One ways I’ve been breaking free from my creative block is stepping away from computer illustration. I love my vectors, but it is time to incorporate more into them. My goal is to take some of my favorite existing patterns / places and recreate them using different methods such as watercolor, paper marbling, and printmaking.
I started with watercolor. Here is what I learned:
1. It’s hard
2. I’m a massive control freak
3.There is no controlling watercolor (for the beginner at least). It’s basically the opposite of working in illustrator for me.
As fate would have it my new studio mate is illustrator extraordinare Julia Denos. We have spent afternoons painting together, with her teaching me painting tricks and I educating her on InDesign and going to a spa. I have loved every minute of it. I’ve scanned these watercolor paintings and work will them into a totally new design for the Fairbanks, Alaska pattern – an imagined vacation to see the aurora borealis. And I’ll keep on painting, because I’ve barely scratched this surface.
One night, while laying in bed perusing graphic design on Pinterest, (a favorite pre-bedtime activity), I came across the work of graphic designer Kellyn Walker. I was so inspired! I’ve been killing my creative block by incorporating more handmade elements, scanned objects and collage-ness to my patterns and designs. She does it so very well. Check out her very inspiring Pinterest boards.
Last month I had some surgery, (deviated septum, an adnoidectomy – life changing, email me if you have any questions about having it done), and spent about a week and a half sleeping off pain killers and watching movies. I have been going through a bit of a creativity crisis and watching so many great process movies and biopics has really helped (God bless my Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon Prime accounts). Here are some of my favorites that I watched while convalescing.
1. BILL CUNNINGHAM’S NEW YORK // I’ve watched this multiple times and never tire of it. “Fashion is the armor to survive the everyday life”. (netflix)
2. BASQUIAT // The story of Basuait’s rapid rise to fame. Plus David Bowie puts in an amazing performance as Andy Warhol. (netflix)
3. SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF’S // The history of the store and the making of their holiday windows peppered with interview from fashion’s frontrunners. (netflix)
4. GREGORY CREWDSON, BRIEF ENCOUNTERS // The process behind the making of Crewdson’s elaborate movie-esque photos. (netflix)
5. MARC JACOBS + LOUIS VUITTON // My favorite all time process movie. Watch Marc design multiple collections and throw a killer halloween party. I’ve watched this a billion times. (youtube)
6. THE RACHEL ZOE PROJECT // I am SO SAD that this show was cancelled. I love how honest Zoe is, especially in the last season as she becomes a working mom, insecure in her work and trying to balance everything. I totally relate. Plus she is quite funny and the fashion is to die for. (amazon)
Any creative documentaries that I missed that I need to see? let me know!
I love complex infographics, layered pieces beautifully showing lots of information. We interview a lot of Massachusetts College of Art + Design students at JHill, many have a project of making an infographic of a Girl Talk song. These are always my favorite projects to review.
UNIVERSO DE EMOCIONES // Designers Victor Palau and Ana Gea (PalauGea) created along with writer and scientist Eduard Punset, an infographic of the world of emotions and feelings with which we live.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE // Vladimir Gukulak summarized the yearly range of colors of plant species in a circular infographic.
THE COLOR PRINTER // Beautiful plates of color theory via Present and Correct, you can see the entire book here.
3 MONTHS OF CROCHETING // Lana Bragina recorded all her knitting and selling activity since January 1, 2009, and incorporated it into this infographic. The graphic shows how long she knitted every day on each piece; how long each piece was posted on Etsy until it sold; and where the items was sent to.
I love that this little greenhouse built in St Louis, Missouri’s Forest Park is named the Jewel Box. I imagine opening the art deco doors and being met with a wave of heat and sparkling, bejeweled flowers. It was designed by architect William C. E. Becker and built in 1936. The Jewel Box consists of over 4,000 panes of glass framed by patina-ed copper. A frequent, (and lovely), spot for St Louis weddings.
CREDITS: Jewel Box sketch by moi, Jennifer Hill (I wanted a drawing for the post and then thought… wait I CAN DO THE DRAWING. A new leaf is turning here. // Bejeweled flowers a la Pinterest // love this moody instagram photo by Maureen Breena via STL Mag // beautiful straight-on photo by Mark Scott Alben // This HD photo by The Barbarian. Unreal.
YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US T-SHIRT // If I wear this now I’m kind of reclaiming it from those bullies, right?
