Brownstone Pattern

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, and always loved the Chicago brownstone style homes. For this blog post, I decided to do a mini process blog, and share the beginning to end process of making a pattern. I'll keep it brief but if you have any questions please post them in the comments and I'll check back to answer. 

First, I always start out with my sketchbook. I'll begin by just jotting down my concept and a few visuals. I then collect reference material. For this particular pattern, I knew I wanted it to be loosely-drawn and simplified, so I wasn't as concerned with details as I was with the overall shape and style of each house. 

For this project, I limited my drawing time and used one pen for all the details. Here's a few of the sketches I did before scanning my blackline drawings into the computer to digitize and colorize. 

When I begin working with color, I typically do it in Adobe Illustrator. I like to work at a brisk pace so I see results quickly. Part of what I love about Illustrator is how efficiently I can make things happen, and finally get to the point where I play around with pattern and layout. Which is obviously the BEST part. :)

Here are some of my in-progress colorizing:

The final fun step for this piece was to work with textures and paint in Photoshop. I cropped the pattern down to a size I love, and began painting and adding depth and texture to the houses, so no two look the same. The end-use of a pattern sometimes means that I don't do this step - but when I've created it for fun, I can paint to my heart's content. Here is the final brownstone pattern painted, and envisioned as a pair of gift bags. 

Brownstone Pattern ©2016 courtney beth keller 

Brownstone Pattern ©2016 courtney beth keller

Harvest Time! (Or What to Do When You're Stuck)


We all have those days when we feel like we cannot make anything new, or that our work is not working... those are symptoms of Artist's Block. And it is not a permanent condition, I promise!

November happens to be the perfect time to refill your creative cup in my opinion. It's the seasonal harvest time and you can harvest the fruits of all that art you've labored over throughout the year. It's the time to tap into past work and refine it 'til it's finished.

I love doodling and painting throughout the year. I try and make art every day, but some of it gets lost in the mix and I can't get to finishing it right away. For example, these leaves were painted in September, and I finally took the time to isolate all the icons, and imagine them as a Home Décor Autumn Table Set.

Then, there's the deep kind of harvesting, where you dig REALLY deep into your work. I do this when I've totally lost momentum, and am much too close to my current work to figure out where to go with it. I don't know about you, but I have these waves of super-productive art- making, and then I pick just a few from those sessions to refine. Some of those I didn't pick at first, I forget that I drew! So, here's where keeping a sketchbook, or posting regularly on Instagram comes in handy... I just look deep into my stacks of drawings, or my post history to see old sketches that look interesting to me.

Examples...See this rough dipping pen illustration in the gallery below? I drew it last year, and last month was the perfect time to finish it! See the rough watercolor? I finished up the leaves, added hand-lettering, and made a wreath!

And then there's burnout! You want to avoid getting to this point by giving yourself a break now and then (and also recognizing the signs of impending burnout in your demeanor). Know yourself and know your world

  • Leave your studio.
  • Take a walk or a jog.
  • Look at something totally different - a movie, performance, museum, the sky outside, the inside of your eyelids.
  • Make something different - knit, sew, cook, or just do something completely different.
  • Maybe you're the type of person who gets sensory overload. Try a bit of sensory deprivation for a bit to let things percolate. Then take a nap or just close your eyes for a bit (meditate), take a shower, or bath, or a swim.
  • Try a new art medium.
  • Talk to someone.

I hope these tips and tricks help you out when you're having a hard time making art. Sometimes artists just need a break from making. That's okay too. Don't forget you're not alone in this business of art-making. Every artist and creative struggles with these things.



A Cheery Sunny Tea Set

Hello Reader! It's Adriana writing today with a blog post on one of my recent projects...


Project Brief: Design a cheery tea set for a Sunny client. 1x tea cup, 1x saucer, 1x napkin

layout sketch and hand-lettering tests

layout sketch and hand-lettering tests

The brief called for the design of a teacup, saucer, and napkin... but who could resist not designing the entire set?! Not I! I love tea! 

What should it have on each piece? I'm not a big fan of the cabbage rose and, teensy, frilly flower on my tea sets as many traditional ones are decorated.  And lately, I've been really enjoying working with traditional printmaking methods especially linocut. I made a bunch of patterns and arrangements using stamps I made on my own, and some I took into the digital realm and began testing repeats that way. I was really excited to use my recent patterns on something I'd love to own and see every day. I'm a big fan of tea and the paraphernalia that comes with drinking it.

So I set about sketching and came up with a concept that I'd love to have in my own home. The sketch gave me a general idea of how I'd present my work, and then I set about testing colors.

My first tests with pink...

My first tests with pink...

Oh, I was so unhappy with this color combo! It's not me at all! I'd never buy it. After asking my fellow finches why I hated this so much, they reminded me I don't usually use pink in this way... and they're right, this is not really my shade of pink, nor do I own any pink tableware or pair it with sunshine yellow. Out went the pink!

Once the bright aqua and seafoam green went in, I was gelling. The work just came together so quickly. I knew I had to have sugar tongs and a sugar container, a little creamer, too! Lastly, I went to work balancing the tea-set. I wanted to have a nice mix and match tea set and napkins that could work in many different combinations. So the second saucer carried the more intense color, and the mugs match. The tea tray got a nice under-pattern and texture to match. Each piece had texture, shading, and depth added to create a finished look for presentation.

The final submission and complete tea-set.

The final submission and complete tea-set.

