This week was a good one for patterns. I think I got over the hump of “oh great, what am I going to do today” and kind of dreading the work, to realizing this is actually fun and I can be very proud of these pieces. I had an “Aha! moment”. It seems so simple yet it’s one of those things I need to learn and relearn over and over in my life. You really get out of this what you put into it. When you devote a large amount of time to something, most likely it’s gonna reflect that. Despite my best efforts to come up with an idea that is quick and simple, the pieces I have liked the most are the ones that I spent hours working on.
I have one of those 642 Things to Draw Books and when I got it I was really excited, until I started REALLY looking at the prompts and then I was done. I think I drew one or two things before I threw my hands up in the air. Sailboat? Really? It’s asking me to draw a sailboat? I had no commitment to push through the discomfort. I will be honest. I didn’t really look at Anika’s list too much before committing to this project. If I had, I probably would have talked myself out of it. Finally during this third week I hit some real (to-me) “clunkers”. I had zero inspiration and had no idea how I was going to approach these themes. Mackerel?! I had gotten this far in the month and I wasn’t going to throw the towel in so I just kept thinking, thinking, thinking, until something would hit me. Sometimes those difficult themes led to even more developed ideas, which took longer, but that extra time really paid off. It took me until this third week to stop pushing back, trying to come up with a quick idea and the “get it over with” attitude, and instead embrace it and really enjoy digging into the hard work. It pays off!
The prospect of this theme was less than inspiring to me. Mackerel. I could think of NO personal ties I have to this fish. Nothing excited me or evoked any inspiration at the word mackerel. Even, holy mackerel. No nothing. Then all of a sudden I remembered a fabric I bought, probably as a 15 or 16 year old, after I had just started my first quilt. Most of my yoyo quilt was made from scraps of my mom’s left over quilting, but occasionally I would buy little bits of new fabrics that caught my eye.
I found this blue and white plaid fabric with “rainbow trout” in it and my teenage self thought that it was SO HILARIOUS that I bought tons of it in hopes to make a skirt or something from it. I can’t tell you how many yards and yards of fabric I’ve bought over the years in hopes of making skirts and probably only have made two or three. Anyway, remembering this fish fabric pattern was the spark I needed to inspire me. I had the vision of painting a variety of fish and then incorporating them into the center of a pattern.
I envisioned a scribbly pattern. I painted the fish in watercolor, and scanned and photographed them before adding the scribble. I was glad I did that, not that it ruined the fish, but I might have been so disheartened my vision did not work, that I would have quit. I had the scans and made made a repeating pattern and I ended up LOVING it! I actually did the digital pattern before returning to add the scribbles. I was wanting a very loose, scribbled and textured circle. I wonder if I tried it again with a thicker line?
One thing I’ve remembered while doing this daily project was something I picked up from my one illustration class in college. The teacher highly recommended we scan our work, and then print copies and build upon those, rather than possibly destroying a piece and having to start over from scratch. It really makes sense, and from a designer’s viewpoint, one knows you have to “SAVE OFTEN” because you never know when you will have done tons of work and the program crashes or the power goes out. And I definitely have saved variations with layers in case I want to go back a few steps.
One last note on this piece. To paint these fish I had to look up pictures of the various fish. I referenced a collection of each to find parts I liked and find out what elements were true to the fish as a whole species and not a specific fish image that was shared. I obviously had to include mackerel because that the day’s topic, but then in addition I chose rainbow trout, blue gill, large mouth bass and yellow perch. Did you know that Mackerel do not have scales?
When I first started this challenge I thought about how sticking with one theme might be a good idea. I love this little art book I made and filled with abstract compositions, made almost entirely from gelatin print collage, and thought about doing that all month long. In the end I decided to keep it open and breezy, so if I want to work in watercolor one day I can and if I want to work in collage and mixed media another day I can too. The theme of layers was perfect for collage so I did just that. I really do want to revisit this more and can see filling lots of books this way.
Day 17 Pods
This is another pattern that took a long time, but was worth it. The theme was pod and I was once again searching and searching for inspiration. Funny enough, the inspiration came from the stained glass windows at church that morning. The finished pattern looks nothing like the colorful abstract shapes in the windows, but I love-love-loved the results of this piece. I could see this one printed as a fabric. The pods are supposed to be poppy seed pods, which is that elusive plant I have always want to try and grow in our yard, but it just won’t ever take.
Day 18 Free.
When thinking of “Free” my first idea was a cloud pattern, but it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and so I couldn’t resist a “freedom” themed pattern. I tried doing a hand lettered pattern with the word Freedom repeated, but halfway through I HATED it. It was getting late and with an early wake up call the next day I decided to quickly revisit my first idea in a little art book, and I ended up liking it. I still ended up getting to use some of those same loopy, almost calligraphy like shapes inside each cloud.
Day 19 Groceries
The inspiration for this piece started with some tote bags I’ve been obsessively sewing this winter. As soon as I had the bag idea down I thought of my trip to my last trip to the grocery store. I made this DELICIOUS recipe (vegetarian version of the knock-off, Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli, which I’ve never had at Olive Garden, but my SIL made recently). After I was done with this pattern I immediately wanted to add color, but it was once again getting late. I printed out a couple copies to add color (once again, remembering advice from my illustration teacher) and those copies have been kicking around the living room ever since. I want to record a time lapse while coloring it in and don’t have a tripod, so I’m pretty much stuck with propping up the camera or pulling Matt in for the extra hands.
Day 20 emoji.
I love my emoji’s, like any card carrying member of the iphone-disciples. Which emoji should I choose? The Mushroom? The Balloon? Fingers crossed? As I was looking through all of the emojis I noticed (what I call) the tall grass prairie emoji (but suspect it is probably wheat or rice plant). As soon as I saw that I looked up and saw a watercolor washed background I had started for another piece, but ended up not using. Perfect! It’s funny how tall grass prairies have been part of my visual language in my artwork, since I was probably in high school. And yet, as often as grass is in my work, I felt like I had to do it in a more abstract way, but lately I’m finally finding a more representative way that I think works.
Day 21 Cactus.
When I read cactus I immediately thought of my Christmas cactus because it was in bloom. When doing research on the Christmas cactus (because I was questioning if it was even really a cactus) I found that it is probably actually a “Thanksgiving Cactus” which looks very much like a Christmas cactus, but has more pointy tips on it’s leaves, where the Christmas cactus is more rounded edges. I thought of making my pattern as stripes with the long arms of leaves with occasional flowers. I wanted to color this one as well, but ran out of time. I’ll have a few patterns after this month is over, that I can revisit.
There are just a few days left of #patternjanuary so I will be back shortly with the last week plus a few days.