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Exploring Motifs and Pattern

I wanted to explore the idea around my motifs as I was getting closer to what I wanted to do for patterns. The experimentation I was most happy with was a solid black line drawing or ink drawing with patterns filling the shapes to give them some interest and depth.

I began with exploring the kind of shape I wanted to use, whether I wanted to use detailed and accurate shapes for the bugs, or more naive shapes in a more childlike style. My original target audience was aimed at young children, but as I started drawing I realised my designs have always been a little more aimed at an older audience, so I need to make a decision on whether I want to switch to an older audience or try and adapt my style to be more child-like.

The images above show my exploration of pattern, I tried to create a wide variety of patterns to try out in the grid, and then using some of my favourites I tried out some techniques with them. I had a go with mixing the patterns and combining them together in one piece, I also looked at the scale of the pattern, bringing it from small to large and how this could work in an insect motif, however as I explained in the sketchbook annotation, I do not like the effect of this overall.



Linoprinting is something that I never really took to much, I have recently thought about how it would be good for texture so this is something I wanted to try out.

The linoprints here I tried were white ink on black paper and black ink on the white paper, both of which I think have worked quite well. I liked that the images were not perfectly clean as it gave them a little texture to them, especially around the insects. The texture was also very interesting as it gave a good impression of what I cut out and also the texture around it. I also worked on top of the prints with gold and silver pens, I added lines to the back of the bugs and creating pattern around the insects.

Cyanotypes and Photograms

Cyanotypes are something I love doing due to my photography background, using the bold blue colour they turn out often in my colour schemes. Using a digital negative of the images I want, exposing them to light after painting on the cyanotype chemical results in a printed copy of the image, which works on both paper and certain fabrics.

The cyanotypes went quite successfully, although I wish I got some more detailed images of the insects that would have been more of a drastic print rather than just the outlines of them. I quite like the splashed one too, by only splashing the developer on some parts of the images the image is only partially developed and exposed. I also added stitch to a few of them to help with the texture and to the shape of the image, bringing out certain parts of it like the veins in the leaves and the stems of some of the thinner leaves.

The photograms were also quite interesting, the skeleton leaf in particular was very effective showing the veins and holes through it, I also like the smaller ones as it shows a great deal of detail throughout. The bugs are quite singular toned, however the shape is very clear and interesting.

I had a go at some double exposure, exposing two different images on the same piece of coated photographic paper, however these did not go too well this time, as the timings and intensity of the lighting are all factors that can affect the quality of the image at the end of the process.

Overall the photographic experiments were interesting, but this time I did not feel like they could contribute to my pattern creation this time. I will continue to work closely with photography, digital and more taditional processes, as I feel like it is part of my handwriting, whether its the process to get there or the final result itself.

More Sketchbooking

I carried on experimenting throughout my sketchbook, which I have annotated through but wanted to show on here briefly.

I wanted to show the texture that can be explored when thinking of an insects path through the dirt, or the texture on its back, both of which I think are interesting points to add texture to my own work. I think texture is something I needed to work on more last term, with my pattern background often looking a little too dull I think, so this is something I really want to make sure is covered during this module.

Library Research

We had a talk from Martha about using images as research and how to find these images from both the library and online, I found some useful websites that were especially good for creating my moodboards, in the way that google images and Pinterest were not. They were very well set up and photographed images that were brightly coloured and detailed. I also had a reminder about the journals, which I thought would be very good for the insect images I was after. There was an issue however because the journals are not searchable by keywords or content, so I had to just look through them. I found a few interesting titles thanks to the librarian who worked on the top floor, these includes wildlife and animals journals, as well as some scientific ones.

National Geographic turned out to be the most useful journal, and after looking through a large amount of the copies I finally found one that had a jewel scarab on the cover. I used this to look through then as some inspiration for shape and colour.

The high quality images in the journal were really useful and interesting, the colours were also very catching and I think these images were very well presented alongside information about the species.

