Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Just Mucking Around, Playing with Colour!

At last the waiting is over and the Surface Pattern Design course has begun!  

Over the weekend, as the students introduced themselves, I became increasingly nervous. Almost all of them had at least done a degree in Graphic Design and worked in that field and some were even Textiles and Surface Pattern Design graduates! I began to have serious doubts about whether I would be able to keep up with a course that was apparently aimed at people who were already trained and experienced in this field!

But I needn’t have worried – not yet, anyway! The course has started off fairly low-key with this week’s topic, ‘Inspiration’. Anyone who has been following my blog, may have concluded that inspiration is not something I lack – it’s the time to carry out all my ideas properly that I’m short of! 
(Here's one of my posts from the archive on Inspiration.)

There’s been a fair amount of sketching and taking photos this week, both of which I do anyway. 

And by now I’m thinking that it’s probably a good thing that this week hasn’t, so far, been too demanding. There have been so many new people to get to know (nearly 100 on the course at the moment!), a new Pinterest board of ‘Patterns I Like’ to create and finding out how to upload my images to Flickr, for the ‘Group Pool’ took a bit of time!

One thing that I can already say is definitely a Good Thing, is that this course has encouraged me to ‘play’ again!

I must admit it feels a bit strange because I’ve grown so used to working under pressure, to deadlines and with a very clear goal in mind. All very ‘left-brain’!

You can see some of the results of my ‘playtime’ on this Pinterest board, when I discovered a cheap and cheerful 650-piece ‘craft set’ unopened in the cupboard where I keep toys for visiting grandchildren!

And these stripey, postcard-sized experiments were great fun to create!

They’re a bit rough and ready as the tissue paper is difficult to cut in clean lines once it’s been painted.  I think two of them are pretty awful, one I quite like and one I’m enthusiastic enough about to use it as the basis of a pattern for some Zazzle products!

I wonder if you can guess which one that is!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Learning to Create Repeating Patterns


What do you do when you’ve paid a lot of money to do an online design course that you love the sound of, then shelled out even more money on a computer with loads of capacity for your large images and a good quality monitor with a wide screen . . . and then you discover, days before the course is due to begin, that looking at the new monitor makes you feel quite ill?

If you’re anything like me, you PANIC! Which is exactly what I did.

And even after I’d used my faithful old laptop to search the net for solutions, and found that this is a really common problem, I was still faced with the conundrum: how can I adjust the monitor’s settings if just looking at the screen in its present state gives me a bad headache and makes me feel nauseous and dizzy? All my best laid plans, such as getting ahead with work to make time for the course, seemed to be in tatters!

But I’m pleased to say that, after taking the only route open to me – putting up with feeling ill for a short time while I adjusted the brightness settings down from 100% to 16% - things are much improved and I can’t wait for next Monday when the course begins!


It has made me think though, once again, about viewing art, craft  and design work and photographs – and anything where the colour matters - on the web. Given that monitor settings will vary, is it a good way to get a true picture? I still haven’t managed to get the saturation right on my new monitor – my profile photo (in the RH sidebar) looks as if I’ve spent far too long in the sun, whereas on my laptop it looks 'normal and on my old pc, a tad pale! Likewise, my designs are also too bright, to the point of garish, even after making all the adjustments possible.

So how do I know how they look to other people? The truth is, I don’t, and that’s something I’m not too happy about.

But I am getting excited about the course.

Do What You Love For Life

It’s what I wanted to do more than 20 years ago but it didn’t fit with my life at the time.

Ever since Zazzle introduced Messenger Bags a few months ago, my interest in creating repeating patterns has been re-awakened and in various blog posts, I’ve expressed my frustration that I don’t know how to do that ‘properly’. Hopefully, the course will at least teach me to do that!

And I also hope that I will look back on the dozen or so repeating pattern designs that I’ve created the hard way this year and see how I could have made them much, much better!


I don't know how much time I'll have for blogging but I’ll keep you all posted as much as I can . . . .

PS - just as I was about to publish this post, an email arrived about the course, telling me that the 'virtual classroom' is now open! I've had a quick look and I've joined the flickr group and introduced myself but there is a lot to read and digest. 

