White Space is Important

Give a child a blank piece of paper and some crayons, and they are likely to colour-in the entire page. Unfortunately this instinct remains with many people as they enter adulthood, however in the design world it is a big no-no. In order for design to function it is equally important to look at what is not there as it is what is there. This is what the art and design world calls white space (or negative space). Without it most designs would be rendered useless.

It may seem silly to spend so much energy ensuring the balance of white space is correct, however if designers did not take this into consideration magazines would become illegible, posters confusing and indecipherable, leaflets a complete waste of time etc. Occasionally the concept of white space is abused with the purpose of portraying a particular message, however when legible typography is concerned, white space is a must.

Typography, from a graphic design perspective, became highly regarded after the emergence of the 1950s art movement, Swiss Style. Noted for its functional characteristics, it soon developed into the international typographical style.

Swiss typographer Emil Ruder (1914-70) taught his students the importance of using a grid, often asymmetrical, when placing typography into a design. Careful positioning of typefaces and other elements – including white space – is essential to the overall clarity of the final outcome.

“The typographer is familiar with white as a value in design…”
-Emil Ruder

For those struggling to grasp the concept of white space, the following citation from an ancient Chinese philosopher explains the importance. Although written centuries before it was relevant, this quote just about sums it up:

“From clay, pots are made, but it is the emptiness inside them that makes the essence of the pot. Walls with windows and doors form the house, but it is the emptiness between them that makes the essence of the house. The principle: the material contains usefulness, the immaterial imparts essence.”
-Lao-Tse

Keep this in mind when you are working on designs and you are not likely to go wrong. A designer’s job is often to get a message across through a balance of art work and typography. Do not let an aversion to white space ruin your work.

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The Life of a Sketchbook

Sketchbook ˈskɛtʃbʊk/ noun a pad of drawing paper for sketching on.
I lost count the amount of times throughout school and college people asked if they could look through my sketchbook. I felt uncomfortable letting people flick through the pages for two reasons. 1. I did not believe I was any good at drawing. 2. I knew the contents of my sketchbooks were not what they were expecting to see. There seems to be a misunderstanding among non-artists that sketchbooks are full of perfect works of art, but this is not the case at all.
The purpose of a sketchbook, particularly when studying, is to document creative ideas. It is a private place for artists to record their thoughts and experiments before developing various versions of a particular concept. It is only after these stages have been completed that the final artwork is put together.
There is no right or wrong way to keep a sketchbook. Everyone works differently and find some methods more helpful than others. Some books may not contain any drawings at all but be filled with collage and inspiration from a number of resources, whereas others may be packed with rough illustrations and scribbled notes.
Steven Heller, an author of art and design books, has compiled together snapshots from professional artists’ and designers’ sketchbooks. It is interesting to see the methods they have taken to move their thoughts from brain to paper. Two books I particularly enjoyed looking through are Graphic and Typography Sketchbooks.
Inspired by these books I have taken photographs of a few of my own sketchbooks that I kept whilst studying for a degree in Graphic Design. As you can see below I did not stick to one method, instead I experimented with drawings, collage, paint, colour, rough thumbnail sketches etc.

Next time you ask to look at someone’s sketchbook remember you are not going to see perfect artwork. What you are really requesting is to take a peak into someone’s brain. So don’t be surprised if they hesitate to show you!

Kingsley Choral Group 50th Anniversary

My big design project of 2016

The Kingsley Choral Group turned 50 this year, and I was honoured to take part in the preparation of their Anniversary concert. Usually a member of the choir designs the adverts, tickets and programmes in Microsoft Publisher for their biannual concerts at Trinity URC, however this year they wanted something special: a professionally designed souvenir programme.

Having heard through my Mum (a choir member) that the KCG committee were considering commissioning a professional designer but were worried about the costs, I offered to volunteer my graphic design skills. So began a huge project to produce the perfect souvenir programme.

Initially I was provided with an image/illustration idea from the founder of the KCG for the front page – a pair of conductors hands – which I faithfully attempted to use, however the designs were just not working for me. Through experimentation I came up with an alternative idea, one that I was quite proud of, and, thankfully, so were the committee. (The design was apparently applauded at their following meeting.)

