Welcome to the World of Surface Pattern Design

Lemons 1I recently discovered the world of “surface pattern design”. Now, I’ve always enjoyed me some wallpaper, fabric, wrapping paper, and other pattern-printed things, but it never really dawned on me that there was an actual term/career field pertaining to it. What can I say? — we’re all a bit slow at times.

What a wonderful discovery! Now that I know there is an actual OUTLET for my itchy urge to draw all the “little things”, I find that the sky is the limit.Lemons 2

Fabric…specialty paper…these things are PRIME channels for all the rinky-dink doodles I enjoy making so much. What’s that, world? There’s a REASON for me to create repetitious designs of ketchup bottles?! You’re telling me that someone might actually want some fabric covered in umbrellas and pool buoys?! THAT’S INCREDIBLE! OH life, you never cease to keep me engaged.

Not only is this a gratifying outlet for my difficult-to-ignore compulsion to draw all the things, but it’s also a great way to pass the time after I’ve reached my daily limit of working on what I consider (for better or worse) to be the “serious” stuff (i.e. my acrylic and watercolor paintings). Alas, as much as I WISH I could paint for 8 hours straight on a highly detailed watercolor painting of cracked and peeling house-paint (yes, you heard me), realistically, that never seems to happen. After a certain amount of time, my eyeballs glaze over, my observational keenness dims, and I cease responding intelligently to the details of what I’m looking at. My hand cramps up, and my brushstrokes get sloppy. To keep working at that point would just leave me burnt out for tomorrow. And it would probably undo the progress I made up until then. So I make it a point to stop before I’ve exhausted myself. This ensures that I’m excited and ready to begin again the next day.

Hemingway said it best:

“You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. It is the wait until that next day that is hard to get through.”

And I agree. That wait is hard. You WISH you could just keep chugging along and crank out all your ideas, but you’ve learned that if you drain yourself today, there’s nothing to get you out of bed tomorrow. It’s uncomfortable to try to be patient with your human limitations, to wait until you are restored and able to get back at it later.

That in-between time can be a dangerous place if you’re not careful. It’s easy to freak out and self-destruct. When art is your passion, when it’s the main thing you do to feel connected and alive, then it’s a drag to have to wait-out the necessary periods of rest.  You might find yourself numbing the discomfort by eating a pint (or 2) of ice cream, or by drinking a bottle of wine, or by anxiously gnawing off your hand. Which, of course, makes it harder to start again tomorrow. It harms you and defeats the purpose of taking a break. And it leaves you feeling EXTRA uncomfortable because you’re hungover and feeling guilty for getting in the way of doing what you were so impatient to do in the first place.

I’ve had my share of foolish self-destructive moments, so surface pattern design has been a welcome addition to my list of non-work activities. It still lets me be creative and put my fascination with mundane objects to good use. It still lets me stretch my brain and marvel at the world around me. But it doesn’t drain me or require extreme precision. I can fix mistakes on the computer. I can afford to play around and try a million iterations of the same thing without feeling like I wasted hours of precious effort getting it just right. AND I can do it in my PJ’s on the couch!Lemons 3

So…Yay! I’m not saying my designs are going to show up in stores or on handbags any time soon, but hey, who knows? Now I at least know there’s a place for it. And there are so many things to turn into patterns! (And it’s oh-so-do-able thanks to modern things like iPads and Adobe!)

I’m only sorry that Hemingway didn’t have such a way to pass the time.

(and now I shall resist sharing EVERYTHING I’ve “patterned” so far, so that I don’t exhaust my supply of things to show you in the weeks to come…)

Which of my lemon/lime patterns do you like best? (The possibilities are ENDLESS!)

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