2018 Year in Review

Another year has come and gone. I am very happy with how 2018 turned out. I am excited for starting fresh with new goals for 2019. But first, here's a summary of 2018:

Developing Creative Habits

I really focused on creating art on a regular basis. I gave myself a few monthly projects that helped to keep me going, which included collections of floral patterns, fan art, and mandala sketches. I also participated in various online art challenges, such as Homwork, Paint Every Day, and Inktober (my most successful year yet!). I worked specifically on my hand lettering and digital illustration. I also played around with various traditional mediums like watercolor, gouache, acrylic, chalk, and colored pencil.

I Made A LOT of Art

With the help of regular sketching and painting, I was very productive in the amount of art I output this year, especially when compared to recent years. I have added many new pieces, including a few collections, to my portfolio (which has been updated! Take a look…). I am still experimenting and developing my process and style—though I think that is an ongoing thing for any artist. I was also lucky enough to be able to purchase an iPad this year, which has been a big help to my digital work. Below are some of my favorite pieces by category.

Everything is Made Out of Magic

I released my nature-themed journal Everything is Made Out of Magic in September. Working in publishing as a designer and typesetter has given me a love of creating and laying out books. I have been a little slow in getting some of my own books out there, so I was proud of myself for actually finishing a project this year. Hopefully there will be more in the near future, and perhaps even a book proposal to a publisher one day as well!

My Goals for 2019

Make Art Every Day

I want to keep the momentum from 2018 going into 2019! Perhaps EVERY DAY is a lofty goal, but doesn't hurt to try. 

Shop Development

I feel like 2018 was a lot about developing my portfolio and body of work, so for this coming year, I want to move on toward doing something with all that art I've been making, and will continue to make. I've opened up accounts with a few print-on-demand sites, as well as an Etsy shop for digital products and original paintings. I really want to focus on creating products with my designs for people to use and enjoy!

Focus on Handmade Crafts

I am always looking to learn new things. I've been particularly fascinated by all forms of folk art lately, which I'd like to incorporate into my work somehow. I also want to explore handmade, craft-centered media like paper art, embroidery, and collage—both the physical crafts themselves, as well as using them as inspiration for digital work. You may have seen the faux-felt flower and embroidery clip art I made recently. I'd love to add even more digital "handmade" products to my Etsy product line for digital scrapbooking. I would love to start selling original paintings, drawings, and crafts as well!

It’s going to be a challenge to implement everything that I want to do in this coming year, but I look forward to tackling it all! Happy New Year, everyone!

Sincerely, Nicole

Christmas Embroidery Clip Art - FREE Download

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I’ve been hard at work developing my new Etsy shop. My vision for the shop is to provide a mix of artfully crafted handmade and digital items in the form of original art, patterned papers, clip art, and small crafts. It’s still at the beginning stages, and I have A LOT of ideas that I’m excited about—it’s just a matter of getting them done! It will be one of my main goals for the coming year.

Right now, I’m focusing my efforts on building up a stock of digital goods for designers and scrapbookers. Besides providing some of my pattern designs as digital paper sets, I’m also having a lot of fun using my crafting experience to create faux-handmade clip art. You may have noticed the digital felt flowers I just listed. My latest product is a set of digital holiday embroidery elements. As my Christmas gift to you, I’m providing these as a FREE download.

Click on the image below to access the zip file, which contains the 7 embroidery elements as png files and a bonus striped green textured paper used in the example graphics. (In the Google Docs screen, click on the download arrow in the upper right corner. File size is approximately 32.4 MB.) I hope you enjoy these, and if you’d take a moment to browse my Etsy shop as well, I’d greatly appreciate it. And stay tuned for more to come!

Sincerely, Nicole

Looking Forward to What's Next

Take a look at this picture…

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This is my daughter after she walked in covered in diaper cream. I share this not only because it’s funny, but also because it’s a great representation of what my life is like. Not the Insta-worthy, picture-perfect artist life one might wish to have—it’s messy and makes me want to laugh and cry all at once (like this picture).

I’ve had a hard month dealing with a lot of frustration personally and professionally. For those who don’t know, I work mainly in book publishing as a freelance designer. I’m proud that I have those skills and that I’ve built a business from it, but I LIKE it—I don’t LOVE it. It’s not painting and drawing for a living, which is what I WANT to do. Sure, I’ve had a few art jobs here and there—little successes—but I’m not quitting my “day job” anytime soon. Even so, the art that I share with you here on this site, that is my passion.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’m sure there are many of you who are in the same boat. Maybe you're striving to achieve a creative dream that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe you’re jealous of all the talented artists on social media with perfect studios and lots of followers. Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom striving to build your own home business. I’m here to tell you that I am with you. I get up every morning, put on my ugly sweats, and work by myself in my humble apartment that needs cleaning. My desk is overcrowded, I often have screaming toddlers around me begging for snacks, and I’m usually working on jobs that are not so much fun.

