Vintage Garden Delights

I’m up to my neck in moving preparations, but I still wanted to mention last week’s collection I made for Spoonflower’s butterfly coordinate contest. Since it reached the top 10, here are the fabric images as well. Again, many thanks to anyone voting for my designs!

Etsy sale!

In order to lighten my load for an upcoming move, I’m having an Etsy sale on select items! From now until August 31, all fabrics are 15% off an already great price (min. purchase $15), and all tea towels are 10% off (min. purchase $20). Any questions? Just ask me!

These are the coupon codes:
FABRICAUG31 – for fabrics
TEATOWELAUG31 – for tea towels

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Another week that I couldn’t resist entering a contest, and last week’s theme was ‘after school snacks’. I thought fruit would make a good sub-theme, and I didn’t need to hesitate on the colour choices. This is what I came up with (and since it reached #3, here are the fabric images):

Summer in Sarek

For Spoonflower’s last design contest, themed ‘national parks’, I was inspired by Sweden’s Sarek National Park. I thought it made a good match for my Scandinavian / folk-inspired style. Luckily it placed in the top 10, so here are the fabric images taken by Spoonflower:

Customer Project!

The other day, customer Leanne shared a photo of a project made with my design ‘Mod Floral Gold’ and allowed me to further share it myself. Needless to say, her photo made my day! The design comes in many colourways and is part of my Nordic Picnic collection. Thank you, Leanne!

Leanne wearing her shirt; my design is printed on Spoonflower’s performance pique.

These are some prints included in my Nordic Picnic collection:

Guest Artist: Tina Vey

From when I first started out on Spoonflower, I have admired the fascinating designs of Tina Vey, an artist from New York City also known as Ottomanbrim (a name as quirky as her art). Her work is instantly recognizable with its striking use of colour, shapes and texture.

I would say that Tina is among the top most popular designers on Spoonflower; her contest entries usually garner the most ‘favourites’ of all, before a contest has even started! I was going to quote some of the ecstatic comments people made about Tina’s designs, but there are just too many to choose from. Please convince yourself by visiting her shop.

too much pollen

I’m happy and grateful that Tina agreed to answer some questions I had about her, and I hope that you will enjoy this glimpse into her life as an artist, and of course these gorgeous examples of her work! Clicking on the designs will lead you to their shop pages, where they are available for sale on fabric, gift wrap and wallpaper.

How did you come to be an artist?
I just grew up believing I had to be an artist. My mother was a painter and a welder and my father was a photographer. I was always painting and drawing as a kid and much preferred that to the obligatory piano lessons. I went on to study art in college. Between then and now there have been all sorts of twists and turns in my career path but my obsession with shape, form and color has persisted.

What is your favourite artistic medium / technique?
I love the computer! I am so thrilled to create art without all the mess. I am really fascinated with trying to duplicate a hand made feel in a vector program.

My early textile designs were cut paper and I did enjoy painting huge pieces of paper with bright gouache. I was always loved the beautiful subtle texture of the painted paper and loved cutting spontaneous shapes from it.  But the gluing was so toxic and tedious and there were so many times I had to redo the piece because the glue would leak all over the painted pieces. Today I often will cut out a shape and scan it to try to recreate some of the freshness of the cut paper shapes.


Do you have a (or several) favourite shape(s) and colour(s)?
My favorite shape is a dot. I could probably do millions of variations on the dot. Oh wait, I already have done that.

Are there any subjects you are particularly drawn to?
Subjects that I am drawn to… well subjects that I am not drawn to are animals (even though I love animals especially cats) and people. I love abstract shapes. But it appears that most people love animal designs so I push myself to do them. And they tend to be best sellers on Spoonflower. So I’m really pleased when I push myself into areas I am not necessarily comfortable.

What I try to always achieve is an overall look to the design where all the elements are balanced and one thing does not stand out. Sort of like a nice outfit. I would rather someone say they liked the way I looked rather than they liked my shirt. The same goes for textiles.  I want the eye to travel around and not focus on any one element.  Someone once described my designs as having a place for the eye to rest. I like that description. I don’t want to overwhelm. I’m always trying to achieve something that appears simple and not overworked. In most cases though, I have worked on it tirelessly making minute adjustments to shapes and color. Sometimes I repeat “serenity now” from Seinfeld to get in the right mood.


