Patterns & Paws: Collaboration with Jessica Gowling

I have always been interested in the idea of collaborating. Not with the enemy, but with other artists. It just seemed like such a cool concept to work with another person to create something unique & unexpected, but I never really knew how to go about it since I’d never done one before.

Then along comes the ever so talented Jessica Gowling. I met Jessica on twitter months ago, and shortly thereafter we started exchanging mail art. Much to my delight, one day she invited me to work on a collaborative project with her!

Well, when I say invite, it was more like, “I’m sending you a project for the two of us to work on, and I’m not telling you what it is so it will be a surprise, and you better say yes!”.

Haha! How could I refuse?

Seriously though, I was super excited at the prospect of working on my first ever collaboration, but I was also really flattered that such a talent would single me out for something like this.

We had to wait for what seemed like eons for me to finally get the project. I didn’t even know what I was going to be getting in the mail since it was a secret. We were both worried it had gotten lost on its journey, but it turns out there was a postal snafu, and after they kept if for about a month, they sent it back to Jessica because it was missing mere pennies in postage.

Once it was sorted out, and I got it in hand, I was amazed by the drawings and the print she’d started off the project with. I was also really impressed that this was going to be an ongoing collaboration–such a great idea. I love the fact that it will continue to evolve with each exchange, and that we can both look forward to being surprised and inspired in new ways each time!

The pattern we’re following for filling in the sketchbook is as follows:

Jessica starts off the collab with paws on the first 2 spreads on the RIGHT pages only.
Anika fills in patterns on the LEFT pages of the first two spreads, taking inspiration from Jessica’s images that are on the RIGHT.
Anika fills in patterns on the LEFT pages of the next two spreads, which can be anything, leaving the RIGHT side blank. When Jessica gets the sketchbooks back, she will fill in the empty 2 RIGHT pages with images inspired by the patterns on the LEFT.
Anika fills in the following spread on both RIGHT & LEFT sides. Jessica will also add to this spread on both RIGHT & LEFT to create an intermingled collaborative spread.
Jessica will then fill in the RIGHT pages of the following 2 spreads with paws, leaving the LEFT page blank for Anika to fill in.
Jessica will then skip 2 spreads, and on the 3rd spread add paws to the RIGHT & LEFT pages for the next mixed collaborative spread, and so on.

Probably sounds complicated right? Well, it’s really not! Take a look at the images below, and maybe that will give you a better idea about how things are arranged.

First up is Volume 1 of Patterns and Paws, which I believe is the volume I’ll be keeping.

My creative process usually involves taking in inspiration and letting it simmer for a few days, but it wasn’t long before I had my first ideas, and the rest flowed easily from there.

patterns & paws vol. 1 cover

patterns & paws vol. 1
Isn’t the chipmunk Jessica drew the cutest? When creating this pattern I thought about directional movement, gathering, piles, and nooks and crannies.

patterns & paws vol. 1
This “paw print” is one of my favorite prints of Jessica’s, and I was super excited that she included it for the second spread. I really love the shape made by the paws, and I also love the dimensional quality of the print framed on the page. I decided to work with collage using thick bristol that really pops out from the surface, and created a very abstract interpretation of the shapes of the paws. Do you see it?

patterns & paws vol. 1
This was the first spread where I could do whatever I wanted. I think initially I’d planned to paint this design with gouache, but I was so engrossed in the process that I started using colored pencils before I remembered my original intention. As it turns out, I really like the texture of the pencils, especially for the lines that are hanging down and taper slightly at the ends. This is based on a motif of swooping lines that I’ve created before, but the variety of colors, and the use of colored pencils add a new feeling to this pattern.

patterns & paws vol. 1
This is a new style of pattern that I created for the collab. Is it wrong to admit that I’m kind of in love with this idea and pattern? Because I am! After completing the previous spread of swooping organic lines, I wanted to do something a little more geometric, while maintaining a hand drawn feel. In a way it’s a simple drawing, but I find the slight variations in color and thickness of the lines work together to create a really appealing design.

patterns & paws vol. 1
I found this spread to be a challenge. I actually had the idea for this pattern and its shape in my minds eye, but had to do a bit of sketching outside this book to work out the details. Because I knew Jessica will be adding paws to this spread, I thought it was important to maintain some whitespace for her to work with. After seeing some work by Anna Jane Searle, and a comment Jessica made about it, I realized I could have filled the page with pattern, because Jessica would still have the opportunity to alter it by drawing, painting or collaging over whatever I created. Learning as I go! The concepts I had in mind when creating this pattern were mountains, caves, slow growth, endurance, cycles, formations, crystalline structures, energy and flow. I’m really interested to see what Jessica will add to this!

