April 21, 2014

Make art That Sells – Week 3 Assignment – Children’s Book Illustration


Oh this week as I predicted was a hard one for me, due to the pressure I put on myself. The brief was to design either a book cover or a two page spread on Aesop’s Fable, “The Fox and The Crow”. I think I struggled because I wanted to get my sweet whimsical nomuu illustrations into the design, and was trying to force them into the initial design, but they just didn’t suit the fable in my opinion . The fable has the fox as quite a cunning little guy (or girl)… trying to steal the cheese from the crow, by encouraging  and flattering the birds singing, and in-turn the bird drops the cheese. That doesn’t translate too well in my mind into sweet characters. That’s not to say you can’t create cute characters, but I just didn’t have the understanding on how to translate sweet characters into a mischievous tone. One thing about me, is I really try to stick to the emotion and feel of a story with characters, I find it very hard to picture the theme and then draw something completely out of sync. I just can’t seem to let go of making sure the characters work well visually with the story. Whether they actually do, is another story 🙂

The other issue I had was conveying emotion, facial gestures. This has not been my strong point and this really hit home with this assignment, and with my nomuu illustrations  I get away with one look, which is sweet and innocent, but as soon as I add other features to my characters like a mouth, it just loses its character. So because I am used to doing characters very simply, with very little facial features, I found it hard to draw eyes and lips and get them to look normal. As soon as I drew eyes on a character I didn’t know what to do with them. I need to learn more about facial gestures in characters. I mean there are thousands of different types of eyes you can create, and just a simple change in the stroke and the way the eyeball sites can make or break the character. Even a simple stroke for a mouth, is not that simple. I am not a technically trained illustrator, and I wonder how much this will impact me. I wonder if you can make it as a book illustrator without having the ability to draw detail and perspective well?

I spent so much time trying to understand fox characters, I drew a ridiculous amount of characters, below is just a small section. I mean I would say I did hundreds, mainly because I was trying to find the right feel in the character. I spent a whole day sketching foxes (yes a whole day).  I was starting off with cutesy characters, but they just didn’t feel like they worked for me and then I tried foxes that looked more like foxes, and they looked nice, but they look so sweet. So eventually I decided on this character, which incidentally I sketched very early on in the piece, and ditched it. The next morning I went back over what I had done, and I saw something quirky in him. I wanted something quirky, that could have simple facial features like my nomuu characters, but still a bit more mischievous, but not too much that you would  necessarily know that. I still incorporated my nomuu character style through the body and clothing.  I also wanted the fox character to look at the crow side on. I didn’t want the fox and the crow looking directly in front. I envisaged the crow being in the tree to the left (in the final designs) and did have him there initially, but it felt better to bring him down closer to the fox.


I didn’t concentrate too much on the crow character, I could of spent a lot of time on him as well, but I was a bit exhausted by the end of it and by that time I sort of knew it needed to match the foxes feel, so I didn’t take me too long. Perhaps the crow could of had more “character” but I think it was ok. I knew the crow, and the lettering of the title wouldn’t be too hard for me to put together, so I left them for later. The lettering took me really about 30 minutes, I didn’t look at any inspiration, I just did a few different lettering styles and found what worked well together.

I am also really happy I tackled the background a bit more. I never knew how to do subtle silhouettes in the background to add depth to a scene. I think for the first time I did pretty well. I admit, I took the outlines from a sketch from a while back. I keep resources on hand for this very reason, so I can use them in projects.

Colours were interesting. I went for a very light coloured theme initially, having a winters forest theme. I tried brighter colours, in the design earlier on (like the green design below). That may have worked too. I think perhaps the final design with the circle and the bright colour in the background may have been a bit of mistake, but I just pushed the design as far as I could. I think this is one the designs that I could go back and work on a little further. Sometimes there are just so many options and none a wrong per say, but you just have to make a decision in which way you want to go.


I jotted down some strengths and weaknesses I have learnt from this week.


I’m good at texturing, this is a big strength of mine

Pretty good with colour

Can do a wide variety of characters

Can do quirky characters

Have a good understanding of trends

Not too bad with lettering

Try to stay true to the story, take the story into consideration in my design



Easily confused with too many character ideas and can get obsessed

Not good with poses, eyes and facial gestures

Drawing perspective and shadows

Too rigid in my thinking, can’t let go of how I want things (which can be a strength at times)

Try to force things that don’t work together

Not very good at technical drawing

April 14, 2014

Make Art That Sells – Week 2 – Dinner Plates Assignment



Bottom two images, some initial concepts.

This weeks assignment  for the course ‘Make Art That Sells’ was quite challenging for me. I think I put up some roadblocks before it even began. The brief was to design dinner plates with the theme of ‘succulents’ and before I even started I wasn’t really feeling it. Succulents are lovely, but I don’t know I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps because I had a busy week and I had less time to really concentrate on it. It’s funny how the subject matter can affect your designer mojo.

