The Process of a Pattern: Working Through the Ugly

Art is a process. I try not to get discouraged or attached to the outcome, but sometimes it’s distressing when a painting is looking good, and I take it one step too far.

I was afraid I’d done just that when working on a lightning pattern. I had drawn the lightning shapes and painted them yellow, and then I added in a gray-blue background. The goal was to work fast because I was working on the pattern for #patternjanuary and the prompt for the day was “fast”. Once I had the background filled in, it felt a little flat to me, so I added some cloud shapes.

Lighting with Clouds

Uh oh. This is NOT what I was after. A little part of me was like, “well whatever, it doesn’t always have to be perfect.” Then another part of me chimed in, “what if you paint over it?” I wasn’t sure if it would work since it’s gouache which will re-wet, even on the paper, but I tried it. Happily, it worked! Not only did I paint over it, but because the gouache mixed on the paper, the background was actually better than that first flat layer.

Lightning Pattern

Look at all that foggy texture and dimension. I just love it!

This is such a great example of the unpredictable nature of the process of making art. There are times when everything goes perfectly from start to finish, there are times when the outcome is not so great, and then there are times when the going might be a little bumpy, but the outcome is a pleasant surprise.

Preparing for a Successful Creative Daily Challenge

It’s already day 2 of the #PatternJanuary challenge! I’m having so much fun seeing what everyone is posting. There’s a great variety of styles and subject matter already! If you’re just learning about this challenge, please feel free to join in at any time. You can catch up if you want to, but you don’t have to!

Day 1 - Happy and Day 2 - Forest #patternjanuary
Day 1 – Happy (left) and Day 2 – Forest (right)

A couple people voiced concern about being able to keep up with the challenge everyday. First of all, let me say that there is NO PRESSURE from me if you join Pattern January and don’t finish. I will consider it a great success if you post one pattern, or even if the challenge inspires you to do something different on your own!

If you’re still feeling a little uneasy, and not sure if a daily challenge is possible for you, check out the following tips to help you get into the right mindset to prepare for success in any creative ongoing challenge. (If you’re already feeling confident and ready to go, then by all means go for it and do your thang!)

1. Decide What You Have Time For

When I created daily patterns in 2013, I adjusted the challenge each month to a different medium, and my choice always depended on what I had time for. If I was traveling, I put together a simple travel kit that wouldn’t take up much space. When I was home and had a light work load, I had time for more in depth pursuits such as trying a new medium, or improving skills.

Look at your schedule for the month ahead and think about what you realistically have time for. If you have family visiting every weekend and big deadlines at work, it might be a good month to work in a small sketchbook with just a brush pen or two.

We all have especially busy months, but don’t automatically take the easy route! If your schedule is on the lighter side, that might be the time to commit to something more involved. In either case, carving out some creative time can be so rewarding–make it a priority.

2. Create Space

Before you get going on your challenge, set up a creative space in your life. It took me a while, but I discovered that it’s a lot easier to start creating every day when I’m not surrounded by teetering piles of paper and supplies.

Choose a physical area where you will work on the daily prompt. Take some time to clean up if need be, and set up your space in your studio, dining room table or even by the tv! Gather the supplies you want to work with and have everything ready to go ahead of time.

Also think about the space of time when you want start creating. If you can work on your daily challenge at around the same time everyday, that consistency will help you to achieve your goal. You could go as far as penciling it in your agenda or setting a reminder on your phone. And if you’re pressed for time during the month, set yourself a time limit!

Another way to think about creative space is the area you’ll be covering with your beautiful art. Depending on what medium you choose to work with, a 9″ x 12″ sketchbook can be a huge time commitment. Think about whether a smaller size, maybe 6″ x 8″ or even 3″ x 5″ would be more doable.

3. Keep It Simple

I started my first month of daily patterns in September 2012 with a set of 5 colored gel pens and a small handmade notebook. The materials were so easy and familiar, I enjoyed every minute of it! In November 2012 I continued with copic and prismacolor markers which were my go-to supplies for years before that. The familiarity of those simple tools made it so much easier to show up every day. After I got into the routine of creating, trying a new medium didn’t seem like such a hurdle, and by January 2013, I was eager to try carving stamps, which I’d never done before!

If the idea of working with a new medium is intimidating, Keep it simple and go with what you know. If you have a favorite brush pen, or if you’re crazy about watercolor, use those familiar tools to help you through the month.

4. Make the Challenge Your Own
(Take my advice! Or don’t!)

I’ve enjoyed several daily challenges hosted by others. The Doodle a Day Challenge by Rhianna Wurman and the Index Card a Day project (ICAD) by Tammy Garcia from Daisy Yellow Art come to mind. I was most successful when I set up my own parameters. I decided to forgo the optional prompts during ICAD, but had fun covering the cards with marker doodles and sharing it with the lively group. When I joined the Doodle a Day Challenge, I combined it with my own daily pattern project, using the prompts as a jumping off point.

