Creative process

Experiments with… repeating patterns

Creating repeating patterns using my watercolour illustrations has been one of my back-burner project ideas for a while now. Over the last few weeks I’ve had more time at home and fewer distractions, so I finally got down to it.

Due to the current lockdown in the UK we’ve had to cancel our plans for trips to Scotland, Wales and local climbing crags. I channeled my love for the mountains and longing for the outside world in the hand-painted elements for my patterns.

Last autumn we spent 10 glorious days in our campervan soaking up the stunning scenery of the Lake District. Those views were firmly in my mind when I painted these miniature mountains, fell tops, hills, muddy boot prints and forests.

Photograph of my messy desk in my home studio, showing the original paintings for these patterns

Once my painted elements were finished, I scanned them into Photoshop and chopped them up into individual elements to create my patterns. I started with a 3×3 grid of 9 squares and worked from the middle out to create my patterns, testing them out as I went along.

Here are some rather satisfying gifs showing the repeat patterns in action

I really enjoyed the process of making the patterns – it was the perfect combination of creativity and maths for my brain. Once I got the hang of it, it was also a really efficient way of working. From one page of painted elements I’ve created three patterns that can be adapted for use on a number of products, from notebooks to art prints.

These three patterns have formed the basis of my latest greetings card designs, which are available to buy online from my Etsy shop.

Product photograph of my trio of nature-inspired greetings cards, with 'Adventure awaits' on the front of each card.

Fancy having a go?

Fancy creating your own repeat pattern? Here are my five top tips if you’re planning on having a go:

  1. Create a range of elements for your pattern to give you different sizes of object to work with – generic elements like paint splashes or dots are really useful for filling odd little bits of space
  2. When putting your pattern together, start with a 3×3 grid of nine squares and create your pattern in the centre square
  3. Design from the middle out and place some elements overlapping the edge of the square to help your pattern flow
  4. Keep testing out what the repeat looks like as you go along by copying and pasting it into the surrounding squares on your grid
  5. Stick with it – it’s tricky at first but once you’re in the zone it’s so satisfying!

This series of ‘Experiments with…’ blogs is based around one of my goals for 2020 – to experiment more and develop my creative practice. This means trying out new techniques, using new materials and making new products. The hope is that I’ll develop as an artist, learn new skills and have a lot of fun in the process. My aim is to try one new thing each month and blog about the process as well as the results.

You can keep up with my experiments in the creative process section of my blog. If you’ve got any suggestions for experiments that you think I should try, please get in touch.