On a recent page, I’d made a note to look more closely at noisy miners in future (see: more swapped descriptions). They are very common, and I’d fallen into a habit of thinking of them as drab grey birds.
I made two quick drawn studies of some of the patterns I could see: first on the bird, then on the sofa.
Then I repeated the exercise, this time making written descriptions of the surfaces I could feel — both texture and temperature. The cool smooth varnished floorboards, with a faint impression of the grain, the slight rib(?) of buttons of close-set nails. The chalky-dry matt-satin of turquoise beads.
It’s a pleasantly meditative little exercise, just touching the surface of the desk and thinking carefully of words to to describe it.
It also complemented previous thoughts on the importance and possibilities of surfaces written and illustrated (see: Surfaces and Variations on Habits).
Look closely at some of the surfaces around you (look up and under as well as around). Sketch or briefly describe any repeated patterns (decorative or otherwise). (If you can, repeat the exercise both inside and outdoors — I found it much easier outside, and with live subjects.)
Touch a few of the surfaces (using common sense). What textures are there, and what temperatures? Try to sketch those, or capture them accurately in words.
Look at a favourite painting or photograph. Try to imagine and describe/sketch some of the textures in it.
Pick a scene you are writing or drawing. See if you can put some of those textures/patterns into it.
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I gave myself the task of inventing a pattern (a fairly common occurrence, given the calendar art). Then I picked at random some of the flipped habits, and applied them to the task — getting close to fairy tales where I could.
It was fun to do, but also interesting to see what fell out of the process. They are as follows:
Pulling petals off the flower for “whole/fragments”. I like the simplicity with which this one varied the pattern.
Doing — I think — aggravated deities for “body language” (I’d been listening to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and if you like a gif reaction thread, here’s mine). Funny, but energetic.
Swapping stereotypes/archetypes (I can’t remember what they all started as, but there’s definitely a man with great boots dressing a cat in fancy clothes — as ever, the Caudwell Manoeuvre is relevant). I like it, but it heads straight into new story territory, which might be more than is needed for a repeating pattern.
Choosing a random Wikipedia topic (something about swimming). A classic.
Asking “whose POV” which somehow became about chairs. But tumbling them around added a lot of interest to a pattern.
Introducing a time limit. This is the sort of prompt that obviously does interesting things to a written story (adding a race against time). But it also adds some impetus to a drawing. I’d already covered body language, above, so the idea evolved into a claustrophobia/panic dream of underground station staircases.
Novelise (+POV). I… have no idea what this was. It has a bit of Cinderella and My Fair Lady, but that can’t have been the starting point.
Trope. Again, I wish I’d written it down! Something about vigorous family games in historical novels.
What I noticed about myself from this page was that I still tried to force everything to become a story. Having the “pattern” limitation helped moderate that impulse. Also: drawing is a fabulous way to work through an idea, but written notes are far better at capturing the thought process.
Looking back at it now, I can also see a few lessons about what makes a pattern pleasing to me:
It’s nice when the repeating of a pattern makes sense (or at least if the pattern doesn’t make the viewer wonder too much about why these things are here, recurring).
Too much energy (narrative or otherwise) can distract from the smooth operation of a pattern (if not handled judiciously). I tend to prefer some vivacity in my pieces if I consider them just as an illustration, but more soothing compositions give a more classic feeling.
Simplicity can be pleasing, but it’s not my natural state. See the point above.
Different angles on a thing (e.g. chairs) adds depth and variation to a pattern while keeping the selection of objects to a minimum.
Patterns are a great place to play with variations on a motif (not news, but confirmation).
Now I have also received my test prints from Spoonflower (print on demand fabrics), and the designs are up there too in three options: Green background; white background; and no lines (rather impressionistic, would work well for backgrounds/lining).
Here they are, with my feet for scale.
And I ordered a doona/duvet cover from Redbubble. The printed layer has a beautiful silky cottony feeling – it was meant to be for the spare bedroom but I might keep it for myself. Shown here with books and sofa cushion for scale – it’s quite a large print.
Because it takes so much longer than just drawing a picture, this week I am still playing with repeating patterns. This time, it is a pattern of bursting seedpods. I like what I tried with it, but it isn’t quite as seamless a repeat as I want. Here is a close-up of the base pattern:
And here is a snippet of another pattern, just trees, which worked much as I wanted it to. If the Little Red Riding Hood fabric swatch I ordered arrives and works, I might try this one, too.