Lantana Mandala

Recently I was able to take an on-line course with the very talented Sherry London. Sherry is a Photoshop expert, having used the program from its early beginnings. Coincidentally, she came to PS for designing for knitting machines – the same reason I got involved in computer design programs. I would definitely recommend Sherry’s courses, she is so generous and helpful with her knowledge. And no, I don’t have any affiliation to her. The short course I took is “Two Weeks to a No Fail Seamless Toss Repeat Pattern in Photoshop”.

As a freebie in this course, Sherry shared a template for creating mandala or kaleidoscope effect images from our artwork. I love this effect, and have experimented with it at various times over the years. It even featured in my degree show. So I had to give it a try.

Fast forward a few months and I have been experimenting this week with the ‘advanced’ template, where I can have more control over the placement of the original artwork. This is an addictive activity. I used photographs of Lantana Camara that I took in the Poison Garden at Guimar Pyramids in Tenerife, and I would like to share a few of my favourite results here.



Turkish Carpets

Last year I spent a wonderful holiday in Turkey. I did very little sightseeing, preferring to just relax by, and in, the pool. One of the places I did visit was the Temple of Apollo near Ephesus. While the Temple itself was impressive, I want to share some photos that I took at a carpet seller nearby. Most, if not all, of these carpets and rugs were probably produced for the tourist trade. I loved the strong geometric shapes on most of the designs, together with the gorgeous colours. I hope you enjoy the photos. I will also be sharing some of the colour schemes that I extracted from the rugs on my Instagram feed








“The Durrells”

Over the past six weeks I have been enjoying the TV program “The Durrells” on ITV.  This has been (in my opinion) perfect Sunday evening TV, gentle and beautiful to watch.

For those of you who don’t know, it is based on The Corfu Trilogy, an autobiographical book series by the naturalist Gerald Durrell. The story is of when his widowed mother suddenly decides to move her family of four children to Corfu in search of a better life for them all. They struggle with language difficulties, lack of electricity, no money, and cultural differences. But this post is not really about the TV series. It is about the TV titles.


Image by kind permission of Alex Maclean of Rupert Ray

The tiles of the program have had me mesmerised. In fact, I was inspired to try and find out who had created them. The company behind the titles is Rupert Ray, and the particular designer is Alex Maclean. The full title sequence can be seen here.

So why do I like this title sequence so much? I have been thinking about this and have identified some of the reasons.

Firstly, the style is so evocative of the story and the era in which it is set (1935). The strong, bold, and flat colours remind me of the railway and travel posters of the 1930s. I now know that these posters were part of Alex Maclean’s references for the titles. It was nice to know that my interpretation of the imagery matched with what he intended.

Secondly, the title sequence is full of character and storyline references, as well as contextual information about Corfu. There are lots of hidden details not necessarily observed at first sight. We see different activities from the story (such as Margo sunbathing and Leslie shooting), also items  or ‘props’ that we can identify (such as Larry’s typewriter and the pink bicycle). There is so much character and personality in the people we meet in the titles. And as the TV series progressed I was able to see and understand more items that I had previously missed.

Finally, it was the overall flow of the titles. Rather than being a series of more static images, the ‘scenes ‘ flowed into each other with a lovely sense of almost being on the journey with the Durrells. It was an amalgamation of different events. Not necessarily correct in terms of storyline timescales, but really effective at creating the feel and the ambience of the program. While some scenes were very literal (the sunbathing) many were combinations of different events or character traits. And I especially loved Roger the dog bouncing through them.

To find out more about the ideas behind these titles, you can see some of Alex Maclean’s developmental work here, and also visit his development board on Pinterest.

Why has this TV title sequence been important to me as a designer?


As part of the Make Art That Sells course there was a brief to illustrate a children’s book. I struggled with this and am not happy with the work I produced. But I did not really know why. Analysing these TV titles has helped me to understand why. I focused on one scene from the story, I was too literal in my interpretation. I did not pay enough attention to creating the whole context and feel of the story, putting in all the little extras that would help to create the overall atmosphere and visual interest. My focus was on creating the characters, and I am pleased with what I did there. But now I start to realise that the visual characters are only the start. They need a context rich world to inhabit and to make them ‘come alive’. Yes, Lilla told us that, but it took Alex Maclean’s work to help me realise and understand it. Thank you Alex.



