mixed-media artwork into a pattern using Photoshop

This week the technical workshop for Photoshop was all about how to take an element of a painting, drawing or mixed-media artwork and use this in a pattern. Again, I decided to use one of my photographs for this exercise. I chose this image of a bird taking off, which I took in North Wales last year.

Working through the workshop, I isolated the bird (using a layer mask and wishing I had chosen a subject with a smoother outline), then copied it onto a few blank document, resized and duplicated it to make a pattern (as the top bit of the wing was missing, I had to overlap the motifs). Then I added a background and texture and played around with the colours to produce this pattern:

I wasn't very keen on this. It looks far too regimented to me. So I decided to go with the design of a single bird motif on a stone coloured textured background instead and did a mock up of how it would look as a cushion.

OK, that's much better! I think I don't really like how a repeated photographic image looks and I've realised that my photographs may work better as placement patterns than repeats. But I could definitely try the repeat technique with drawn images or perhaps silhouettes of photographic images. I'll have to keep experimenting!

4.6. Developing your Design Vocabulary

The next exercise was aimed at teaching us to be able to describe pattern. The task was to pick our favourite surface pattern designer and, using a few of their patterns as examples, describe the rhythm, pace, feel and subject matter of the design.

I didn't hesitate in choosing Lotta Jansdotter as my favourite surface pattern designer. It was after a friend gave me one of her books to browse through that I fell in love with her work and decided to pursue surface design as a career.

Here are some of her designs:

Lotta's designs are playful, uncomplicated and are usually inspired by organic forms or sometimes quite abstract. They are tranquil but a little quirky. They reference the Scandinavian design heritage (Lotta is Swedish, now living in Brooklyn, New York) but are most definitely contemporary, rather than retro. As a result of the screen-printing method she uses, the colour palettes are limited frequently to just 2 colours and the designs often appear pops of colour on a white or neutral background or white on a coloured background. I like Lotta's designs because they make me smile when I look at them. In my opinion, that is the sign of a good surface pattern.

4.7. Design Brief

The final exercise for the week was a design brief with the following specifications:

OBJECT: A high end scarf (square shape, any size)
THEME: ’Celebration’
TARGET CUSTOMER: Professional women aged 30-45
DETAILS: Use only four colours for a placement print (including black and white if you choose. You may use tints of colours without them counting as a separate colour)

I've been wanting to use my photographic images in scarf designs, so I really relished this brief, although the theme and the restrictions on colour would make it tricky.

Inspired by the "celebration" theme, I started off with a photograph from the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney. I cropped to just one firework explosion, deleted the black night sky background and converted it to greyscale so that I could use it as a motif. I then dragged it across to a new document with a white background and copied the motif a number of times, each time changing the scale and the rotation. It struck me that the fireworks looked like allium flowers (in celebration of spring), so with this in mind I used some bright colours and added stems. Finally I added an faint backdrop of doodles using my wacom pen and a bright pink border (using the stroke tool).

I quite liked how this looked, but I thought maybe the colours should be altered a bit to help its appeal to the target customer base of a professional woman (the colours I used in the first version might be better suited to a kaftan or other beachwear). So I changed to a palette of navy, lime green and sky blue. As the border would be more of a feature when worn around the neck or rolled, in the revised design I made it thicker and added a lime green doodle pattern around the edge (which deliberatly spills into the rest of the design to connect the two).

I felt this version reflected the brief much better and I liked the addition of the loosely patterned border.

It was interesting to use a photograph in this way and to experiment with different colour combinations. I'm still amazed at the new ways I have learnt to use Photoshop in the last month on this course.

Summing up:

Wowzers, what a week! So much was covered and we still have the final week to delve further into the world of pattern. I'm off on hols next week, so I'll be catching up on that final week when I get back. Ciao for now!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Surface Design - Week 3 (Colour)

"Life without colour is not merely cooking without seasoning, it's cooking without half the ingredients" - Orla Kiely

3.1. Living in Colour

I've been really excited about this week's topic on the Surface Pattern Design Course: colour.  It got me thinking about my own relationship with colour and the colours I am naturally drawn to. Back in the 90s, along with everyone else, I jumped on the beige/brown/neutrals bandwagon when decorating my first home. Over the years, I have got more confident with having splashes of colour around me and I now can't imagine a life without colour.

The colours I am drawn to have also changed over time. In my first home, I couldn't stand the inspid yellow walls, which presumably someone thought would make the London basement flat appear sunny and bright. It didn't. It did the opposite, making it look faded and pathetic. So I went through a process of de-yellowfying the whole flat, which put me off all shades of the colour yellow for years. Recently though I have discovered a whole new appreciation for yellow, in particular, bold confident bright shades and mustards. I even have a bright yellow sofa now (who would have thought?!).  I love how it adds warmth and an element of fun to my living room. There is something very positive about the colour.

Possibly my favourite colours to wear are the "jewel" tones of deep purples, jade greens, royal blues and deep bluey pinks reminiscent of saris.  These are to be found in some of my favourite clothes:

3.2. Colour Swatches

After considering how we view and use colour in our own lives, the next task was to look for colour palettes in our travel photography and out and about in the street. I created the following colour palettes from some of my travel photographs using Adobe's Kuler tool:

This tool is really cool! Particularly as my ultimate aim is to create designs combining colour photography and drawn images, so this tool will really help me tie the colour palette together.

