I get a lot of questions about how I come up with ideas for new patterns or illustrations, so I thought I’d write a post about my process. I’m going to use my “Boston Skulls” collection as an example.
Take a trip.
Most of my ideas start off being inspired by a trip of some sort. I find that breaking out of your everyday routine and surroundings clears your mind and enables creativity to flow much more easily. This doesn’t mean I think you need to jet off to Italy (not that I think that would be a bad thing!), but even just a trip to your backyard, a retail store or a park can get your creative juices flowing.
In this case I was already on a trip to Massachusetts when I came up with the idea to use the winged skull motifs found on many old tombstones in Boston. People who know me know how much I love Halloween and the macabre, so I had already planned on checking out all the old cemeteries there anyway. I find that cemeteries are rather peaceful and that tombstones themselves are works of art. I don’t find them dark or disturbing at all. However, I digress…
Take pictures and sketch.
I have a digital camera and sketchbook with me at all times because you never know when you will come up with an idea or see something that totally inspires you.
Research, review pictures and sketches, refine drawings and choose the color story.
I do online research about whatever subject I’m working on. The research part ends up giving me even more inspiration and I always learn something!
I go through the pictures and sort out those that best fit my plan, then begin sketching the final drawing. I sketched my winged skull motif digitally in Adobe Illustrator using my Wacom tablet and decided I liked the imperfect, hand drawn look. For me, this style related to the handmade quality of the tombstones I saw.
Reviewing the pictures I took also reminds me of the colors that inspired me on my trip, which I often incorporate into the artwork. For the “Boston Skulls” collection, I used brighter, unexpected colors from various things we saw on the trip. I wanted these skulls to be very feminine and bright as a contrast to people’s usual view of them!
Once the overall color story is set and the main drawing is complete, it’s time to create the patterns.
I usually start with a main image, then I take that image and create patterns from it or elements of it. Sometimes I have several main images to use but in this case, I wanted to see how many patterns could be created using just one winged skull drawing. I liked the simple repetition and geometrics I could create with that single image changing only color and layout for different effects.
So there it is! One of my projects, start to finish! Remember, inspiration can come from anywhere!
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