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’.

Manga inspired

I don’t know where Andrea from Anchobee gets her ideas from, but recently the challenge was to include some aspect of Manga drawing in a design. You can see the showcase of work submitted for this challenge here.

To me, Manga drawing is about character drawing – not something I have done much of. And as for the style, the eyes and face seem to be the strongest and most obvious features. So I decided to draw Piran my labradoodle. Fortunately I found a book on Manga drawing left behind in my eldest son’s bedroom. It took several pages of drawings before I was happy with Piran’s face. Some of the key features I tried to include were:

  • Rounded face
  • Eyes relatively low on the face, larger than normal and widely spaced.
  • Several ‘eye shines’ in the eyes

So here is my drawing, which was originally worked in pen and then scanned in to Photoshop and Illustrator.

Piran and the SockAnd just in case anyone thinks that he looks too innocent to be a sock thief, I would like to present this photo as evidence:Piran-evidence



After a summer break, Andrea from Anchobee Designs has returned with her weekly design challenges. Anyone can take part is these. And if you just want to use it as a starting point, or if life gets in the way of you completing it, it really doesn’t matter – you don’t have to send your design in to be included in the showcase.

This week the theme was ‘ferns’. In an ideal world it would have been nice to have done some hands-on printing, but on a very wet Saturday afternoon drawing and Illustrator had to suffice. I actually drew several different ferns, and still have ideas to work further on.  But my design became quite graphic and almost geometric. It seems to me to have a mid-century feel to it with the organic shapes. So what would it be for? My initial thought was interiors – a lampshade or cushions maybe. Or a towel or rug (probably inspired by the proportions of the art board I was using). But I think it might also work for fashion or accessories by changing the scale. What do you think?

I have included three colourways all using the same selection of colours.

Colourways 1

Colourways 2

Colourways 3


Maison Plastique

There was an article in the Sunday newspaper magazine a few months ago about a house in New York. This house looked to be made out of plastic, like a toddler’s playhouse. Here are just a couple of images, but you can see more herehere and here. Please go and take a look – it really is stunning.



Designed by Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiat this house was inspired by Modernist architecture, in particular the Barcelona Pavillion by Mies van der Rohe. And yet at the same time it has an almost kitsch Pop Art feel to it. Despite the appearance, it survived Hurricane Sandy in 2012 better than most of Shelter Island. Underneath the aluminium and polycarbonate walls there is a strong metal framework to support this structure which actually looks as if it is just leaning there temporarily.

The house is nicknamed Maison Plastique by the owners, but is also known as The Speed Bump by local people as everyone driving by slows down to look at it. It is certainly bright and noticeable. I don’t usually like strong synthetic colours like these, but there is something appealing here. Maybe it is the simplicity and boldness of the shapes that suits the colours. The article and the photos made me wonder if some colours suit particular styles better than others. It also gave me some new bright colour palettes to work with.

After seeing this lovely Maison Plastique, I found another version in a local garden. And to its owners eyes I am sure it is every bit as lovely as the one on Shelter Island.



“Gifted Too”, Week 5

Well here we are at the end of this little challenge. I have certainly enjoyed it, and the feedback from my design partners is that they have too. And, more importantly than that, it has pushed me into new design areas and encouraged me to try new techniques. It still seems like every design I create I learn something new about Photoshop or Illustrator!

We have three designs for you this week. Again I am struck by the variation we have produced.

Working ‘old school’, Faye has used layered papers, modelling dough, and buttons to create her design. I love how Faye has avoided the computer for her work throughout this challenge, although she does admit to a bit of help with this design from her young son Harry who suggested the button bubbles. A great and original idea for a card.

In contrast, Lindsay has used her statement bold strokes to create two smiling kitties in a field of flowers. She has a very distinctive style and great use of colour. I could certainly see this being adapted into a greeting card, maybe using one of the faces surrounded by the lighter flowers?

