Thursday, 25 April 2013

Abergavenny Market Hall - Full of Surprises!

When I go shopping, I'm usually in a hurry to get what I need and back home again as quickly as possible. But when I went into town with my camera to take the photos for an earlier post, for once, I wasn't rushing from one shop to another and I'm glad I looked up as well as around me as I took a shortcut through the indoor market . . .

The Market Hall is always decorated beautifully for the Food Festival in September but I didn't realise that the decorations stay up for the rest of the year!

I've no idea who makes these marvellous models or what happens to them once they are taken down. 

These photos don't really do them justice because the market was very crowded and people kept bumping into me while I was taking them!

But I think they are works of art. And to think they've been there since September without me noticing them says rather too much for comfort about the way I usually rush around! 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Surfacing Pattern Designers 'Spring' Showcase -

This month my fellow graduates of the Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design course have worked on patterns for spring.

Once again, I'm struck by the variety of interpretations, though the pastels we associate with the springtime do seem to link them. Here they are in alphabetical order of first name:

Andrea Rincon
Anchobee Designs


Carol Robinson


Chloe Wood


Daniela Butonoi

Spring is here!

Jan Shepherd


Judy Adamson

White Rabbits and Primroses

Julie Ansbro

Sky Blue Spring

Laura Escalante Diseno

Paper Flower Garland

Lisa Deighan

Spring Chicken

Liz Minton


Mel Pope

Spring has Sprung

Mi Jung Lee


Natacha Devaud

Big Spring Flower

Trina Esquivelzeta


A big 
 to all the artists who have contributed to this post!

Next month's themes are 'Vikings' and/or 'Pantone's Poppy Red'
(Low Res images to me by Sunday, May 5th, if possible,
but I'll do my best to accommodate any 'stragglers')

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Repeating Patterns for Painters #2

Last time, we looked at examples of the various categories of repeating patterns -

It’s not usually at all difficult to sort patterns into these categories. 

But there are other ways of grouping patterns that may not be as easy to see at a glance. One way is to look for the way the motif is repeated. Sometimes it’s easy to see how the repeat has been worked out. Other times you really have to search for the repeat. And making a repeating pattern like that requires a certain amount of skill and practice.

So what are the main ways of organising the repeats?

There are Block repeats, Half-drop repeats, Brick, Diamond, Ogee, Mirror and Tossed repeats . . . And the simplest of these is the BLOCK repeat.

A BLOCK repeat is made by positioning the motifs side by side and directly above and below one another.

It can lead to a very regular, regimented, even, effect and works well with geometric patterns. You can make a simple Block repeat quite successfully by dragging your motifs across to the work area manually but using Photoshop's 'Define Pattern' button will ensure greater accuracy and probably saves a lot of time in the long run.

The BLOCK repeat arrangement can also be used for the most complex patterns and this is where many hand-painted designs are likely to feature.

Whether your motif is simple or more complex, the method for making a BLOCK repeat is the same. But when your pattern is more complex, there will be some additional steps at the end.

So we’ll begin with preparation instructions that will apply to all types of repeats –


1. Scan your motif and clean/tidy it, using either the eraser or a paintbrush with your background colour (often white).

2. Make the background transparent: making sure that the layer is unlocked, use the Magic Wand to define the background area. (If there are light colours in your pattern, make sure the Tolerance of the Magic Wand is set low enough that it doesn’t select the pale colours as well as the white background!) 

Press Delete – this should give you a transparent background which appears as a chequerboard effect.

3. Adjust the size of the ‘tile’ if necessary.

4. Save either as a .png or a .psd and name it as xxxxx _tile.



1. With your saved ‘tile’ file open, click on Edit > Define Pattern. You can give the pattern a name when the dialogue box appears or simply let Photoshop name it for you with something like Pattern 45.

2. Open a new, much bigger file, at least four times as big as your ‘tile’.  Click on Edit > Fill. Choose the pattern you just defined: > OK

And, as if by magic, you should have a ‘sheet’ of repeating patterns.

HOT TIP! I filled the background with green before I added the rabbits as I've found from experience that it comes out more even that way.

