The Plan

So this was an idea that I can file under semi successful.  I'd been constructing some textile designs in illustrator recently, and some were good and I was happy with them, but they were very tight and constructed, as perfect as illustrator will allow. I wanted some grit in them, a bit of 'wonky'. So while in San Francisco for a month in June, I thought I'd try and do 1 per day (for the month). So then by the end of the month (in theory) I'd have 30 hand drawn textile designs.

After that I thought, I might have something nice or at least have learned something, I didn't know previously. In essence I was intrigued how hand drawing the designs might create different results to using he computer. You know, how did my creative brain function differently with different inputs.  But as it goes, the process taught me something entirely different, which is good.

Over the years I've maintained a very loose working style in everything I do. I frequently found my plan changed when I'd stumble across ideas or happy accidents. I've always found these parts to be the valuable part of any creative or artistic endeavor. 

I really wanted these designs to be off the cuff, lose and rough, so I decided to plan as little as possible. I had some basic rules.

  • There would be no prep work or pencil lines.

  • Use just 10 colors of Crayola felt tip pens

  • Pick up a pen and begin

  • Each design had to be finished in under 10 mins. 

  • Each design would take up a similar space on the page in the middle, about a 3" square.

I ended up doing 60 of them and filled an entire sketchbook. Lots and lots of them were rubbish, some quite depressingly so. Here are all of them (good and bad) in a mini (looping) movie. And remember there was no planning and each one was done in under 10 minutes. Some were clearly much quicker than that!


The Result - What I learned about hand drawn textiles

This bit probably isn't so profound! It's harder than you think it's going to be, or at least it was for me. Lines can look great, color blocks not so much. When the felt tip pens bleed on each other it looks great.

Here are a few Macro shots I took just because they look so great blown up big.

The Result - What I learned about me 

So what really happened was that I realized something about myself. The drawings, messy, rushed, not considered were very childlike. I'd pick up a pen and begin with no real idea what I was going to draw.

In the past I had always felt that computers were production tools and that paper and pen were creative tools. 

So while I was drawing, I realized that I felt like a child while using the felt tip pens. I was blindly putting pen to paper without concern and consequence. My mind was in a semi flow state, as if I was playing. Having recently done a study on work and play, themes and ideas jumped out at me. I realized that the reason I felt like I was free and at play was that when I discovered play (as a child) I was drawing with felt tip pens. There were not computers for all and paper was my play tool. My default play creation mode was with paper and felt tip pens. This was what creative activities were to me, paper and pens. Something that I I wrongly assumed as being without restriction.

Clearly, creating art / design on computers has freedoms and restrictions just as paper does. My theory was around that idea that my creative mode had been set by my childhood. I began to wonder if kids born today felt creatively free when using tablets and PCs in the way that I felt with paper and whether they felt constrained by paper, with its lack of undo and easy color layering and filtering techniques.

Now obviously I'm not suggesting this is not the same for everyone. I know designers who have stopped using paper altogether. But nonetheless I was curious about this idea of settings that I might have created along my life that are semi fixed. For example Psychologists believe we have a pre set happiness state inherited from our parents, like a median state that we return to after peaks and troughs.

The Fabrics

The point of the exercise was originally to play with felt tip pen fabric designs however astray it went along the way. I threw a few together in quick repeat patterns below. I'm pretty sure I want to explore this further from a pure, making a print perspective. So while some of these are amusing, they're not exactly print ready yet. I think that's another project, where I take what I learned here and take some time with it to produce a proper set of designs.