What and who inspires you?
Philip Taaffe was a huge early influence. I remember going to a show of his paintings in New York in the 80s and was blown away. Looking at them just made me happy, they were giant textile designs.

Of course vintage textile design is a big influence. I always loved Marimekko and Vera. I always look to Matisse and Picasso for color reference. I love the color and shapes in Diebenkorn and Hopper paintings.

In this modern day world of computer artists I am fascinated by Sarah Bagshaw. She  also seems to be drawn to simple shapes and opacities and how a slight change can give a piece a totally different look. I love her energy and fearlessness.

Would you please share some of your plans, hopes and dreams for your career as an artist?
I just want to keep learning more and more and trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. My goal has always been to only put work out there that I am happy with and that doesn’t happen that easily. I’m hoping that some day instead of reworking a piece 200 times maybe I’ll be happy after 80 or so reworkings.

You can also view (and purchase) Tina’s work on various products at her Society 6 shop, including art prints, bags, mugs, t-shirts, pillows, and even shower curtains and electronic device covers!

New in my Etsy Shop!

I’ve been making a few new items for my Etsy shop, specifically for my tea towel and napkin section. They include tea towels with Herbie’s Green Oasis, my Eclectic Clock Collection, my pen-illustrated map of Vienna, and 3 colourways of my old-fashioned spoons on towels and napkins. Please come and have a look!

Pickles from the Old Garden

As mentioned the other day, I recently spent one month traveling, away from the computer and other equipment I use for my drawings. Anticipating withdrawal symptoms (from drawing, that is!), I brought along an old, heavy laptop with a very old version of Illustrator and my mouse. I thought, how bad could it be?

Well, let’s just say that drawing digitally while traveling felt very different to me from drawing at home. Being mobile every day and having a limited time to do travel-related things, I rarely had the sense of calm and focus as I have at home when drawing. And then there is nothing like a large screen, a scanner to scan sketches, and the Illustrator version I am used to. And a steady surface to place my mouse on. :) Needless to say, certain stylistic elements were out of the question (pen-drawings, textures).

I ended up making most of my design “Pickles from the Old Garden” in hotels and in airports at the end of my trip. Given all that, I was surprised that it ended up reaching #2 at Spoonflower’s pickle contest. This element of surprise is one of the wonderful things about these contests. Many thanks to anyone who voted for it. These are the fabric images:

This design is now available on various fabric types, wallpaper and gift wrap (click on any image).

New items on Etsy!

I’ve been busy making and listing new items in my Etsy shop; please come and have a look! Here is a partial list of my current inventory:

– 11 tea towel designs with some of my most popular prints turned into stand-alone images

– Several perpetual calendars (without fixed weekdays) for recurrent events, including birthdays and anniversaries, or for people who want to start a calendar at any time of year

– Two digitally downloadable calendars with 2015 at one glance (featuring my print ‘In Bloom’ in two colourways).

– Two cloth-covered daily planners for 2015 ***ON SALE***

– Instant greeting card downloads

– Folded greeting cards with envelopes

…and more!

Welcome to my new website!

Finally, my website is up and running, at christinewitte.net. My wonderfully supportive partner put the pages together for me after I supplied him with images of my own illustrations. It may not be as flashy (also literally, using Flash, at least for now) as some other artists’ websites out there, but I like it! When you have a moment, please have a look! :)

Some of the fabrics designed by Christine Witte

Party Paper: MATS week 5 (part B)

Today marks the due date of the final assignment for my Making Art that Sells course, and I’m going to share my party paper assignment: Garden Gathering. We were to illustrate a paper plate and napkin in the style of Bavarian or Ukrainian folk art with florals and birds, but I decided to go a more Scandinavian direction – there is quite some overlap between various German and Scandinavian folk art anyway. I’m planning to try different palettes before submitting to potential clients, but for today this had to do:

Scrapbooking Fun: MATS Week 3 (Part B)

Are you a scrapbooker? I admit that scrapbooking is still so new to me that I don’t even know if people who do scrapbooking are called “scrapbookers”.

