I made six semi-transparent, speckle-texture colours inspired by Risograph prints. Riso art combines traditional stencils with new Risograph technology. The colours are printed one at a time (you know my mania for colour separations) and there is plenty of opportunity to get that 'missed register' look which I talked about in the litho printing process in the New Colourways entry a few weeks ago. I began with a simple ellipse, repeating the shape and overlapping to create many new colours from the original six.
Above left is the original artwork which I like in its own right which became the repeat pattern at the top, on the right is a nice jiggly pattern which happened next which I like because quite by accident it resembles Asanti textiles.
I also experimented with making a couple of colourful geometric artworks with an early Frank Stella feel. They were quick to make and attractive, but I didn't keep them, feeling at this point they were a distraction and lord knows I do enough dotting around.
At the weekend I was browsing 1910-1930s textile designs and came across a lovely little off-cut of fabric from the Weiner Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop) at the weekend. It dated from around 1910 and was tiny, but I was able to reconstruct the pattern from the information that was there. Restoring old patterns or rebuilding them from a snippet is something I absolutely love to do, it's such a great feeling when it suddenly all comes together in repeat. I particularly love this period of design with its simple shapes, stylised natural forms and sombre tones, and being Scottish, the link between Vienna and the 'Glasgow Four' Art Nouveau work is very close to my heart - I grew up at school drawing everything in a hybrid Art Nouveau/1970s style. Pictured below is this weekend's restoration of that tiny scrap of fabric. I found quite a few other pieces from the Wiener Werkstatte, so there will probably be more to come!
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This week was spent tidying up this pattern, making sure that every colourway is perfect. I made 10 different colourways with it in the end, so it was time consuming but worth it. I added a backdrop of polka dots to some of them which really made them sparkle. I really like this pattern and will upload my favourite colours to Redbubble soon.
Apart from that we had such a summer-filled week that I took my phone with me everywhere; on our daily walks through the park, in the garden, the house, and even the neighbour's garden while I was on cat duty this weekend, snapping every flower and plant and growing thing which caught my interest. I have been doing a lot of gardening and even ordered some new plants which is always exciting.
I was looking especially for details such as number of petals, lobed, pointed - all the different shapes and colours; how the stems attach to the flower head and what colour they are, and if they are hairy or smooth and how they branch, what kind of leaves they have etc - just generally collecting as much information while it's all around us to store up for reference through the winter. Of course I love to be outdoors with my paints and sketchbook, but I can easily work from photos for pattern work; photos are a flat space, and so are patterns, and as I mostly highly stylise flowers all I need is variety in my designs to escape falling into generic habits. And, of course, the pleasure of looking at photos of pretty flowers on a warm summer's day is undeniable.
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During the week I was filing, backing up and sorting my iCloud files and I found a forgotten but favourite design I made in March 2020 buried in the archives waiting to be put into repeat. I got onto it in spare moments, not only getting it into repeat but tweaking a few finishing touches. It was a lovely task and my favourite version of it is pictured above.
Unfortunately, this version was an accident - I hit something by mistake in the editing suite while I was cropping it for Instagram, thought "oooh!", saved a jpeg, and now unfortunately I can't work out what I did. I thought it was something to do with the enhance wand but I can't get it to work again on any of the colourways, so, hmmm, some extra detective work required.
A few of the colourways I tried out below:
At the beginning of the week I made a textured background for the latest pattern which really activated it (image below), so simple but effective. I also began work on a page for all my patterns on Redbubble, I will keep adding to that until they are all there. All rainy-day jobs, I even put away the Christmas trees and hoovered, bringing the house out of lockdown mode ahead of a long-awaited family visit. That was hard work, I can tell you.
Then the sun came out with such brilliance at the end of the week all my focus was transferred to outdoors (see my HEW blog if you're interested).
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I worked two more colourways of my latest pattern during the week. I like to limit the number of colours for such patterns to no more than five, plus a background colour. It partly comes from my training as a graphic artists in the print industry in the early-mid '90s, working with colour separations to produce one printing plate for each colour for the offset litho process. I enjoyed seeing how an image was composed by unravelling the colours.
Below is a photo of a little Christmas card I had made at the printers back then, the colour separations can be seen clearly because something I loved to do was emphasise the hand-made quality by making the separations miss here and there. The negative spaces are activated and appear white because of the surrounding colours, although it is printed on a buff coloured laid paper. Interestingly, I bought a new duvet cover from George at Asda recently where the designer had done exactly the same thing in making the separations 'miss', which adds a considerable amount of charm to the pattern.