All black and a statement necklace
MICHAEL KORS JEMMA SHADES // i don’t know… i just love them
ALEXANDER WANG SWEATPANTS // i can’t spend $195 on sweatpants, but i can dream about them
NIKE SUPREMO SNEAKERS // love the florals
Judy Garland was a star from such a young age, (can you get a “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with more yearning than hers?), and was told that she wasn’t enough much too often. From the time she was a wee one up until the (too young) age of her death she was such a strong beauty – despite whatever those studio execs thought. The “Meet Me in St Louis” star’s look is my favorite and personal go to: A strong, red lip (my favorite is Sephora’s Cream Lip Stain in Always Red), a dark brow and lots of mascara, (throw in a pair of falsies for special occasions).
I’ve been a fan of Warhol’s forever. I loved his artwork, his sensibility and him as a socialite. My friend Ben has a bit of Warhol in him, you should check out his photos and follow him on instagram.
I kept thinking, maybe I need a new drawing series. Ten years of Places I Have Never Been… after 100 places I was definitely starting to repeat myself. And then I’d look at all the work I created. I thought, “is it a shame to start totally new?” Like am I going to start drawing owls or something? I was looking everywhere for an answer, for inspiration.
Then I read this line on pg 35 of Art and Fear
“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece.”
GENIUS. I thought “I need to look at my work differently.”
The authors David Bayles and Ted Orland go on to say “Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work… The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly – without judgement, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotions expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need.” I could kiss these two men. I seriously have been stuck with my work for at least a year, probably longer.
I work exclusively on the computer, I love playing with transparency. Different layers, how color interacts. There is a lot going on in each pattern. So what if I did the opposite of everything I’m doing now? I could simplify things. Doing a really simple pattern in illustrator bores me, maybe I should try other mediums and use the computer as an accent (if at all).
I’ve started brainstorming. I bought materials. Planning silk screening, stamping + embroidery for Andalucia. I’m going to stamp the background with dried oranges.
Going back to my sketchbook from a gazillion years ago (Andalucia was the first pattern I designed) I saw that I was inspired by citrus and lace and this text from Chris Stewart’s ‘Driving Over Lemons’: ” Exquisite 5 petalled stars, radiating from cream, yellow pistils and stamins. Scent is delicate and heady, tangible mist of orange blossoms lasts for 3 weeks. April, May and June.”
First step is I need to dry some oranges. Then I need to do some color tests. I’m kind of obsessed with gold at the moment. Maybe orange and gold on white. I need to think about it, as I’ve already written about my current color conundrum. Next week I will be home most of the week due to some sinus surgery, so I’m trying to think of it as a creative vacation with painkillers and a hospital visit. I hope I can get started on this piece.
A few years ago I bought a vintage time zone dial at the Brimfield Antique Show in western MA. I rediscovered them when we moved into a new studio space this winter. I am a sucker for organized design with numbers/text. On the back is a list of international telephone rates (remember land lines?!).
I wanted to remake these time dials into prints, specifically personalized ones, for Valentine’s Day. So I started sketching… usually my first sketches are crazy. WAY to complicated. Terrible colorways… but thats the nature of the sketch right? I mean if it was awesome it would be a final piece. So here are some ideas I had below. I played with color in pattern, gradients, placement of pattern, moons, monograms. When I printed them out and stepped away I knew we needed to simplify.
Here is a thing about me and color. We aren’t getting along now. When I started 10 years ago I was told over and over what a great sense of color I had. I loved working with color and attributed that to my time designing for Fresh. Then over the last couple years, as companies/publishers approached me about using my work for home decor, books, stationery, ect… they said “there is just SO MUCH color. Too much color. You need to think about what color people want in their home. What is the “color trend.” It honestly kind of destroyed my color confidence. Now when I design things this is what happens:
1. “I want to do something gold, pink and black.”
2. ” Oh this looks good”
3. “Wait, is this too morbid? Should it be happier? Maybe the pink should be red.”
4. “Wait no. What’s that stupid color of the year? Passionate orchid or something? Should it be that and gold?”
5. “This looks really Golden Girls right now. But what if this is what people like? Shit I don’t have any color sense anymore. It’s cause I’m playing hotwheels and potty training and not paying attention to color trends on Pinterest. Ugh this sucks.”
6. “Fuck it, I’m just going to do gold, pink and black.”
Then I showed the Time Zone Prints to my husband. He went to art school with me and he is now an art lead, which means he gives crits 24/7. He always give me the best feedback and it always pisses me off. He gave me some notes, I got a little mad, then I did what he said and of course the prints looked a thousand times better. Here are the final prints.
