To create the elements that make up my patterns, I use a wide range of techniques. Pencil sketching, doodling, painting, printing, markers, pastels, scraping, scattering, splattering, photography and scanning. My most satisfying designs usually begin with some kind of organic, artistic process. Here are a number of examples.
A Return to Patterns
My work has focused heavily on abstract textures for a while now, but it’s like time for a long-overdue return to making surface patterns. I wish I had photographs of my early pattern doodles. There were hundreds of them over the years, but I can’t remember where they went. I do, fortunately, have piles of my later experiments, produced in the last decade or so.
I’ve doodled during long journeys. I’ve doodled in cafes. I’ve doodled between call centre calls and while TEFL pupils completed their work. One of the few times I didn’t doodle was when I was a graphic designer – which is partly why I’m not anymore.
So many years and so many doodles, yet I never explored their full potential. I did consider training as a tattoo artist, but I’m not sure I could make needles and blood my friends.
It feels good to do something that I love, and comes naturally to me. I seem somehow wired to see patterns everywhere I look. Bring on more patterns.
Digital Collage Experiments
I’ve been drawing, painting, tearing and scanning a variety of textures to make digital collages.
I spent a long time retouching scanned torn paper, then I layered and arranged them into colourful collage backgrounds like this.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with some more varied colour combinations now I’ve thoroughly explored the monochrome palette options. These will be for sale within my stock image offerings.
Arty Background Textures
I’ve been using a variety of media to produce my background textures. I love the effect I can get from high resolution scanned pencil lines. I produced two simple striped textures, one in pencil, and one inverted to look like chalk lines on a blackboard. These are for sale in my image collection on Shutterstock.
Hand-Drawn to Vector
I’ve been going through some more of my older hand-drawn patterns and making vector versions of them. It is pretty time consuming but I really like the results.
I love the pattern making tools in the latest version of adobe Illustrator, they are an efficient way to create complicated and accurate pattern repeats. I’m having a hell of a time getting the pattern tiles not to explode when the file is saved in a legacy version though. Stock agencies like Shutterstock want the file saved as an Illustrator 10 eps so it’s a problem I need to solve. I have some ideas on how to do that which will keep me busy.
I think this one will be good as a fabric pattern too so it will eventually end up on my Spoonflower collection too.
Oodles of Doodles
One of the fun things about going down the stock image route is that I can get out all my old illustration experiments. I’ve always had problems settling on one creative style so there are a few of them. Here’s a pattern I made from a loose doodle style made with watercolour and fine liners. I like the light-hearted brightness of this one.
One thing I’ve struggled with in recent years is the fact that I like working in different media and styles. I draw, paint, doodle, scan, retouch and vector away to my heart’s content but that doesn’t create a consistent style. Is this a problem I wonder?
I sometimes go fully old-school with acrylic paint on canvas.
It was always been drummed into me is that it’s OK to have a versatility of styles as a graphic designer but not such a good idea as an illustrator. I’m considering stepping back from the process of finding a ‘signature’ style and allowing the natural variety back into my work. A lovely friend has suggest that becoming a stock illustrator / designer may be a way to accommodate this idea. The more I think about it, the more I like it.
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Lots of circles
I remember way back when I was doing a BTEC in Graphic design I did a project that needed a design for a Windsor and Newton Gouache box. I painstakingly painted a complicated circles pattern using said gouache. 27 years later and I’m back to drawing circles.
I was so happy with the result of that project that it was the turning point that convinced me to be a graphic designer. In hindsight I think it was actually the circle pattern I was happy with, more than the graphic design elements that surrounded it.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
My Happy Place
I’m fortunate to have a small room set aside for my creative projects. Many a happy hour is spent tucked away in there with mountains of markers, paints, pencils etc. My cat often curls up on the windowsill next to my desk and keeps me company until she gets bored and decides I need a break. Then she’ll start stealing pens or munching on my kneecaps, in a bid for attention. It’s more charming than it sounds.