Monday, June 20, 2016

What I Learned in 5 Weeks

Five weeks ago, I logged into the Make Art That Sells: Creating Collections for Home Décor classroom to learn what would be my first assignment from Lilla Rogers and her co-teacher, Margo Tantau. I had discussed this new challenge with my family. I warned them I was on a crash course, determined to learn more about the facets of art and design I admired while shopping in my favorite stores. Could my art be on a plate? Could my art be printed on fabric to make an apron, or bedspread, or curtains? This was something daring and different. I have spent years as a graphic artist using clip art that someone else designed. Now, the possibilities were exciting, and I anxiously entered this new world created by art agent and fairy art mother, Lilla Rogers.

Here is what I learned:

Although I don't consider myself an illustrator, I invested in a set of fine tip Micron pens and a pad of marker paper, and began to illustrate for the first time since college (that's over 20 years ago, my friends). I scanned in my work and translated it into vector art in Adobe Illustrator. For people who don't know what vector art is: I would say it's a tedious process of turning line art into shapes that can be filled with color.

Those feathers, florals and butterfly wings were pen strokes that had to be converted into solid fields on the computer screen, then assigned colors. I did that!!

I created icons using a variety of methods. Watercolor:

Brush pen:

That's delphinium and different brushstroke flowers that I made into a pattern. I did that!!!

Hand lettering, to be used as a graphic element:

And even a wooden chopstick, dipped in ink:
That wasn't actually an assignment; I was just experimenting with different line qualities. The blueberry and leaf shapes, though, ended up being designed into a carved wooden base of a lamp, for my final project.

The class was over the top -- in the kind of way you imagined walking into Wonka's Chocolate Factory when you were a kid, if it were a real thing. I'm in denial or going through withdrawal, without my Monday assignment. It would be crazy-making to keep up the pace, but there are so many techniques, so many substrates to design for, so many ideas that I could easily continue working. My portfolio would be amazing. But without the camaraderie of the other artists, and the fabulous instructors to nudge us along, life will now slow to a more manageable pace. Phew, I'm ready for that!

I learned that challenges are wonderful, but they also have a dark side for a slightly competitive personality like me. There's a fine line between admiring and supporting, and then letting your mind go to the "I'll never aspire to that level of work" internal conversation. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm new to this; I need to rack up many more hours of art to land upon a recognizable style, and be in that crowd. But, I'm not far from having the confidence to show my newfound commercial art skills to potential buyers.

Heartfelt gratitude goes out to Lilla and Margo. To say they are supportive is an understatement. I give them credit for wanting to teach what they know and bring new artists into the fold. If you are interested in learning more, go to and browse the juicy creativeness.

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