This is my design for the weekly Spoonflower design challenge.  The theme this week is “What’s in your bag?”.  The idea is that everyone carries around something interesting in their purse or bag and you should use that ephemera as a basis for a design.

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I don’t actually worry too much about the voting part of these contests, although it is very fun and validating to see the likes and comments from everyone.  For me these design challenges are all about deadlines and practice. With all kinds of skills from playing musical instruments to sports, you get better by practicing.  I feel like design is the same way.  I am out of practice with pen and paper drawing.  I participated in Illustration Friday for quite a while, but I got busy with other things and stopped.  So for these last few challenges, I have been drawing and digitally coloring. Practice. I don’t think pen and pencil drawing is a mandatory component to being a great designer, but I do think the more skills you have in your toolbox the more versatile you are.

The other creative challenge that I love is having a random topic as inspiration.  Being assigned a topic takes you out of your comfort zone.  It makes you think about topics you might never design and to really think about all the different ways you could represent lemonade or llamas.  Next week is a baseball theme.  I know next to nothing about baseball and I am really not a fan, so it is a real challenge to me to come up with what to design.  I think it will involve dogs and baseballs.  I know a lot about that.

This week’s “bag” challenge was pretty wide open and I decided to go a little bit literal, because I thought it was fun to have a fabric design that was just commonplace and odd objects.  It was drawn in 3 sections.  I started with the sharpies and made them and the knitting needles deliberately very directional to make almost a basketweave kind of pattern with the lines formed by those two components. I drew these bits all with fine tip sharpies and scanned them.  I started coloring this one in Photoshop very “inside the lines” and pretty and then deleted the whole thing. It was too “nice”.  I started again with a grungy streaky Photoshop brush and painted in things by hand.  I added a layer of “fibers” in the background with a filter and then added some splatters and erased some bits of the colors to break it up and add texture.  I played with the colors a lot.  I wanted a dark background because when I think of “what’s in your bag” I always think about rummaging around in the inevitable dark corners of my tote bag.  I ended up choosing slightly muted colors for coloring the odds and ends that I think look a little like chalk against the dark background.

If you don’t like to illustrate, there’s no reason you couldn’t do your own thing. Use the Spoonflower or Illustration Friday topics as a jumping off point for a little creative exercise: how about taking a photo of “what’s in your bag” or writing a haiku?

always lost, searching

compartments and dark corners

provide camouflage