Animal prints are not my cup of tea, but I get why they are appealing; I do love bold graphic patterns. Instead of going with a leopard or zebra print for my design challenge entry, I wanted to pick something that was a little less obvious. So I decided to go with ducks. Female mallards are pretty well camouflaged with their brown feathers, except for the bright blue, black and white bars on their wings. You almost don’t see them at all when they are sitting quietly, but as soon as they take off there is a flash of that blue. (Thanks to my mom for the mallard photo above.)
I drew a vector illustration for this design, layering the feathers so I could make a repeating pattern. I felt like the design was a little flat. I often feel this way about vector designs, I often feel like they need a little more texture. So I layered it first with a watercolor pattern to give it some light/dark/grunge. Then I added a chevron stripe to mimic the “grain” of feathers.
The overall pattern makes a stripe which I think would be fun for couch pillows or tote bags.
You can check out more animal prints at the design challenge page.
In 2018, I participated in every one of the Spoonflower Weekly Design Challenges. Every week there is a topic posted and artists are challenged to design something to match the theme. Themes range from art elements (large scale black and white) to color limits (navy, orchid, maroon, white) to topics you can interpret anyway you like (sloths, four wheels, astrology). I wrote about how 2018 was for me and what I learned in a previous post and I realized that although I had shared all of those designs on all of my other social media channels, I talked about very few of them here. So for 2019, I am going to remedy that.
The theme for the first week of January was “Be My Valentine”. One of my strategies for coming up with a challenge design is to challenge myself. I first think about the immediate image that comes to mind when I look at the theme (red hearts, arrows, roses) and I throw that out. I try to never design the first thing I think of because often that’s the cliché. And for me, I like to think about what I want a design to be and what I want it not to be. When I was thinking about my Astrology theme design, I knew I wanted it to be fish (for Pisces), but not starry sky.
There is a legend in my family of the Valentine card that my dad made for my mom way back when they were 20somethings. My dad wrote her an irreverent poem and drew her a picture of a heart. A “real” anatomical heart. It wasn’t exactly what she was expecting at the time but it is one of my favorite stories of the two of them.
At first glance, you might think that the photo at the top of this post represents the metaphorical dumpster-fire that was 2018, but it actually might be one of my favorite things about the year.
As we were heading in to the end of 2018 and holiday season, we realized we didn’t have any plans. I don’t mean “no plans” as in “we only have a few family things and we might have a day to lounge around in our pajamas”; I mean nothing. We had scheduled alternate dates to celebrate Christmas with family, no one was visiting, and we were so busy with wrapping up year end at our various jobs that it didn’t occur to us to even make plans with friends. Two weeks with nowhere we had to be and nothing we had to do. No one to entertain, clean the house for, or cook for except ourselves.
It was glorious.
So we rented some dumpsters.
I know that might not sound like everyone’s ideal way to spend the holidays, but it was amazing. We moved in to our house almost 20 years ago. (I have no idea how that much time has gone by.) We came from a different state and a tiny condo so we had nothing when we got here and we just moved with everything we had. Turns out that the nothing multiplied into a LOT of junk. Things from college days. Hand-me-down furniture that people gave us because we had empty rooms in our house and no chairs. Things that we might get to “someday”, like a weaving loom I never use. More chairs. Old carpet left by the previous owners. And we put it in places and on shelves and in boxes and kind of forgot it was there. A sea of clutter.
I’ve never really participated in posting “something-a-day” challenges. The commitment of having to do something every single day just isn’t appealing to me I have discovered, especially when it comes to something creative. There’s not enough time to think about it and let it percolate, and it ends up just being a “do something quick so I can have it done”. So when I decided that I would participate in the weekly Spoonflower design challenge, I wasn’t sure I would stick with it. So I didn’t set a goal or make an announcement that I was going to participate. But I did. Every single week.
Wow. That’s a cool thing to have accomplished this year.
I mocked up a swatch of each design and made this slide show. (Note: If you are on the home page, you have to click the “read more” button on the this post for it to show you the video.) In parentheses you can see the design challenge theme for the week and at the very end, I made a collage of the top ten by number of “favorites” and my personal top 10 rankings in the overall pool of entries.
My highest finish was “Brine and Barnacles” at number 22 of 576 entries. (That’s the humpback whales design you see up above in the header to this post.) I didn’t manage to crack the top 10, but I would like to! The design challenge that week was a limited color palette, which I really didn’t like: Navy, orchid pink, maroon and white and/or black. I love navy, but the other two colors were not in my personal favorite palette. So I was feeling unsure about this design (because it was really navy and white with a tiny bit of the others). It was a […]
This design always makes me shake my head. It continues to be the most popular design in my Spoonflower shop and it was entirely inspired by snark.
I created it when I was working on the Spoonflower Handbook. One of the projects we wanted to do was a shower curtain and my co-authors and I had managed to convince our editors that the print should be something a little off the wall. We wanted something that wasn’t just Pinterest-worthy, but had a little of the amazing weirdness that can be found among Spoonflower designs. So we settled on octopi, which were a big trend at that time. (They are still pretty popular.)
But we couldn’t find a design that we all agreed on that would fit in to the curriculum in the book. We had a plan for the projects in the book to help you build different skills and teach techniques as you progressed through the book. We needed this design to help teach a particular skill. The trick was to find something that both taught what we needed it to teach and passed the thumbs up of the people in charge of the “look” of the book. (That wasn’t me.)
We tried something made with clip art, but that didn’t fit the design lesson (and licensing was tricky). We tried hand-drawing something inspired by that.
We tried using a vintage illustration from a 1918 encyclopedia.
I cut it out and repeated it, I made many different colorways, we scaled it to different sizes. I made and printed 27 versions of the “octopus design” and nothing could get the thumbs up from everyone who needed to approve it. It was too creepy, too grungy, too dark, too macabre, the […]
One of the most fun partnerships I work on is designing pieces for the Guthrie Theater Store. Last year I did a whole series inspired by Sunday in the Park with George. I have made designs inspired by the Guthrie itself. The photo above shows one of those Guthrie-inspired designs in an ad in the program and one featuring some new designs in another program.
This year they asked me to do designs for their annual production of A Christmas Carol. I know the story, but I hadn’t seen their production, so they sent me photos from last year’s production. Such fun to study all of the details and colors! Several themes or scenes jumped out at me right away:
- Time is a big element in the story and there are clocks prominent in several of the scenes.
- In a number of scenes I noticed actors writing with white feather pens.
- In one scene of people singing carols around a piano I noticed the wine glasses lined up on the piano.
- Bright streetlamps and a tiny bit of snow.
We decided to go for something that was “seasonal” without being holiday specific, so I chose rich vintage-inspired colors and bigger ideas from the story. All of the designs are made from cut paper illustrations using recycled paper.
I started with a design I called Timeless. It is made up of pocketwatches and watch chains. The colors are all soft twilight shades. The chains are also an echo of the chains on the “Ghost of Christmas Past” from the show. The papers I used for this illustration were primarily colored art paper, but “grunged up” with some alcohol ink spray to give them a more weathered texture. The background of the design is a scanned piece of hand-marbled paper, which is also a […]