Thursday, 28 March 2013

Spring 2013 - What's Trending Where You Live?

One thing I learnt as a result of the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design course is to keep my eyes open and my camera at the ready, even when I go shopping!

I live in Abergavenny, a small market town in South-east Wales, not far from the border with England. Abergavenny is known for its 'Markets, Mountains and More . . .' and if I walk into town on a Wednesday morning, I hear the sounds of sheep and cattle from the livestock market on my way. And from the park I cross on my way to the shops, I can see Sugarloaf, Skirrid and the Blorenge, the three mountains surrounding the town.

Not exactly the kind of place you would expect to find high fashion in the shops. But in fact, Abergavenny has far more shops than you might expect in a town of fewer than 15,000 inhabitants. And there's a good variety, ranging from quite a classy little department store and independent boutiques to small branches of most of the national chains.

I've been too busy to venture outside of Abergavenny for a while so I don't know how its shops compare with other places, but my impression is that most of the shopkeepers have at least some awareness of what is currently trending.

So here are some Trend Boards I've made from photos I took in town this week and you can decide whether or not Abergavenny's style is up-to-the-minute or lagging sadly behind!

My first impression was that there was 'Nautical' or 'Coastal' everywhere. There is certainly a lot of denim, canvas shoes, boater shoes, more denim, blue and white, even more denim - and 'deckchair' and 'matelot' stripes. But I also found some butterflies - on mens' clothing, unfortunately too small to show up here.

There are also a lot of 'Conversational Prints', which anyone who read Part One of Repeating Patterns for Painters, will know are patterns with everyday objects as motifs. Today I saw sailing boats, bicycles and paper aeroplanes on men's clothing! And I was pleased to find mini-prints that could have been Laura Ashley's in the Sixties and Seventies.

There is almost as much 'Tribal' - mostly in black and white and again, lots of stripes.

These were the shop windows that initially caught my eye. Not all of the green is Pantone's Tender Shoots Green and I think the yellow may be more influenced by Wales' national symbol, the daffodil, than by Pantone's Lemon Zest. But it all looks lovely and spring-like. There are bright green trousers for men and even the charity shop's window sported various shades of green, teamed with check shirts.

I finally spotted some Tangerine Tango in Abergavenny - better late than never! It was almost always teamed  with bright pink, one of my own favourite colour combinations.

Reds ranged from Pantone's Poppy Red in the department store window, through rusts and Burgundy to Aubergine. And there are still plenty of large florals, polka dots and lace.

Turquoise abounds in Abergavenny, often in combination with pink and white - checks, polkas, florals, and some with a definitely 'oriental' feel about them! If the green and yellow feel springlike and the orange and pink combination reminds us of roasting high temperature, this turquoise, pink and blue palette is somewhere in between.

In fact, I've got my eye on that check shirt - it's just the sort of thing that I'd be likely to wear a lot when the weather gets warmer. But after last year's wash-out of a summer, I feel it would be tempting fate to buy something so summery while it's still snowing outside!

So what's your verdict?

Are Abergavenny shops keeping up-to-date?

And what's on offer where you shop?


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Surfacing Pattern Designers Showcase - Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's showcase of images from the 'graduates' of  'The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design' course - 

Liz Minton

Hot Pink Floral

Louise Dewsnap

Swirls and Leaves

"A bright pattern influenced by foliage and organic materials, a subject matter that influences most of my work.  My patterns tend to be use quite delicate shapes with overlapping layers."

Maira Chiodi

"This pattern is warm, colorful and inspired by nature, just the way I like and try to live my life."

Mel Pope

"I created these designs for my step-son's ( James Pope) bedroom and then painted them directly onto his walls. He was 12 at the time, so the skulls, bones, rock, and graffiti theme went down really well. We had all visited New York together the previous year when his father was alive, so he loved the skyline - so not to scale, by the way."

Natacha Devaud

"The Pushkar Bloom patterns express my interest in cultural diversity and my love of travels: the designs are inspired by mayan and middle eastern motifs, while the color palette comes from a recent trip to India. "

Nicola Jones
Winter Berries

“I love creating simple hand drawn motifs and turning them into patterns. Like these winter berry silhouettes layered over a chevron background.”

