Ideas from my sketchbook

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I have really fall in love with my sketchbook. For me, it isn’t so much a place to practice, but a place to come up with ideas and explore them. It is the epitome of no pressure, just playing. Often a new idea from my sketchbook becomes the inspiration for a painting or a pattern design. I’m trying to get back to a more regular sketching schedule. It leads to more paintings.

If you are wondering where I’ve been lately, my business has really been picking up. It’s really exciting to grow and nurture something and see results. You can see my latest graphic design projects on my Facebook page or visit my website www.eileenmckenna.com.

 

A Crab Pattern

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crabset
Another pattern design for you. I forgot all about pattern design last month until the 29th. But, once I remembered, I went straight to my crab sketch. One of you commented that you knew I’d turn it into something. Well with your encouragement I have. 🙂
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I painted the backgrounds separately in watercolor. And put everything together in Photoshop. With the spring weather here, summer can’t be far behind!

crabback-1 crabback sand

Learn more about how I create patterns here.

 

The Walking Dead

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I’m totally obsessed with the Walking Dead. I started watching on Netflix in December and quickly plowed through the seasons to catch up. I originally tried to watch it on two separate occasions a few years back and both times the “walkers” gave me nightmares. I laugh about that now, because they are almost secondary to the story. Of course they are always around and a threat, but I’m barely phased by them now.

Michonne, who I doodled the other night while rewatching an older episode, is one of my favorites. She is so tough. I just love her. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it!

Drawing “cute” illustrations

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A while back, I worked hard to learn about illustrating in a “children’s book style.” I really studied up on it. (See below for the links to the posts I wrote on my progress.) This week I wanted to do a cutesy illustration of a boy with a box of chocolates and a little girl. I first bought a box of chocolates – we all need a little chocolate, right? Then I had my ten year old, pose with the chocolates under his arm and then as the opposite figure. I didn’t want the illustration to be realistic, but I figured having some reference photos would be helpful.

I went straight to my watercolor paper (taped down on a board), and drew with pencil. I didn’t like it at all. My son looked more like a man than a boy, and there was nothing cutesy about the illustration.

sketch1cd

I remembered how drawing something over and over, can really help me arrive at the results I want. So, the next day I pulled out my sketch book and did several versions of the little couple. I remembered the things I learned from observing children’s book illustrators:

  • exaggerate features – like big eyes or wacky teeth
  • color palette – stick to 3 colors
  • kids – small bodies, big heads
  • outline

Following this advice, I made the heads bigger and rounder, and the bodies smaller. The illustrations definitely looked cuter.
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I went back to my watercolor paper, erased the original illustration, and started over, following the style from my sketchbook.
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I thought a heart behind them would really emphasize the theme, so I painted a pink heart and a red background. Then I used my pen to create the ink outlines, using the pencil lines as a guide. I waited a bit, so I was sure the ink was dry, and erased all the pencil. I thought about the color palette I wanted. Instead of using blue from the tube, I added pink to it, to mute it, and make it work better with the pinks and reds.

I’m happy with the results, especially compared to my original illustration.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Lots of love from New York! And if you are also in the Northeast – stay warm!
Eileen

Other posts I’ve written about children’s book illustration style:

It’s cold out there


It’s hard to get out there and run in the Winter – too cold, too windy, too icy. I think of a million excuses. Even when I decide, “I’m going,” I procrastinate. I sketch my sneakers, I catch up on other blogs. Finally I get going. When I’m done, no matter how good or bad it felt, I’m always glad I did it.

Bananas for Monkeys

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When I was little I wanted a pet monkey so badly. I told my mom, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the closet when we go out.” As if that was the least of her worries. I doubt monkeys were on the approved pet list in my NYC suburb.

The latest Spoonflower design challenge is “Year of the Monkey.” A couple of weeks back, I played around in my sketchbook, but nothing great emerged. But, I couldn’t get the contest out of my mind. So, with just a couple of days left until the deadline, I started sketching again. See my sketches here and what I’m learning about surface design.

It feels great to follow through and enter the contest. Before I started “My Creative Resolution” in 2014, I was notorious for having an idea and not following through, especially if my first draft wasn’t successful.

If you’d like to check out the other “Year of the Monkey” submissions, or vote for someone you know’s design (wink wink) click here. 🙂

Designing Patterns – important things to remember.

monkeysketch
If I knew what I was getting into, maybe I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about pursuing pattern design. Ha ha. I say this because I am realizing all the aspects that go into designing for fabric, gift wrap, and beyond. My head was spinning a bit this weekend, as all I took it all in.

Things I need to remember:

  1. Select colors from a color guide, don’t rely on the computer screen. As a graphic designer, I should know this, but I get caught up in the screen colors and forget. Then my swatch arrives and I’m surprised by the colors! And I have a fabric swatch of Spoonflower’s color guide! Now, I’m keeping it next to my computer.
  2. What is the repeat? I get caught up in the illustrations, and forget that the way they work together is almost more important than what they are. I’m reading an interesting book called Patternalia, An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, & Other Graphic Patterns. It’s a quirky book. I’ve already started to look at patterns differently. In the book, they mention pattern effects like “figure-ground reversal – This is where the figure and background are equally sized and therefore easily confused with each other.”
  3. Observe other patterns. I find observing helpful when I’m trying to learn something new. Looking through patterns, determining if I think they are “successful,” and why, is really helping me. Again, it is all about how the elements work together and repeat.
  4. Is simpler better? I definitely overcomplicate things. I need to remember that simple is often better. Some of the successful Spoonflower patterns I looked through, had the simplest elements.

I decided to give the latest Spoonflower contest a try: The Year of the Monkey. I started by doodling in my sketchbook. At first, my monkeys were downright scary – too realistic, too scary. After I simplified them, they got cuter. When I had a few I liked, I started to sketch out how they could work together. I was getting very detailed and complicated, with many elements. When I sat at the computer, and scanned in my favorite illustrations, I made the decision to simplify. The deadline is today after all! 😉

Planning the pattern:
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