With the hardest bit completed the next couple of months were filled with almost weekly meetings with the KCG secretary to discuss the content, layout and printing requirements. Most of the time it was a case of reworking the pages as information was updated and to assure the layout was exactly as the KCG committee and founder wanted it (after all, the client is always right!)

With two weeks before the concert, the final printed programmes arrived. Here is how it looked:
Final Programme

The concert itself was a great success, and perhaps the best performance the KCG has given – at least in recent years. With previous members returning to join in on the special evening, the music and singing was tremendous. Beginning with the more formal pieces such as Fauré’s Requiem before moving on to the more upbeat medley of various favourites of the KCG, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Being such a prestigious occasion, the choir took the opportunity to thank and present gifts to the founder, Tom Johnson, for all his hard work over the past 50 years. There were also special mentions and thank yous to many other people (myself included!) who helped to make the evening such a success.

Although I have had many people congratulating me on my programme design, I would like to thank the Kinglsey Choral Group for providing me with this work experience, which has helped to boost my confidence. I am someone who struggles with holding conversations, meeting new people and worrying about not being good enough: so THANK YOU KCG for giving me the opportunity to prove to myself that I CAN do these things!

P.S. Vera, sorry for temporarily taking your role of programme designer away from you. The position is once again all yours!

Art Group. June 2016.

Due to going on holiday, I have only attended two art sessions this month (I am aware there is one more to go), so naturally I have less artwork to show. I managed to complete two drawings per week – one colour and one black and white – and experiment with different styles.

Week One: Many people were impressed with my drawing of Disney’s Pluto; although I was not impressed with their lack of Disney knowledge – they thought it was Goofy! One lady quizzed me on the type of pencils I was using: “Are they different from normal pencils?” Apparently my ability to blend colours together is rare.

I also used art group as an opportunity to continue to draw places I saw in Austria. I happened to have a photograph on my mobile phone of the church in Igls, so based my sketch upon this.

Week Two: Again I impressed people with my colouring skills as I drew a dragonfly. I was inspired by an image on Pinterest where the artist had used splashes of paint to produce a multicoloured finish. Lacking the right materials, I had to make do with pencils. As I had a lot of time left before the end of the session, I found a photo of part of a violin and attempted to draw it. I used a range of sketching pencils to try and get the shading correct, however I think my perspective was off.

In other news, I have been personally asked to submit artwork to be displayed on 5th July at the Richmond Fellowship centre (the location of the art group). I have sent in a copy of the dragonfly above, and a scan of my drawing of Donald Duck. If I have some spare time I may produce more work specifically for this event.

THINK. Then Draw. Create.

Following instructions is something everyone needs to be able to do in numerous areas of life: school, work, relationships, cooking etc. Despite people assuming artists can do what they like – which in some cases they can to an extent – following instructions is an extremely important part of an Art & Design career.

Sometimes instructions can be straightforward and easy to complete, e.g. “Draw a tree.” However, there are times when the way to tackle a direction or design brief is less clear: “Produce something that represents happiness.” In these cases the artist needs to take time to mind map ideas before settling on a final outcome. This is something that school and college tutors are constantly stressing the importance of to their students.

When I was working on my BA in Graphic Design I initially found it difficult to map out my ideas before starting to put together the final design. I remember one of the first assignments was to create four typographic posters to represent a chosen London location. We were instructed to draw at least thirty “thumbnail sketches” before we even touched a computer or began experimenting with materials. I overheard a few of the students around me complaining that it was a waste of time, or too difficult to think up such a large amount of ideas. I agreed with them. However as time went on I began to understand the reason we should begin all projects like this. The obvious answer to instructions is not always the right one.

I confess that since finishing college I have not always sat down and mapped out a multiple of ideas before starting a brief. Often this is because of a time limit, but sometimes it is impatience – a need to get things over with and finished as quickly as possible. Occasionally brilliant ideas pop into our heads whilst sitting on a bus or lying in bed, however most of the time, unless we stop and really think about the task in hand, we are only going to produce average art work.