And there you have it! Tea for two... a cuppa for me and one for you!

Happy steeping!


Hello Flamingo

It started with a visit to the zoo... 

I've been really inspired as of late with the animals at our nearby zoo here in Santa Barbara.  It's one of the places where my kid is really engaged and focused, and it allows me some time to think as I stroll him around its winding paths.  I guess that's why much of my latest work has been zoo-inspired!

Adriana Bergstrom is an illustrator and designer working from Santa Barbara, California. She will be exhibiting with Finch & Foxglove this May at Surtex in NYC.  Do stop by booth #543!

Budgies (are the new finches)


Welcome to my process blog.  My name is Tanya Paget and I'm a proud member of the Finch and Foxglove collective.  I design under the name Albaquirky; focusing mainly on surface pattern and surface design.   I live in the pretty Chiltern Hills just outside London, with my fiancé and two chatty cats. When designing I work from a studio in my home, looking out over my garden and the village allotments, I love having green space so close.

I work in two main styles: one I would describe as my more 'illustrative' style, and the other my more 'arty' style.  Today I'm going to talk about my process making a pattern design in my more illustrative style.  I'm temporarily calling the design 'Vintage Budgies', but feel free to make some more imaginative name suggestions!  Sometimes a pattern name comes to me really quickly and sometimes they take a while to settle on their names after I have made them.  The 'Vintage Budgies' pattern sits with a collection I've been working on called 'Tiki Time' inspired by vintage holidays and advertising, retro notions of exotica, 50s styling and recently watching lots of the TV series 'Mad Men'!  

I currently don't get lots of hands-on design time in my week, but that doesn't stop me from thinking and creating as I do other things.  Alongside my work as a designer, I teach creativity.  That job involves an exchange of ideas between my students and myself.  I often dream ideas, I don't think I could switch the creative thinking off even if I had to!  

When I get an idea I do one of two things: if it is more of a pure concept it goes down on a (long) written list and if it is more of a visual or compositional idea I sketch it out.  The vintage budgies idea has been on the list since July, it was great to get on to working on it this week! 

Once I'm working up an illustrative pattern concept I start with some research. If I can go to primary sources for references I will (take photos, make sketches), but for this one I was going to find locating flocks of of budgies in an autumnal England a touch difficult! For secondary sources I love pinterest and have lots of boards of inspiration, my budgies (and parakeets) research is here.

Next I print out key references and it is time to get sketching... (yay!) To begin with, I like to work with a sharp, soft graphite pencil (2B or 3B) .  I then develop the drawings in fine liner pen afterwards.  Often my first sketch is not the best, I think of it as a warm-up sketch. The middle drawing in the photo below was my first and it got rejected in the end, as not being right for the final design, but it served an important warm-up purpose. You might spot that for the budgies work I've called in a bird expert...

When I teach my students to draw more complicated things,  I start with breaking them down into the basic shapes.  I use exactly the same technique myself.

When I'm happy with the proportions and composition. I start to add details, still working in pencil...

More detail and more tea is needed...

Now I'm getting somewhere!  I then work over the drawing in permanent ink, using a 0.3 or 0.5 point fineliner.  As I go over the drawing in ink, I am adding further details and refining bits and pieces.

Once I've worked the sketch up to a point that I'm happy with in ink, I rub out all of the pencil lines and clean it up as much as I can with a nice clean eraser. This is then ready to scan into my computer.

I take all the scanned images into Photoshop, do some further cleaning up of the image ready to open in Illustrator and convert into vectors.  It is often at about this time in a piece of design that it is good to have a break. I may go for a swim in the late afternoon if I've been productive and if I need a little thinking time.

After a swim I will then be fresh for the next stage in the process, which can be quite a lot of fun. Adding colour into the work!  For the vintage budgies piece my colour choices were guided by a palette that I had developed for the 'Tiki Time' collection, to help the designs remain cohesive.

I work with colours and also start to group the motifs in different ways and then break for the night.  Reviewing my work before finishing for the day it felt as if there was not enough variety in the range of birds that I had drawn. Something was missing. Some other bird shapes might be needed for contrast. I like to sleep on a piece and process it further over night.  

The next day it was clear I needed more shapes... so back to the drawing board!  First, more researching and referencing of flying budgies, then some more sketching. It was looking pretty cold and damp outside, so was a perfect day to be holed-up in the studio!

This guy below seems to be flying off the page!

With a couple of new bird shapes to bring into the mix, I was back on the computer to work on the pattern layout.

I worked with different compositions.  Experimenting with scale, spacing, placement, juxtaposition and colour of the motifs and a few different options for the background.

Today, for a bit of a thinking break, I walked over to my allotment and did a little harvesting. I love the pinks of the dahlias and the dark, dark, purple of the kale. I'm always finding inspiration in different places!

When I get near to being finished with a design I start printing out proofs.  I print on A3 at both large and small scale. I do this to check the details in the motifs and the tiled repeats, looking at the rhythm in the tile when multiplied up. I also might experiment with possible colourways.

I will often put my favourite versions up on the big pinboard wall in the studio at this point and live with them for a day or two whilst I work on other designs in a collection. There can be up to three collections grouped up on the studio wall at a time, all 'cooking'.  Sometimes a design needs that bit of space and time to settle or develop and a little distance is required to ensure I'm really happy with it.  'Vintage Budgies' has been on the wall a couple of days now and I'm enjoying it. I think it is done.


Thanks for reading all about my process!