Cardiff Museum Entomology Department

Cardiff museum was somewhere I spent numerous weekends as a child, I loved the natural history and I remembered a large display of insects all along a wall somewhere in the back of the museum. When I visited again last year during a module I was completing based on the museum, I went looking for this and was surprised that it was gone. For my current module, I found insects to be a great source of inspiration due to the adventures I had in Summer to lakes and nature reserves. I found it very difficult to photograph a creature such as a dragonfly in flight, so it got me thinking about the museum and what I remembered as a child from there.

I got in touch with Sarah Younan, who I first met in a career talk in uni, and went on to take part in a photography consultancy job at the museum. She directed me to Dr Mike Wilson, of the entomology department, who was an expert and carried out his job in the archives.

I arranged a date and came in to meet him and request to take some photographs of the species he could show me, I was particularly looking for ladybirds, beetles mostly jewel beetles, and dragonflies.

It was a very impressive room, with each unit housing thousands and thousands of different bugs, and Dr Wilson’s work taking place with the microscopes alongside. He showed us what he had lined up for the afternoon’s work, some kind of tiny fly or nat that needed checking and identifying and placing for display in a box, which seems like an impossible task when this species could quite easily be swept up assuming it was a speck of dust.

The beetles were a very interesting discovery, I had been looking online and in books for pictures of jewel beetles and similar to work from previously, but I never thought the colours would actually be that iridescent and metallic in reality, they were so shiny they looked polished and freshly painted, although some of them date back to the 1800s when they were collected and preserved. I love the texture on the shells of them, some are very linear and even, while others are more like a steel cap that has been hammered repeatedly, again something I thought was interesting as it has naturally occurred like this.

I liked the variety in shapes of the species too, the heads, antlers, body parts, shells were all very different from one to another and were good as a difference to draw and put into my patterns eventually for my giftwrap collection.

I was told beforehand that the dragonflies do not keep their colour very well in age, however I still wanted to see them for the shapes of the bodies and wings to draw from. I do not think the pictures give the best impression of scale for some of them, they were extremely large compared to what I would see in this country, and very leggy. It became amusing to try and find the creepiest species in there, I saw a couple of drawers that were labelled ARACH and I knew to steer clear of these, but did discover a beetle that was the size of my hand.

I brought a friend with me that day who was vaguely interested in looking at butterflies for her fashion collection, so we did also look at these, of course they were very vibrant and very pretty, again colours that I did not know could be that bright naturally.

The blue butterflies were of course, dazzling. They were easily comparable with the bright jewel beetles we had seen earlier in our visit. I was surprised to see rows and rows in the drawers of what looked like the exact same butterfly, it turns out the collections were done in the 1800s for a lot of time for research purposes, I would guess that any kind of endangerment to species back then was either not known or not monitored. I also queried why these drawers were not on display in the museum as I remember, and Dr Wilson said that they were created for the research purposes of being studied, not displayed, I guess as well in the drawers they are preserved much better away from light.

I think there is also an ethical issue with the vast number of these species that were killed purely to be displayed in the drawers, I did not realise before that the species are found and then killed for the collecting purpose, I guess it would not make sense to find dead ones that would probably already be decaying or damaged. It was a very informative trip anyway and I found this visit to the archives to be much better for my research that the museums in London were, giving me better photographs to work from.

I next plan on taking the photos and working from them to produce motifs to put into patterns for my giftwrap collection.

Initial Sketches

I like to begin my experimentation exploring form and shape with a series of quick sketches, I have not had much experience drawing bugs before, unlike flowers or greenery which I have studied in the past so I really wanted to explore the body shapes of them, and looking at the legs at what point it goes from cute to creepy with them.

I explored a range of techniques which working from the initial insect photographs. I used pens, pencils, both plain and coloured, as well as Indian ink to achieve the effects that I wanted, I particularly like the work with patterns on the first image which I think I could explore more, as well as the Indian ink ones which roughly show the shape of the insect with this bold messy effect which I think actually turned out very pretty and decorative.