Next up is Volume 2, which Jessica will be keeping, if I have it right.

patterns & paws vol. 2 cover

patterns & paws vol. 2
The first spread is similar in that Jessica created another pencil drawing, but the composition and the feeling is quite different and features a marmot instead of a chipmunk. I created a pattern that was loosely based on the composition of the drawing, while keeping in mind these concepts: connection, same and different, approach, warning, surrounded, unexpected, and continuation.

patterns & paws vol. 2
I used the same basic idea for this spread as for the one in Vol. 1. As you can see, the orientation of the paws is flipped, so I flipped my composition as well to relate to the shape of the paws.

patterns & paws vol. 2
I also used the same idea for a swooping pattern on this page, but I’ll mention that I chose colors intuitively for the individual volumes.

patterns & paws vol. 2
I approached the same idea for a pattern here as well, although the colors are different, and each of the three designs are a little more substantial than the similar spread in Vol. 1. Why? I’m not sure, it just felt like that’s how it was supposed to be!

patterns & paws vol. 2
I used the same idea for both collaborative spreads as well, but again chose colors as I was working, for a result that has quite a different feeling.

So there you have the first round of my very first collaborative project! Isn’t it exciting and awesome?!

If you have a little more time & want some more info about this collab, I highly recommend checking out the very first post about it that Jessica wrote after I’d finally received the sketchbooks in the mail. She took actual photos of the sketchbooks, and also discusses the originating idea for this collaboration intelligently, so it gives you a good idea of what the books look like and the intention of the project. Plus you can see the other goodies she sent along with the project!

Currently Jessica has the sketchbooks and is no doubt coming up with awesome art to add. I’ll be posting about this project as it progresses, and I hope you’ll follow along!

**edit** Since posting this, Jessica has also created a post for this stage of the collaboration on her blog. She again photographed the books side by side, which offers a unique view of how the books relate to each other. I also just think it’s fun to see the corresponding pages/diptychs next to each other.

25 Replies to “Patterns & Paws: Collaboration with Jessica Gowling”

    1. thanks tammie! more will be coming pretty soon! Jessica has already completed a number of pages, so hoping I’ll get my turn again soon! 🙂


    You guys are so talented and your styles co-inside so well. I love all the patterns and colours. I especially love the double page spread ones…..the softness of the lines interlinking to create a feathery explosion of crystalline structures: Simply devine. Jessica’s animals are so so cute. The mark-making and attention to detail is beautiful. I love the paw print composition. I seriously can’t wait to see what happens next in this awesome collaboration.

    Thank you so much for the mention as well, its so nice to hear I have given some inspiration to you Anika. It put a smile on my face 🙂

  2. I am so happy to see what you ladies have been working on and it is fantastic! You are both such talented artists and your very different styles go together so nicely. It’s so interesting to read your inspirations and the thoughts behind your work, Anika. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. Now I’m off to check the links you’ve included!

  3. Dude, so awesome. I am so proud of how this project is evolving!!! thank you for the lovely detailed blog posts and for all of your very kind words! This project has me inspired and has been a good push to get back to drawing and creating since getting home: I have finished 4 pages already!! Thanks also to those who are following the project and find it interesting. I hope that Anika and I can make zines or books of these lovely collaborative works and sell them on our etsy shops when all is said in done. In the meantime, enjoy the sporadic eye candy, as we lovingly fill up these moleskines 😀

  4. Anika, this is such an excellent project! Your styles compliment each other really well. I did a few collaborations in art school and it was always a very stretching and fun experience. I miss it! Really happy I found your blog. x x

  5. So cool! Your patterns go so well with Jessica’s illustrations!
    btw thank you for introducing me to such a wonderful artist, I love her work 🙂

    1. isn’t it cool? I wasn’t sure what it would look like, or how it would evolve, but the images so far seem so harmonious & well suited to each other.

  6. this is SUCH a beautiful art collaboration! the paw spreads are my favourite, but I also really like your stripe/geometric squares!
    Amazing job, both of you! 🙂

  7. This is just so beautiful (and how wonderful to get involved in a surprise project! what fun!). I love the juxtaposition of Jessica’s detailed pencil drawings and your gloriously colourful patterns. I like the first pair – with the chipmunk and paw prints and your chevron-ish piles and nooks; and I also adore your stripy pixel-y pattern, I look forward to seeing Jessica’s ‘response’ to it.

  8. This is so wonderful Annika. I love love collaboration and love the energy of it, and how it really does open up new thinking in one’s own work. And I’m putting my bid in for us to do something collaborative after the new year with text (me) and image (you)…or something like that.

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