More recently, when I was working on the daisy pattern based on a 1970s neck-tie, I was surprised to find only five separations plus the background, in spite of looking like a riot of colour. Naturally, working in Procreate or any application which uses layers, I keep one layer per colour and limiting the colours means putting a design into repeat is very much faster; if I can stick to four like this new pattern it makes life a lot easier. I find fewer colours make a more cohesive pattern and I enjoy the challenge of working within limitations, which is just as well with my comparatively archaic methods.
My Redbubble shop has become a wonderful playground where I can see my patterns on a variety of products - I randomly present a framed art print and a pair of socks today!
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Above, a new pattern in its first two colourways, and below, different colourways of last week's pattern inspired by a vintage tie.
I have been thinking about why I love pattern-making so much, my interest is increasing rapidly with time. I don't really know, to be honest; I think it may relate to solving jigsaw puzzles, or crosswords, but it's worth noting the process: while the purpose and end results are quite different, the mental process is almost the same as in my drawings. In fact, pattern-making feeds into and assists the drawings. When you design patterns it is necessary to think about the motifs and the surrounding space - it's the only way I can express it, but you quickly learn how to avoid the irritating forms, line-ups or gaps which when put into repeat disrupt a pattern, so the up and down and left and right become vital to a successful composition. I can spot a no-no from a mile off these days!
I suppose the devil is in the detail. I'm using this knowledge gained from applied art in my drawings and it makes me glad that I diverted into the two disciplines.
I discovered my brother's collection of vintage ties in a plastic bag in the loft of our old family home a little while ago, and one tie really caught my attention. I reckon it's '60s or '70s, just my thing, so I began a drawing in Procreate based on what I could put together from the sliver of fabric which makes up the tie. I drew sections of what I could see and put them together in the image above, with some filler shapes which I tried to keep in harmony with the original.
The next step was to create a repeat pattern, here's the tile.
Then of course there was a lot of fun adding it to my Redbubble account.
I was very happy with the results, it looks properly dandy and cheerful on the backpack (for some reason I am particularly fascinated with those, and the duffle bags, not to mention the socks!)
I took great pains with the pattern tile, creating it in separate layers so I could change the colour for each, rather than just adjusting the colours of the whole tile. It's quite a long process because I do it the 'old fashioned' way in my now quite antiquated version of Procreate. I don't subscribe to Adobe anything any more, which means I don't have Photoshop now, so nothing is automated and the process is just like the hand-made method of cutting the original into four quarters and 'turning inside-out' (that's how I think of it). I repeat the process for each colour separation and it really provides wonderful clear results for every colourway.
Perhaps I'm a bit of a dinosaur, but I prefer this way of working 'by hand', I feel more in touch with the design. I have made six colourways from the original. The advantage of doing it this way is that each colourway emphasises different aspects of the drawing with the use of tone as well as colour, which can't be done working with just a single layer tile. They can look like a completely different design as a result. I'll post some of them here soon!
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Some sunshine yellow to welcome in the merry month of May! I do wish we could have a bit more actual sunshine, it has been bitterly cold here in Fife this week, with very cold nights and some frost in the early morning. Flowers, very sensibly, are refusing to bloom in the real world but are still going strong in my work.
A run of beautiful warm sunshine this week proved a big distraction - I didn't want to be indoors at all. We had a couple of barbecues, one evening we ate our evening meal as a picnic on the grass. The next evening we lit the barbecue again, but while we were cooking our marinated spatchcock chicken which I had prepared earlier in the day, the cold came back in and we retreated indoors to eat.
I did get my sketchbook and paints outdoors, though, and the pop-up tent went up as my 'outdoor studio' - which I am pleased to report I am getting quite proficient at folding up and putting away now. Last year there were a couple of hysterically hilarious antics, not aided by wine and B cracking jokes at my attempts. I bought the tent in 2016 and have used it every summer since, so 5 years practice is finally paying off!
The second painting in the series finished this week. I really do love working with texture! The lines drawn over the top are carbon copy paper, chosen not just for its delightful mark-making, but also because I can't see exactly where it's going because it's lying face down on the painting and I'm drawing through the back. The result has an innocence which brings a lot to this work.
These are quite small at 25x18cm, which gives the texture and marks a greater prominence.
... If not in the weather. If spring is going to be slow arriving this year I decided just to bring it on with flowery paintings this week. I like this kind of work to suggest tapestry or embroidery, so I used a heavy impasto consisting of acrylic gesso primer bulked out with whiting alongside gouache to create texture. I have tested it for stability and adherence as much as I can and it seems to be fine, it even has flexibility and will bend with the heavy Fabriano print paper I favour without cracking.
Adding some dots details finished this piece by the end of the day, when it looked lovely in the low sun.
The weather took another turn for the Baltic this week forcing me to move into a warmer room to work - it was productive, though, and very comfortable as my temporary HQs are on a lovely old brass bed. Very handy for hanging work in progress, it began to resemble the railings at Bayswater Road in London on a Sunday!
