Monday, 27 February 2012

Patchwork and Daffodils

The patchwork design I began last week has found its way onto a few products on Zazzle and I intend to create more from it this week.

As planned, I put the ‘blocks’ together on the Zazzle site but it was very slow-going! 

Making all the pieces exactly the same size on Zazzle was time-consuming so I had another try at fitting them together on my computer before uploading the whole piece, keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t run out of memory. At one point I did get a message saying that Windows was increasing my memory and warning that some requests might be denied in the meantime, so I left it alone for a while and went off and did a few jobs around the house.

When I came back I was able to continue and this cushion has the larger pattern on one side and the smaller one on the reverse –

This Ipad case is a good example of what I mentioned last week – I hadn’t anticipated that the pattern, when repeated, would turn out to have such a prominent 'slanted' effect!

Meanwhile, spring seems to have begun to arrive in my garden. And seeing buds on the daffodils, I felt a strong urge to paint some! The daffodil is the Birth Month Flower for March; it is also the traditional Welsh flower featured on St David’s Day cards, as well as Persian New Year cards.

So I decided that treating myself to a bunch of daffodils when I went shopping would be money well spent. But I was disappointed to find that the only ones left in the shops were the short, straight-stemmed kind with no leaves – really boring and not at all what I was looking for!

One of the things that I love about daffodils is the way they move, ‘tossing their heads in sprightly dance’, as Wordsworth wrote.  Somewhere I have a sketch from long ago of just a couple of long-stemmed daffodils, with their leaves and I remember that it was their ‘gesture’ that appealed to me and compelled me to draw them.

But the nearest I could find in town was a little pot of tiny daffodils – apparently I had left it too late for a bunch! -  so I bought it and began to draw them. I often draw flowers over and over from different angles before I paint them. It’s almost like 'getting to know' them so that when I come to paint, their shapes are really familiar to me.

The trouble with this particular pot of daffodils, the only one left in town, was that all the flowers were facing inwards! So I took a bit of ‘artistic licence’ and  moved the left-hand clump over to the right when I drew them, to make a much better composition.

I had hoped to try out my new water soluble crayons at last and I started out with some lovely blue sugar paper to give a bright sunshiny background. But the colours, dry, weren’t strong enough to show up on the blue background and the paper didn’t respond at all well to being made wet.

So I moved on to some watercolour paper. That worked better, but I felt that the effect of the crayons was too heavy for my ‘tossing their heads’ daffodils and I ended up painting them in ordinary, transparent watercolour, after drawing them with watercolour pencils.

I hadn’t wasted my time with these various experiments, though, as with each attempt, I became more familiar with the 'personalities' of my daffodils. My scanner didn’t do a particularly good job – the yellows came out too pale and the orange was a strident red. But I made some minor corrections digitally and I'm quite pleased with the multi-purpose end result –


One painting has formed the basis of several ranges of cards. But in case you're thinking that I've saved time by using one design for several occasions, these, with all their variations and their search engine-optimised titles, descriptions and keywords are going to take hours to upload! It will probably take me all week - at least!

But I also have an idea sketched out for a ‘Thank You’ card for the lovely staff at the Endoscopy Unit at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, who were so kind and went out of their way to make me feel as comfortable as it's possible to be with such an uncomfortable procedure, a couple of weeks ago. 

I can't wait to get started on it . . .


Monday, 20 February 2012

Easter Bunnies, Norooz Goldfish and Denim Patches

This week I’ve got myself into a bit of a muddle, to put it mildly, and I was doubtful whether I’d get the ‘new, improved’ (and larger) bunnies finished in time for this week’s post. 

But here they are -

It wasn’t just my hospital visit eating into three days that made sticking to usual my plan very difficult; nor was it finding that Greeting Card Universe are asking us to create more Persian New Year (Norooz - 20th March) cards as a matter of urgency. I actually enjoy doodling and painting fishes and, with different wording, this one will double as a Pisces birthday card for a friend's upcoming birthday -

These interruptions didn’t help. But what really threw me off course was that I allowed myself to be distracted into trying out an idea for a repeating pattern, a patchwork of denim pieces, that I’ve been wondering about for a while.

I didn’t think it would take long because I decided to colour it with my new, rather scrumptious Derwent Coloursoft pencils, with the idea that if I used them on a rough-surfaced watercolour paper, they might give the effect of a grainy fabric.

Or, on the other hand, it might come out looking like a small child’s scribbles! Which is EXACTLY how it looked when scanned.

Apart from that, I didn’t much like the configuration of the  shapes.

You have to be careful when making a repeating pattern as the overall finished effect can be quite different from what you intended. Sometimes a colour will seem to be too dominant; or a shape will stick out like the proverbial ‘sore thumb’.

In this case, it was the two shapes by the arrow that, put side by side, reminded me of a modern tower block – quite the wrong connotations for a design that was intended to be soft and folksy and erring on the side of ‘country’! It’s difficult to anticipate these things unless, I suppose, you are very experienced in creating repeating patterns, which I’m not!

