Sunday, 30 March 2014

Patternheads United

Just a quick post today - I want to get back to the course.

I cannot praise this course enough, even after only one week. I do not know where it will take me eventually and I know I have masses still to learn so I'm being open minded but wow! The simple power of it!

I said in the last post that I'd tell you more about the people on the course. We're a bit like this:
In other words there are multiple ways to categorise us and most of us belong to more than one of those categories - hence the overlaps. 

There are people in their 20's, 30, 40's and quite possibly 50's - maybe older. There are people who have graphic design qualifications and who work in that field; there are others who, like me, have no artistic background. One person said it never occurred to her she might want to have had previous artistic experience. There are single people and people in relationships. There are parents of babies and young children and parents of offspring who are gradually leaving the nest. I'm sure there are people who haven't had and never wanted children. There are a couple of legal professionals and others with work backgrounds unrelated to visual art (like me, a professional librarian). There are people working full-time and fitting this in and around. There are people who are doing this in an attempt to widen their portfolio of skills; others who want to redefine their working life; those who want or need a change of career; as well as those just doing it for interest and fun. One thing that does - as far as I can tell so far - unite us, is that we are all female.

But what is this simple power I talked of? I believe it is the power of community. And it is so unexpected.

At 14 I dutifully went to confirmation classes at chapel but was then able to be quite open about the fact that I had no sense of faith. There are two things I have always vaguely missed from my childhood upbringing in an actively Methodist household. Firstly the singing and secondly that sense of belonging and community. That sense of there being people around who were part of your wider network who were rooting for you, who were there for advice and were concerned for your well-being (please don't think me friendless though - I have some wonderful friends!).

And so it is with this course. Yes, there are the creative exercises we are set and the information and knowledge we gain. But the private Facebook page that comprises our community meeting place is so supportive. Scary to put your first pieces of work up on show - is anybody going to like them? Is anyone going to think them worthy of comment? Especially scary when some people are such very very talented artists already. But when you do screw up your courage and do it, getting feedback is amazing! 

I already feel I have some clues towards what my style comprises, because of the words people use about my work. And once you have done it, you aren't scared again. You get braver. Many of us are admitting that some of these exercises are pushing us way out of our comfort zones and sometimes we are perplexed by that - what is wrong with me today? Why can't I get the flow going? And just seeing that other people are feeling this too is reassuring. The other day someone said 'what if I never get it?' But she will - I know she will.

Dying to get back to it now though................. :-)   

(PS - thanks to the member of the course who first called us 'patternheads' - not a word I'd heard before but so apt considering the way it invades your brain...)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Today's the day, hip hip hooray!

When I took redundancy, I was looking for a different way forward in life but I wasn't sure what that would be.

My sensible side said 'build on your existing skills & experiences (management, interpersonal etc)'.  I investigated various possibilities, all proving unworkable, partly frankly, because my heart wasn't fully inclined to wander far down any of those avenues. Increasingly my artistic side kept barging in, demanding to be heard.

Despite a fairly strongly held belief in the impossibility of making a living from art, there is also quite a loud voice that says 'Catherine, if you want it enough, if you work hard enough at it, then why not you, why not your designs?'

Module One began today but they opened the 'classroom' on Friday so we've all been on to start introducing ourselves and sharing our excitement...... more about my new colleagues (& hopefully new friends) in later posts. Suffice to say that, though I can still look at other people's work and feel intimidated by how good they are (and Beth and Rachael, course leaders, are very good at how not to let this feeling stifle you), I have also been bowled over by the response to this blog. Biral Unjia said she couldn't believe I was so new to pattern design so.....time to come clean: I am in fact 49 and have been teaching myself for two years now. But unexpected circumstances post redundancy meant I couldn't commit to developing it properly and without some kind of formal training I knew I didn't have the confidence to take it further. But now I can. And am. And will. 

I wrote the rest of this post almost a week ago, so that I could mark my beginning point with an insight into how I've sometimes worked on developing my designs so far:

A while back, I visited the V&A for the first time. Lots to see & sketch, including the internal architecture. Very quick impressionistic sketches of archways and tiled floors led to.....

.......a more structured and developed idea, using the loose sketch as a jumping off point but not creating a literal image.

When scanned in, a lot of painstaking neatening work has to take place, to remove smudge marks and ensure satisfying edges:

Doubling the design sideways and adding colour.

(Colours were taken from this photograph: a gorgeous golden pheasant that appeared outside my back door one day. I love his enquiring expression and I'm sure he'll come in handy again!)

