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