Inspire & Nourish Your Creativity


Design Surface Patterns From Scratch


Lesson Info

Inspire & Nourish Your Creativity

The next thing I wanna talk about is how to create your signature style. This is going back to how important all that early work is for you. When you don't... If you're not a professional yet, you don't have deadlines, anybody speaking into you, you're just following your heart and illustrating whatever. You want to... This is when you create your signature style. It is so important to have a signature style if you want to be a professional surface pattern designer. I have the skill set to illustrate things that aren't my signature style. I have the skill set to illustrate, like, robots and, like, dump trucks, you know. Which I might do for, like, a kid's invitation for fun or something. But my signature style is what I put out in the world with my name attached to it. I hope that my style comes through as, kind of, sweet and feminine and delicate and maybe brightly colored. So, everybody will have their own signature style and I'm gonna show you some examples in just a second. So, I l...

ove this quote, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." Have you seen that quote floating around? I love it. That's so true because it's a constant struggle because none of us intend to copy somebody, somebody else but it is so, it is so hard to look at what all the beautiful things that everyone else is doing and kind of not fall into that trap. So, I want to play a little game, sort of. I'm gonna show you a series of some people's work and see if you can guess who's work it is. Because I think these surface pattern designers and illustrators have a really unique signature style. So, does anybody know? This is a famous typographer. Does anybody know whose work this is? This is Mary Kate McDevitt. She's a hand lettering and illustration master. You can find her work at but let's talk about it for a second. Like, I think I would describe this as very vintage. She has a very vintage feel, a very kind of vintage color palette, very elaborate and she uses lots of flourishes. How would you describe it? All of the above. Yes. What did you say? Whimsical. Whimsical. It's very whimsical. And so, she has an Etsy shop and a brilliant website and blog and all of her work just has this essence about it: of ease and vintage quality and just really beautiful hand lettering. So, that's Mary Kate McDevitt. How about this one? Is that you? It was somebody in the early... It was in this morning's session, yeah. This is Leah Duncan. You can find her at and she's on Etsy as well as her website. And she does beautiful art prints and illustration, fabric. She does lots of stuff. And she's super sweet. Look at her. She's my friend. So, I would describe her style as, like, she does a lot of geometric. She plays with geometrics but they're not perfect. They're very hand- drawn geometrics. Sweet florals and she plays with the stripe, the stripe elements like the one in the middle and the top right hand corner, like, stripes. I love her color palettes are kind of summery and playful. Do you have anything to add to that? They're almost delicate but not, like, super delicate. Yeah. Not super feminine. Yes. There's like a, like a rugged quality to them and oddly enough, she lives in Austin, Texas. And so, she has, that kinda fits her terrain. Her terrain is a little rugged and feminine. Which is really often the case with illustrators is if you know where they live, it usually shows through. Yeah. So, that is Leah Duncan. How about this one? Yeah. This is Elizabeth Owen. She lives in Canada and so she has a beautiful website and you can find her work on just about every surface you can imagine. But her work is... I love her work. It's very... I know that she hand draws everything. I've seen her sketches before. So, she hand draws everything. But then the way she illustrates it is, like, it almost has this geometric quality to it. You know, like the petals are perfectly symmetrical and the top one and some of them have, like, some more ridged edges to it. And her color palette is often this softy hue-y kinda muted pinky gray. I think it's her signature style. Do you have anything to add to that one? Petite. Petite? That is a great way to do that, yeah. Petite and she's petite. It always... You can always see a person through their work and I hope that you can see me through my work. And so, you should be able to see a reflection of yourself in the work that you finish at the end of the day. You guys know this one? Hellen somebody. Yes, Hellen Dardik. I'll bring this over. Hellen Dardik. So, you can tell how she feels about it. You know, lucky to be able to do this. Oh, it's so fun. Her illustrations are super vintage, right? They're super vintage. They use these, like, really vintage color stories and geometric things but, you know, why can't a butterfly have triangle wings? You know, there are no rules so go with it and that turn this a beautiful pattern. I love the little bear on the bottom right- hand corner. And I love her color palettes. She works with a lot of color. Like, on the bottom right- hand corner and then the one in the bottom