I sat down and based on my little talk to myself last week I roughly knew what direction I wanted to go in. So I stuck to my idea of the scandinavian, textural feel. I also wanted a abstract, collagy feel. I didn’t want it to be a detailed illustration and I did get there in the end, and I am happy with the results but…I have no clue how I got there – lol!

The one thing I find frustrating is just ‘winging it’ and  I felt like I winged it. Seriously,  I got muddled up in the beginning and somehow wanted to incorporate cute little characters (basically because I wasn’t feeling the ‘theme’), and so mucked around with that for a while. I then stumbled across some textures that I blended together and started to feel something nice happening there, proceeded to switch  off and on layers in Photoshop, accidently moved layers around, and found something that resembled something rather interesting…yes apparently moving around layers by accident can help! That’s what worries me, that sometimes I create things just by experimenting, with no real clue how I achieved the end result!

The final design was not exactly what I was envisaging, I was envisaging very rough shapes of succulents and  I had imagined I would of had many succulents in the design, but ended up just having one or two. The colours, were all intuitive, I didn’t walk into the brief with particular colours in mind, I just sort of went with what felt right. Not sure if that’s a good thing. I wonder if I really should train myself to use specific colours? I find it very hard to do that though. I feel like I am having a constant battle with my mind. Me wanting to do one thing, and my little brain wanting to do something completely different and I confess I just end up giving-in in the end and let my mind do whatever it wants. Whenever I fight it, it seems to be even harder.

I think again there was a lot of mind chatter with this assignment, too many ideas and directions and not knowing which way to turn. I hope I can tone that down a bit in the future.

This weeks assignment is childrens picture books and we need to draw foxes…and well can you imagine how I feel. Excited, so excited! Although I am already anticipating I will be putting a lot of pressure on myself with this assignment, because it’s a theme very close to my heart. So I want to ‘nail it’. Ohhhh the pressure! 

Update: It was very cool to get selected in Lilla’s picks. She thought my work would go well at Crate and Barrel. I was hoping Anthropologie, but I know it was a bit too bold for that market. They have a lot of painterly, watercolour look going on there at the moment, with sort of turkish inspired patterns. Her suggestion was to work on my logo area, which she also mentioned last weeks review. That’s not too bad. I know it was kind of plonked on, but hey Rome wasn’t built in a day 🙂 I did start creating some new signatures I just didn’t have time to work on it more. Something for this weeks assignment to get on top of. It was interesting to hear Lilla’s thoughts on the Land of Nod, and how even though it’s for the children’s market, they really are targeting adults with the artwork too, which makes sense as I am lucky enough to have my abstract work selling there at the moment. I then realised other people were buying my abstract work for bedroom nurseries too, which I would have never thought to do.

April 6, 2014

Make Art That Sells – Course A – Bolt Fabric – Assignment Review


Well I decided at the last minute to sign up for the ‘Make Art That Sells – Courses A and B’, which is different from the bootcamp. It’s been a great journey so far. So worth the investment. Basically it is more in depth, but bootcamp is great too.

Sorry I am going to waffle on in this post, forgive me…but it’s a good way for me to document my processes. You skip down to “actual process…” heading if you don’t want to hear my pain and turmoil 🙂

Anyway, talking about pushing your creative muscle, boy did I do that this week! I went through quite a few emotions. I don’t know if this comes up for others when designing, but this course has made me confront a lot of issues about “me as an artist”. Questions like ‘”who am I as an artist, where do I want to go with it all, what direction do I want to go in, what is my style?” I have probably  been avoiding  these questions for a long time, but this course  and maybe my current headspace has allowed me to really confront some of those issues. There was a lot of mind chatter going on, and instead of ignoring it (like I usually do), I decided to really listen to what it was saying.

I had a  few realisations, one is that I love experimenting and exploring different styles. The negatives side to that is that I can easily get lost and go off on tangents which from my observation in these last few days has meant that I get a bit overwhelmed, because I am overstimulated creatively.

For example earlier in the day I had seen a bright blue and coral colour in a pattern design and  I loved the colours so much I wanted to explore working with them (you can see where I started with images no 4 and 5). Yet even though, I loved that bright blue colour with the coral, I had to really ask myself was this really the path I wanted to go down?  It’s way off any colours I normally use, and sure I could have explored those colours, but in the long run I think using those colours would have affected not just the work I submitted, but also future work to. Sounds strange huh? But when I really broke it down, I realised that when I do go off on tangents  (left of field) I am actually confusing myself, even though I am ‘exploring’. Sure I am stretching my creative muscle, but I am also confusing it to, which defeats the purposes. When I get overly confused I get lost and anxiety creeps in, and that’s when I lose my creative flow.

You see there’s lot of unconscious mind chatter going on while I am designing and it goes something like this… “how will any of this go with any of my current work, will I be able to make the colour scheme work with my current designs, if I go down this path will this confuse people, can I just create this work and separate it from my current work, should I experiment with new mediums, should I go into Illustrator and try vector for this project?”. This list goes on and on.

So you’re probably saying to yourself ‘it’s just one piece of artwork, if you don’t like it lesson learnt’ which is true, but actually this one little piece can  have a roll on effect with all my other work, well for me anyway. I am not very good at switching off and a lot of my thoughts carry on to the next project (usually without me realising it).

