Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Is Small Town Fashion behind the times?

When you get to my time of life, you tend to wear clothes that suit you and hope that perhaps some up-to-the-minute accessories will prevent you looking utterly dowdy!

This is the sort of 'country style' I would expect from a small town in Wales with just a nod towards recent fashion with the Tangerine scarf and the Black and White dress. Not one of these colours is from the Pantone Spring/Summer 2013 forecast though.

I have absolutely no intention of dressing in Neon Yellow - or any other Neon colour, for that matter! And I'll gladly leave platform-soled shoes behind in the Seventies. 

Still plenty of stripes, polka dots and checks are everywhere. But the only sign of the chevrons that I've noticed abounding on shopping websites, was on some Kleenex boxes!

So noticing the latest trends in our local shops hadn't been a priority for quite some time. 

I found a lot of this very bright blue for both womens and menswear. (It was such a sunny day when I took these photos that reflections in the shop windows were a problem and made some of the blues look less bright than they really were.)

Once again the British Heart Foundation charity shop (check shirt, blue skirt and 'Poppies' floral dress) had clearly made more effort with their window-dressing than any of the other charity shops!

But then came the Surface Pattern course I took last winter. And it set me exercises that sent me off to the shops with my camera for precisely that purpose. 

Bright Pink with Turquoise seems to remain popular in spite of not being what Pantone forecasted!

And when I put on my 'designer's hat', it's useful for me know what people are looking for. 

Black and white was by far the most obvious 'trend' and I thought it was quite a novel idea to apply it to a nautical  pattern (the anchors) instead of the usual navy blue.

Abergavenny is a very small town. But it has plenty of upmarket, locally owned boutiques as well as small branches of some of the national chains. Quite a good cross-section of the clothing market, I think.

These I love! In fact I have a genuine 1930s aubergine-coloured lace dress in this style tucked away somewhere in my loft. I always intended to get  it repaired so that I could wear it but it's one of those things I never got around to.

The question is: Do I look to the online trend reports with their super-skinny models and fantastical clothes that often look as they've come straight from the costume hamper of a pantomime? Or do I look to the shops to see what people are actually buying? 

And, most importantly, is there a difference?

What do you think?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Surfacing Pattern Designers - Poppy Red and Vikings Showcase!

This month my fellow graduates of the Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design course have worked on 'Vikings' and/or 'Poppy Red' patterns.

Here they are in alphabetical order of first name:

Andrea Rincon
Anchobee Designs

Poppy Filigrane

Carol Robinson

Poppy Pots

Jan Shepherd


Judy Adamson

Viking Shields Medley

Julie Ansbro

Paper Poppies

Liz Minton

Red Poppies

Mel Pope

Symbolic Speech

Natacha Devaud

Viking Dragon

Nicola Catherall Jones

Poppy Field

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

As everyone is so busy at the moment, and I don't want to add to the pressure,
 I'm inviting anyone at all to send in a pattern
 that they have previously entered for a competition
but not been a winner.

I'm sure there are plenty of 'also ran's 
that deserve to see the light of day!

If you haven't entered any competitions and you'd still like to have your work 'showcased', this month's themes are 'Stitches' and/or 'Fiesta'.

Low Res images to me by Sunday, June 2, if possible,
but I'll do my best to accommodate any 'stragglers'

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Repeating Patterns for Painters #3

Last month I demonstrated how to make a really simple repeating pattern called a Block Repeat in Photoshop, using the magical ‘Edit > Define Pattern' and 'Edit > Fill’ process. 

I used a cute bunny rabbit motif as one example and a painting of some coloured primroses as an example of a pattern that needed some follow-up repairs to its 'seams'.

Now I’m going use the rabbit again to show you some more Photoshop magic that can make your repeating patterns more interesting! 

Instead of placing our motifs on a simple grid, we can use the Offset Filter to position them for either a ‘Half-drop’ or a ‘Brick’ repeat.

These two types of repeat are so alike that we’ll only need one set of instructions for the two of them.