middle is just three colors. And it's black and white or two of them. And you can just see how you can add dimension by decreasing or increasing the number of colors that you use in illustration. So, that's Helen Dardik. How about this one? It's Rachel. Yeah. Rachael Taylor. Yeah, it's Rachael Taylor. She is a self-proclaimed doodler. She also, is the first one to admit that she's, like, not, you know, she's not act as brilliant artist. She's a doodler. And her doodles are fun and quirky and she has created.... Sorry I'll bring this over. This is Rachael. She's from the UK. Quirky, fun. She has created an empire around her doodles. And she's just an incredible illustrator and person. She's so sweet. Anything else you have to say about that? I love her work. Yeah, so start doodling. Just open your notebook and grab a pen and just start. Anything goes. It doesn't matter what others are doing. It matters what you are doing. So, I showed you those people's work just to, kind of, give you a sense and a feel of how you can create the signature style. But, you know? Forget about what they're doing. That's their thing. It might, sorta, be your thing too. But forget what they're doing and do your thing. Like, what is it inside of you that's dying to be on paper? I kinda laugh about this but sometimes I feel, like, pregnant with an idea that I just have to, I just have to get on paper. I do. So, have you guys heard of this book, "Steal Like an Artist?" It's by Austin Kleon. It's brilliant. It is one of the best books I've ever read on authenticity. Even though it's really telling us that nothing is original. Do you ever have a great idea and then, sure enough, you stumble upon it and you think, "Oh, I though I was the first person to come up with that idea." It happens to me all the time. A color story. This has never been done before. I know better than to think that now. But I'll think, I'm gonna do this with, you know, geometric blah blah blah and, sure enough, I should just close my eyes because, sure enough, I'll see it, like the next day. But his point is... I'm gonna read this, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there's no new thing under the sun." It has all been done before. So, this next segment that I wanna talk about, I wanna be clear because I'm not telling you to copy people. But I'm also telling you that nothing is original. And we're all remixes of our inspiration sources. So, I just love Autsin's take on this because it's something that all of us do but we don't really wanna talk about. We wanna just pretend, like, we're brilliant and we came up with all that all on our own. But the thing is that, like, if I only look at your work, my work's gonna look a lot like yours and it's gonna be, like, plagiarism. But if I look at all your work and I love little bits and pieces of all of it and then I bring my own voice to it, my finished piece is gonna be totally different from yours and it's also gonna be my signature style. So, I don't hide the fact that we all grab inspiration from all of the world. I'm an advocate of taking your own inspiration, creating your own inspiration but you should know that you can pull inspiration from sources all over the place. It's how you do it that's important and how much of yourself you put into it, that's gonna make it unique. Right, "Bad artists copy, good artists steal." "Artist theft." So, that's from Picasso. But that's his whole, kind of, his whole gig on this is that if you copy somebody's work, it's a small community. There's seems to be, like, a huge community of designers but it gets really small really quick when somebody copies somebody's work. And it's just not gonna jive with your career. If you want longevity to be present in your career then steal. No, I'm just kidding. Good artists steal so you steal inspiration from lots of points of view. But for your career, be authentic in what you do and create your own inspiration. Bring you own voice and everything that you create is gonna be so unique to you that it's just gonna catapult you into this world of surface pattern design. "Fake it until you make it." I just love that because we're all amateurs. I hope that I'm an amateur. I hope I'm really early on in my career. You know, we're just all amateurs. So, we should just wear that on our sleeve and just go with it. "Nothing of me is original. I'm a combined effort of everyone I known." Isn't that true? We are just a little bit of everything that we love and everybody that we know. And you don't need to be a genius. You just need to be yourself. So, I hope that if I have explained anything so far, if that, you don't need to be a genius. You don't need to have gone to art school, design school. You don't have to be a brilliant artist even though, you did go to design school and you are a brilliant artist then you're done. You're there. You're on your way. That is brilliant and awesome. But if you haven't done either of those then this is not the end of the road for you. You can still do this. It won't be easy but it will be worth it. Not to hit on this point one more time but the easiest thing to do is look close to you for inspiration. Look on the web or look at your