Rebecca Wilson
Morning Glory
"I have always been inspired by nature and the organic shapes that can be found within the environment. This pattern in particular was inspired by the pretty little flowers 'Morning Glory'."

Ruth Thorp

Spring Burst

"A colourful pattern inspired by the beautiful start of spring and burst of fresh flowers."

Trina Esquivelzeta

"From a photo of irises in my garden."

Wendy Flynn

Freelance surface pattern designer and Illustrator from SW London, likes combining messy ink and digital colour, looking for fun projects, commissions, or licensing.

The theme for next month's showcase will be 'Spring' - due in on April 7th. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Surfacing Pattern Designers Showcase - Part 1

The e-course, The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design, finished a few weeks ago, but many of the students have stayed in touch through a facebook group. 

As we gradually branch out in our different directions, we still have enough common ground for this group to provide much-needed moral support as we face a diversity of challenges. And, as part of that, I've offered to showcase work by members of the group on a monthly basis.

Finding our 'Signature Style' has been difficult for most of us but we're getting there! So for the first showcase, I suggested that we should choose a pattern that represents our style as closely as possible.

Here they are, in alphabetical order of first name:

Andrea Rincon

Anchobee Designs

"Twirl is about nostalgia, about youth and freedom, giving the observer a sense of closeness and warmth."

Briana Tomlin

Stringy Seedpods
"My motif was inspired by some dried seedpods at my grandma's house. I should of asked her what they were!" 

Carol Robinson

"A Flower Basket, Caught by the Wind"

Carole Seawert

Pink Daisies

Charlotte Duffy

"This is one of a new collection of patterns based on organic beauty, with elegant insects, blooming blossoms, fluttering butterflies and beautiful birds being my key inspirations."

Chloe Wood

Autumn Forage

"Inspired by Autumn and the foraging squirrels which seemed to be everywhere. I can see the little collection being applied to wrapping paper, stationary and for children's market."

Jan Shepherd

Jess Lewis
Can't See the Wood

"I picked this design as my signature as I am enjoying using textures and layers."

Judy Adamson

Field Poppies

"One of my favourite flowers, these Field Poppies are made from a handpainted paper collage."

Laura Escalante Diseno

Blue Blossom

"Delicate, detailed hand drawn flower motifs inspired in Delft  Pottery."

Laura Wooten


"My pattern "Flight" is inspired by my love of travel, as well as my interest in the use of flow and movement in design."

Lisa Deighan

"This design shows my love of hand drawing flowers and strong colour palettes. It was created for a Boots photo album cover and is currently in store."

I hope you enjoyed this little collection of patterns by 'graduates' of the 'Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design' course. So many different themes and styles! 

Don't forget to watch out for Part Two tomorrow!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Repeating Patterns for Painters #1

Floral Repeating Pattern made by the 'cutting up paper' method

Six months ago I began an online course in Surface Pattern Design. 
I had wanted to learn how to make repeating patterns from my floral paintings for a very long time. I wanted to make patterns that had a hand-painted look, similar to so many of the Liberty prints and the fabrics used in Monsoon clothing and accessories that I love.

I had to some extent succeeded by the ‘cutting up paper’ method, combined with some tidying up in But I felt sure there was a better way and when I saw that making ‘technical repeats’ in Photoshop was included in the course, I thought it would be the answer. Sadly, it wasn’t.

But I did learn a few things about Photoshop – apart from the fact that it's a tremendously finickity program! – and with lots of help from fellow students, online tutorials and forums, plus three books that were Christmas gifts, I’ve finally found ways to do all the things I wanted to, ways that work!

So, with a very big thank you to all who have helped and encouraged me on this sometimes very frustrating journey, I’ve decided that over the next weeks and months, I’ll pass on what I’ve learnt.

First of all, perhaps we need to sort out what is meant by a ‘pattern’. 

The phrase ‘surface pattern’ is often used to describe any sort sort of ornamentation that decorates a plain
surface. But as I pointed out in ‘Hard-wired for Pattern-Making’,  the dictionary definitions often suggest an element of repetition. 

This is the first definition that Google provided:

Noun: A repeated decorative design.

Verb: Decorate with a recurring design.

And I shall use the word ‘pattern’ to denote a repeating pattern or recurring motif.