The are really fun to make, I love that we are cutting more than straight lines, I get to use my little japanese paper punch and these little black brads from the paper source. The final step was to photograph them with the lovely Somerby Jones. I told her the story behind the Time Zone Prints. How they were the perfect, unique Valentine gift for a loved one far away. Not just lovers, but grandparents missing grandkids, dear friends… anyone thinking of someone somewhere else and wondering what they are doing, what time it is there. So many of our best friends have moved to the west coast, even writing this tears me up. Somerby styled and shot these photos and I love them.
The Time Zone prints are finally available online. They are 5″ x 7″, the basic print is $18 and the personalized version is $28. You can *use them to tell what time it is where your loved on is to schedule a call or just to imagine what they are up to when it is noon there and dinner time at your home.
*(just watch out during daylight savings, some countries follow it, most don’t)
I just read Joy’s post about juggling motherhood and business ownership. I loved how unglossy it was. A lot of blogs and social media post the pretty things, and we (or I) start to feel really unpretty because my life isn’t glossy. We’ve been talking about this in the studio a lot lately and I wrote this post months ago but never published it. Joy inspired me too.
Recently a company that we’ve had great success working with for about 2 years told us that they appreciate our work, but they have enough travel prints and if they wanted to work with us again they’d be in touch. Ouch. I wanted to yell “I’ve been doing this for 10 years! When I made a wall calendar it was hard to find one that didn’t have a cat on it!” But in the end that doesn’t really matter.
It’s something I’ve known for about the last year. Whether it be on Etsy or on Fab, it seems like everyone and their mom is making travel prints. Some really cool but some are direct ripoffs of other artists (how many versions of Ork’s beautiful typographic maps have I seen on Etsy? And now someone is doing laser cut maps on Fab, just like Karen O’Leary’s hand cut pieces).
It’s been really stressful to start questioning my work, something I was always really sure about. It’s difficult to build a company and then start to feel like one in a crowd or irrelevant. I’ve started looking at my work and thinking “is this even any good?”. I’ve started wondering if my work is too inaccessible. Do I make things clever to the point that only a certain few get it? I’ve been told by some very big companies, that my work is “too beautiful and too interesting” for their customers. Are the patterns too complex? Too many colors?
It’s difficult when something that is a creative passion becomes a way to support your family. It’s scary to take risks because you are sacrificing income and time that is now really important. You start thinking of ideas in terms of numbers – I have to make X amount a day to pay the studio rent, and employees, and my salary, and for preschool…
It’s hard to get inspired when you are on the daycare clock. You have to get all the orders out and all the client work done and you can’t afford a full time employee to help because you are paying for someone to care for your child. When our son isn’t in daycare I feel like I should (and I want to) be with him, and I don’t really think of spending time wandering the museum or delving into old books in the library. Because of time constraints and the easiness of the smartphone, I’ve started to look for inspiration solely on Pinterest, but this isn’t working for me anymore. I see SO many extraordinary beautiful things, things I would have cut out and pasted into my sketchbook in old times. There are so many that I scroll by thinking “that’s pretty. that’s cool. that’s pretty”.
Juggling being a mom and an artist and a business person… that is a whole different post. It is something I get asked and emailed about a lot. In the words of my wise friend Jill, “I do it all, but I’m not doing it all well.”
Sometimes I’m energized thinking of taking the business in a new direction, sometimes it tires me out. I’m going to start doing handmade mixed-media versions of our prints. They will use silkscreening, embroidery, marbling, paper cuts… I don’t know if it’s going to be profitable. I’m not even sure our current customer base will want them. We might sell zero. But I want to try. I love my son seeing me use my hands and getting messy instead of sitting in front of a screen. I want him to know that life isn’t inside a computer or an iPhone. It’s outside.
So that’s it, my unglossy truth. I encourage you to share yours.
We will be in the studio packing orders and eating candy. We’d love for you to come and join us and do a little relaxed holiday shopping. Feel free to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org – See you Sunday!
We are at the tail end of a big website revamp (can’t come fast enough…). The next to last part is updating our Phone Case section. We are now going to offer iPhone 5, iPad, Kindle Fire and Galaxy S4 cases, but only in about 10-15 patterns. We want to know from you which patterns you would want to see our new collection of Tech Cases in. As a bribe we are offering a free phone case, pattern and model is the winner’s choice. Contest closes Sunday so head over here to give us some feedback and enter!