favorite designer stuff. But it will be worth it to you to put the effort into sourcing your own inspiration and really going the extra mile to make sure that your work is authentic. So, nourishing your creativity. This is something that is incredibly near and dear to my heart. I've written blog posts on it. And my advice is, kind of, simple. But do you ever just feel like you're done? Your creative juices are drained and you have nothing left and you don't know where, you're overwhelmed 'cause you see all these other great stuff and you just... In fact, I do that everyday. And I know this about myself. So, I wake up super inspired and in the afternoon I'm really productive and evening, I'm overwhelmed and I'm feeling like, what am I doing? I'm no good. So, I just shut my brain off at night. I just don't go there. I don't let myself think about big plans I have. I don't let myself think about new collections. I just do, like, answer e-mails or something. I just do something that doesn't take much brain power. So, know that about yourself and honor that. Like, that's okay. Just nourish your creativity when you are feeling low. And what my suggestions are for that are to keep style files So, the same gig about creating inspiration boards: digital or physical inspiration boards. Kinda keep style files. These can be literal. Like, files and folders that you keep little bits of things in. Or these can be, like, folders on your computer that you clip photographs from or whatever. But clip things and keep them somewhere to where when you're feeling low, you can refer back to them. This has been tremendously helpful through my career. So, something that doesn't necessarily speak to me right now but I think is lovely. Like a piece of yarn that's the perfect yellow color. I'll just keep it and I'll go look at it sometime. It's the color palette I'm wanting to use or whatever. So, keep things by that you find beautiful to refer back to. Brighten your space. I don't know if I'm, you know, alone in this but I can't work in a dark space. I have to be by a window. I have to be by natural light and I also have a hard time working after the sun goes down. Even though I do sometimes. But natural light seems to just, kind of, feed my soul a little bit and makes my eyes not strain so much. This is simple but it's a big deal when you're doing this and specifically computer work for a long time. Step away form the computer. If you're not stepping away from the computer to go source your own inspiration, just gonna have to take a break. It can... Do any of you find yourself at the computer, like, three four hours in and your eyes hurt. It's easy to do. Time just flies by when you're sitting at the computer. So, get up, take a break, go for a walk, walk your dog. Play with your baby, if you have a baby. Just take a break and honor that. Keep something pretty in sight. This is so simple but it is so important to just your work. I always keep a vase of flowers by my computer just because it is just a break from the ins and out of working on a computer. I just keep something natural, something from nature next to me I can refer to sometimes or I can just kinda... It just brightens my space and lifts my spirit a little bit. It may not be flowers for you. It may be like pictures of your family or just something that makes you happy. The other thing is, keep your workspace tidy. The simple, you didn't know I was gonna tell you, like you know, how to get dressed in the morning and keep your place tidy but this is so important. Do you sit down at your place and if it's cluttered you just, your brain feels cluttered? Have you heard that thing like I have too many tabs open in my brain? That's how I feel when I have stuff everywhere. So, I can have stuff everywhere behind me but as long as my workspace is just tidy and clean and my peripheral is tidy... I just keep as empty of a workspace as I can or if I'm working with colors they're all over the place but it's pretty. It's a beautiful thing. Like, don't leave dishes around or anything like that because I have done that before and I have noticed a direct reflection in my work over it. So, clean up your space and keep it tidy. Get ready. We already did this. But, you know, get ready. Get dressed in the morning. Get dressed in the morning. It's a big deal and it's so easy not to get dressed in the morning. And I like to say that.... Like, I'm a specialist in medium clothes. Like, in-between clothes. Like, they're not PJ's but I'm not getting dressed up just to sit at home. But, you know, I could run out to the store so, like you know, pretty shirts and yoga pants. This like specialty. Something I can sit in and in styling. But something that I'm totally comfortable in running out to town or answering the door. Shower. It's funny but it is easy to fall into a trap. You will feel so much better and more energized when you are put together. Stay energized. This is huge. We all have times of day where we're more energized than other times of day. Mine is in the morning and kind of in the afternoon productivity time. I have two friends who are so energized by the quiet of the night. No, I have three friends. And they