Back to Book Covers

I’d forgotten until earlier this week that it was only about five years ago that I started down the path of pattern design. And that wasn’t even what I set out to do, because I didn’t even know it was possible. It started with a book cover I paid a few hundred dollars for - my first novel that had been knocking around a desk drawer for the previous decade. The cover was fine, the problem was that the stock image was so unaltered it ended up on Amazon right next to a book using the same photo on the cover. Leaving me with a rather squishy, sinking feeling.

My first self-made book cover

My first self-made book cover

I resolved to learn to do my own covers until I was famous enough to pay a real artist (still not there yet!) because at least then they’d be original if not great. I already had a copy of Adobe Illustrator, only because it came in the bundle with the things I wanted at the time. I sat down to learn it. It took awhile, I still don’t know it all but most of what I do I don’t have to think about anymore. Somewhere in there I found my style, a new career path and a joyous outlet for creativity.

My first design on Spoonflower

My first design on Spoonflower

This week I sat down to learn more book cover skills (they’re more than a title and picture when done right…) and realized just how far five years had taken me. Never would have guessed it if you’d asked me back in 2014!

Christmas is right around the corner!

Seriously, the time has come for holiday prints and patterns if they’re to be available when people start shopping for holiday crafts and decorating, pretty much any day now. I am so not in the holiday mood, right now! I’m still crossing fingers for the green tomatoes on the deck, not thinking about wreaths… Challenges are good though so here’s the first of probably many this month:


It’s based on a real, native plant but I’m not sure if it says holiday to people that aren’t familiar with it… But then maybe it doesn’t have to!

I’ve also been looking ahead to the colors of 2020 which usually start being discussed around this time of year when the large fashion shows happen. I’m not sure what to make of what I’ve seen so far, there are some pretty shades but nothing shocking or out of the ordinary. I’m going t guess that whatever Pantone picks for 2020 isn’t going to be as outrageous as coral was…

Color & Clutter

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest lately and I’ve noticed an odd thing when looking at home decor. There is a plethora of minimalist, neutral (i.e. white and beige) rooms around the world. That’s not the odd part. What’s weird is that now that trend is losing its edge and rich colors are heading back, so is clutter. Why is there a duality of beige & uncluttered, purple & cluttered? Why can’t a room be teal with a magenta sofa AND have bare table tops?

Maybe it’s like seeing a full buffet after three years of eating nothing but egg whites… eventually things will settle down to colorfully tidy. I hope so.

If you had unlimited resources to decorate your home, but with the condition that nobody who doesn’t already live there would see it, even on social media, what would it look like? (Tell me in the comments, I’m really curious!)

Coming to terms with my love of digital bling

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If artistic taste has even a shred of DNA contribution than I know just who to blame for my love of a little extra embellishment. It’s not generally considered an upper-class attribute… I came to terms with this in my personal life a long time ago but found myself wrestling with it again in the studio this past week. Not from a point of acceptance but more one of communication.

The Alchemy of Digital Gold

You see digital gold foil effects are created by mimicking metallics with pixels. All is well and good if the pixels never leave the screen. When you print them, they don’t look bad; they’re just not actually metallic. Nothing is reflective nor does it catch the light. The real problem is that even a photograph of the “real” false gold ends up looking real because it’s back to being pixels again. So I initially decided not to use it on the new products I’m working on. So that nobody would be disappointed and I wouldn’t have to try to explain what to expect. I did okay for a bit. But then it was like trying to hide my true self. It didn’t feel authentic.

Embracing the Gold

So I gave in. And I LOVE these designs. I crafted a rubber stamp disclaimer (which nobody will probably read). Now I feel all happy when I hit that final click and the black placeholders turn to gold (or silver). The design comes to life. My ancestors are pleased. At least the ones that gave me the glitter gene. The sober ones from Vermont can’t get a word in…

The Color of Fear

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“I’m afraid of color.” she said wistfully, seated on her oatmeal sofa in front of a tasteful, beige wall. Let’s call her Ellen. I’ve met a lot of Ellens. I don’t seek them out but they seem to gravitate to me. I would venture to guess that Ellen isn’t afraid of color at all. She’s afraid of not getting it right, of wasting money, or worse having to live with some garish mistake while not having a clue of what to try next. When she’s feeling brave Ellen might buy a teal cushion for that oatmeal couch but it stands out so much she stuffs it in a closet, proving to herself that neutrals are more calming (since they don’t bring on an anxiety attack!)