I’m still not entirely decided whether to make repeating patterns the old fashioned way or whether to use the computer throughout. Both have their pros and cons. 

  • The computer has the potential for greater accuracy but I often run short of memory when I’m placing the blocks side by side, in spite of my son buying me a whole lot more memory for Christmas last year! Even if I manage to get all the blocks positioned, if I use the paint bucket to colour the pattern, after a bit I get the dreaded ‘this programme is not responding’ message!

  • Making the complete repeating pattern with tracing paper on real paper has its limitations too as I only have an A4 scanner nowadays and these patterns usually need to be bigger than that.

So here’s my way round it – I hope - my 'cunning plan', as Baldrick would say!

While I was waiting for the Norooz goldfish to dry, I painted a very simple pattern based on the pieces of  a patchwork bag I made years ago and using the colour scheme of my first attempt, which I rather liked.

It’s just the one unit, so it fitted into my scanner, and I’ll upload it to Zazzle and hope that I can ‘add image’ repeatedly and then slot all the pieces together on the item I’m creating, like doing a jigsaw puzzle.  That way I should avoid the memory problem.

I very much hope to have something to show for all this in my next post – please keep your fingers crossed that this new ‘Cunning Plan’ of mine will work!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Repeating Patterns and Hot Cross Bunnies

Last week I had reached the stage of painting one block of the ‘fleur de lys’ repeating pattern I had designed and intended to place the blocks side by side to make up the complete pattern.

But I found that my painting was too inaccurate to match up properly, not surprising really since accuracy is not my strongest point! I think that tracing the pattern several times for the repeats, and finally tracing it on to the watercolour paper on my lightbox, meant that any tiny discrepancies had been magnified each time, even though it looked fine to the naked eye.  Tracing film can be tricky to work with in any case because of its tendency to stretch if it becomes at all damp – even the moisture from one’s skin can distort it!

All was not lost though – I went back to the ‘Victorian Bathroom’ that I posted last week and coloured it digitally, matching the colours with my painting and then filling in the background in various colours. It took a very long time but I ended up quite pleased with it.

When I used to screenprint, one of the things I loved about it is that you can use one stencil to print a design in as many different colour-ways as you can think of! And it’s somewhat the same with using the computer to colour a design; I’ve made a few different colour combinations so far but the possibilities are endless!

So here are a few of the products I’ve created so far –

And there are plenty more here!

I could go on creating different colour schemes with this one design for months to come! But I’d probably get bored after a bit so I’ll put that on the back burner and come back to it later.

I’m going to be a bit short of time this week because of a hospital appointment so, rather than start a completely new design, I’ll be ‘refurbishing’ an old one, my 'Easter Bunnies'.

I’m not sure what to make of this card design. It’s been popular among my friends and the Portsmouth Cathedral shop ordered some, but it hasn’t sold well online. I’ve always been unhappy with the shape of the Easter Egg and also the fact that the original was too small to enlarge well so the watercolour pencil outlines look a bit fuzzy.

Also, I've discovered that anyone who isn't familiar with UK Easter fare probably won't understand the pun!

So I hope I can make some improvements to show you next week -

Monday, 6 February 2012

Snowdrops and Victorian Bathrooms!

In the end I couldn’t think of any way to avoid repainting the background to last week’s snowdrops in a stronger, darker blue.

It wasn’t quite the sunshiny effect I was hoping for and I didn’t enjoy painting carefully in between all those stems and leaves but I think the end result was a big improvement!

 I was able to make it into a variety of cards by adding different coloured borders, as well as the ‘February Birthday’ card for my daughter.

What I hadn’t realised is that the snowdrop is actually one of the ‘January Birthday’ flowers, along with the carnation. So I made some cards for January birthdays too - and a few others besides! Click here to see all the snowdrop greeting cards.

Having brought myself up to date with cards for upcoming family birthdays, I couldn’t wait to get back to designing some more repeating patterns.

I wanted to do something a little less flowery next, working my way towards some patterns that would be suitable for Messenger Bags for men and boys as well as for women and girls.

Browsing through a book of authentic Victorian stencil designs, I came across a highly embellished ‘fleur de lys’ motif that I thought would make a great repeating pattern that could be viewed either way up if necessary – as in the case of the flap of the messenger bags.

I’ve always had a tendency to ‘re-invent the wheel' so I didn’t use that design in the book, even though it was copyright-free but just took it as inspiration for my own design.

This is how it worked out  - but it may be rather too pale to see, depending on your computer screen.

When my neighbour saw it, he said it looked like a Victorian bathroom – it reminded me of a very old-fashioned Public Convenience, and apparently, that’s what my neighbour really thought but was too polite to say so!

This one shows up a bit more clearly and, with the pencil lines removed, it's starting to look more like wallpaper than bathroom tiling –

Once I’d worked out the pattern and its repeats by going through all the processes that I described a fortnight ago, I painted one ‘block’ in gouache:

The next stage is to place these ‘blocks’ side by side in my photo-editing program and fill in the background colour on the computer to make sure it's even and you can't see the 'joins'.

How will it work out? Will the 'tiles' match up? I’ll let you know next week . . .