Here's another colourway

I'm currently wondering whether the further adaptation to the left is effective or not? I think of it as a border, perhaps with a plainer, more 'scattered' design of elements taken from the border, in the main expanse of fabric. I don't think I like the colours as much though.

I've enabled comments for this blog now, so feel free to give me feedback. 

Think (as the judges of the scholarship did): originality, awareness of colour, quality & any trend awareness you have. 

Also what would you use a design like this for?  Is it marketable (feel free to say 'no'!)?

I'd be so interested to hear from you.

Many thanks


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A kid running wild in a sweetie shop!

One of the aspects of the course I'm really looking forward to is that they promise to help me hone in on my personal style. In a world crammed full of wannabe designers, this will ultimately form a large part of my USP. I've just this second read a post from one of the course alumni that really reinforces this.
I started designing with Photoshop elements - just as a toe in the water. But ooooooh! The possibilities it offers are endless. Here are a few early ones.

On a day out to Quenington Fresh Air sculpture exhibition I'd taken lots of photographs. I didn't like to use the ones of the actual sculptures, but there was a ramshackle shed across the stream......

.....and just look at some of the things you can do with it!

Discovering I could reduce the number of colours in an image, I also experimented with smudging the surroundings. With much trial and error I even mastered  putting this one in repeat.

These are purely photographically based and I'm barely doing much more than 'ooh, I wonder what happens if I press this!' with lots of 'oh wow!' moments to accompany it. Not really designing, more 'happy accidents'. But a good way to get comfortable with a new piece of software.
I have also experimented with my painted and hand-drawn work:

Scan from original painting
Playing with the tree element
More playing

Fully worked up design
This is what my husband believes will lead to the development of my 'style' - he thinks how I paint and doodle is often different from what he sees around and about. And I do think what's in this post shows more of my originality than did my scholarship entries, when I got waylaid attempting to fit a trend.

Scan of original 'doodle'
Refined and colour added

Changing the pattern then mirroring for repeatability

But do you see what I mean? There are just so many options to discover, pinning myself down is going to be hard. I want to taste & try it all. Less of a personal style evident here, more a 'pick and mix'!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

I didn't win....yet :-)

I paid my fees last night, having realised I wasn't shortlisted for this year's ABSPD scholarship contest. As I said in my application, I almost needed to have done the course before applying for the scholarship!  

The judges look for originality, sense of colour, awareness of trend and overall quality of design. But as a self taught designer, just exactly what does define quality in pattern design and how do I know if I've got there?

I worked very hard on my entries to ensure they were as pixel perfect as I could make them and that they would repeat properly. I think my use of colour was okay (and yes, obviously 'okay' is not going to win). But awareness of trend and then interpreting that in my style is more tricky.  

I think my entries came out looking derivative, maybe a bit 'pedestrian', and weirdly fuzzy-edged. I don't really like the digital flowers but I thought I was following a trend. I'm going to redo it with drawn flowers, I think.

It also doesn't work as well in repeat as I thought when I sent it in.  It repeats without obvious join lines but the overall effect isn't quite right.

So - learning point there straight away: I need to build in reflection time.

I do still like the 'ombre' effect on my second entry. In fact I like it all and could see it on oven gloves and the like. My only caveats are:

  •  scale. Certainly on a tea towel I'd want these images to be bigger.
  • I'd like to add a cafetiere and posh coffee mug plus a gin bottle and cocktail glass. To my mind, it wasn't possible to develop the theme enough.

Anyway, let me know what you think and compare mine with some of the shortlisted entries.....they are very different.

And hey-ho - I can only get better.


Monday, 10 March 2014

So .... ArtCraftDesign ....for Life?

Yes, for life. My life. Because in everybody's life there's a need for an outlet. Somewhere you can get 'flow' or 'in the zone'. Something that inspires you and takes you out of your humdrum world and away from your stresses. It's different for different people - sport, reading, writing fiction or poetry, baking, whatever.

For me it's always about creating and within that the experimentation, the developing and the refining. It's the process as much as the end result that fulfills me: the stretch of growing and learning.

I was not encouraged in art at school. I gave it and needlework up in the third year (Year 9 as it would now be called). I never knew people ‘did art’ as gainful employment. And yet, and yet…..

Aged 47 I took redundancy, yearning to work artistically but battling that sense of it being frivolous and unrealistic. I discovered and fell in love with surface pattern design and taught myself from scratch. The background to this blog is one of my creations, for example.

I find the intellectual and creative sides of the surface pattern design process hugely satisfying so I'm about to start on a well respected online course as a first step to developing this as an alternative career.

I also paint, sew, knit and do various other crafts from time to time, all of which feed into each other, and will doubtless feed in here too.

I'm happy to have your company, should you care to join me.