2. A MORE COMPLEX BLOCK REPEAT – where the pattern fills most of the ‘tile’. 

This is the 'tile' for the pattern below

For this we need the help of the very clever

1. Prepare your ‘tile’ as steps 1 – 4 above.

2. Image > Image Size: write down the dimensions of your tile in pixels. Close Image Size.

3. Go to Filter > Other >Offset, make sure that ‘wrap around’ is ticked.

4. Halve the dimensions that you wrote down and enter them in the appropriate boxes > OK

5. What you will see are the horizontal and vertical seams as they will be when you repeat your tile and they will probably look an awful mess, something like this:

Now you need to spend some time tidying up the seams. There are various ways to do this:

a) Use the clone stamp and/or smudge tool and I’ve read that in CS4 ff. the ‘Content Aware’ fill is useful for this task.

b) Prepare some small individual motifs on a transparent background and ‘place’ them at intervals over the seam to hide the join.

6. When you are happy with your repairs, use the Offset Filter again to check them and if necessary, repeat steps 3 –5 until you are satisfied.

7. Layer > Flatten.

8. Steps 3 – 4 as above, in PREPARATION

9. Repeat Steps 1 – 2 above, in SIMPLE BLOCK REPEAT.

When I made this pattern, I didn't really know how to repair
the seams and you can still see faint lines where the tiles joined.

Good luck - and don't forget, if you have any difficulties following these instructions, please say so in the comments and I will try to find a solution for you!

Happy Pattern-making!

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

Thursday, 4 April 2013

E-interview with Mary Beth Cryan, Illustrator, Paper Engineer

This month's e-interview is with 
illustrator and paper engineer,
Mary Beth Cryan from Rhode Island.

Mary Beth's Blog

Mary Beth's Portfolio Website

Mary Beth, when did you first realise that you were an artist?

I was born an artist.  I can't remember a time when I didn't consider myself an artist.  My mother was an elementary art teacher turned stay-at-home mom. She started teaching me art as soon as I popped out of the womb.  And I loved it.  There was never a year when "more art supplies" was not on my Christmas wish list.

Although, my love of art may have started before that.  On my last business trip to New York City, I struck up a conversation with a woman in a boutique who claimed to be a spiritual healer. She sensed I had "been creating art for many lifetimes."  When she told me that my first thought was, "I am putting that on my resume immediately!"

Have you had formal art/design/illustration training?
Yes, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University with a major in Illustration.

What was the most important thing you learnt from it?
The most important thing I learned was in a Communications design class.  The philosophy of that department was that a good idea must be at the core of every design.  At the time I didn't realize the importance of the lesson.  But over the years, real work experience has proven the point true.

What do you consider the most important thing you have learnt on your journey as an artist and from whom did you learnt it?
The most important thing I've learned is an artist must think of themselves as a business person.  My father taught me this.  He is a professional children's photographer.  He has taught me almost everything I know about running a small business.  I owe my success to him.

Which artists/designers/illustrators inspire you?
I am influenced by every piece of art I ever see in every discipline.  I follow about 200 different art blogs.  I have a constant thirst to see new art that can't be satiated.  It's annoying actually.  Right now I'm most inspired by fashion designers.

Some of my favorites are Dries Van Noten, Manish Arora, Prabal Gurung, Marc Jacobs, Mary Katrantzou, Miuccia Prada, Prabal Gurung, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Thakoon Panichgul,  Tsumari Chisato, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren and the list goes on and on.

I love fashion because of its fast pace and ability to be worn.  I consider it the front trenches of the art world.

What is your favourite medium?
Adobe Illustrator is my favorite medium.  I know that's weird but I love it.  I think it's cool that it's a new medium that only artists from the present time have had the opportunity to use.  Let's face it, I can't compete with Degas at painting but I can kick his butt at vector art!

How long has your business been up and running?
 I quit my full time toy design job almost eight years ago to start my own business.

Are there any particular pitfalls that have caused difficulties for your business that you would like to warn others about?
I would just warn people that they should expect to work really, really hard.  There is nothing easy about running your own business.  I work harder now than I've ever worked before and I'm the worst boss I've ever had.  But it's the most rewarding job I've ever had.  I could never go back to working for someone else's dream.  Life is too short.