Life is too short to live in fear

There is no magic potion or boxed set of ‘rules’ to make boldness of any kind completely safe and risk free. Really that’s part of the fun. And that brings me to the phrase or style, “Bohemian”. Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find geographic references (Bohemia is now part of the Czech Republic) and vaguely disapproving notes about artists and writers living a bohemian lifestyle in defiance of cultural norms. It’s left up to your imagination as to which rules they’re breaking, but painting walls bright colors was probably one of them.

Ellen’s pretty sure I’m a Bohemian but she’s polite so she calls me a free spirit instead. It’s a bit like when a surfer dude complimented the window-high mud splatters on my car (which happened exactly one time). I felt all cool and daring. But really when it comes to color I just go with what I like - its that simple.

Your turn! What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done with color? Put it in the comments below 😊

The charms of imperfection

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I’ve noticed something interesting as I’ve been posting and uploading patterns online. Patterns that are mathematically perfect get little to no attention. As in computer-generated tessellations, even if the original element was hand-painted, there’s just something about the precise repetition that people don’t respond to. As an example:


It’s not that nobody likes it - just that the reaction is mostly meh. Just a few eyeballed tweaks and the likes jump significantly:


Obviously there’s some differences between the two but both were completely computer generated and both are basically abstract. It’s just that the colorful one was all placed by hand, it’s balanced but not perfect, there are differences in the amount of overlap - areas that could be improved. What it does is give the eyes and the brain something to think about. While the paperclips, where the grid was also determined by the computer, once you’re done saying ‘Oh, paperclips!’ has nothing more to offer - except maybe to be some really cool desk drawer liners.

Trends may have a little something to do with it but overall I suspect the psychology of how we see is the real driving force. If I were to redo the paperclips I would add a second step of hand manipulation to move one or two out of perfect alignment. It’s definitely something I’m paying more attention to as new designs are developed.

Thoughts? What do you like about your favorite patterns?

Compliments for Complementary Colors?

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors

It’s all about the color wheel

If you don’t remember from grade school science, complementary colors are color pairs directly opposite each other on the color wheel (red/green, violet/yellow and so on). Put together, each appears more vivid than it does on its own. For some people that’s all they need to know! Bring on the bright blue and orange - everywhere! For the rest of us though, a little zing in a sea of calm may be a bit harder to achieve. Here are a few other ways to use complementary colors.

1. Change the saturation

Not everything has to be dialed into pure, paintbox tones. Pastels (or darker shades) can still play off each other. Here is yellow and violet - but with a lot of white for a more Easter/Spring effect:

pastel complementary colors

2. Get color mixing for more sophisticated combinations

The color wheel, like the spectrum, is really infinite, limited only to the colors humans can see (about 7 million). Despite that you’ve probably not seen too many color wheels that go beyond the tertiary level (what I have at the top) due to space and layout. School lessons usually stick to just primary and secondary colors, figuring they’ve made their point and you have those color crayons. And like above if red and green are your thing you don’t need more. Dial it into blue-violet or yellow-green or even yellow-yellow-green and you’ll start to get some more unusual and interesting combinations. The math is still the same though. If you’re going to use yellow-yellow-green then you’ll need to pair it with violet-red-violet. Below is red-violet with yellow-green. The exact same shades as in the larger circles in the color wheel above.

tertiary complementary colors

3. Play with the balance of the two colors.

The simple design above has more red-violet than yellow-green. Compare that with below which has increased the amount of yellow-green.

balance of complementary colors

4. Add neutrals

The above are simple geometric designs created to get across a point (but if you love them, by all means let me know!) You can still use complementary colors in a more subtle and relaxed way. Here the red-violet moves up into the design and a whole lot of neutral (in this case white) is introduced.

Subtle complementary colors

It’s a totally different look, isn’t it? Whichever your favorite, I hope you’ve gotten a few ideas on how to use complementary colors to enhance your environment or your wardrobe. You can be subtle or bold, bright or subdued, it’s just a matter of letting the color wheel guide you.

Please share your thoughts and your favorite color combinations in the comments. I’d love to know what draws your eye the most.