I moved on a little to start exploring colour, using a range of paints and pencils, I used a few techniques too, such as using the paint to create a bright coloured background for the motif to sit on, as well as using the colour to give the bugs the shape and tone I wanted for them. I based the colours off of the jewel beetles, which are very bright and bold, unlike colours that we often see in nature. I also tried a technique using the blue with added white to it, as flat shades, which I think is really interesting and I did enjoy working in that style, although it was hard to maintain and not let the colours mix as they did. I also had a go at a pattern with the bugs, varying the shapes and colours of them and adding patterns to some of them as well. Overall I enjoyed this stage of experimenting, although I do not really see anything that jumps out at me for motifs, even with the bright colours.

Harrods Visit

While in London for the visit to the museums that I wanted to do, I realised how close Harrods was to where I was, so we decided to go for a walk.

Harrods is of course a very impressive building, such a huge environment full of different rooms and sections across many floors. The food hall was particularly interesting to look around, as my friend was looking for sweets to do for her theme this worked extremely well. We went upstairs to see the stationary and gift wrap, which I expected to be a lot larger than it was, it was around the size I could see in a normal high store store, much less of a range than in a supermarket for example. However, I did remember that Harrods offer their own gift wrapping services, which maybe a lot of people opt for, especially close to Christmas.

The sheets are immediately obvious to be of a higher quality, the foiling used is very bold and dramatic and adds a more expensive look to the sheets. The rolls of paper were not extremely expensive, at around six pounds, however that was only for around 2-3 metres, which compared to a high street store is double the price for half the paper. The cards as well are particularly sophisticated looking which I like, they are muted and decorative rather than bright and loud, I thought this was good to look at as I wanted to be able to portray a more classy look for my own card.

Overall the visit was worth it to have a look around, it was also such an iconic place that I had never been to so I am glad I got this in to the trip.

Moodboards and Thoughts

The creation of my theme moodboard was by far the most time-consuming and thoughtful, I wanted to capture my thoughts in photographs, showing the journey from thinking of a normal everyday beetle to imagining it as a cute pattern on a child’s birthday wrap.

I decided to call my collection ‘It’s a Bugs World’, as it was aimed at children and I wanted it to be a cute watercolour style that would appeal to the children as well as the parents buying it. As my research indicates, I chose ladybirds, dragonflies and jewel beetles, mostly for their colour and shapes and what I think I could do with them. I think watercolours will be something I want to look into first for a style so I included some artworks that I thought fitted the ideas in my head. I also included some photos of marshlands where it is common to find the insects that had lovely compositions and colours in them.

My colour and texture board shows the colour scheme I have chosen from several images of particularly jewel beetles and their environments around them. I chose to have quite muted colours in comparison to the bold colours also present in some of the jewel beetles as I wanted to make this collection appealing to the intended market as a difference to some of the brighter designs we often see for children. I chose some textures that I would like to experiment with in terms of creating my own bark pattern to use as a faded background for a pattern perhaps as well as the leaves and the dots which relate to the dots on a ladybird. The dragonfly wings are also very pretty and intricate and I would like to experiment with this, they remind me a lot of a leaf skeleton too which I have photographed before so this might be something to try out in the photographic darkroom for a clear spacial print of the pattern.

My occasion board represents the children’s birthday I would be aiming the patterns at, I think this could make an interesting topic for me as I have not tried out patterns for the younger generations before, tending to stick to an age range closer to my own in previous modules. While this is still something I am interested in, I would like the challenge of creating for someone else as I think it would allow me to be more free with my designs, especially when it comes to watercolour. I have enjoyed working digitally in my last unit, especially with the use of Procreate on my Ipad which has been a very useful tool, but I also want to carry on with the more traditional media I have used for most of my creative career and also welcome Procreate to try a more artistic approach, using the various watercolour brushes they have available on there.

