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Friday, June 14, 2013

From Photo to Pattern


Let's suppose you are browsing through some of your photos and you think (if you're creative), "there's something that might look good as a pattern for a bedsheet fabric."

Unless you're a quilter or an interior designer, that's most likely not the first, or even the second or third thought that comes to mind. However, does it surprise you that you can easily create your own fabric from your own design? Imagine impressing your friends and family when they see your wonderfully unique sofa pillows! Not to sound too much like an infomercial, but yes, you can do that by using an online site like Spoonflower, which prints your design out on a variety of fabrics and mails it to you. Prices are very reasonable for fabric yardage.

If you have a digital camera you most likely have digital imaging software. If not, you can get basic photo editing software or you can splurge for Photoshop. You can crop and resize your photo and then run it through several filters to get a simplified, or cartoon version. Then look for a way to save your design as a pattern. Now this varies from program to program so take some time to explore your software and find out how to do it. The Spoonflower site offers a link to a relatively simple design program which may be enough for you to format a pattern.

In my case, I used photos from an air show as a reference to draw simplified airplanes. In some drawing programs you can "trace" your photo for a hand-drawn look.

As a creative exercise taking a photo and turning it into a pattern serves to open your eyes to design possibilities. Even if you don't turn it into fabric, just manipulating your photo will strengthen your artistic skills in composition and color, and give your brain a workout. Which is always a good thing.

Here's the children's toy bag I made from that aviation fabric:



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Looking at Patterns: A Creativity Exercise


To someone whose life is a long to-do list and who spends time running from one spot to another, one might say "slow down and smell the roses." To someone who is interested in being more creative, I say "slow down and observe." Not as poetic, but a reminder that observation is a key part of creativity. How can you be expected to produce a new idea if you don't examine the ones that are already out there?

So a good exercise in taking note of your surroundings is to find patterns. A better idea is to sketch those patterns, but let's take it one step at a time.

Buildings are a good source of patterns, but you can find them anywhere-whether that's a line of street lamps down a road, a set of tables in a restaurant, a line of boat piers along a lakefront, or a row of arches in a civic building.

Above is a railroad (railway if you're on the British side of the pond) station in Knaresborough, England. The Victorian arches and columns that hold up the roof set a distinctive and pleasing pattern, as I've highlighted in the left of the picture.

Sketchbooks can be easily found, quality isn't paramount, but you can record your ideas any way you want. The key is to keep drawing. You do not have to be an artist and your work isn't going to be judged, so ditch the voice in your head that says you have to be perfect and draw away.

Creativity is a habit that needs to be practiced. Drawing patterns is just one way to do that.