Friday, 12 September 2014

The (highly addictive) Joy of Pattern-making

Have you ever been told that you work too hard? Or that you spend too much of your time on a computer?

I have - and so, it seems, have many of my friends who are designers or pattern-makers. It's perfectly possible to get so absorbed in making patterns that the hours fly by, while the dinner burns in the oven, the washing gets soaked on the line - and our nearest and dearest start to feel decidedly neglected.

So is it the computer that draws our attention away from what's going on around us? Or is it the designing? 

I think it's probably a mixture of the two, though I do know people who work on computers all day who can't wait to get away from them at the end of the day; which seems to suggest that the designing is probably the main cause, especially if it involves making patterns.

What is it about pattern-making that is so absorbing, almost to the point of 'addiction'?

Is it the fact that our brains are hard-wired to make patterns? Partly.

Is it the fact that, unlike most other forms of art, pattern-making can constantly surprise us? I may think I am in charge of the plan for a pattern but what actually happens is that, at some point in the pattern-making process, unexpected effects, 'happy accidents', seem to occur quite frequently! I don't think I ever create a pattern without being, at least once, 'surprised by joy!'

And that's another thing - the designer, aided and abetted by sophisticated designing software, can experience pure joy whenever a pattern comes together in just the right way. 

But so can a landscape painter, a photographer or any creative person whatever creative activity they pursue . . .

So what is about pattern-making that is different? What makes is so absorbing that the hours disappear and nothing else seems to matter?

I think it is the 'what if?' element. 

We know that curiosity and the willingness to risk failure are components of creativity. Small children will try all sorts of things in the spirit of wondering, 'what if . . .?' "what if I colour my bedroom wall with my crayons?' "what if I mix up all the spices in the kitchen cupboard?" "what if I put the cat in the drawer and close it . . .?"

When we are absorbed in creating our patterns, in a sense we are back in our early childhood - but with the advantage of having an adult's ability to use a computer to extend and enhance our original ideas. And time becomes as irrelevant as it is to a small child who can't understand the urgency of getting to school on time!

Some adult thought has probably gone into the original design - like this one that I painted a few weeks ago.

But then, after scanning it and the tedious process of tidying it up and making the background transparent on the computer, we enter the magical world of 'what if . . .'

What if I try different background colours?

What if I take one of the little blue flowers and make it into a 'polka dot'?

What if I take the individual flowers and 'toss' them around to make a completely different, but coordinating pattern?

Stripes maybe? And even a plaid or a matching check gingham?

And then - what if I put some of them together in mix'n'match designs?


Or even a faux patchwork?

And then, maybe, just maybe, I can take a piece of the original painting and use it to make a border? I wonder whether that'll work . . . ?

Of course, I've made it look more straightforward than it probably is! It doesn't always run so smoothly. 

As well as 'happy accidents', there are the unexpected results that are far from welcome too! Finding patterns that work together can take time . . . and that's when other things can get neglected, as we wrestle with the 'ingredients' that we know will eventually fall into place, if we just keep working at it!

And then there's the placing the patterns on products - more 'what if?'s!

How will the border look on a teapot? Can I use the mix'n'match to make a greeting card . . .? What will the faux patchwork look like on a laptop sleeve?

Here's a pillow/cushion that I think came out quite well -

Of course, I always hope that others will enjoy my 'creations' as much as I enjoy creating them.


So if you are one of those people who suffer from a friend or family member getting so caught up in their pattern-making that you feel neglected, please don't take it personally! 

I very much hope that the process I have described here will go some way to helping you understand what's going on - and it may even, maybe, help you to share in the excitement and ultimately, the joy as well.

And if you are on the receiving end of grumbles about your 'obsession', don't let the negative remarks stop you doing what you love! Remember, nobody else can do what you do - your 'talent' is your gift to the world and, as Louise Hay said, 'somewhere, someone is looking for just what you have to offer'. 