To make a Half-Drop or Brick repeat:

1. Begin as usual by scanning, cleaning up/tidying your motif.

2. Use the Magic Wand to make the background transparent and Save.

3. Jot down the dimensions of the Image in pixels.

For the Half-drop repeat:

4. Canvas Size  > anchor Middle Left > change the Width to 200%. Leave the Height at 100%.

5. Layers > Duplicate layer

6. Filter > Other > Offset – make sure that ‘wrap around’ is ticked.

7. Enter: Width – no change, Height – ½ the number of pixels that you wrote down > OK

You should end up with a tile like this for a half-drop repeat

For the Brick repeat:

4. Canvas Size  > anchor Middle Top > change the Height to 200%. Leave the width at 100%.

5. Layers > Duplicate Layer

6. Filter > Other > Offset – make sure that ‘wrap around’ is ticked.

7. Enter: Height – no change, Width – ½ the number of pixels that you wrote down > OK

This is what your  'Tile' will look like for a Brick Repeat

For both the Half-drop and the Brick repeat:

8. Layer > Flatten (make your background transparent again if necessary.)

9. Adjust the size of the ‘tile’ you have made if necessary and save it, making sure you use the word 'tile' in your file name for future reference.

10. Edit > Define Pattern

11. Open a new, larger document/file.

12. Edit > Fill > Choose the pattern you just defined > OK

This is the Brick Repeat - the rows are staggered horizontally, like bricks

This is the Half-drop Repeat - the columns are staggered vertically

By now you have the knowledge to make patterns with three different types of layout and the more you practice using the offset filter, the easier it will become.

Hot Tip! One of the problems I had when I first started using Photoshop was that I’d be following instructions, but at some point along the way, whatever I did, nothing would happen, nothing at all; it was if I’d somehow locked myself out!

The most frequent reason for this is that I hadn’t noticed that the layer that I was trying to work with was locked! This still trips me up occasionally but it’s quickly rectified and it’s probably wise to keep checking this as you go along to avoid frustration. 

But sometimes the layer isn’t locked and yet, when I’ve wanted to use the paintbrush to tidy something up – nothing happens. I can’t explain why this happens, but occasionally the ‘opacity’ button in the top bar seems to slide back to 0%! So, although I was in fact actually painting, it wasn’t showing up because the colour was transparent!

The third thing to check, if neither of these reasons are what's holding you up, is that you haven’t somehow inadvertently left a marquee tool selecting part of your image. If that’s the case, you’ll only be able to work on the part that is selected. That one has caught me out a few times!

There seem to be a lot of things to keep your eye on in Photoshop that weren’t there in my old photo-editing program.

And, if you’re anything like me – more interested in the resulting design than in the mechanics of creating it – it can seem as if there are too many things to think about. But it’s a bit like driving a car – at first you need to think about everything you’re doing with your eyes, your hands, your feet . . . but after a while it all becomes automatic. I think Photoshop is a bit like that!

Next time, we'll be looking at my favourite type of repeat - the Ogee or Diamond repeat.

In a way, it's a combination of Half-drop and Brick. I discovered the easy way to create this repeat almost accidentally, by adapting some other instructions I came across on the internet!

So, till next month -

Practise as much as you can and enjoy making some wonderfully exciting patterns! I'd love to see them if you'd like to email them to me to post here!

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

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

e-Interview with Laura Escalante, Surface Pattern Designer/Illustrator from Columbia

This month I'm grateful to Laura Escalante, a Surface Pattern Designer from Bogotá, Colombia, for giving us her time to answer some questions about her life as a designer.

Laura on Twitter: 
Laura on Facebook
Laura on Behance

I asked Laura: When did you first realize that you were an artist?
Since I was little I loved to draw and paint, especially with colored pencils. My parents always gave me for Christmas and for my birthday art supplies, boxes full of crayons, colored pencils, pastels and watercolors. Later on, as I grew up, I took painting classes and then I specialized in art during high school.

Laura, I'm always interested to know whether an artist has had formal art/design/illustration training?
Yes, I have an undergraduate degree in Product and Visual Communication Design from la Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.

That sounds fascinating! And what do you think was the most important thing you learnt from it?
The most important thing I learned at college is that you have to work, work and work to achieve your personal and professional goals, thus dedication, effort and persistence are the way to do so.