This is something I have noticed happens when I am completing (for fun) pages from the book Think. Draw. Create. I have written about this before but to recap it is a book with a prompt on each page that requires the artist to think carefully before they start drawing. I set myself the challenge to complete a page every weekend, and this pressure has slightly prevented me from properly planning what I am going to draw. Some of my outcomes (ones I am too embarrassed to show you) are very mundane and poorly executed. I am disappointed with myself for my lack of effort on these occasions. This is why it is so important to THINK before you start anything.

From now on I promise to really try to plan before I start on any design work. I urge you to do the same regardless of the size or importance of the project. You may think it a waste of time, but would you rather take a little longer and produce something amazing, or rush and end up with something merely passable?

Recycling “Boring” Greeting Cards

For years my Mum and I have been making our own greeting cards by cutting up and reusing shop bought cards. I also know a lot of other people who do this too. After Christmas and birthdays we sit down and cut out the parts that might come in useful: the “happy birthdays”and “merry Christmases,” stars, hearts and other shapes. But quite often we get “boring” cards – a painting or photograph that cannot be cut up into reusable parts. HOWEVER, if you have a creative mind, nothing is completely useless.

Here is one idea that will turn a generic image into an effective hand made greeting card. All you need is: 1 “boring” card, 1 blank card, a simple template (Google has many), a craft knife or scalpel, Blu-Tak, a glue stick, and a cutting board.

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In this instance I am using a greeting card version of Lowry’s The Old House, Grove Street, Salford 1948.

 

 

Step one: Cut the back of your “boring” card off, you will not need that part. Blu-Tak your chosen template onto the front of the card. This will prevent it from slipping when you begin to cut it out.

13059643_10207611221070037_138096388_nStep two: Using the knife, carefully begin to cut out the inner sections of the template, pressing really hard to make sure you go through both the paper and the card. Take your time, rushing leads to mistakes. If you have not used a craft knife before it would be a good idea to practice cutting out shapes, or following lines before starting on the real thing.

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Step three: Only once all the inner sections have been cut out should you begin to cut the outer shape. Depending of the complexity of your template you could either do this with scissors or the craft knife.

 

Step four: Once everything has been cut out, glue your cut out card onto the plain card and, voilà, your unique greeting card.

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Once you are confident with using a craft knife, the possibilities are endless! Have fun creating cards for all occasions and impress your family and friends.

(Sorry the examples are not that great. I’m out of practice!)

 

 

 

Coloured in… Now what?

So many colouring sheets… Too many to keep…

Everyone seems to be enjoying colouring these days. The amount of different books you can buy is phenomenal, and it is so easy to purchase individual sheets online. But the question is, what do you do once you are finished (other than the obvious: beginning another page)? It seems such a shame to eventually throw these works of art away.

Here is a solution: turn them into something new.

A couple of months ago I was told about a group of women at a care home who had found a love for colouring. They decided to use their new passion as a way of raising money for charity. After finishing each sheet they turn them into placemats!

Making placemats is quick and easy to do. All you need is a colouring sheet, coloured pens/pencils, a laminator and laminator pouches. Once you have completed your amazing artwork, you simply put it through the laminator and you have a waterproof place mat to brighten up the table. These are perfect handmade gifts to give to friends and family, or as the women mentioned above have done, a means of raising a small amount of money for a charity of your choice.

Have fun!

Looking for free colouring sheets? Here is one of many websites to take a look at.

Greeting Cards

Art with purpose

Greeting cards bought on the high street are ridiculously expensive nowadays and often do not express exactly what you are trying to say. It always seems to be the way that the nicely designed cards contain messages that do not relate to the recipient at all, whereas the cards that do, look really naff.

The solution? Make your own! That is what I have done a few times this year already. I have been making cards for over a year now, however I got stuck producing the same style and got rather bored with it. Although these cards were popular amongst church members where they were being sold, I could not face designing any more. So, I adopted a new style.