I probably will never be a scrapbooker (at least in a commercial sense), as I would much rather spend my time drawing than buying other people’s art to glue in my books. But it is a large market, and I would be more than happy to contribute to it via licensing my art. If you love drawing icons and making pattern repeats, then scrapbooking could be a market for you!

The theme that Lilla assigned this week was “vintage correspondence” including old ink bottles and fountain or dip pens. I scrambled for time this week and managed to upload my piece just minutes before the deadline. Here are 2 versions: first the one I submitted, then one with a texture overlay and without further colour adjustments. Which do you prefer?

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In a time warp: MATS continued – Week 2 (part B)

With already 2 weeks of Lilla Rogers’ MATS course (part B) behind me, time flies so fast, it seems surreal. Similar to when I took part A, a day feels more like an hour and a week like a day when I’m completely immersed in making art. But now I feel more at ease with the assignments, a sentiment I have heard from some class mates as well.

This may have something to do with my participating in every Spoonflower contest since early November last year, except one: Chinese Paper Cuttings. That’s 21 contests in 5 months – a whole lot of practice in that!

As Lilla often says, keep making art! I hope she won’t mind me sharing this quote here: “If you want to get better, and make better art more often, the secret is simply to keep making art. And not just any art, but to try new things, to stretch and grow, rather than recycling old ideas.” I try to stay as far away as possible from idolatry (did you notice?) but Lilla is a very inspiring teacher and a pleasure to listen to. She makes people feel good about themselves and their art, which in turn makes them more keen on doing more art – why can’t all teachers be more like that?

This week’s topic was baby apparel with a pirate theme. We were to provide a page full of any art we wanted related to this theme. I chose my Treasure Island at Noon print as the main one and made several coordinates. Then I created some clothing mockups, which turned out to be highly addictive. So much fun! I’m not very fond of pirate characters, which caused me to prioritize other icons – there is one pirate though! Can you find it?

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Time to think about Christmas…

…if you’re an illustrator, that is. This is the time of year for the paper market (and probably others as well) to decide on their holiday designs. Holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day are long over in their books for this year.

As counter-intuitive as it felt given the season, I drew this holiday illustration over the last few days for Lilla Rogers’ Making Art that Sells (part B). We were to design a holiday card incorporating a gingerbread-house made of candy. While at it, I almost forgot about the holiday part, all immersed in wafers, truffles and lollipops!

This is my presentation sheet for the course, showing coordinates as well, but that’s only the beginning. With so many details in the drawing, I can get a lot more patterns out of it. Perhaps this will prove therapeutic for my chocolate addiction?

This….

led to this!

Tutorial: Drawing a rectangular (not square!) repeat of diagonal stripes in Adobe Illustrator

Recently, when creating coordinating patterns for my Maypole fabric collection, I was stumped how to make a repeat with diagonal stripes on a rectangular tile. There are many tutorials online on how to do this for a square tile. But I prefer to make my tiles in the dimensions of the Spoonflower preview of 21 by 18 inches. I eventually figured out a way to achieve this. If you’re a “Spoonflower designer” and ever want to make a diagonal stripe design, or want to use a rectangular tile shape for other reasons, then this may be useful to you. Any CS version should suffice for this, as the functions I’m using are quite basic. (Update: When I wrote this, I didn’t realize that any dimensions/format can be uploaded to Spoonflower. It is therefore not necessary to upload a rectangular tile.)

I will show you how to make the easiest version of diagonal stripes, using a single colour only. With my method, I find that the more colours are used, the more complex the process (I will touch on that at the bottom though).

1. Set up the artboard & make reference points

Create a new document, measuring 21” in width and 18” in height.

Go to “View –> Show Grid”.

Then go to “Illustrator –> Preferences –> Guides & Grid”. Here I chose “Gridline every 0.3 inches” and “Subdivisions: 8”. Yours can be different, but I’d stick with this if you want to follow along better.