Apart from at University, what is the most important thing you have learnt on your journey as an artist and from whom did you learnt it? 
I have learned incredible things from all my colleagues who have graduated from the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design. I learned that although we all work in the same environment and have similar goals and aspirations, there is enough room in the world of design for all of us and that it is a great satisfaction to help others achieve their dream. In other words, even though people always pursue individual goals, there is a great sense of collaboration amongst designers.

Which artists/designers/illustrators inspire you?
I am inspired and amazed by a lot of things in my everyday life, such as packaging designs, stationery, giftwraps, colorful scarves, prints, wallpapers, swimwear fabrics, tableware and kitchen textiles. But I really love the beautiful and detailed work of two Colombian designers, Ximena Escobar and Wallnut Studio by Cristina Londoño.  I am also fascinated by Tara Donovan's unique installations, Vera Bradley´s colorful patterns, lovely floral and organic designs by Claire Coles, Marcel Wander’s amazing delicate interior design products and Tim Walker´s magical and enchanted photographs.

What is your favorite medium, Laura?
I love colored pencils, but for my pattern designs I use ink as my primary medium for my motif drawings. Then I scan them and use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator techniques for the final details.

How long has your business been up and running?
My business is just starting. I recently graduated from the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design, so I am taking time to build my portfolio, webpage and business stationery in order to get my business up and running.

Are there any particular pitfalls that have caused difficulties for your business that you would like to warn others about?
I haven’t had a particular pitfall in my business but I had one as a designer that I would love to share with all of you. I am 25 years old and have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on both of my hands. I know it sounds weird that I have it on both of them, but since I started feeling pain in my right hand, I switched to my left hand and both were affected; thus I had to quit my fulltime job. My advice to all of you out there: take good care of your hands, take small 5 to 10 minute breaks every hour or so and stretch your hands, and use a design tablet instead of the regular mouse. Most of us are so fascinated by what we do that one might get carried away thus time flies by and our hands are being slowly injured and overused.

Thank you for that great advice, Laura - and I'm sorry to hear about your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!

Do you enjoy the business side of things?
As I am just starting my business I haven’t experienced the business side of things so much, but what I least like about selling my products and designs is giving them a price. I am afraid that if I charge too much they won’t be bought, but if I their price is to low I am afraid I might be underestimating my work. I find it a tough job, but I know that is something that I will learn in my journey as a self-employed designer.

Yes, that is tricky - you don't want to charge too little because customers do tend to think that the higher the price, the better the product! But on the other hand, we don't want to price ourselves out of the market! Have you had any training in the art business?
No, not really, but fortunately my father has his own business and has helped me in the business side of things.

Why did you decide to specialize in Surface Pattern Design?
I decided to specialize in Surface Pattern Design because, since I was little, I have loved colorful patterns. I can say I am obsessed in a certain way with colors and patterns. Everywhere I go I find amazing details that most people would never notice.

So I decided not to be a spectator in this beautiful world made up of colors, details, patterns and illustrations, instead I decided to dedicate myself to what I love and contribute to this amazing world.

Are you working alone or do you have help?
Yes, I work alone.

How do you feel about that?
I really enjoy working alone; It is much easier for me to concentrate and to be inspired in a quiet and calm space at home. I also love managing my own time and organizing my day as I feel it is the best way to get all things done. When I have some kind of creative block or feel I need some feedback I ask for my family´s opinion, I find their opinion very valuable since none of them are in the artist environment I love to know what someone out of the artistic scenario thinks about my work and listen to their thoughts and ideas.

Do you have regular contact with other artists?
In my daily life I am not surrounded by many artists, since most of my family members and friends are not in an artistic environment. But I have the good fortune to be part of two online groups of pattern designers and illustrators who have been a great inspiration and support since I started my journey. All the help, advice and feedback I have received from all of these wonderful ladies amaze me.

Do you paint/draw regularly?
I currently draw almost every day, since drawing is essential for my designs.

Laura, are you still doing what you originally set out to do?
Yes, I have always dreamed of designing and being immersed in an artistic creative job and that is what I am actually doing.