I guess I just wanted to remind myself, and you, that no one is as perfect as they might appear on Instagram. Life is messy and chaotic and takes a lot of work. Everyone has their own journey and struggles. I hope you enjoy the art I share because I put my heart into it. It is what I love to do. Maybe one day I’ll find that elusive “success,” but maybe not. For now, I’m happy to have fun making and sharing with you, and looking forward to what’s next!

Inktober 2018 Summary

I did it! I completed my Inktober challenge and created two pages of drawings EVERY day in October. It was my most successful Inktober yet.

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I had a lot of fun with it. I think my inking and painting skills improved a little as the month went along, though I definitely still have more I could work on. I added color to a few of them, but for the most part kept to plain black and white. Browse through the complete collection of drawings below.

Sincerely, Nicole

Six Mistakes I've Been Making in my Surface Pattern Design

I've been making patterns for several years. Even now, I feel I still have a lot to learn. Though I have had a formal art education, it was not specific to textile or surface design—I discovered my love for patterns later on. In addition, I don't have a ton of professional experience when it comes to pattern design—mostly I create for my personal POD shops, like Spoonflower, and to build my portfolio. Obviously, it is a goal of mine to take my designs as far as I can go. I've been evaluating my process lately, and I think there are some mistakes that I always make that I need to work on. I thought I'd share my thoughts, in the hopes that my fellow pattern lovers can learn from them, too!

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1. Skipping Research

I'm just awful at this. Like many others, I'm sure, I get excited about an idea and dive right in. I barely even do any sketching! I think a lot of my patterns could be a lot better if I'd taken the time to soak in some related imagery, experimented with forms and compositions, and worked things out in sketches. Considering trends would help make my work more marketable as well. With all this in mind, I've been working this month with my Inktober project to learn about different flowers and plant structures. Since I do a lot of florals, I'm hoping this will improve my work overall.

2. Making my repeats too small

A lot of the time I make my repeats the size of Spoonflower swatches (8x8 inches), or sometimes 12x12 (a standard scrapbook paper size). Lately, I'm beginning to realize that perhaps I am making my repeat swatches too small. Having a larger size base pattern has the advantage of avoiding obvious sections of repeats within the bigger swatch. According to this excerpt from a textile handbook, repeats should be scaled to the width of the fabric (24 inches and above). This could be divided into a smaller division of the total size. Somewhere between 14 and 16 inches is common—still larger than my usual. Of course, this all depends on the end goal of your pattern and the process by which it will be manufactured. Which brings me to my next mistake...

 3. Having no end product in mind

There are many questions I should be asking myself when I approach a new design: Is this design for stationery, apparel fabric, upholstery fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap, etc.? Who is my ideal audience/customer and what do they like? Mostly I just tend to draw something pretty and make a pattern out of it, but if I plan to sell my designs, I need to think beyond that. Knowing what the end goal is will inform many choices—style, scale, colors, and limitations with manufacturing, and so on.

 4. Designing single patterns and not collections

My portfolio is full of single patterns that were done for challenges or quickly done for fun, and never thought of again. My approach needs to change to focus more on creating fully conceived collections. I've written about this previously. I think I have a hard time with this because of my short attention span. It is hard for me to stay devoted to one project for too long. I need to work on my artistic endurance, so to speak!

5. Not turning my work upside down

When considering all-over patterns that are meant to be viewed from any direction, it makes sense that we should make sure the patterns truly work from any view. It seems obvious, yet I've hardly ever turned my design around as I'm working. And it's so simple just to turn your paper, or rotate your digital canvas. Usually, I just place my elements in random directions and call it good, but I came to the realization one day when looking at a printout of one of my patterns that you can recognize new issues when you turn your design over. And this brings me to my final point...

6. Not printing out my patterns

I don't know how many times I've uploaded a design to Spoonflower and ordered a swatch only to find that I did not like the scale, colors, composition, or something else. I finally had an "Aha!" moment and started printing out swatches on my inkjet printer. I don't know why I never did it before—laziness? saving paper?—but it really helps to see your design printed out, especially if you work digitally. You can recognize issues that you might not see onscreen. Sometimes I just print a low quality "draft" version (because ink is ex-pen-sive), and though that won't help as much with color, you can still get a sense of the scale and overall composition of your design. (Make sure you print at 100% to get an accurate representation.)

So those are six things I'd like to work on in my surface pattern design process. I hope this is helpful to you as well! Please let me know what advice you have. I’d love to hear from you.

Sincerely, Nicole