When you’re stuck…

I seem to struggle a lot with being stuck.  Still.  I kept thinking that would go away, but for some reason I start a new collection and wind up in the same place – somewhat happy with what I’ve created but unable to recapture that feeling that a few of my collections produced.  That euphoria that the new collection is without a doubt the best I have created so far.  When I look at a collection and think “Meh, it’s okay…” I tend to get stuck in that feeling and then agonize over how to make it better.  Worse is when the collection drives me from my studio because I’m so frustrated that I can’t spend another minute on (yet another) unsuccessful collection.

I struggle to make it better.  To figure out the secret to making the new collection as good as some of my other ones.  I try again and again to “make it sing”…

The truth is, maybe it doesn’t have to be better.  Maybe the purpose of that “just okay” collection is to teach me something about the process.  Possibly it’s supposed to teach me to finish something even when it’s not making my soul sing.   Definitely that collection is nothing more than another step on this journey.  The challenge is to forge ahead even though it’s not one-hundred-percent-exactly-what-I-wanted.

So  that’s what I’m focusing on now.  Forging ahead to complete those collections that only seem “okay” to me.  Not necessarily trying to make it better at this stage – because I think part of the success of prolific designers is their ability to stick through something to completion rather than reworking things ad nauseam.  To find little nuggets of success in an overall “meh” pattern.  That is the shift that enables us to carry on as artists producing new work rather than staying stuck while waiting for that next flash of greatness.

So let me show you my new collection and talk about what I like and what it still troublesome.  I have no intention of going back to this collection again to “fix” it.  It is what it is – and the techniques I used may be used again in other collections or they may just remain something that was an experiment.  Copy of Untitled (1)


The first pattern I did was the last one in this block – a shibori dyed print in shades of teal and charcoal gray.  I really liked the way it came out so loose and organic.  The next pattern was the leaves – the top pattern- and here’s a better view:

EcoPrint Maple Leaves

I like the layers and color shifts – that’s something I love doing – starting with a really organic background (the blended teal/black/gray) and layering on other elements, in this case maple leaves.  Each leaf is a little different depending on where they fell on the background, blending and fracturing the colors so it’s really abstract.

I liked the leaves so much that I moved onto the light gray image with the orchid and teal leaf shapes that are blended with stripes and a circle motif I created a few years ago.  Using the digital watercolors in Corel Painter, I kept that lose organic feel to the leaves – as if they were pressed onto the fabric.  Pretty cool.  The two other patterns (dark green and orchid) were created by changing the layers to make the pattern seem more abstract.
What troubles me is the shibori I loved so much doesn’t hang with the other patterns on the collection card.  It ends up looking too light against the darker leaf pattern.  The abstract green and orchid patterns are too abstract – the leaf shape is lost a bit.  There’s too much open space in the lighter pattern – it doesn’t flow as well as I’d like it to.  With that being said, I learned something from this collection.  It’s the voice in my own head that makes a collection successful or not.  If I stand back and look at this collection as if I weren’t the the one who created it, it’s not bad.  If I saw it in someone else’s portfolio I’d think it was cohesive and interesting.  It’s my own critique of my work that makes me frustrated.

The most important part is that I pushed through and completed it.  I didn’t let that frustration derail me.  I didn’t go back and rework it until I was sick of it.  I completed one pattern, moved on to another and just kept going until I had five patterns in that collection.  The funny thing is, when I look at it with my other work it hangs well with the other collections.  While it doesn’t give me that rush of euphoria some of my other ones have, I could see this collection working well as packaging.  I even did a mock-up:

Eco Print Packaging

So when you’re stuck – and nothing is “singing” – forge on despite that.  Don’t let the frustration and inner critic derail you.  Just get it done and see what happens.  If nothing else, it’s five more patterns that you have brought into the world that didn’t exist before.

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