I think it’s helpful, especially in the middle of a massive winter storm, to doodle repetitive lines. I do this first with pencil, then take something and work it out into a more grandiose design later, usually with a ruler.
But at first, draw the things you know. Soon a pattern will emerge and, if you play with it for a bit, it can be worked it into a unique variation on this theme. After a little while, time stops passing and it is easy to finds yourself in a happy zen sort of state where the artist becomes one with their pencil. Time may be passing most pleasantly, but you are actually working! I am usually pretty pleased with the results…
One of the things I love to draw on a clean white surface is a frame. There is something delicious about defining your drawing space. It’s almost like saying, “In this square, I will draw something noteworthy!” before you have even done it. A little trumpet sounds somewhere in the distance, if you will, and the excitement of filling the space as well as you can–without exceeding the lines–is inspiring. Because I liken this process to old movie film frames, I decided to make a little homage to the silver screen in this frame set. Naturally, there is a little deco element mixed in; after all, the golden age of film coincides with the golden age of art deco.
It is so important to challenge yourself in art. Picking something that is against your grain is always rewarding. As Edward O. Wilson (the greatest living American biologist) said in a lecture last night, criticism against one of his scientific theories spurred him on to write a rebuttal book that won him a Pulitzer.
In the same way, challenging oneself as an artist can lead to greater heights. Since I do a lot with straight lines, I decided to play around with working a design that has only curves. I started with a plain old grid and worked through a few circles that were fairly boring until I decided to mix it up with another shape. There are, of course, still straight lines here, but I like the result. I think this will make fun patio cushions in limes and yellows or a glitzy cell cover.
Be sure to let me know if you do something fun with this challenge!
When I was little, my grandfather was an engineer working at NASA. He used to give me rulers and templates to play with and I would sit near him as he worked at his drafting table. I would draw endlessly, creating long elegant lines, perfectly round circles or shapes and marking off radius and diameter before I even knew what they were called. The paper I worked on was made from the back of his blueprints and often I would turn it over to trace his drafting lines. I even got to use the good pencils and erasers! He would continue to give me rulers throughout my school days — wooden T-squares he made himself, sharp metal-edged rulers, wooden fold-out rulers, and for my high school graduation — a slide rule! Even now I can’t resist the urge to draw lines in repetition to see what happens. I think this work from this morning has given me a few different ideas, which should work up nicely.
Since I have an art background, I like the feel of gliding my ink pens on a piece of thick paper. The touch, the visual aspect and the time involved in pondering the line itself are all rewarding to me personally, but some designs can only be done in your digital editor of choice (mine is Adobe Photoshop at the moment). Achieving gradations in color can be done manually, but the results are never as precise. Blurring lines, applying varying digital techniques, rendering the final images — all of this requires a sophisticated digital hand.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome all the bells and whistles, the time-savers, the overall finished polish of a touched-up design, but I admit, more often than not, I like to sit at my giant drafting table with pen and paper feeling the image as much as drawing it. I was recently drawing this variation on the Greek key, carefully setting in my grid in pencil before lining the work in ink and I admit I was debating about using a simple grid overlay in Adobe for what is rather a fast design, really. I did not succumb to the pressure because I do think there is something charming about a hand-drawn line. The tiny imperfections mean something somehow. The curve that goes a little out of whack, the extra thickness here and there, a bit of an ink dot. When they are put onto fabric, they add something a digital design can never achieve: the human touch. Admit it, many times we have all examined something at close range just looking for a comforting flaw. And, in a way, I like to use the same tools the original Greeks did when they created these complex geometric designs, which are all the more charming for the slightly-flawed skilled carvings that grace stone structures so much taller than I.
I work with a print lab that uses reactive dyes not pigment printing, which means I can get my colors to match the original intent 9 times of out 10 and is quite an improvement over most online digital printing services today. With those services you have to focus more on their color palattes, but in dying the fabric, you get can better accuracy and flexibility.
However, some colors are bound to come out wrong. In my last batch, I was quite surprised to see a vibrant deep red come out as purple! Which is why, of course, you should always test swatch. If you think it’s a waste of money, it’s probably not. Think about it. You spend a flat fee and get a sample of everything. Not only is this a great selling tool, but if you had ordered a length of a handful of designs and one of them comes out wrong, reordering it may cost you the same amount as a whole length of samples. I use 4″x4″ samples to gauge the colors, lines, digital transfer of my image, etc.