We’ll begin by looking at the various types of patterns and next time I’ll give some instructions for making some of them, beginning with the simplest so that you can build your skill, post by post. I’ll be available to answer any queries and if I don’t know the answer, there’s a good chance I’ll know someone who does!

A watercolour painting that I'll use as a motif to demonstrate how to make a repeating pattern in Photoshop.

I shall assume that you have painted or hand-drawn motifs that you would like to make into a repeating patterns and that you notice and record in your sketchbook (or with a camera!) the patterns that surround us – in Nature, in buildings and so on. I shall also assume that you can’t wait to get started with learning how to make some of them into patterns for a variety of uses – fabrics, wallpapers, giftwrap and a million others!

The first thing to say is that there are many different kinds of patterns. 

There are the obvious categories, such as 'floral', 'geometric', 'ethnic' . . . some of them overlapping. And there are three classifications you may come across, with which you may not be quite as familiar. These are ‘organic’, ‘graphic’ and ‘conversational’.

A 'Geometric' pattern - but also an Islamic one, therefore it could be classified as 'Ethnic' too.

This pattern, named 'Jungle', is not truly 'Ethnic' in that it came from my imagination rather than an ethnic source. But I think it has an 'ethnic'/'tribal' feel about it!

Organic simply means a pattern that contains elements from Nature, generally with flowing, curving lines. Florals could be a sub-category of Organic but because they are so popular, Florals have a category of their own.
'Seaweed' - an example of an 'Organic' pattern
Graphic, on the other hand, indicates clean, more likely straight lines but could include curves if a floral motif is treated in a graphic way. It can often be very similar to ‘geometric’.

Although the motif for this 'Jungle' pattern was hand-drawn and the motifs are arranged  to represent flowers, it is the nearest I have come to a 'Graphic' style.

'Conversational' is a strange way to describe patterns that use motifs that don’t really fit into the other categories. It could be a little ‘character’ or object, anything from bunnies to boats to buses!  It’s not an area I have explored much as yet but here is one that I did as coursework:

I put two motifs together for this exercise in 'Conversational' patterns - both the frog and the water lily stand alone as hand-painted greeting cards.

In the next in this series of ‘Repeating Patterns’ posts, I’ll cover the most common types of repeats, together with instructions for how to create the most straightforward one in Photoshop.

Meanwhile, here’s a list of basic things you’ll need to know how to use or, at least, how to find in Photoshop:

1. Open/Close File. Open New File to the size you want. Resize: canvas size.
2. Show/Hide Grid, snap to grid. Guides – how to use them, Snap to guides.
3. Colour palette – how to swap background/foreground colours.
4. Cascade Windows. (Windows > Arrange >Cascade) Show Layers, History, Colours.
5. Change the % view of your open window. Fit to screen.
6. Layers – hide/unlock. Send to back/front (under Layers > Arrange)
7. Adjust Tolerance/Opacity/Brush Size
8. Tools: Move, Rectangle, Crop, Clone Stamp, Paint Bucket, Magic Wand, Gradient Tool, Ink
        -dropper tool, Text tool.

And please, don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something I’ve written or if you have a question that I haven’t covered. 

Together we’ll make some glorious painterly patterns!

As an experiment, I've made this post into a .pdf file that I'm hoping you can download if you're interested in keeping these 'how to' posts -

to download a .pdf of this post, 
condensed into 4 pages
 in case you want to print it out.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Interview with Designer/Illustrator, Charlotte Duffy

This month's e-interview is with Bristol-based Charlotte Duffy, designer/illustrator, who in her own words is, 'in love with flowers, beautiful birds, butterflies and fabulous colours. .'

My first question for Charlotte was:

1.When did you first realize you were an artist?
From when I was very little. I used art as a way of expressing myself, I drew and painted every day, and I was at my happiest when I was creating something. My mum set up a tiny little painting table for me when I was a toddler, and it was always there for me to paint whenever I liked, she never put it away and we would spend a lot of happy times there being creative together.

2. Did you enjoy/do well in art school?
.In school at A-level I remember being told I wasn’t allowed to choose only creative subjects (Art, Textiles and Drama) so I said I was leaving! They let me do them in the end!

