March 23, 2014
Well I am totally excited. I had seen Lilla Rogers online bootcamp, ‘Make Art That Sells’ a few times in my Facebook feed and on a few blogs I had visited. Normally I wouldn’t take a second glance at such a thing, as the ‘internets’ is rife with every man and his dog pitching some sort of regurgitated automated bootcamp. But this one seemed a little different. I took note, because I had seen some pretty well known illustrators (who I admire a lot) doing this course. I also saw some bloggers write about their journey with the course and it just seemed like it was more a journey in growing as an artist more than anything else and it was refreshing. There was no hidden agenda, just improve your skills and get support from a whole lot of illustrators that are on board.
So I saw the feed once again and this time it said ‘got a day left to sign-up for this year’. So on a whim I thought why not? And boy I am so glad I did.
Lilla has a lovely way of approaching briefs, and helping you think of ways to get creative without putting too much pressure on yourself. I was amazed how ideas seem to be flowing and shapes that were meant to be one thing, all of a sudden became another (that rarely happens to me). I have come up with numerous new characters from this one exercise, some new techniques and skills…so anything else I learn is a total bonus.
It’s also been a great way for me to really sit down and explore pattern repeats, which I have only just touched on briefly in the past. I have never spent a good day on exploring how they worked and finding a technique that suits me. I still find it quite confusing to understand how the final pattern design will work, once it has been repeated. My first designs seemed a bit too repetitive. I wanted to have more of an organic, scattered feel…if that makes sense? I couldn’t quite understand how the negative space works within a piece, until I did countless ‘pattern fills’ in Photoshop, which is basically seeing your pattern repeated on a large scale. I had at least 55 different alternatives in design. I feel like maybe there is a better way to see the whole picture of a pattern, but I haven’t figured that out yet. A lot of people use the ‘offset’ tool under the filters area of Photoshop, but I don’t really like that way. Instead I use the transform tool and offset values in the toolbar (image below). Just is easier for me. I basically based it off an Illustrator tutorial I have, which I love and just mimicked it in Photoshop.
So what steps did I go through to get to the final piece? Well based on Lilla’s brief which was to sketch out Jelly. I spent a few hours spread out over a few days, sketching ‘icons’ of jelly and each icon wasn’t necessarily connected, I just drew shapes based on jelly/jello. To be honest I didn’t like jello that much and soon my little mind was like, ‘well what else has the same shape as jello and what else can that shape be?’ And based on my style, little animal characters soon crept in and then umbrellas, which actually are jelly shapes and also clouds if you think about it. At this point I was pretty excited, because this is the first time in a long time that shapes evolved into something else. Usually the way my brain works, it thinks too rigidly and when someone tells me to do something, I will try and stick to it and then I get stuck because I am not connecting with the topic. So it was nice that my mind was happy wander and stick too much to the briefs subject matter.
I definitely don’t sketch for hours on end though, it’s usually short little increments, maybe 10-15 min max before I go off and do something else and come back to a few hours or a day later. My concentration span is bad. I wish I could just sit for hours on end sketching, but I get bored and probably a bit anxious if I am being truthful.
Once I had enough icons/designs I scanned them in. I scan in all my ‘sketches’ (unless they are really bad) even if I don’t use them at 1200 dpi. I do actually go back and use elements on other projects later down the track (including this one). This time I drew the icons in pencil, and didn’t go over them in ink.
The next step was figuring out the best approach and mucking around a bit. The problem is I do all my colouring and texturing in Photoshop, but I have never mastered pattern repeats in Photoshop, only Illustrator. You can open Photoshop files in Illustrator, but it’s a little bit of a pain. So with a bit of logic (aka mucking about) I managed to figure out a way to do pattern repeats my own way in Photoshop. Then it was just a matter of playing with the elements positioning, colour and scale.
Colour is another hard one for me. I am envious of those that pick colour swatches at the beginning of the project and stick to the colour scheme. I try, but the colours I select never work the way I think they will and I end up just totally mucking around and tweaking colours. I do countless colour variations on each design until I get something that feels right. Moodboards are pretty pointless for me, because I just never stick to the colours, all my colours are on intuition with a rough understanding what colours are in trend.
It took me a good whole day to put the actual designs together in Photoshop, that’s colouring in icons (some I did not use in the final design), 55 different design layouts, some are just small tweaks of each design, including colour changes. I think that’s pretty good. When I am on to a design that feels good, then it usually takes me anywhere from a few hours to two days to put together. Usually a good day.
So there you go, there’s a little info about my process and now I am quite excited to start exploring using patterns in my work! I think it’s going to add another dimension to my work! Exciting.
Below are some of the earlier concepts.