Is there a way you can combine a challenge like Pattern January with something you are already learning or want to get better at? Do you want to draw patterns, but you’re not loving the prompts? Try instead to focus on a particular medium or type of pattern to explore for the month.

Feel free to adjust the challenge as needed! Even if you decide a particular challenge isn’t right for you, but it inspired you to come up with your own unique goals, that is also awesome!

5. Feeling Pressure? Adjust!

I’ve done a few challenges here and there where I got overwhelmed and quietly gave up. If I’d given myself permission to adjust as I went along instead of chucking the whole idea, who knows what I could have created?!

If you start a challenge and you get part way through and realize you’ve taken on too much, you are allowed to change the rules! If painting takes too long, switch it up to something faster like markers or color pencils. If posting every day is stressing you out, post every other day, or post a weekly recap. If creating every day is overwhelming, let yourself create every other day, or only during the week, or just on weekends. Go easy on yourself when you need to, and you’ll find that establishing a regular creative habit will be easy too!

6. Final Thoughts

Although it might seem like my tips have devolved into convincing you to do as little as possible, that is not my point, I promise! I want to get the idea across to you that you can make any creative challenge work for you, and I encourage you to do so! There are so many details that you can customize ahead of time, and then change along the way before you get to the point of calling it quits. I have to tell you, it feels amazing when you complete a creative goal (even a modified one!), so I highly recommend you make up your mind to create consistently on whatever level you choose!

Are you planning a creative challenge this year, either daily, weekly, or monthly? I’d love to know about it (whether you’re doing Pattern January with me or not!). If you have any tips for success in an ongoing creative commitment, please share your ideas as well! Thanks for stopping by!

Index Card a Day Challenge 2015

This year I participated in the Index Card a Day challenge during June and July for the 3rd year in a row. It was a lot of fun, as always.

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

This year I continued my surface and pattern design explorations and tried a new-to-me technique for the first time: gelatin printing!

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

I had fun embellishing the prints with paint markers and gelly rolls.

Not only did I print directly on some cards, I also cut up some gelatin prints and collaged them back together on index cards.

Index Card a Day

The most unexpected card was one where I tied knots with embroidery floss.

Index Card a Day

For the bulk of my cards I explored different ways of using paint markers and gelly rolls with lots of layering, mark making and varying texture.

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Index Card a Day

Painting Daily: 4x6x365

I just finished my first week of daily painting in 2015!

Day 1 | 4x6x365

My initial idea was to create a painting on 4×6 inch paper each day and call the project 4x6x365. After thinking about it, I adjusted my idea and thought it would be better to work a little larger on 6×8 inch paper. I sat down on January 1st with a few sheets of paper in various sizes, and I was surprised to find it challenging to “complete” a 6×8 painting, but I had several 4×6 paintings that looked finished to me. So I switched my challenge back to the 4×6 idea, and I’ve been going strong since.

Day 2 | 4x6x365

Day 3 | 4x6x365

I’ve already explored quite a few new tools and techniques. I worked with bristle brushes, a brayer, and palette knives. I painted opaquely and translucently. I did a lot of layering and lifting of colors, achieving subtle effects.

Day 4 | 4x6x365

I played around a bit with adding pencil marks after the painting part was finished. I like the level of interest it adds.

Day 5 | 4x6x365

I felt quite bold when I made the black swish in the above painting. I had the idea for it, and had to go for it!

Day 6 | 4x6x365

Day 7 | 4x6x365

After an initial touch of resistance and a feeling of overwhelm of what this project would look like for the whole year, I started this first week by giving myself permission to make anything I wanted. There’s a looseness and complexity from all the layers and brush textures that surprises me. It’s maybe not what I had in mind, but that’s really part of the fun!

Inktober 2014

For the last 17 days I’ve been drawing one floral pattern a day for #inktober. Although I was aware of Inktober last year when a few friends participated, I was in the thick of my daily pattern project and decided to challenge myself to paint on colorful backgrounds. So, this is the first time I’ve participated in this fun project that was started in 2009 by Jake Parker.

I decided to use one brush pen for the month, and I have to say, I’m really loving it. Sometimes limitations are just what you need to stretch creativity into a different direction. I’ve been enjoying the variety of lines and marks I can draw with just this one tool.

Bold or dainty strokes:

inktober day 4

inktober day 2

Controlled detail or expressive shapes:

inktober day 9

inktober day 10

The expressive quality of the line can be so lovely when using a brush pen. It’s also been eye opening to work with both thick and thin lines:

inktober day 15

I’m tagging all my drawings with #inktoberpatterns to make it a little easier to find. If you care to join in, there’s still about a half a month to go!