3. Have you had formal art/design/illustration training?
Yes, GCSE in art and textiles, A-levels, then an amazing Foundation Art year which I would recommend to anyone, a few months of Fine Art, then three years of Textiles! I graduated with a First class honours in Textiles from Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2011.

4.What was the most important thing you learnt from it?
The most important thing I learnt at uni is to not be afraid to be yourself and do something different that makes you stand out from the crowd, even if it feels difficult at the time.

5. Which artists/designers/illustrators inspire you?
I’m inspired and amazed by so many its hard to pick just a few! I would say the bright textiles of Amy Butler and Designers Guild, the photography of Tim Walker, the delicate vintage style beauty of both Claire Coles and Libby McMullin design, and at the moment I’m loving the fantastic illustration of Johanna Basford.

6. What is your favourite medium?
I like to use watercolour, collage and pencil for my illustrations and cards, and for my pattern design I use a
combination of pen, ink, sometimes watercolour, collages of found textures, and Photoshop.

7. Do you enjoy the business side of things?
I don’t mind it too much, business and paperwork is such a huge part of being self-employed that I can’t escape it so I choose to enjoy it! Its good to be in control of your career and there is definitely a satisfaction in it. The side of it I find most tricky is maths, as that is by no means my strong point!

8. Have you had any training in the art business?
As I decided to set up on my own straight from graduating uni, I didn’t have the business knowledge I would have with years of experience. So I did the ‘Young Enterprise Programme’ at the Princes Trust, which is totally brilliant. They help young people under 30 begin their business venture, you learn what you didn’t learn at school about being self employed, get a business mentor, and funding if you need it. Taking ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’ E-Course has also been a fantastic way to train myself in the art business.

9. What is your biggest achievement- or the one that pleases you most so far?
I am very pleased to say my fabric designs are also available in the Middle East, in the form of beautiful luxury silk collections. I was lucky enough to win an amazing competition whilst I was still a student, which to took me Kuwait to work for the fabulous design label Zeri Crafts, and I designed their first signature collection of high-end tableware, cushions and shawls. The competition was to come up with a design for the company that reflects and echoes the traditional weaving culture of the Bedouins in the Kuwaiti desert. I came up with over 60 designs and colour ways for the competition, and subsequently the prize changed from having just one design printed, to me creating their whole signature collection and being asked to travel to Kuwait to work.

10. Do you work alone, and if so, do you enjoy it?
Yes I work alone, and I am lucky to have some lovely creative family and friends who always give me very good feedback and constructive criticism so I never feel too alone with my designing. I was finding working from home a little uninspiring and isolating, so I found a studio to go to work in everyday in a wonderful place in Bristol called 'Coexist'. It is a vibrant community of artists, musicians, therapists and like minded creative people all under one roof, and many thriving and exciting businesses are run from there so it’s a very inspiring place to have a studio.

11. Do you ever suffer from artists/creative block?
Yes I think everybody does at times, it happens to me when I stop designing for a few days. It takes me a while to get back into it and I can get a bit of a block, so I try and keep working till I push through it!

12. Are you still doing what you originally set out to do? 
Yes, my whole life I have wanted to design and create, and I haven’t given up on my dream, so yes I think I am. There is so much more I plan to do and I feel I am stepping in the right direction towards achieving it.

13. What are your plans for the future and do you have any special goals?
My plans and goals for the future are…

To develop my business further into bespoke furniture, using my surface patterns to reupholster beautiful vintage chairs and sell through my online shop. Whilst developing my signature designs into furniture, my goal is also to create artwork and patterns for wallpaper and other homewares, greetings and stationery through new licensing opportunities and commissions.

14. Where do you currently sell your work?
I sell my work through my own website, where I accept commissions for fabric and wallpaper design, bespoke chairs, and illustration work.

I also sell my designs through Image Source Creative Portfolio Licensing, who act as my agent, I have a large portfolio of illustration work represented by them.

If you would like to discover more about my work, make a purchase or to get in touch regarding licensing or 
commissions please visit my website:, 

Charlotte, I have thoroughly enjoyed your wonderful patterns and hearing about your exciting journey as an illustrator/designer. I'm sure our readers will join me in thanking you for a truly inspiring interview and in wishing you a bright future for your business. With your talent and your determination, I'm sure you'll go from strength to strength!