So, as Captain Oates is purported to have said, 'I may be gone some time . . . '

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Are Introverts more Creative?

I knew nothing whatsoever about the Chinese Zodiac until I started making greeting cards for the Chinese New Year.

As a ‘goat’, according to the Chinese zodiac, I was surprised to discover that quite a lot of the characteristics actually describe me quite accurately – and yes, I am even prepared to admit a bit of to pouting when I don’t get my way!

I’m a Gemini according to the ‘modern’ zodiac and it seems a bit strange that I’m not a Capricorn, as that is the Sign of the Goat. However, if you compare the descriptions of the ‘goat people’ in the two zodiacs, they are not very similar.

So is there any truth behind these categorisations?

I’ve always been rather sceptical, though sometimes the descriptions do seem to fit people with uncanny accuracy! I actually pay much more attention to the personality profiles that come from taking the Myers Briggs personality type test.

You can discover your Personality Type

As well as appearing to be very accurate – though, as with the zodiac descriptions, that could be pure chance – I am persuaded of their validity by the fact that they are based on input from the person taking the test, rather than on external factors such as the position of the planets or the date of birth.

I find it useful to know the Personality Type of my friends and family. It helps me to understand when they seem to be behaving in ways that to me seem odd – for instance, a ‘J’ might find it really irritating that a ‘P’ doesn’t keep to a pre-arranged plan, whereas a ‘P’ might feel that a ‘J’ is making a fuss about it, preferring to ‘play things by ear’, rather than being ‘hemmed in’ by a plan.

The biggest and probably most important difference is that between an Extravert and an Introvert.

Author, Susan Cain, has carried out very thorough research into this difference and how Western society’s emphasis on Extraversion overlooks the benefits of Introversion and the valuable contribution that Introverts can make - if they get the chance in a world seemingly full of Extraverts!

She explains all this very well in her TED talk and in even more detail in her book, ‘Quiet - The Power of  Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking’, including the link to creativity.

I’m finding the book fascinating! My only quibble is that, in the book and also in her talk, she seems to conflate introversion and shyness, aren’t really the same thing, as she herself points out, although they may overlap. For instance, I am a ‘sociable introvert’ but I have a friend who is a ‘shy extravert’.

If you have 20 mins to spare, do watch this video – there’s stuff to learn, laced with humour, whether you are an Introvert or and Extravert and what she says about the link between Introversion and Creativity surprised me!

In fact I am an INFJ and quite a large proportion of my friends and one of my daughters are INFJs too, even though there are apparently not all that many of us around!

I’d love to connect with other INFJs – if that doesn’t seem like a contradiction in terms!

And just for fun, take a look at this Pinterest board!


Thursday, 9 August 2012

A Tale of Two Goats

It’s been a while since I painted anything but flowers. 

And with the next Chinese Year of the Goat as far off as 2015, you may wonder why I’ve been drawing and painting goats. The reason is that I am getting into practice!

Some months ago, back in the Spring, I was contacted through facebook and invited to contribute an illustration to a book of Welsh Nursery Rhymes to be published next year to raise funds for the St David’s Day festivities in Los Angeles. I didn’t know that there were specifically Welsh Nursery Rhymes and I had no idea that St David’s Day was celebrated in Los Angeles. It seems that the Patron Saint of Wales enjoys far more attention abroad than here at home in Wales!

I’ve never seriously done any illustration work before but it’s something I’m very interested in, so I didn’t hum and hah for long before I agreed to have a go.

But what has this to do with goats?  

I was sent 14 Welsh Nursery Rhymes to choose from and although I’d have happily given any of them my best shot, it had to be the rhyme about four goats. You see, goats and I have history!

Last week I posted a photo of our family home in the ‘70s. It was a large house on a much bigger plot of land than we'd ever had before. We moved into the house in the February and began the inevitable process of putting my stamp on it through alterations and new decorations.

We were so engrossed by the newly emerging inside of the house that it was early summer by the time that we noticed that Nature had been busy on the outside! Suddenly, it seemed, we had bought a field of waist-high grass and cow parsley.

