Lilla Roger's MATS Part A Assignments

Haven't had a chance to post some of my work from the course I took in the late fall taught by the acclaimed illustration agent and artist Lilla Rogers. It was a very rewarding and intensive course. For each assignment, we had a week to produce the final piece which I found was helpful because having that intensive schedule encouraged me to not get overly wrapped up in my work, and even if I felt something wasn't working, I just had to move ahead. By doing that, I was able to surprise myself by overcoming creative hurdles quickly and creating work that turned out better than I thought it could given the tight deadlines. It was also wonderful to connect with so many talented and encouraging artists!

Week 1: Casserole and Root Vegetable Fabric Pattern

I wound up liking my sketches more than the final work which was frequently the case (and is often the case for me in general). The freshness and uninhibited approach to sketches is helpful in making the work more appealing, and I'm still trying to figure out how to translate that to my final work.

A collection of sketches

The first sketch for the actual fabric pattern below. I tried to design fabric that I would actually buy. I don't tend to like overly complex fabric design with a few exceptions, so I kept the design fairly simple. I learned in the class that fabric buyers want fabric that is complex, packed with a lot of surprising details and the fabric should have lots of different and unique icons in the design. Given the slow pace of my working style and being new to surface design, I think it would have taken me a couple of more weeks to develop a more commercially viable fabric, so for this assignment, I just relied on my taste rather than what is commercially viable just to familiarize myself with the process. Going forward, however, I would try to add a lot more rich detail to make a pattern more commercial.

Below was my final pattern. Since I was just learning about new features in more recent versions of PhotoShop to deal with edge halos, and I had not yet updated my software, I wound up hand painting the whole pattern which gives it more of a look of wall art rather than a pattern. While I don't think this works well as a pattern, I do like it as wall art--sort of a naive folk art look that I find appealing, and I try to convey in my work. This was a great intro week for the class, because between some of my technical issues and the learning curve, I could have just avoided the assignment. Instead, I did some imperfect work-arounds and got the assignment done!

Week 2: Suzani Patterned Plates

Below are sketches, then the final piece. I wound up using Turkish style clothing to incorporate with the suzani patterns as a way of extending the suzani theme. In the first set of sketches, the top two are sketches I did for the assignment and the batik dragon ink drawing beneath them is something I did almost 20 years ago while flying back from SE Asia (after seeing many gorgeous traditional batik and ikat patterns), and I thought they all had a similar feel, so I wanted to present the sketches together.

I tend to prefer simplicity, so I like my final kaftan and slippers by themselves instead of being part of a plate pattern!

Week 3: Children's Books

My final piece for children's books. We had to create either a cover or an internal spread for the classic story The Tortoise and the Hare. This was the most intensive week because between the layout, the character development, etc., we had a tight deadline. I spent a lot of time exploring the tortoise character. Wasn't sure if the tortoise would walk on all four legs, or be anthropomorphized, plus other visual considerations. Lilla encouraged us to thoroughly consider the character development which is crucial in children's books. Even though the tortoise is a male in the story, I explored making him female, and I found trying to make a tortoise look appealing to be challenging. He wound up being male but with non gender specific "clothing." Although in actuality tortoises are adorable, when drawing them I find they can wind up looking kind of odd. I knew the look I was going for was an old fashioned/classic/folk look, and I knew the rabbit would be easy to convey in this manner, but the tortoise was not. I decided to use some of my Suzani patterns on the tortoise's shell and boots. Having gotten a handle on the edge halo issue, I wound up creating separate icons for each element of the cover and assembling in PhotoShop, but in the future, I'd like to be comfortable creating a cover the old fashioned way and just painting the whole thing as one piece (aside from the lettering). For the cover, we were asked to hand letter the title, so I chose to base my lettering off of a medieval type face. I knew that by hand lettering it, it would soften the look of the type face but it would still feel like an old type face, so I thought it would work well with the look I was attempting. Lastly, I would change the hare's outfit to something from at least 100 years ago. He's wearing a modern frat-boy/brogrammer outfit. Under the tight deadline, I thought the contrast of their clothes would be funny and convey the differences between the characters (the hare being all flash and fluff and the tortoise being slow and old fashioned but still winning), but I think it would have a richer look if the hare was in more historical attire.

Week 4: Wall Art

Sketches and the final piece. This piece was supposed to be a collage either assembled by hand or created digitally. We could use various emphemera (keeping copyright issues in mind), or hand draw/paint certain parts as long as the final piece was collaged together. After the intensive third week, I knew this week would be easier, I was getting into a good working rhythm for the class, and I anticipated this work would be easiest for me due to my work in graphic design and just having a more natural and relaxed approach to collage. This was the piece I spent the least time on, and it turned out to be my strongest work.

The final piece below. We had to incorporate at least one word into the piece, but it could be very subtle. I actually prefer the sketch above, but I was still pleased with the final piece.  I used parts of my suzani sketches, some digital drawing, scanned in bits of old paintings I've done, some small clippings of graphics from a vintage Italian language book and from a vintage banjo music book, and finally, some royalty-free Japanese patterns.

Week 5: Gift

The final assignment was for a hyper-lush zip pouch. After the collage week, I found this to be a fairly easy week at first. It felt like a continuation of the collage week. By itself, I was pleased with the zip pouch, but once I brought it into the final presentation, the colors started to look too harsh and bright, and I spent too much time trying to tone down the colors. I prefer the piece by itself and not part of the presentation. I was pleased with the layout and wanted to go for a slightly asymmetrical ink blot look (Lilla encouraged us to explore an ink blot approach). I liked the looseness of my icons. In the future though, I would spend more time planning out the color scheme. I did color test swatches before-hand, but things look very different once the illustration is jam packed with icons, so in hindsight creating about 1/4 of the illustration with all of the colors I plan on using and testing different color combinations that way would have been helpful.

I enjoyed this course, and it was a tremendous learning experience!