3.3 Colour Meditation

On Wednesday, we were introduced to Louise Gale, artist and life coach, who gave her her thoughts on how different colours impart different energies and responses in us and talked about the importance of colour in our lives. She also gave us a 10 minute audio "colour mediation" to use to help stimulate creativity. After doing the colour meditation, I felt really calm and grounded and seemed to be much more aware of all of the colours around me. I've done meditation before, but I love this idea of just spending a few minutes focussing on each of the different colours of the rainbow and how they produce different emotions and energy in you as you go through each colour.

3.4. Making Colour Choices

The next creative exercise was to collect a few items from around the home to create some 3 dimensional colour palettes. Each time I started with a couple of things the same shades, then added in a splash of colour. Here are 4 "3D colour palettes" that I came up with from thing around my home:

This exercise really made me focus a lot more on some of the colourful things I have around the home and how those colours look when put next to other colours. I also love the idea of a 3D colour palette to have in front of me for inspiration when I am designing.

3.5. Photoshop Workshop - How to create a Colour Palette from a Photograph

For this week's technical workshop, Rachael gave us a step-by-step guide to how to create a colour palette from a photography in Photoshop. We learnt how to place an image on a background, pick colours from it to create colour swatches and use type and paint brush on the document to create a professional-looking colour palette.  Here's my first attempt, using one of the photographs from above.

It was fun to add a bit of my own personality with the hand-drawn flowers. I love the overall look of the hand-drawn elements and the type, alongside the photograph.

I then had a go at another one, but this time using the colour picker tool and then the Pantone library to get the closest Pantone shade, as these are what are used as industry standard colours. I also played with a different format, which was fun.

I think I would definitely create these kind of colour palettes before starting work on a design project. They provide a great reference for the feel of the palette and the concept. I like how you can make it individual by playing with the layout and adding doodles. I can see how these would be a great way to convey a colour palette to a client as well.

3.6. Making a Physical Colour Mood Board

The final task for the week was to make a colour mood board. Inspired by the two colour palettes I created in Photoshop, I went through  some old copies of Vogue and cut out images or parts of images that felt in keeping with each of these two colour palettes. I composed the images into a temporary mood board on the floor, photographed them and then stuck the images in my Pattern Love Book that I created for Week 2. Since pattern, design and colour go hand in hand, it makes sense to me to keep all this inspiration together.

Here are the two mood boards:

* Cool Vineyard:

* Tropical Seas


...and some other colour inspired pages I added to my Pattern Love Book:

Summing up

Colour week has been fantastic. It's really made me think more about the colours around me and the colours we see in nature and in every day life and how different colours work with each other. I loved making the colour palettes in Photoshop from my travel photos and going through magazines and pulling together different images to create other interesting colour palettes to add to my inspiration book. I'm looking forward to using these colour combinations in some designs soon!

Next week: Pattern!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Surface Design - Week 2 (Sketching)

The second week of the surface design course with Rachael Taylor was all about sketching and mark-making.

The main exercise this week was to "loosen up" by exploring different ways of making marks:

* using brushes of different sizes, both wet and dry - I loved this exercise. I got particularly carried away with using black ink in a variety of different ways with different brushes: splodging, dripping, using an eye-dropper, blowing, splatting, using a fanned out dry-ish brush to get lines, cross-hatching etc. I'm going to keep these and use them as backdrops to provide texture in future designs.

* drawing with the left hand (makes you feel like a child again, but definitely provide looseness to your mark-making):

* drawing with two pencils or pens held together (I used a pen and a charcoal pencil):

* drawing really fast to fill a page with lines and marks in 60 seconds:

* repeating this exercise to fill the page with lines and marks, but drawing much slower and more detailed:

We were then given a technical workshop on using colour to create a basic surface pattern design in Photoshop, which I used to make this design, from the motif I created in Week 1.

I then toyed with different colour combinations, changing the background only, then changing both the background and the motifs:

It's incredible how different a feel you can achieve just with a change of colour palette.

Finally, we were given the task of going out, looking for patterns that appeal to us in homeware and fashion shops and on the internet, collating these into a "pattern love book" which we can then use these as inspiration to sketch our own patterns, in our own style.  I decided to get creative with the front cover of the my book (that grey textured paper is actually the inside of one of those envelopes that you get security numbers/PINs in):

Here's a couple of pages I've started on, but I'm sure it won't be long before I've filled it up.  It'll become like a physical version of pininterest that I can flip through as and when I need inspiration.

Throughout the week, we also were also treated to interviews and insider tips on sketching and the importance of keeping sketchbooks. I have a few different sized sketch books, mainly A5 for carrying around with me and for making notes and sketches on exhibitions I have visited, but when I'm working in my home studio I like the freedom of working on bigger sheets of loose paper. Rachael gave us a good tip about filing loose drawings in photo albums or plastic sleeves and categorising them, so that you build up your own reference library of sketches and they can easily be pulled out for scanning. I think this is a fantastic idea. Particularly as my various sketchbooks and loose sheets of paper have no order to them and I'd probably struggle to find a particular sketch that I might be looking for.  So Rachael has definitely inspired me to get organised!

Next up: Week 3 - Colour!