Go to “View –> Snap to Point”. Make sure “Snap to Grid” is unchecked.

Starting at the bottom left corner of the document, zoom all the way in and use the ellipse tool to draw a dot with fill only. Centre the dot exactly over a grid intersection outside the document margins; I chose to place it 1 horizontal grid line down and 1 vertical grid line to the right of the bottom left corner of the document. [It is important that our first stripe overlaps with 2 opposite corners of the artboard to ensure a perfect repeat.] Then, copy the dot over to the intersection of the 1st vertical line to the left and the first horizontal line above the corner. The dots will serve as reference points in a moment.

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2. Copy reference points to the next “tile”

Select both dots, then go to “Object –> Transform –> Move”. Enter 21 for the horizontal and 18 for the vertical values, and click into the “distance” field for the value to adjust. Click COPY. You will now see the copied dots kitty-corner from the original dots.

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3. Create diagonal stripe shape

Uncheck “Snap to Point” and check “Snap to Grid”.

Select the line tool and connect the dots with diagonal lines originating from and ending in the centres of each dot.

Now uncheck “Snap to Grid” and check “Snap to Point”.

Shift-select each end of the lines and extend them further beyond the document margins. It is crucial to hold“shift” while dragging to keep the lines in the same positions, but the exact length of each line is not important. Repeat this at the opposite corner of the document.

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Close the shape with the pen tool to form a diagonal rectangle. Delete the dots. Remove the stroke and fill with a colour. Go to “View –> Hide Grid” for easier viewing. You now have one diagonal stripe that needs to be evenly copied across the page.

4. Copy the shape

Select the stripe and go to “Object –> Transform –> Move”. Enter 0 for the horizontal and 18 for the vertical, click into the “distance” field, then click COPY. Repeat this procedure entering 21 for the horizontal and 0 for the vertical. You now have 3 diagonals intersecting the margins at the correct places.

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5. Use the Blend Tool to fill your tile

Select the diagonal in the centre and one of the two on the corners. Go to “Object –> Blend –> Blend Options”. Set the Spacing to “Specified Steps” and enter 68. [I determined this number by playing around with different values to see how many stripes fit between the two existing ones, spaced out the way I want. You could enter a lower number to get fewer stripes that are more spaced out.]

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Click OK. Go to “Object –> Blend –> Make”. This is what you’ll see:

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If you’re not happy with the spacing, undo the action and redo step 5 with a different number.

6. Expand & Ungroup your stripes

To proceed, click “Object –> Expand” with object and fill checked off:

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Then go straight to “Object –> Ungroup”. You now have individual stripes.

7. Repeat

Select the centre stripe again and repeat steps 5 and 6. You now have evenly spaced diagonals all across the artboard:

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If you’d like a different background colour, make a rectangle, colour it and place it in the back (“Object –> Arrange –> Send to back”).

8. Testing your tile

To test whether the stripes form a perfect repeat pattern, you need to duplicate this “tile” and line them up. Make a rectangle measuring 21” in width and 18” in height. With the rectangle selected, go to the Align toolbar and click the “Horizonal Align” and “Vertical Align” buttons. Select “Align to Artboard”.

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Make sure that the rectangle is stacked at the top. Select everything on the artboard. Go to “Object –> Clipping Mask –> Make”. This is what you’ll get:

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Select the “tile” and go to “Object –> Transform –> Move” as you did earlier on. Enter 21 for the horizontal and 0 for the vertical and COPY, then select both tiles and copy them again downwards with values 0 (horizontal) and -18 (vertical). You will now see whether or not your repeat is seamless. Zoom in and carefully check the joint edges shared by the 4 tiles. Sometimes, even when the repeat is perfect, a line shows up that seems like you made a mistake, but when you zoom in closer, the lines disappears. If your pattern forms a ‘broken’ repeat, you may want to start over, make that first diagonal stripe, and make sure that it repeats seamlessly – then the remaining ones will do as well.

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The task is completed! You have made a simple seamless pattern with diagonal stripes.

