Week 16: Lacrosse Kids

Sketches: Scanned, manipulated and printed on collage paper

This week I had a lot of fun sketching my 8-year-old son and his teammates at lacrosse practice. To provide some more versatility, I scanned the drawings and vectorized them in Illustrator. I could then scale them up and down, flip or reflect the images, and move them around to fill the page.  When I had a good variety of figures in different sizes, I printed them out onto various natural fiber collage papers.  I saved the digital file to be manipulated later for pattern design applications.

Beginning the collage with a painted ground

Next I prepared a painted ground for the collage, using colors inspired by the playing fields: the bright spring greens and yellows of new grass, the red-brown of the Virginia clay, and the deep green of the established turf.  I let the color push and pull the space around to create a place for the figures to play. I used fluid acrylics and kept it loose and playful. Observing kids is always a great reminder to just have fun and be in the moment, no matter what you are doing.

Playing with the placement of paper figures

Once the ground was dry, I began playing with the placement of figures. I like to tear the collage elements rather than using scissors, to create more organic and interesting shapes. I also chose to use two different colored papers this time. This brilliant orange paper is similar to the color I always use as an underpainting on the panels. Often you will see this orange underpainting showing through the paint layers as a warm glow.

In the final composition, I added jersey numbers. To keep the piece more personal, I actually went up to my son’s closet and pulled out all his old jerseys from the last three seasons of football and lacrosse (First through Third Grade), and used the numbers he had actually worn. I could still hear myself cheering for him, “Go Number 9!”

Lacrosse Kids, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

Here is a detail that shows the loosely painted surface with its drips and smears, the ragged edges of the torn paper, sketches of players and numbers, plus the diagram of the playing field articulated by ink lines drawn right onto the panel.

Detail, Lacrosse Kids, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

After working through the handmade collage, I switched gears and got back on the computer. In Illustrator, I cleaned up the sketchy figures just slightly to make them a bit more legible and simplified, while still retaining the hand-drawn feel.  I then added some red jerseys, more numbers, and played with the size and scale of the motifs. If I were to develop this further (which I plan to do!), I might experiment with a wider color palette and more depth and layers to the background. Here is the start of a pattern design that might be great for bedding in my kid’s room or maybe boy’s pajamas!

A first draft for Lacrosse Kids pattern design


Week 13: Pattern

This week my goal was to integrate my fine art and fledgling design work by creating related patterns in both hand-made and digital media. Using the beautiful blooming cherry trees in our neighborhood for inspiration, I first worked with ink on paper to draw the trees and flowers. The motifs were then scanned into my Mac to color and manipulate in Illustrator later. I created a hand-made collage to play around with the placement of forms and experiment with color, texture, and materials. I then went back to the computer to make a more polished digital design that was put into repeat for fabric applications.

Ink drawings for scanning and collaging

This exercise allowed me to explore different sides of myself and my work, and consider how they might influence and play into each other. I no longer feel the need to choose a side or focus on just one thing.  I will always love the messiness of paint and the unique character of the hand-made object. On the other hand, I am fascinated by the tools that digital technology brings to art, and am eager to embrace them. I don’t quite fit the stereo-type of the free-spirited fine artist. While I may be creative and expressive, I am also detail oriented, careful and precise. I love structuring forms and organizing information. Working both by hand and on the computer allows me to be all these things.  Here are images of both the hand-made collage and the digital designs that came after:

Cherry Trees Pattern, acrylic collage, 12 x 12






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.