My customer board portrays the dual-market I am currently aiming at, the young mother I picture needs to be attracted to the designs to purchase them, whether its to wrap presents for their own children or for children’s friends to go to another birthday as my target of 5-10 year olds generally do not go shopping and pick out their own wrapping paper. I also need the patterns to be attractive to a child of this age, I think avoiding the bright colours could mean that I have a unique product in the market that stands out amongst the Disney theme for example. I have not yet determined whether this collection will be aimed at mainly girls or boys, I would like to try and make it appealing to both with my varied colour board, however this may be a decision when the patterns start as I will have a better idea of what the final product will look like.

Lastly, the competitor board illustrates what I feel my collection will be competing with. I chose middle range shops as I feel the designs tend to be more cute and muted, whereas the cheaper shops tend to go quite bright and bold with their designs. My research at Harrods was interesting but I do not picture my target market shopping at such high prices for children’s wrapping paper, I would certainly be narrowing down my market if I was to choose the luxury end over this middle ground.

Paperchase is quickly becoming one of the most popular places to splash out on stationary and quirky gifts and wrapping, they also have sustainable policies in place which I think is an important thing in an industry that could be considered wasteful. John Lewis and Next have a variety of designs that I think would suit children’s birthdays well, again using complimentary colours, Waitrose designs are a little more bold, but I was interested to see that they had an insect design as I really cannot find much in other stores. The giftwraps included in this moodboard retail from around 3.50 a roll to 6.00, with an average length of around 3m, which is not a bad price, but considering cheaper stores can sell 10m at even a pound or two sometimes, this is definitely in the middle of cheap and luxury, where in Harrods, a couple of metres on a roll was nearly eight pounds.

Overall I am happy with the design on my moodboards and feel much more confident about the direction my work will be heading, the trip to London definitely helped in terms of research images but I am currently in contact with someone at the Cardiff Museum hopefully to allow me to see into some of the archives of bugs, as even in London they did not have a vast amount out for viewing, and the ones that they did have out where quite difficult to view and photograph properly, presenting itself as more of an artistic structure than informatively showing you the different species on show.

Visit to London

I was looking forward quite a lot to the visit to London as I really wanted to go to the Natural History Museum particularly to look at insects and animals. I was quite unwell on this day but I knew I wouldnt have another opportunity to get back to London and visit the museum again in the recent months.

The first things we looked at were the sea creatures room showing a lot of the larger mammals that I couldnt see in the aquarium, and also an interesting moon display which was actually a very calming room so it was nice to walk through there. I was looking partilarly for insects, but the only room we really found was more aimed towards children, I managed to get a few photos in there for inspiration on shapes and colour, but overall I knew I had to look elsewhere, thats when I remembered the Darwin centre.

There were some interesting displays in the Darwin centre, but again I expected more, but I expected that the research was being kept in the back as they were not really something for public display, they were collected for research purposes. I wish I had had the forethinking to contact the museum before the visit and try and arrange to get inside and see more, but on this day I contacted someone at Cardiff museum that I had worked with on a photography consultancy job and she directed me to a Dr Mike Wilson who I am currently talking to about coming and exploring the insects in Cardiff Museum archives.

The range of creatures in the Darwin centre was really interesting and I think that the shapes are inspiring as to what patterns I could make out of them. I did not see so much in terms of colour which I was hoping for after seeing some of the amazing jewel beetle species online.

Another wing of the Darwin centre is home to preserved species that are kept in jars, I think these are really interesting as they preserve the texture and colour of the species, and I love that through a glass window you can see that there are hundreds of these jars in storage with a range of species.

As we were about to leave thinking we had found all that we could find, we came across a large glass display full of insects that I found very pretty. There was a great range of shapes and colours which I think are much more of what I was looking for, I could imagine these being very pretty patterns.

Even the giftshop here was interesting and provided some interesting cards as well as some books I found on insects with some vibrant illustrations of jewel beetles. This was the kind of colour intensity I was looking for and I think this is something to really think about for the upcoming module I think.

I really love the range of costumes on display at the V&A as well as the fashion exhibitions, I thought this was a really nice end to the day to look around the costumes which in themselves have really interesting texture and techniques in them that could be useful for my own development.