For a multi-coloured diagonal stripe pattern, the process gets more complex: unless the colours of your lines are supposed to be randomly laid out, the trick lies in figuring out the number of “steps” when using the Blend tool in order for the colours to repeat in a certain sequence, such as a rainbow. At this point, the best advice I can give is to experiment. In the example above, 68 steps with the Blend tool works for repeating 8 colours, like in my Rainbow Stripes fabric pattern:

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I hope you learned something new – if not, perhaps you have some tricks to share on how to make diagonal stripe repeat patterns for rectangular tiles!

NYC Mini Culinary Tour

Yesterday I returned from a 1-week trip to New York City via Greyhound bus. During that time, I was kept away from my beloved computer, and although I had a well-worn laptop with me, I couldn’t use it for drawing. And while I missed it to the point of withdrawal symptoms, I wouldn’t have been in the necessary state of mind to produce something of value. Similarly, I lacked access to baking equipment – there was an oven, but no other baking tools or ingredients. And bringing all that with me from home, or buying it there, was out of the question. I’ve never been so happy to return to my computer and kitchen!

For me, going to NYC always means indulging in some of the many vegan establishments. Some things there can’t be found in Toronto, like a vegan ice cream parlor. Formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, the place currently has no name following the divorce of the owner-couple this year. The place is open daily except Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3pm (to 11pm I believe). For some reason they have no phone number nor website, which means one has to go there in person for any information. Their ice cream is phenomenal, cashew, coconut, or soy-based. It is a tiny place furnished reminiscent of an old pharmacy with wooden cabinets. This is their Sundae – they are nice enough to split scoops, allowing to double up on the flavours. Here we have rum-raisin (out of this world!), chocolate, peanut butter, and mixed berry, topped with coconut whip cream, chocolate fudge sauce, walnuts (my choice of sprinkles), and a maraschino cherry free of artificial colours that actually tasted like cherry! I recommend that someone new to their Sundaes share one with another person as they seem too rich for one. Or simply try 2 scoops – remember, you can get 4 flavours! The staff offers a sample of every flavour on metal spoons (versus the typical plastic ones).

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My favourite vegan bakery in NY is at Lifethyme, a health food store. Lots of variety, beautifully made, always offering some things that are less common out there. Their lemon pound cake and chocolate-peanutbutter Funny Bone (cake roll) are to die for. Every time I go there I hope to meet the baker(s) but haven’t had that luck yet.

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We went to a restaurant called M.O.B. in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve, with the following (for our party of 4): cream of corn soup, curry popcorn, veggie burger, veggie dog, and a kale side dish. The food was not bad (bit on the salty side) but very expensive: the burger was $16 (vegan cheese $2 extra), by far the most expensive burger I’ve ever had. The hot dog was $14, again without the cheese. Small servings!

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And finally something design-related: Here a little collage of the lovely mosaics at Court Square Station.

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Final Assignment: Zippered Pouch for Gift Market

When a week feels like a day, and a day like an hour, then you know you’re busy. This describes my sense of time during Lilla Rogers’ MATS part A that is ending this week.

Last week’s theme was the gift market, which is much bigger than I had realized. Walk into a gift store, especially the trendy type, and you’ll probably agree. Fridge magnets, pins, notebooks, lamp shades, bags and pouches, keychains, stationary and pens, and other knick-knacks are all part of it. Seeing the multitude of gift products out there make me think that there is a lot of opportunity for illustrators.

Our task for our last assignment was to design a zippered pouch that would be “hyper-lush”, as Lilla would say. She showed us examples for inspiration, some of them crammed to the max with icons and ‘photo-floral’ imagery. Photo-florals are photo-like images of flowers printed on items, rather than painted or digitally drawn. Lilla demonstrated with various examples from the fashion world how trendy photo-florals are this year.

My submission includes my own fruit labels and pre-1920s fruit and flowers. I also added some marbles from my collection and icons from previous assignments. I’m happy with the result and hope to take this further one day.

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I will write a review of MATS part A next, but in the meanwhile there’s another deadline…for the next Spoonflower contest! Here’s my current entry: Strange Encounters for the Film Noir contest. I’ve been getting some really nice comments on it on Spoonflower, which I appreciate so much, even if I don’t get into the top 10. There are more than 250 contestants in this one.