just say, the fact that everybody is sleeping just is this electric vibe to them. So, they create while we sleep. And in the day, they share their work. You know, but they sleep sometimes. So, I guess they sleep late but they stay up three four in the morning creating and I've done that once, like, last week when I went... I kinda did get it. I was like, "Wow, this is just really weird, like, I'm the only one awake making pretty things." but it's not my thing. But if it's your thing, work when you're most energized. Don't even try. Just honor yourself. If you're not feeling it and you're trying to come to the table, unless you're on a really heavy deadline, if you're not feeling it, do yourself a favor and just don't even mess with it. The other thing is stay energized by how you live. Take care of, like... I try not to, like, I'm not saying a bunch of coffee but eat well and sleep well and you feel energized. When your body feels good, your creativity flows. My point is that creativity is energy. So, when your body feels good and you're on a good routine, creativity will flow. And so, what I want you to do is just create a space where creativity could just rush through you. And that takes me telling you to shower and eat well. I am creating a, during this course, I am gonna be creating a pattern collection live with you guys. And I'm gonna shoot for six patterns. It may go over. But I want you guys to shoot for six patterns for your pattern collection. So, I decided to make my pattern collection around this idea: nourishing your creativity. So, I wanted to share with you that I already put together a little logo and a collection-like theme. So, I'm gonna share that with you today and I want you to go home thinking in these terms and maybe start putting together a title and a theme that you wanna go in. So, mine is nourish your creativity. I will show you how I did that "nourish." I used the paint pen that I showed you earlier today. And we're gonna be doing that tomorrow in session two segment one. So, this is my theme for the collection I'll be making this week. Nourish is about the importance of feeding your creative soul and cultivating beauty. Motivation and energy are two essential ingredients to staying inspired. Nurture your creativity by surrounding your workspace with things that inspire you, fresh flowers and essential tools. Take sabbaticals, drink tea, and spend lots of time in the sunshine. So, this is my inspiration board for the collection. This is my workspace. And the flowers I keep by my desk, colors that I might wanna pull from, little things that I'm working on. Tea. I drink tea when I just need quick pick me up, I drink a little tea. So, this is what I'm gonna be basing my patterns around. I'm gonna share more about that with you tomorrow. I've already done my sketching for tomorrow. And I'm gonna be hoping to illustrate, illustrate a workspace. Illustrate a tea print, a sunshine print, a floral, a vase of flower print and some things like that. So, it's gonna be kind of, you know, not incredibly obvious. So, if somebody doesn't know that this was my inspiration behind it, I think, my hope is that they'll see collection and just think it's beautiful. Because I try to, I tend to loosely... I like to tell a story but I don't like it be so literal. You may like to be very literal though, like, if you wanna do a bicycling theme, it's gonna have bikes and bike horns and bike baskets and that kind of thing. And if it's literal, sometimes my stuff is really literal and that is totally fine and great. Sometimes, I like to loosely base mine on so you have to really dig in to find out the story behind it and then it all kind of comes together to make sense. So, that was just back to the theme I was gonna show you. The other thing I say, take sabbaticals. And this is kind of a new kind of theory that I have recently come acquainted with that I wanted to talk about. And I think it's so brilliant. I'm not even sure if I can remember who's talking about it but they take a year sabbatical every seven years which is pretty significant. They have to spend several years gearing up for the sabbatical but they take a year off of their creativity to nourish their creativity, to get re-inspired and to hit the ground running again after that year. Not many of us can take a year off every seven years but what I want to encourage us is to take even 10 minutes during the day or, like, one day a week or even one day a month. Just to stop our work and do whatever it is that fuels us. So, leave that 10 minutes or that day with, like, just ideas flowing out of you. Have pen and paper but don't have a computer. Just have a pen and paper and do something that fuels you and jot down as many ideas as you can. And do these sabbaticals on a routine basis and your work will always be fresh. "Open your mind. It's beautiful inside." so, we're getting close to the time to where you have to start doing something. So, the scariest part for me is to put pen on paper or pencil on paper. And sometimes I will carry my sketchbook around with me for months. I did it this year. I carried my sketchbook with me for three months and didn't put one thing in it. Why? I know better than this. If I just shut my brain off and I start then things happen. Things come out even if they're maybe not that great or they are great. 