I was saddened to hear yesterday's news of the death of Prince Philip. He was 99 years old, a national institution. Farewell and rest in peace, our Duke of Edinburgh.
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I had the best fun making this pop-up birthday card for Beardo Benjo (emminent YouTuber)!
Last week I just happened to stumble across a Zoom make-along with two wonderful women I follow on Instagram. I had no idea how a pop-up card worked and became very interested, just in time to make this monster card for Ben. It was gloriously messy, sticky, painty and I loved it. My thanks to the generosity of:
We always made drawings of Easter eggs in primary school which were proudly mounted on sugar paper to display on the classroom walls before being taken home for the holidays and presented to doting parents.
I used to make so many Easter cards when I was a young girl for my parents, grandparents, my godmother and a couple of other special aunties. They have all passed on now and Easter cards aren't so much of a thing in my life any more, which is rather sad. So this year I decided to recreate those primary school gems from memory and post them on Instagram as Easter cards for everyone! I made three in total to post on Holy Saturday, Easter Day, and Easter Monday. I even made one with a dark brown background in memory of the sugar-paper - whenever it came to my turn for mounting my drawing at school, only the dark brown colour was left.
This week, some of my monsters developed two heads! - inspired by insects which often display a big scary face on their body or wings which isn't actually their face. At long last I worked out how to make Reels on Instagram with the image top left, above, and set it to "What's that coming over the hill" by The Automatic - great fun.
Still working in my sketchbook, I developed the floral theme a little further with my adoration of ikebana. I love the gravity-defying weirdness where truth is indeed stranger than fiction as they spring from preposterously tiny vases or shallow bowls apparently supported by nothing but moss.
I am also preparing some textured Fabriano Rosaspina, a heavy card-like printing paper, for stand-alone works. I'm getting texture by adding whiting to my primer and using lots of scumbling.
Yesterday I had some weekend fun making small yellow flowers from one of the paintings into a repeat pattern, which I am calling Pansy Riot. Can't wait to see it on some products.
Oh, the joy! Real paper, real paints, real everything again. Overnight this week it suddenly became spring, and there was warmth in the sun meaning I could get back into my work room. It's freezing in there and dark over the winter, but this week I opened it all up again and the absolute joy of natural work spilled out all over! So exciting - I have wanted to paint monsters for ages, so I started work immediately with a wild prolific madness. I am so genuinely happy!
Don't get me wrong, I thank the Lord (and B!) for my iPad Air which has enabled me to keep producing through the most difficult of times, not just cold weather but during my parents' decline in health, the subsequent house move, and selling our former house during the horribly difficult times of the Covid plague. Periods when I didn't have a room at all, just shuttling back and forth in a car or a removal van and providing for wonderfully supportive friends who pitched in to help. Recently I have derived immense satisfaction from finding a way to make perfect patterns with basic technology digitally 'by hand' that's not actually carving woodblocks, and I've come a long way without Adobe products or automated patternmakers.
Being a trained painter, though, nothing beats the mess and randomness of the studio and I am so, so happy to be back. The freedom!
I should also mention B and I had our first dose of Oxford AstraZeneca exactly one week ago today. It was an extremely well-organised event, really quite an exciting and pleasant experience with wonderful and competent NHS staff and heating in every booth. No side effects or symptoms to report, we should have some level of protection by next week.
Welcome to my illustration blog, where I share what I have been up to during the week.
I illustrate under the pen-name of Binky McKee, McKee being my mother's maiden name. Binky was the name of every single cat my great-grandmother kept - about 40 of them during her 94 years of life. Given that, I have no idea how Doggie with his dead-pan expression became my avatar instead of a cat - something to do with popularity on Instagram and lots of jokes with him!
Currently I am working on illustrating a children's book, pattern making, and of course I can't resist a good Instagram challenge such as Folktale Week or Inktober.
I hope you enjoy your visit!
I keep lots of scrapbooks and sketchbooks where I develop ideas and design little creatures. Here's a peek inside one ...
As you may know, I am also known as Heather Eliza Walker.
Click the image if you would like to find out more and visit my other website.
This time, take a peek into my ceramic design sketchbook. I actually made some of the mugs, but I kind of prefer the drawings! The plate designs are painted on paper plates, a most liberating process.
These watercolours are from my pattern sketchbook. I used coloured wax crayons to resist the washes of watercolour, also home-made rubber stamps dipped in bleach then printed on crêpe paper - the bleach takes out the paper dyes.
A sketchbook I used for mark-making with unusual objects - corks, seed-heads, feathers, home-made rubber stamps, my fingers and lots of flicky things ...