‘Get a goat!’ advised friends and we thought they were joking. But by the end of the summer, as we battled unsuccessfully to tame our wilderness, we decided that maybe it was the best thing to do.

So we found a gentle-looking Toggenburg goat for sale and the owners agreed to keep it for us until we returned from our holiday. Unfortunately, when we arrived back two weeks later, they had sold the goat to someone else and my eight-year-old daughter was devastated!

The only goats advertised in our local paper were two sisters, Tina and Petula. I thought from the start that they looked rather belligerent and their legs looked long, suggesting that they might be fast runners. And these two had horns! But we managed to get them home in the back of our car, with some rather strange looks from passers-by whenever we stopped at traffic lights!

Tina and Petula polished off all the greenery in our garden in a couple of weeks and thereafter we had to buy food for them – not what we had in mind! They practically demolished the elderly shed where they were kept at night and they chewed through their tethering ropes on a daily basis, resulting in phonecalls from our neighbours to tell us that our goats were ‘dancing’ on their well-manicured lawn!

If they didn’t go next door, they led me a dance around our orchard. They would allow me to creep up on them to catch them, staring at me with their creepy, horizontal-slit eyes. Then, just as I was about to reach out for their collar, off they would prance – and I was right, those long legs did take them well out of my reach!

My daughter was far better at handling them than I was but she had to go to school so then it was up to me and it wasn’t what I thought I’d signed up to! But I was the only one who managed to milk them, though my one attempt resulted in about a quarter of a pint of milk and Petula’s foot in the bucket!

 So you see, I feel I ‘know’ goats! And I’ll enjoy working on the goat nursery rhyme. I’ve suddenly realised that the deadline, Dec 1st, isn’t as far off as it was and with my Surface Pattern Design course beginning in less than three weeks’ time, I need to make a start on it! 

The 'Year of the Goat' greeting cards and all these little 'back-of-the envelope' doodles are just a ‘warm-up’! I'll post again as the illustration begins to take shape.

Ironically,  I've discovered that, according to the Chinese Zodiac, I'm a 'goat'!

You can read about the character traits of the 'goat'  HERE  

Any more goats out there?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Collage Flowers . . . with a Hint of Hippy!

my kitchen in the '70s
I’ll begin by getting a confession out of the way!

I was born in the ‘40s so I was an undergraduate in the Sixties and I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the emergence of a new ‘group’ with outlandish haircuts and an exciting new sound -  the Beatles.

I loved the Sixties but – and here’s something else I don’t usually admit to – I absolutely adored the Seventies! The fashions that we now make fun of, the music – much of which has stood the test of time, Women’s Lib and above all the colour – it was all so vibrant and liberating after the drabness of the Forties and the rather staid, 'comfortable' Fifties!

Needless to say, I think everything has gone downhill ever since.

But on the other hand, I keep coming across revivals of the ‘hippy’ style and think to myself, how could we have lived surrounded by all that frantic pattern, coloured as if by some maniac, hell-bent on using every single hue in their paintbox! And yet we did and it was wonderful – at the time.

My own modern ‘flower-power’ designs are a little more restrained while, I hope, still capturing something of the essence of that era.

Here’s a collage birthday card I named ‘Birthday Fizz’ because it seemed to have an effervescent quality about it.

I’ve recently found out how to take a section of a design and ‘tile’ it in – the wonders of the internet! So this is a really multi-purpose design that is well and truly earning its keep!

It’s fun to be able to experiment with different background colours and although I don’t like some of them, one thing I’ve learned is that ‘there’s no accounting for taste’!

I’ll be using this design to create about one hundred products during the course of this week. Hopefully, if the new Zazzle ‘grouping’ is working properly, you can explore them as I add more by clicking HERE

I made this one a few days ago and it took a long time to cut out and stick on all those petals.

But when I’d finished, I wasn’t sure that I needed all those little flowers and luckily, thanks to being able to edit on the computer, I was able to create various versions without losing the original.

I think I know which one I will actually use – what do you think?