10 percent of them are good. So, the hardest part for me is just to start. So, what I want to encourage you to do is shut your brain off, go grab a pencil and a piece of paper and just start sketching. Just start doodling, draw hearts, draw circles, like, whatever comes to mind. Just start doing it so we have something to work with and I promise you beautiful things will happen. We have some more stuff to cover but I think I just wanna quickly take questions and then I'm gonna come back and talk about some homework and wrap up a couple of other things. Okay. Wow, we've had some questions that have come in throughout the day. I'm trying to get some good, like, conclusion questions as we wrap up here so these are from different segments that we worked on today. But I think now is the good time to take a look. Now, this one comes from Telly Shiply and they wanted to know, "Do you create patterns and designs to have an end result of them becoming scarp paper, fabric material etc. Like, do you have a specific type of material that you have in mind? First when you start designing." Or does that come over time? That's such a good question. And I think everybody is just a little different. And I think it depends on the application. Sometimes, you're gonna know for a fact this is going on ribbon. And so you have to set up your files in a particular way because that's what's what is happening. But if I'm just designing freely, like, that sweet time before you have any kind of freelance work, like you're just creating patterns. I think it's a good idea to have some kind of a concept of where this is going. For me, it was fabric. So I started with fabric. But since it has translated to other things. So, it's translated to wallpaper, wall stencils, ribbon, not tons of stuff yet but some other things. So, sometimes I have to go back in and make some tweaks. Say, a repeat has to be a different size for or the other so you can go back and make tweaks. But in my mind, I like to create particular, like a specific number of patterns that all work together. So for me, I create ten patterns. If I'm creating a fabric line, I create ten patterns and I want those cohesive in style, color, scale, and complexity. So, some will be these huge giant patterns and some would be these tiny, really simple patterns but are necessary for the quilting and fabric industry. If you're creating for stationery, you might do, like, a floral pattern collection. And you want those to be cohesive in style, color, scale, and complexity because you want the end person to be able to have kind of like, a simple print put on the binding or the inside but, like, a giant, a really bold print for the main piece. And this is actually, kind of, a pit I fall into a lot is creating too much chaos going in because I do all these, kinda, giant prints and together they're chaotic. There's nothing, simply nothing there to calm it down. So, no matter what you're doing we're gonna get into this big time when we start creating patterns and talking about building a portfolio and how you do that. We're gonna get into big time, how you create a cohesive pattern collection. But, yes, I think it's a good idea to think in terms of final destination, what you want it to be but at the same time, you don't have to. You can always go back in and tweak things if you need to for the industry. And if you wanted to start designing and see where it goes then don't stress out about the end result. Great. Now, we have a couple of inspiration questions that have come in here. Okay. This first one is from Dez and they say, "Bonnie, have you ever used public domain designs from vintage swatch document houses to recolor or rework designs and use them as inspiration?" That's a great question. I have not used one. I have... Somebody has given me a book or two so I have looked at them before but I have not used one directly out of any of that. That said, you can. They are in the public domain. They're available to you, to use on your contracted work. I'm pretty sure. I think it's fine. Obviously, it's fine. It's legal. But I think in terms of signature style, it's pushing it a little bit. But if you can incorporate it in stuff that you're doing and make it your own then by all means, use it. Just be careful using public domain illustrations as is because you lose the sense of yourself in them. But, hey, they're there. All right, now, and finally this question comes from Cassiopeia and I know that you did mention how important it is to get outside, to take pictures to find your inspiration but a lot of people in the chat room, they are online, they are digital and Cassiopeia wants to know, "Do you use Pinterest as an inspiration board? And if not, what do you recommend digitally?" If you can't get outside at all times and take your own photos. So, just for plain inspiration, yeah, I absolutely use Pinterest. You can go check out my Pinterest and use it for your inspiration. What do I want to say about that? You have to be careful on Pinterest. If you ever... I