What is your biggest achievement – or the one that pleases you most – so far? 
I believe my biggest achievement is designing what I always dreamed of and seeing how my portfolio is becoming stronger and bigger in the design industry I love. Another great achievement was being shortlisted as one of the Top 5 Finalists of the Ideal Home Show Wallpaper design contest of 2013 held in company of and Laurence Llewellyn Bowen, who chose my design to be in the top 5. It was a great boost of confidence and satisfaction seeing one of my first pattern designs being in the top five designs of an international contest, and I was so happy to see my work reaching places that I had never imagined I was going to be capable of. That's wonderful, Laura, and well-deserved!

Do you have a favorite quote, art-related or otherwise?
I love this quote from Andy Warhol ¨ they always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.¨ I think life is too short and you are the only one who is able to change it and do what you wish for. I believe that our biggest obstacle in achieving what we want is ourselves.
I'm sure you're right, Laura, and it takes some of us a lifetime to realise that.

Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I would like to have my own design collection of room decorations for babies and children. I am focusing my pattern designs and artwork into the wallpaper, stationery and homeware textile industry. I plan to design the whole brand image of special clients, who need business stationery, packaging, wallpapers, giftwraps, and other products to create a great image.

I'm sure we all wish you the very best of luck with that, Laura. I love your work and I'm sure that others will too!

Laura, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

I feel sure your replies will interest and inspire others who, maybe, are wondering whether to pursue the career of their dreams.

Thank you! 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Can YOU wear Pantone Colour: Lemon Zest Yellow

What is the first thing you think of when YELLOW is mentioned? 

Is it the colour of dying grass and leaves or white pages, ‘yellowing with age? Or worse still, the medical condition known as ‘jaundice’ (the French word for yellow is ‘jaune’)? The flag flown on a quarantine ship is yellow. And even more negative - ever since mediaeval artists portrayed Judas Iscariot wearing yellow, the colour has been associated with cowardice and treachery!

But I feel pretty sure that most of us won’t think of these things. 

We’re far more likely to think of the ‘yellow’ of the sun or, in springtime, of Easter Chicks and the many yellow spring flowers! Primroses, crocuses, forsythia, winter jasmine and of course the many varieties of the daffodil family.

Because pure yellow is a very cheerful colour. 

Of interest to artists may be the fact that
yellow has the highest reflectivity of all the
colours, appearing to advance, 
in contrast to blue, which recedes

Some delicious foods are yellow, for example, butter and cheese. And many of the foods that are good for us are yellow too, containing Vitamins A and C and sometimes iron as well: plums, grapefruit, melons, lemons . . .
Interesting pattern too!

As a fashion item, Lemon Zest yellow first came to my attention when it was worn as a jacket by one of our BBC Wales newsreaders. And it seemed so bright that it certainly grabbed my attention!

According to my big book about Colours, yellow is ‘not as universally flattering to most complexions as, say, blue.’ I think I would agree with that on the whole, though our newsreader does have the right complexion to wear it. I just think it made perhaps too much of a statement for a newsreader, detracting from the content of the news!

But that is what yellow can do – like its cousin, orange, it can grab our attention and that quality is put to good use in warning signs and visibility jackets.

Yellow cars have been shown 
to be involved in fewer accidents,
 probably due to their
high visibility. 

So yes, yellow serves to warn us of danger but at the same time it can seem to radiate sunshine, happiness, even joy!

But although I have painted some of the walls in my house a kind of yellow ochre, and I love the golden yellow of sunflowers, buttercups and cornfields, I tend to avoid lemon yellow.

To me, lemon yellow seems tart and brittle. In fact, once, in a life drawing class, I really didn’t like the model and afterwards I found I had instinctively used a lot of lemon yellow pastel in my painting – a colour I rarely use at all! It was only later that I read Kandinsky's words, quoted in a book about the Bauhaus: 'Yellow advance, exceeds limits, is aggressive, active, volatile . . . ' - a pretty close description of the model I'd taken a dislike to!

How do you feel about yellow? 
Do you use it much in your artwork?
Do you wear yellow or use it to decorate your home?