Taking inspiration from our neighborhood cherry blossoms, I am using this imagery to develop some patterns. While I normally work digitally for pattern design, I decided to try playing with hand-drawn shapes and collage. I have also scanned my drawings into the computer to be colored and manipulated in Illustrator, but working manually is a great way to experiment with different ideas. The various physical textures and materials of collage, as well as the hand-drawn motifs, may inform the digital work in a new way. Or maybe the digital work will inform the hand-made work in a new way. I am so interested in bringing the two worlds of fine art and design together, rather than thinking of them as separate creative realms. The world of my work is one world, with different avenues of expression. Sometimes I feel torn in two, trying to divide my creative time between the wonderfully messy painting studio with its blobs of paint and torn paper, and the tidy desk for my Mac, its screen glowing with clean repeating shapes and digital swatches. The fact is that I love both of these modes, each perhaps a necessary part of expressing who I am and how I see the world.
Here are some of my ink drawings, intended for pattern motifs. For use in collages, I like to actually tear the paper rather than cutting out the shapes with scissors. This creates a nice soft edge and a more organic form that blends onto the background surface when glued with acrylic gels. For use in digital work, the motifs can be scanned and converted into vector images while still retaining a hand-drawn feel.
Next I painted a background color onto my panel and began playing with the arrangement of shapes. More color was added with scribbly pastels, colored pencils and thinned acrylics.
While I am determined to explore the intersection of fine art, illustration and design, this kind of integration in my work (and in my identity as an artist) is not an easy one. Back in art school, we were “painter’s painters” and the word “illustrative” was considered an insult. It was implied that illustration was perilously dependent on words, didn’t speak for itself, was limited in meaning and profundity, or was corrupted by commercial purposes. I see now how narrow that perspective is, based on ego, fear, and a lack of imagination, more than any real critical evaluation.
I will always be the person who will match the sofa fabric to the artwork, rather than the other way around, but have grown to love and appreciate the incredible breadth of creative work out there in design and decorative arts. While drawing and painting will always be my foundation, my goal is to expand my creative work to include illustration, fabric and surface design. I want my imagery to find new homes out in the world, reaching a larger audience than is possible when limited to a white wall in a fine art gallery. Can I make a very personal handmade artwork, lift and scan a motif from that piece, and rework it into a design that might aspire to wind up in a picture book, a piece of fabric, or a shower curtain at Target? Does that cheapen the original artwork? Or does it just spread the love? I prefer the more expansive approach. I want to stop being afraid of labels, and just make the things I like to make. Integration will require the honesty and courage to embrace all sides of myself and my work with an open mind and a generous heart.