Rainy days

This week has been busy catching up with various projects, and preparing to take part in Lilla Roger’s Make Art That Sells course later this month. It has also been a wet and cold week. But the rain has made it a great week for using my lovely Missoni umbrella – a bargain last year from TK Maxx. Missoni is, and has been for a long time, one of my favourite design houses. And even in the rain, there is still some brightness.


Saturday Spectrum: Red

“It’s RED Week.
That’s Red.
Not Cadmium Red, Cherry Red, or Tomato Red.

As Crayola decrees it.”

These were the guidelines from Anne on the Tag Gallery blog. It is more difficult than it sounds to find this red. But my first thought with red was of the leaves and berries we are seeing here now that Autumn has started.

A design based on this colour is still in progress (life happens) so here are some photos from when Piran the studio dog joined me in hunting ‘Red’.




Saturday Spectrum: Sea Green

sf-stripes-collectionI recently came across the ‘Saturday Spectrum’ challenge organised by Anne Bray. This challenge is based around the different colours of Crayola crayons. This week’s challenge was the colour Sea Green. Details can be found here.

sf-stripes-2To me, sea green is a much darker blue-green than this crayon. This paler colour reminded me more of the foam on the waves – hence the name of the collection.

sf-stripes-1The designs themselves are based on some ideas I explored several years ago. But I was never quite happy with the original designs, particularly the colour palette. So I took this opportunity to revise and recolour some of the work, also playing with the scale and converting them from Photoshop files to vector-based Illustrator files.


The designs all feature (in one way or another) stripes in the sea green crayon colour.


Thank you Anne for the opportunity to participate in this challenge!

Yarnbombing in Tenerife

I love the idea of seeing art in unexpected places. To me, if it makes people interact and ask questions then that’s all good. Yarnbombing has been around now for a long time, but it is very rare that I get to see it “in the wild”.

Recently I visited the port of Santa Cruz in the North-East of Tenerife. Walking away from the harbour itself, I turned a corner and came across these wonderfully decorated trees.

the square of yarn bombed trees


Yarnbombed trees



Santa Cruz is a busy port with thriving shopping and commercial areas. It was great to see this little bit of fun in the middle of the city. Maybe we could brighten up our homes, towns, and cities with a little bit of care, colour and creativity.

Crustaceans and Plates

Well, the subject for the May brief in Lilla Roger’s MATS Bootcamp was as the title says. Mmm, challenging. I am allergic to shellfish, so have never really thought about having a crab or lobster on my plate (real or painted!).

To be more specific, the brief was actually about combining  darker coloured crustaceans with a pretty pattern. This seemed like a strange trend, but once aware of it I seemed to see it all over place in both the USA and UK. Other people also posted lots of pictures of where they had seen it. There was even a blogpost from Anthropologie with a designer that had produced a similar range for them. You can find it here.

In the end, my crustacean (a stone crab) didn’t end up being very dark in colour. But he did end up being sprinkled with little elderflowers and surrounded by a circle of Irish Moss seaweed. The background is actually 12 year old hand-dyed fabric – when my husband saw it being scanned he described it as “a rave from the grave”. I prefer to call it a treasured scrap from my special fabric box!


Crustacean plate


There were so many lovely interpretations of this brief, from elegant dinner party plates to fun paper picnic plates. You can see the entire gallery here.

Butterflies For Lupus 2015

Once again this year the very generous Dawn Clarkson has organised a gallery of butterflies for World Lupus Day on 10th May. For each image sent to her, Dawn makes a contribution to Lupus UK. In addition, this year Dawn will also be attending a a meeting of doctors and Lupus patients, where she has been asked to speak to them about her Butterflies for Lupus project. Congratulations Dawn!

This year I decided to use this opportunity to try some new techniques. Last year I discovered a digital workshop by Diane Rusin Doran (details here). Although I had used some of the techniques shown, there were others I had not. So this was to be my opportunity.




The design started with hand drawn butterflies scanned into Photoshop. A graduated fill was combined with some photographs of clouds for the background, and then the white foreground (with the butterflies ‘cut out’) was made semi-transparent.



I’m really pleased with the result. I was aiming for something with the feel of a hand-dyed fabric and possibly screen printing. I think I’ve achieved that, and will definitely be experimenting further with these new techniques.



So now you have seen my image, please go over to see the full gallery at Dawn’s blog ‘Nice & Fancy’.