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Riding the Wall Art rollercoaster – Week 4 of MATS

Another week gone by like the wind. Last week’s subject of MATS was Wall Art, something I looked forward to a lot. I had envisioned making a collection of adhesive wall decals as sold on many websites, for the baby or children’s market. But our assignment called for a piece of wall art (like a painting to hang) targeting the female consumer between ages 25 to 45. The subject matter had to include at least 1 flower and lettering.

We were restricted to using 2 colours based on our astrological sign (yellow & red for me). Since I love drawing playful things with an abundance of colours, I felt restricted and, as a result, somewhat demotivated. I also don’t collect many knick-knacks and knew early on that I wouldn’t incorporate any physical objects into my piece. I’m also not too keen on having seemingly random items on a canvas; it seems so forced. Then there was the issue of not using copyrighted text and imagery – it has to be at least over 70 years old or from a Dover book.

To my delight, we were free to make our own ‘prints’. Using my old watercolours, I made my own papers, out of which I first made a physical collage with scissors and glue, and later a digital one. I also used some rubberstamps that I had made years ago, and some new ones just for this project. So much fun!

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I came up with many expressions, most of them my own, to use for future collages. Drawing masks in Illustrator made the cutting a breeze, and so did the fact that I could always change my mind about placement. Not to mention the absence of messy glue and torn papers!

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On the other hand, I enjoyed the tactility of cutting each piece by hand and the process of layering the papers.

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Conclusion: Despite my resistance to some specifics of the brief, I ended up enjoying the process and the result (as with every assignment in this course!). Even more importantly, I look forward to making more wall art for myself as my portfolio grows.

Lilla Rogers gave me a C+…in my dream! – MATS Week 3 review: Children’s Book Cover

Another week has gone by and yielded another 150 or so pieces of art in the current MATS (part A) course. It is an impressive sight to behold each Sunday evening in our Flickr group pool!

I put myself under extra pressure this week to do well, which must have prompted my strange dream the other night: I was a highschool student again and getting ready to go to school in the morning. Lilla, my high school art teacher, was waiting for me in the apartment I used to live in at the time, as she was taking me to school. Before the drive, I asked her what grade she would give my latest MATS project. She replied “a C+”. I was crushed and asked her why, to which she gave me a few reasons; the only one I can remember was something about the font. I felt devastated and, during the ride, decided to skip school for that day. I was going to sneak away as she entered the ‘teacher’s area’ of the school. Then I woke up. It sounds absurd now but the dream stayed with me for an hour or two that morning. I guess this show how important this course and my work is to me.

This week, the topic was to create a children’s book cover, specifically for the russian folk tale “The Language of the Birds”. The story involves a young man, his parents, a sad nightingale, a bird with its babies, and a king, in essence. We were given the choice between designing the front cover or a double page from inside the book. I went with the cover:

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Since I am keen on using texture more in my work, I applied 2 kinds of textures in different colours over each item. I had no idea that textures can be so large in size – due to the many vector points involved. The one I applied on the sun was so gigantic (with many dense vector points) that even simply selecting the sun brought about the ‘rainbow wheel’ I dread so much – which lasted for about 25 seconds each time I touched the sun. Multiply that by about 50 times! Moving or copying/pasting the entire image at the very end (into a new file) took almost eternity. Not really something I look forward to when working with textures. If anyone who reads this knows of ways around this issue, I’d be grateful for your insights.

And now on to the current week: Wall Decor. For now, we are to gather paper, fabric, buttons or other little bits for a collage later on. We’ll find out what for exactly on Wednesday. For this we are assigned 2 colours based on our astrological signs; red and yellow in my case. My favourite combo would have been red and orange or orange and yellow, but I don’t mind most colours. Although this sounds like fun, using these items in a piece for wall art puts me a bit outside of my ‘comfort zone’. I would have loved to make digital art as usual, but at the same time I’m glad that Lilla exposes us to different media. After all, I can make digital art until I’m blue in the face after this course. Or maybe I’ll fall in love with this type of collaging.