Try to accept that a 'balanced' life may not be for you - in fact, I sometimes think that the concept of the 'balanced life' is probably the handy invention of those who lack the courage to embrace their talents whole-heartedly, never daring to ask 'what if?' - and that could never be said of you, could it?

If Early Man had listened to his wife and led a 'balanced life', if he had never allowed himself to to wonder, 'what if . . . ?' the wheel might never have been invented.

Now there's a thought!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Poppies In Flanders Fields . . .

Please feel free to pin or download and print this high-resolution A4-sized quotation

The Poppy is the August Birth Month flower. But it has also been adopted as the Symbol of Remembrance, honoring those who have sacrificed their lives in war.

So, as we commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War this month, it seems appropriate that the quotation should be from one of the most poignant poems about 'The Great War', the war that was supposed to end all wars.

You can read about the author, a Canadian physician, 
and how he came to write the poem after the Battle of Ypres, 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Ways to Cope with Too Many Ideas?

"A good artist has less time than ideas." -

Oh how true! And this doesn't just apply to those of us who are visual artists; anyone who allows their creativity to flourish must surely identify with this Kippenberger quote. 

Ideas are at the very heart of creativity and when they come thick and fast they can easily overwhelm us. Sometimes the torrent of ideas, all jostling for 
attention, can feel more like a burden than a gift. I know there are times when I despair of ever getting out from under the crushing weight of them. 

When panic sets in, the impossibility of acting on all of them can make me want to run away and do something completely unrelated!

But I never actually do that 
because there are ways of coping with
'Too Many Ideas Syndrome'!

First of all, I found that knowing that other people 'suffer' from the same thing was an enormous help. (Thank you, Internet!) And I read through various articles on the subject with suggestions for keeping our cool when ideas threaten to overwhelm us. 

Some of them work for me, others don't. 

But here are the main strategies you may want to try if you feel in danger of being overwhelmed by your stream of ideas:

1. Write down your ideas as soon as possible after they enter your mind. This was by far the most popular strategy and it's the one that I find works best for me. Whether you keep a special notebook for 'ideas-on-the-go' or various notepads and jotters around your house and work-space (especially near your bed!), it doesn't matter. You may even find a specially dedicated folder on your computer works best for you. 

The important thing is to get the ideas out of your head and onto paper, leaving your mind free to concentrate on the job in hand - which, in many cases, is simply falling asleep!

2. Take a little time to review your 'jottings' regularly. What you may well find is that some of the ideas that seemed brilliant at the time, may have lost their gloss while they were waiting for you to come back to them. If so, that's great! Cross them out, delete them or do whatever you do to get rid of them.

Having reduced the number of ideas a little, look closely and see if any of them relate to one another in a way that means they can be combined; or maybe some of them are almost duplicates. If so, that will reduce the ideas tally even further. 

The next step is to prioritize the remaining ideas and even, if you are anything like me, organise them into a realistic schedule for carrying them out.

Once those steps are done, 
you should feel a sense of freedom,
 a lightening of the load  of 'too many ideas'! 
You don't necessarily have to
 stick to your plan/schedule;
 just making it can be therapeutic.

If you've carried out these two steps - writing down your ideas and then pruning and prioritising them - and you still feel over-burdened, here are some other ideas I came across, none of which works as well for me as the steps above.

1. Take time out to meditate.

2. Repeat to yourself, or out loud: 'There is plenty of time.' (this one definitely doesn't work for me at my time of life.)

3. Convince yourself that whatever needs to be done will be done. (again, to me that would involve putting on heavily rose-tinted spectacles.) 

Have you heard the Latin phrase 
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'? 

It originated from the work of the Ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, and the true meaning, as interpreted by Wikipedia, is:  "it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one's expertise (in, say, medicine) and one has but a short time in which to do it"

But it's often translated as -

 'Art is long, Life is short!' 

 - and as such, I can't begin to count how many times a day it runs through my mind!

How do you cope with
Too Many Ideas?