So basically I sat down and had a good talk to myself and I asked myself what I wanted to do with my design style not just for this project but in general, and I decided I wanted to stick with my Nomuu theme and colours which has a some muted tones throughout it. I really love working on my Nomuu illustrations and so I want to try and concentrate on honing my skills in that. Now having said that, I am still happy to experiment with bold colour choices, but I don’t want to be doing royal blue. I also I decided I wanted to stick to a sort scandinavian feel, textural feel that I have going on. Because yes, I even toyed with the idea of creating cute vector characters in Illustrator with this assignment (all my work is hand drawn not vectorised), again had to reign in those thoughts in and ask myself was it really necessary or would it confuse me even more? The answer was, “Yes! It would confuse me”.  So after my epiphanies, it was much easier for me to concentrate on my design and focus on the direction and it made the process much more enjoyable. If you are an illustrator/artist and you have had similar struggles perhaps you can start observing your own mind chatter and start to dissect what is happening and how those thoughts are effecting your work. It’s hard to do, but cam be quite beneficial.


Now I am going to talk about my actual process in creating the pattern, so I spent a good 3 full days on this project, sounds like a lot but I spent a whole lot of time just playing, getting rather confused, coming to epiphanies and experimenting and trying to understand pattern repeats/ surface design. I admit I struggled and certainly don’t have it down packed, which is understandable (early days).

The theme by the way was exotic fruits and retro Pyrex bowls. I now realise I should of had more exoctic fruits and perhaps more of a retro feel, but that’s okay I will pay more attention to the brief next time.

So basically after I created my sketches and developed ‘icons/elements’ (tried a few things, pen, pencil and ink) I started off dragging in my ‘elements’ (image 4) into Photoshop and just started playing around with designs and  I started to get ideas based on colours I thought I might want to explore.


Once I had my icons. I wanted to avoid going it to a straight square pattern template. Instead I tried to get a rough pattern flowing by just placing objects on a page, which you can see in image 6. I really like the look and feel of that design, however translating that into a flowing pattern repeat was really hard. I would have love to somehow get that ‘flowing feel’ in the final pattern piece (image 2) but I just couldn’t seem to translate it into the final design. Note: what looks nice as a single design layout, can look completely horrible as a pattern repeat and I don’t have enough knowledge this stage to understand all the ‘ins and outs’ of pattern design. If we look at image 6 again, I thought “Oh ok, maybe I could make that whole piece into a pattern”, but then when I thought about it some more I thought it would have just looked like big clumps of patterns with big bits of negative space, which would have looked odd. So I have realised there is a ‘real art’ to pattern designs and I need to really need to research it some more. I want to be able to do complex patterns that  weave in and out of each other. That is going to need some research and lots of trial and error.

After creating image 6 (last image), I did have some moments of wanting to go off and explore other colours . So somewhere along the line, I saw some of the ‘icons/objects’ I was using (in image 6) and sort of thought it would be good to layout some of the pieces not in a pattern but as an art print layout and then work backwards.  I also thought it might help me get inspired and so I started collating the objects in new documents and came up with numerous designs, designs that I actually thought in the end were rather cool as art prints.  I do that quite often, if I see an element I have created I will put it into a document and see if I can build upon it there and then or for a later date. Anyway as it turned out they didn’t work as patterns…I did try and put them into patterns, but they just looked odd. And yes, I guess they slightly went off tangent, but I still think they have a little bit of my ‘Nomuu’ illustration feel and are a bit more muted than that bright blue colour and so I am ok with that 🙂

After I had decided that I couldn’t take anything from the art print designs I went back to image 6 and did in fact build a square pattern template in Photoshop. Once I layed out icons in the pattern square I then  played around with “defining a pattern” option in Photoshop and then seeing what the outcome was. So it really was a little bit of trial and error and I am wondering if I am missing something in the process. Seeing something in a square and then seeing it repeated is like pulling a rabbit out of hat, you just don’t know what you are going to get. So anyway, I finally came up with my final pattern, with a lot of switching on and off of icons, moving icons around, looking and dissecting how the negative space worked in the design and also playing with colours. Again, I didn’t really have specific colours in mind, I would say I did decide early on that I wanted a dark blue background and I also wanted a coral colour, because it’s in trend at the moment and I like the colour. The mustard yellow, was selected to give the piece extra pop and make it stand out. Here’s tip, I also take a screengrab of where the artwork will be housed and in this example it’s going to be housed on “Flickr” alongside a whole lot of artists work. So I took a screengrab of that page with the other artists work and imposed my work over the top of it, to see what it would look like before it was uploaded. That gives me a good idea if the design works and if colours ‘pop’ enough.

In addition, through the whole process, I kept going back to this question ‘Would I be happy to buy and use the fabric design myself?’ I also imagined how the item would be used, would it look good as a skirt, a notebook, as a bag?

So there you go. Sorry for waffling on, but this is part blog and part me talking to myself – lol!