Thursday, 13 September 2012

Chip it, Pin it, Photoshop it!

Half way through the first module of ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’ and I seem to have given the impression that it’s all brilliantly useful. 

But while there’s some truth in that, isn’t quite ‘the whole truth’.

There are two strands of the course, running in parallel.
On the one hand there are the topics covered and accompanying creative exercises through daily blog postings. And, on the other hand, the weekly ‘Bonus Technical Workshops’, consisting of instructions for using Photoshop and Illustrator in relation to surface pattern design.

So far the three topics – Inspiration, Sketching and Colour – have seemed to be pitched at the level of someone who hasn’t done much art at all, or possibly a graphic artist who has become stale or lost confidence. Much of what is suggested is very similar to what I've been doing for years and even to suggestions I’ve made in various past blog posts.

That’s the downside.

But on the positive side, it’s good to get to know a great and varied community of artists from all over the world, all sharing a passion for pattern. And, partly because of this, I’ve been able to find something positive to explore and put into practice each week so far.

In Week 1, I found analysing a motif very rewarding and it has set me off down a track of creating a 'store cupboard' of backgrounds for future use in pattern designs.

A kind artist from Hong Kong suggested I try clingfilm and I'm so glad she did!

In Week 2. the lesson on organising our sketches, persuaded me to do something I should have done a long time ago – filing all my loose sheets of ideas away in lever arch files, now all classified and neatly labelled for quick access!

In Week 3, I learnt about creating a colour palette from any photo or image online. This is a commercial ‘color picker’ provided free of charge by an international paint company.

you can see my 'books' of colour chips from images I've found on the Internet (including my own!)

The colours have the names of the paints, rather than the pantone names and numbers but I believe we are going to learn to do this in a more professional way, using photoshop, later. But if you want to have fun making your own colour palettes, it's free and all you have to do to get started is drag a 'chip it!' button to your toolbar, in a similiar way to the Pinterest 'Pin it' one. 

I hope you're not thinking by now that I'm a terrible 'know-all'! I have plenty to learn - that's why I'm on the course. But here's an example of why the early exercises, such as going out looking for patterns in the environment, are a bit 'old hat' for me. Below is a cushion (pillow - on the other side of the pond!) that I screenprinted in the 1980's from a sketch of some cobbled paving slabs that I had made on our first family holiday in Wales  - in the late '70s!

The Bonus Technical Workshops, on the other hand, are proving highly challenging for those of us who aren’t familiar with Photoshop and Illustrator. So much so that one artist bravely started a thread on Flickr called ‘Help needed for Photoshop’ and this has been invaluable in providing us with the means to help one another overcome our difficulties. One artist, though, has, at least for now, given up trying to fathom these workshops as she has ‘hit a brick wall’ and several have mentioned buying a book about it, which is something I may resort to myself - though YouTube tutorials have also been useful.

Not my usual style but colouring a line drawing is as far as we've got so far and it may have possibilities for fresh ideas!

I have persisted – all of Saturday afternoon and early evening and the same on Sunday! – and have found my own way of doing things that didn’t work when I followed the instructions. Now I’m practising these processes daily, hoping they’ll become automatic before we move on to the next workshop!

It has all been taking me much more than the 10-12 hours a week that was mentioned in the FAQs so I’ve decided not to bother with the ‘Creative Exercises’, such as taking photos of patterns, if I’ve been doing them, or similar, for as long as I can remember!

To sum it up, although I’ve felt frustrated at times, it’s not all bad news! On the whole, I am glad I signed up for this course.  But it’s been very much up to me to look for ways to make it useful to me personally.

And if ever I find myself with nothing urgent to do, I can always have fun, adding to my collection of  'Patterns I like' on a Pinterest board . . .


Michele said...

I admire your attempts to come to grips with photoshop, which haunts my dreams. This is because I use paintshop pro, an old graphics program which is less widely supported and used than paintshop. Not only that but I am 'self taught', and one day soon I am going to have to bite the bullet and teach myself (or take a course in) photoshop. Although all my artwork is created with a paintbrush, I find a graphics program invaluable for improving and manipulating my images...

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Michele - I can understand why photoshop haunts your dreams! I think it's because it's so complex and there's so much to learn. But it must be wonderful to feel on top of it all! I normally use (free), which does a lot of what photoshop does but doesn't keep throwing up dialogue boxes that mean nothing to me!!!! said...

I still can't do much with photoshop. I've tried, but it usually leaves me frustrated. Maybe one day when I have a lot of extra time I'll attempt to reopen that software. Looks like you are enjoying your class, as I knew you would :-)

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Crystal - there seems to be so much you can do with Photoshop that it could take me, at least, years to master it all! Luckily there's a lot I don't need to bother with yet so I'm taking it slowly so that I really learn the bits I need. If you do try it again, maybe, by then, I'll be in a position to help? :D

Cathie said...

HI Judy, glad to know you're taking this course as I have been wondering about taking it myself. It sounds very interesting and I appreciate all of your comments on it. I really like what you've done above. I need to find you on Pintrest :) Cathie

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Cathie - I'm not sure whether I'd recommend that you take the first module. I'm enjoying the company of the other students and that's actually making me take time out from all the uploading etc to do creative things, which is good. But I didn't expect the course to be aimed at people who were, for instance, 'afraid of colour' or who needed to 'loosen up'. I've found that very disappointing and wished I'd known in advance.