And then mine. I was late with my design this week after being away. But inspiration finally struck when I watched a snail make its way across the patio. I’m not sure that I have finished with this idea, but am still pleased. It helped me feel more confident in character drawing and incorporating hand drawn marks. And then there was learning how to add a glitter effect – wow!

I would like to thank the designers who have joined me on this challenge and have given me such inspiration. And a special ‘thank you’ to Tigerprint who thought up the ideas. I think it is actually quite fitting that on this last week we have all produced designs that have (in my opinion) the potential to be greeting cards.

wk5-faye‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ by Faye Brown Designs


‘Freestyle’ by Slumbermonkey Designs


‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ by Annette Kirstine Designs

Thank you for following us on this challenge. I hope you have enjoyed seeing some snippets of the work that we do, and remember that you can see more at our websites. And watch out at the end of August when we will each be blogging about our experiences and revealing some of of our other designs form Gifted Too.



“Gifted Too”, Week 3

Third week of this challenge, and again there are three of us taking part. I struggled this week as none of the topics really appealed to me. I had ideas for ‘Selfie’, but wasn’t sure about how to realise them. But they are in my sketchbook and I shall return to them another time.

I eventually decided to go for ‘On the Spot’. I used different layers of different sized spots, and then played with digitally cutting out some areas to allow the lower layers to show through. Although I liked my colour version, I decided to add the ‘Black and White’ theme too. I’ve been using a lot of colour in my work this year, so it was nice to go back to just black and white for a change. The resulting design has an almost camouflage look to it and I could envision it on clothing.

What I am really enjoying is seeing the work that other designers create. Too often when you work alone you can get limited in what you see or imagine as the possibilities. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to photograph a collection like Faye has done. And I would love to see that composition repeated into a block or brick repeat, maybe with each unit rotated 90 degrees. Lindsay’s lovely design reminds me of embroidery with cutwork spiders and little areas of darning stitch. So now the embroidery books will have to come out too for inspiration!


‘On The Spot’ and ‘Black and White’ by Annette Kirstine Designs

wk3-slumbermonkey‘On The Spot’ by Slumbermonkey Designs

wk3-faye‘Collection’ by Faye Brown Designs

I hope you have enjoyed a little look at what we got up to last week, and don’t forget to visit the websites and blogs to see more work by Faye and Lindsay. Hope to see you back here again next week.




“Gifted Too” Week 2

Another week and another seven themes for us to choose from for our designs. The list of themes given by Tigerprint is diverse, and although they were thinking of themes for their own products we have been able to consider any market we choose. There were several themes that appealed to me this week, and also some that could be combined.

Three of us took part in the challenge this week. Again we produced very different work, which is part of the fun. Maybe we should have one week where we all have to use the same theme and see what happens?

As with last week, I have included links to the websites or portfolios of the designers involved so that you can see more of their work. And we would love for you to leave a comment here with your thoughts or suggested products for our designs.


‘In Bloom’ by Artistically Afflicted


‘Make Your Mark’ by Annette Kirstine Designs


‘Make Your Mark’ / ‘Geometric’ by Slumbermonkey Designs

I really enjoyed this week’s challenge – it pushed me outside of my normal way of working. Hopefully you enjoyed seeing our work too.

“Gifted Too” Week 1

Each year Tigerprint Design Studio run a competition for art & design graduates. This year it is a design-a-day competition, with each day having a theme to use as a basis for a design. It started immediately after New Designers in June.

As I, and most of my design friends, are not recent graduates we decided it would be fun to play along with our own version. We are following the same themes, but started 1st July instead. On Tuesdays through to 5th August I will be showcasing work done in response to the themes of the previous week.

Please pop over to the designers’ blogs and portfolios using the links below their designs. I am only accepting one design per designer per week, and I know that many of them are very prolific and have some fantastic work for you to see.


 ‘Food Glorious Food’ by Slumbermonkey Designs


‘All About Colour’ by Artistically Afflicted


 ‘Alphabet’ by Faye Brown Designs


‘All About Colour’ by Annette Kirstine Designs

I hope you enjoyed our little gallery, and don’t forget to come back next week for some more lovely designs!