Since I have been practising and developing my illustration skills over the past few months, it seemed logical to continue to do this through card making. Rather than mass producing them as I did previously, I have only made the for specific occasions. This gives me the chance to take more care and put more effort into each design.

Making your own cards gives you more control over the contents of the design. For example my Dad loves football so I drew a football. I did not need to worry about finding a card where the players were wearing the correct colour shirt, or one that would not imply that my Dad was a football player. Likewise, my friend loves cats, so I drew one – no silly comments, inappropriate wording, annoying glitter that goes everywhere…

A friend of mine requested a card for a mother of a new born baby boy. I was left to my own devices as to the actual design (although she admitted she was hoping I would do an illustration). At the time I had been drawing a lot of hands as practise, therefore I used hands as part of the design. The colours (blues) represent the sex of the baby.

Although I said I was only going to make cards for specific occasions, I have, in the past week, made a couple of cards using paper craft inspired by images seen on Pinterest. In our house there is a complete mess of gathered materials, papers, stickers etc that have been accumulated over the years and it is about time they got used. Hopefully over the next few weeks or months I will be able to create many more handcrafted cards, without the pressure of needing to mass produce. These can either be used as and when needed or donated to charity.

Overall, unless you find the perfect card in a shop (and are willing to pay for it), hand made cards are much more personal and show that you have thought about the recipient, rather than it being a last minute purchase.

Continuing to Think. Draw. Create.

Every weekend I have completed a task in my Think. Draw. Create. book that I blogged about back in January. Above are a few examples of the art I have produced since then. I have found a few of the tasks challenging and have been unhappy with the outcomes, which is why I have only included five images.

My favourite is the Shadow Puppet. People have commented saying that the hands and shadows look like they belong on the included background papers. For this I used my usual black fine liner to draw the hand, but decided to use black pencil to shade in the shadow as I thought using ink would make it too dark.

I enjoyed drawing the cartoon sheep (see top two images). The task was to add bodies to the arms on the pages, and for a while I did not know what to do. When it comes to drawing people I need an image (preferably an illustration) to copy. It would be impossible to find what I need to fit with those arm positions. Instead I decided to create something cartoon-y. Sheep, especially in caricature form, are fairly easy to draw. For each set of arms I drew a similar sheep, but experimented with the facial expressions. I think some of them look quite good – slightly amusing.

One of the problems with forcing myself to complete a page a week is if I am not in a creative mood the outcome is not that great or imaginative. It does not help that some of the tasks are rather peculiar. Take “draw this grasshopper’s chirp” for example. Being someone who occasionally struggles to think outside the box (my box is very comfortable, thank you very much!) this assignment was particularly difficult. I resorted to writing the word “chirp” over and over again. I wish I was able to think of something more exciting.

I am going to continue doodling in this book regardless of how creative I’m feeling, as it should help develop my drawing skills in the long run.

Art Group. February 2016

This month I tried a few different drawing subjects at Art Group: people, animals and still life. As I am only using these sessions to practice my drawing skills, I am still copying from other images I have found online. Having said that, these are not exact replicas – my own developing style comes into play and I omit or add certain details.

The animals – an elephant and a bear – were only quick sketches and I am not sure that I have got the proportions correct. Someone at the art group offered to photocopy the elephant so that I could experiment with colouring it in. I rejected this at the time, but this is an idea I could take up in the future. Maybe with a drawing I am happier with.

The drawing I am most pleased with is the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter franchise. I copied this from an image I found on Pinterest. Whilst I was drawing I could tell that my version was not accurate in comparison to the original. The eyes and mouth are a lot higher on the picture I was copying from. I thought I had ruined the whole drawing, but once I looked at it separately from the printout, I saw that it still looked like hat from the films. I got a lot of comments from some of the other group attendees, including one I was probably not meant to hear: “she’s so good isn’t she?”

After looking at examples of my art work, someone told me my drawings deserve to be in a museum. She then proceeded to show me examples of Rembrandt’s paintings saying that I should attempt something like that. A bit too ambitious, maybe!