don't know if I wanna get into that. I guess, if you ever use anything from Pinterest, like, if you're a blogger, you need to be sure to be sure to be sure the source. My biggest advice when you're sharing somebody's work or using somebody's work is if you... Just pretend it's your own. Would you totally throw it out there without any, you know, and not letting everybody know where it came from? Or would you, or you put Pinterest as a source? No, you really wouldn't. You would put your website as a source. So, if you can't find the source to something on Pinterest, don't use it. Even if you can't, just really hard, just don't use it. But if you're just using Pinterest as, like, inspiration. If, say, I can't get to Africa. And I love Africa prints, oh yeah, I'll go to Pinterest and look at all these African textiles and prints and things like that and create an inspiration board that way and just use it as reference and that kind of thing So, yeah. Everybody does that. I think it's good. You just have to be a little careful with the gray area. Okay. Does that help? Yeah, that definitely helps. I think that covers everything online. Any questions from you guys here in the studio? Okay so, I am assigning homework. So, if you are gonna participate in this class specially for the design challenge or you just want to build patterns along with us, this is what I need you to do to be able to follow along with us tomorrow. I want you to come to class, come to session with 10 to 15 sketches. I have that I'll be working from. Okay so, if you get more that is great but I think a minimum is 10 to 15. And by sketches, you know, I kinda showed you the little, you know, that's two sketches. So, that I'm gonna illustrate off of that. I mean, maybe a three. I don't know. But start doing your sketches. Come to class with 10 to 15. You can come with someone pencil. Because I have some in pencil and I'll show you how to do that. And also that really nice black ink smooth line, we're gonna cover how to scan in the morning. Do we pick the theme we want to do? I would like for you to pick the theme and start, just start thinking in terms of collections and stories. So, sometimes my, like, my theme paragraph doesn't get written until I'm done because the pattern design process kind of, takes you all over and your end process is not necessarily what you thought it would be to begin with. But yes, I want you to have something in mind. Some kind of a theme story to tell about this collection. One colorful photograph. We're gonna be building more color palettes tomorrow so bring a colorful photograph. Have one access. We'll do at home so that you can build a color story from it. Bring three to five photographs or more but at least three to five to draw from. So, these can be pictures you've already taken that you scroll back through your Instagram account or whatever but something in there, something that you've taken that you would like to illustrate from. So, it can be a picture of, like, those antlers or, like, the deer that you see or a flower that you've seen or a four leaf clover or whatever. Don't worry about it too much but if you wanna illustrate from it, bring it tomorrow. And then, we're also gonna be working with a little bit of typography and handwritten stuff tomorrow. So, come with a written word or a phrase. You can use just a black pen or a, like a paint pen like I was using earlier. But come with a written word or phrase. And then finally, I just don't want you to forget that tomorrow afternoon, we're gonna be having a Skype session with Annie Tinheim and she is a brilliant creative lawyer. We're gonna be discussing copyrights. How to create contracts, freelancing your work, trademarks. All the differences between all those, hoe to protect your work. Just chuck-full of really excellent information that is really, for me personally, is hard to kind of get my head wrapped around when I was early on. So, that is for tomorrow and I want you to know that amazing things are gonna happen. It's gonna be so exciting.

Class Description

Did you know that you can turn your sketches, drawings and doodles into patterns? Join Bonnie Christine for an introduction to creating patterns to use in your very own fabric prints, stationery designs, website backgrounds, cell phone covers, and much, much more.

This course will take you through the process of working with Adobe Illustrator to create digital versions of your artwork. You’ll learn tips and tricks for working in Illustrator and how you can use the software to create repeating patterns of your very own drawings. Bonnie will guide you step-by-step through the process of transforming sketches and tracings into vector art which can be used for an endless array of printable and online projects from customized stationery to computer wallpaper. You’ll also learn how to assemble your collection of designs into a portfolio you can use to impress potential collectors and buyers.

This course will lay a solid foundation for those new to Illustrator and open up exciting new possibilities for people already familiar with the program. If you are ready to bring your drawings to life in new ways this class is for you.