Index Card a Day 2014: Part 2

I did it! I successfully completed one piece of index card art per day in June and July!

Actually I finished many more than the official 61, so I might have to do an “extras” post on top of this one. Here are a few of my favorites from the second half of the challenge.

Day 49 ICAD

Day 41 ICAD

ICAD Day 32

Day 45 ICAD

When I started this challenge, I took it on as something fun and easy to do. I wasn’t expecting that it would be a creative boost for me on top of the fun and easy part. Because index cards are such a small surface to work on, when I had extra time, I would put more effort into that day’s card. Even when I had something that could pass as a finished piece, I often felt like taking the card a step further. Because of this, I created layers of texture with paint, markers and pens, or added detailed embellishment with pencil or pen. I even dabbled with collage.

I’ve started applying the new creative ideas from the cards I made to some recent larger paintings, and it’s really moving my work in an exciting new direction. Already can’t wait for next year!

Daisy Yellow Zine Giveaway

A few months ago Tammy Garcia, who blogs over at Daisy Yellow, contacted me about writing an article about my daily pattern project for the 10th issue of her zine. I was already a big fan of her blog and the challenges she hosts such as Index Card A Day and the Moments Challenge, so of course I jumped at the chance!

Cover of the Daisy Yellow Zine Issue 10

We’ve had a lot of fun going back and forth with each other while perfecting my article. Tammy just released the issue for sale last week, and you can win a copy here on my blog, or via my Instagram.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tammy, her blog is chock full of ideas and inspiration for creating art journal pages and mixed media art work. As I mentioned, she hosts a variety of art making challenges throughout the year, and moderates a really great Facebook group too. I recently joined DY community on Facebook, and I love seeing all the great art people post to the group. It’s all about encouraging and inspiring each other and being proud of the work you create.

Preview of the pattern a day article by Anika Starmer for the Daisy Yellow zine

In the article I wrote for the zine, I talk about why I started the challenge, how I came up with so many different ideas, changes I made to the challenge from month to month to help me stick with it, what I learned after more than a year of creating patterns everyday, and more!

My article is just one part of a zine that is, “Jam packed with ideas + inspiration.” You’ll also find art journal and photography prompts, Suggestions for altering a hard backed book for use as an art journal, a mini index card art project to try out, and even some blogging tips for creatives. Not to mention the fact that the layout and imagery throughout the pages is super lush and inspiring in its own right.

I’ll be very excited for whomever wins this zine, but if you just can’t wait, you can purchase your own copy right now over on Etsy.

How to Win:

If you want to try your luck, visit Tammy’s page that has all the info about Issue 10 and discover what you are most excited to read about–and your answer doesn’t even have to be my pattern article! 😀 Come back here to this giveaway post and leave a comment below telling me what part of the zine you can’t wait to read. Feel free to leave a comment on Tammy’s blog as well, but know that only comments left here will be counted toward the giveaway.

If you have already purchased the zine and you win either this or my Instagram giveaway, Tammy has graciously offered to refund the full price of the zine back to you!

I will randomly draw a name on January 31st 2014 which is next Friday (edit: I changed the date from February 1st because I was looking at the wrong calendar! The drawing will be Friday!). I’ll announce the winner here, and also send an email to the winner, so be sure to use an email address that you check frequently.

Increase your chances:

You can also enter on Instagram. Make sure you follow me there, and leave a comment on one of the giveaway photos. While you’re over there, check out Tammy’s colorful photos as well!

Preview of the Daisy Yellow zine issue 10

Good Luck!

Pattern a Day December 2014

I haven’t played with crayons in any serious way since I was a kid. One day I was hanging out over at my brother’s house and started doodling with my niece’s Crayolas.

Crayon Drawing

What fun! When I posted the above photo to instagram I got a great suggestion from Tammy (@gypsy999) who hosts the blog Daisy Yellow. She thought I might enjoy using Neocolor Wax Artist Crayons. Boy was she right!

Day 30 Pattern a Day December

I ordered a selection of Neocolor IIs which are the water soluble variety (they also make Neocolor Is which are not water soluble) and decided to use them for the first time when drawing patterns in December. I didn’t actually take advantage of their water soluble nature during this month, since I had so much fun simply drawing with them!

Day 31 Pattern a Day December

Working with neocolors was very freeing. The color is super saturated and goes on the page easily. I found that my marks could be really expressive and the color and texture was rich and consistent.

Day 27 Pattern a Day December

I also played around with scale, drawing some tiny shapes scattered over the page and also some that had larger elements to make a bold statement.

Day 24 Pattern a Day December

Day 12 Pattern a Day December

This was a great month of patterns in which I tried out a lot of new ideas and color combinations. After using these amazing crayons everyday for a month, I’m definitely hooked!