Do you enjoy the business side of things?
No.  But I'd rather do it myself than hire an agent.

Have you had any training in the art business?
I'm a business school dropout.  A few years after I graduated from Syracuse University I went back to school as an MBA student at Bryant University (then Bryant College) at night while I worked full
time at my toy design job.  I knew I wanted to start my own business and needed to learn about business.  The program was geared toward corporate business.  So it wasn't as relevant as I had hoped.  I left the program after a few semesters.

But I learned a ton about the "business mindset."  Ironically, I had to take a class in geometry that eventually ended up being invaluable when I started doing paper engineering.  I've also taken all of J'net Smith's art licensing classes.

In addition, my husband is gifted sales person. He is forever teaching me sales techniques.

Mary Beth, I see that you specialise in 'paper engineering, surface pattern design, and product concepts'. How did that come about?
The common thread between them is they are all 3 dimensional product based.  I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE consumer product.  I want to make lots of it.  I find nothing more satisfying than seeing my illustrations on a 3 dimensional product (books included).

Do you find that the business side of things takes up more time than you would like?
I don't feel that the business side takes up that much of my time.  I do a lot of books which are long projects.  The longer the project, the less projects fit in a year, the less needs to be recorded, the less business there is.

That sounds good! Are you working alone or do you have help?
I work by myself in my home studio.  I have a few freelancers that help me from time to time.

I really enjoy working alone.  I need complete silence to work.  I don't know how I ever worked in a design studio with many designers chatting and playing music.  I could never go back to that.  I really like people and was afraid I would be lonely when I went freelance.  But I'm not lonely at all.

Do you paint/draw regularly?
I get to draw everyday for work.

It has taken me a while to arrive at where I'm happiest, designing repeating patterns, via screenprinting,  painting in soft pastels, then Greeting Card design . Are you still doing what you originally set out to do?
Yes.  I consider when "I set out" the time when I left home to go to college to become a professional artist and that is what I'm currently doing.  I "set out" again when I left my job to start my own illustration business and I'm still doing that too.

Do you have some idea of how many hours per week you work?
It depends how busy I am.  I try to only work 40 hours a week because I work very intensely and have to be careful not to burn myself out.  But I probably work closer to 50.  When I'm really busy, closer to 60.  If you count all the time I'm researching on the internet, shopping the market, talking about business, and thinking about work, I work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

I know the feeling! Do you have regular contact with other artists?
Yes.  Almost everyone I know is an artist including my dad, mother, and one of my two brothers.  In Rhode Island you can't throw a stone without hitting an artist.  I need to work on finding some friends that aren't artists.

Thank goodness my husband is not one. Otherwise I would talk of nothing but art all the time.

What do you consider your biggest achievement – or the one that pleases you most – so far?
I'm most proud of the work I've done for the MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art in New York City) and the books I've done.  I'm one of the regular contributing artists for the MoMA's line of holiday greeting cards.  If I have a bad day, that fact makes me feel better.  I currently have 7 paper crafting books out on the market. I am very proud of them.  I have 5 more coming out this year.  I love books and consider it an honor to be able to create them.

Wow - that is quite an achievement! But is there anything you would like to change about your art business?
I would like to have more time to spend with my family which is going to involve working less.  This is hard for me.

Do you have a favourite quote, art-related or otherwise?
I have a bunch of art related quotes on the left hand column of my blog .  Right now my favorite is "She wasn't where she had been. She wasn't where she was going…but she was on her way. " - Jodi Hills  It's not specifically about art but it's how I've been feeling about my art career lately .

And finally, what are your plans for the future, Mary Beth?
I plan to create many more books and to get deeper into art licensing.  I'm currently working on a body of
work with a style appropriate for women.  I have plans to unleash it on the art licensing world soon.

I am sure all our readers will join me in wishing you every success with that. It sounds intriguing and I hope you'll come back and share it with us once it's 'unleashed'!

Thank you so much, Mary Beth, for finding the time to give us the opportunity to get to know you and your work better. I'm sure your insights and your success will encourage and inspire anyone who reads this!