On the previous post I mentioned that I usually resign myself to the fact that most things just take shape as you make them, even though I gave myself a set of guidelines for this project (namely: be more playful, be surreal, use words, use more color) I also get lost sometimes. I'm going to indulge myself by quoting a writer quoting another writer but last night at 1:30 am this paragraph encapsulated the feeling very well for me:
E.L. Doctorow once said that "writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.
- Anne Lamott in the book Bird by bird
Of course I'm not writing a novel but with almost every creative project there are moments when I fall into the pit of insecurity and this one is no exception. You know the feeling, the hail of unanswerable questions poking holes on your capacity to keep going: what am I doing? Is this work any good? Do I even have any talent? I don't know why we tend to think of creative work as something that just pops out of someone's mind fully realized but it doesn't help. What helps me often is to keep on working everyday, a little at the time.
On patterns and grids:
The final destination of this project might be unclear but I did find something exciting in the process. I've been looking for ways to use patterns designed on the computer while keeping a hand-drawn look and I've been experimenting with designing my own grids and then coloring the shapes by hand.
The idea came from working on a piece using an isometric grid like this one that can be thought of as a series of hexagons divided into equilateral triangles.
You can follow the lines to create an unrealistic but pleasant 3D visual effect, or you can simply color the triangles in with interesting patterns. I did both things here:
The "building" lands on the grid and the colorful pattern starts very flat at the bottom and then it progresses into blocky walkways and shapes that sometimes return to being disconnected triangles.
I use a textured brush and color it manually to give that rough hand-drawn feel, here is a closeup:
But then I thought: why stop at the common isometric grid when I could dance around any grid/pattern that I want?
The other day I received some junk mail masquerading as more serious official mail with the addition of features from security envelopes, like the ones that have a pattern that masks sensitive information, and it had this delightful drunken grid that I really liked (probably not the first nor the last time junk served as inspiration):
Here is how I constructed and approximation of the pattern above. After much pencil work I found out it could be reduced to two basic shapes, a square and a 60 degree rhombus with equal sides (which happen to be two of the shapes in the pattern blocks set) :
Two of each shape can be arranged as the base tile that can be repeated indefinitely:
Further more, each basic shape can be subdivided into smaller versions of itself:
Rotate it 60 degrees and one ends up with something like this:
I haven't finished this piece but I have to show you the above pattern in action:
I like how it creates a sort of sloped 3D effect similar to the hexagonal grid but it also gives me all these other fun bendy strips and shapes.
Tools and final thoughts:
Although this is not a how-to article I'll mention a tool that has been a delight to use for creating and thinking about patterns, it's called Cuttle and it's a vector editor with some incredibly intuitive tools for visually manipulating transformations and even adding your own code, it's still in beta so I feel lucky I can use it now (thanks Toby!) but if you are interested there are some invites available, message me.
The actual drawing is done on an iPad with apple pencil using the very popular Procreate app.
Thanks as always for all your support! I hope this dive into some of my process and tribulations was interesting to you. I'll leave you with two more finished pages of the zine where I still haven't managed to use any words: