I've recently gotten into decorating my envelopes before popping over to the post office. It's a chance for me to illustrate for the sheer pleasure of it. Why don't you have a go too?
One of the exercises I often practice is actually in the tube, when I feel I've had a long and busy day. I like to meditate on sounds around me. Being in a noisy wagon is perfect. I mindfully hop from sound to sound: the sound of the train vibrations, the doors closing, people talking, the sound of newspapers ruffling, someone on the phone, foot steps, high heel taps, a scratch, entering a tunnel, two trains passing in opposite directions, the doors opening, people running for the train, people shuffling out, phone conversations, zippers, earphones booming...whoever thought one could find peace from thoughts in a noisy carriage? And then I've arrived at my destination with a clear mind.
With a background as a picture book designer at the fabulous Macmillan Children's Books and a love for vintage packaging, it was especially exciting to illustrate and design the cover for the Mindfulness Moments colouring book.
I thought it might be interesting to share with you the creative process that went behind designing this cover.
Step 1: To begin on any cover design, I fill my sketchbook with drawings. They are usually doodles of what I've seen out and about. In this instance, during my maternity leave, I did many mindful walks along the Serpentine lake, in Hyde Park, to watch the birds bathing in the water. There was wide array of fowl including moorhens, seagulls, geese, starlings and herons. But it was the graceful white swans that caught my eye. I liked how they twist their necks in all directions and unfold their wings like fans. I enjoyed watching them float solo or in pairs. A small sketchbook in the coat pocket was perfect to catch observational details like these.
I also studied the waves, ripples and how water shimmered in the Serpentine lake. For my pattern, could the water be wavy, straight or on a diagonal? Could there be puddles or 'clouds' of water? Could each puddle have a different texture such as beads on a necklace, squiggles, dots, waves, stripes, connected circles? Could the puddles be inhabited by dragonflies and reeds?
Step 2: Before working on the graphic side of a cover layout, I think it's essential to leave one's desk. I usually go to a favourite part of town and navigate my way between interior shops, chocolate boutiques, stationery shops, exhibitions, delis, etc. I like old school French packaging, labels on ink bottles, vintage stamps, whimsical Japanese packaging and clean cut Scandinavian graphics. I also enjoy looking at boutique hotel branding, the menus of cafés and restaurants or wine labels. There is inspiration everywhere. I keep an eye on shapes, signage, and finishes. Could the title be framed inside an oval, a circle or a square? What if I rotate the square into a diamond?
Step 3: Working in matchbox sized drawings is a quick an easy way to create numerous versions and variations of an idea. In book design, we call these thumbnails which I've always found funny because they are really the size of a teabag. I like to draw and to redraw these thumbnails over and over until there are a few ideas which stand out.
Quite early on, during thumbnail stage, I like to look at colour. Pantone books come in handy but gouache paint is my favourite tool for this, as the paint is rich in pigments and you can create your very own shade. Also, there is something mindful about mixing colours - especially with a palette knife. Add a speck of blue and your colour becomes a shade colder... just like that! I researched a colour which look particularly good next to gold foil. A rusty pumpkin felt just right. For a foil preview, gold glitter pens come in handy. They are a cheap and easy trick to have a closer idea of what your cover will look at the final stage.
Final step: Time to get some paper and calligraphy ink pens out and draw the final line art which I will later and assemble using Photoshop and Indesign.
I hope you enjoyed reading this creative process post. Mindfulness Moments was printed and bound in Italy in the Autumn. I'm happy to share with you that is now available in UK book shops and on Amazon. I made a video to give you a preview of the inside spreads of book which you can watch here. My US publisher, The Experiment, has published the American edition under a different title Moments of Mindfulness and different cover design. You can find it here.
People often ask if I find colouring-in mindful. I would say yes, but I colour-in in a different way. I don't really colour-in colouring books; but my own illustration work. Here is an example of the type of mindful colouring-in that I enjoy doing.
Before working on the line drawn designs in my colouring books, I tend to start my initial sketches using paint and pencils. Observational drawing and painting is my form of art mindfulness.
I've been asked where I get my inspiration for the patterns I illustrate in my colouring books. I'll share with you how I came to draw the bluebell spread from Mindfulness Moments. The spread came into creation after a family trip to Kew gardens in the month of May - which is bluebell season.
With a buggy loaded with picnic snacks and art materials, off we went. What a fine day it was with Viggo napping in his pram, and myself sitting on the ground carefully inspecting the direction of blades of grass and how the bluebells weighed down their stalks as blue bells would.
In my bag, I usually pack a travel watercolour set, my Fujilfilm X100S camera, two sketchbooks and a selection of colouring pencils. The thermal pad that comes with my Kånken bag comes in handy to kneel on in case the grass is wet.
I like to begin with mindful observations and ink sketches. Mistakes and imperfections are welcome, this is a good time to experiment with shapes and colours and not think.
Back at my desk I redraw and redraw from my watercolour observations and begin to simplify the lines more and more to create the final design.
Yes that's right! My new colouring book Mindfulness Moments will be out in UK book shops on the 3rd of November 2016. I spent most of the Summer at my drawing desk lovingly creating patterns, writing mindfulness activities and designing the layout and cover for this third book. Look out for a pumpkin coloured cover with swans swimming across of it...and gold foil! You can see a preview here.
When I'm travelling, I find that I observe a new place mindfully. I notice new shapes, colours and textures that are exotic to me. Patterns seem to pop out of everywhere: from the ground, in the form of rusty gates, from above my head, in plants breaking out of concrete...I like to capture these patterns in a photograph or in a travel sketchbook. In September, I explored the beautiful and laid back city of Copenhagen for seventeen days. Here are some inspiring patterns that I spotted during long walks and bicycle rides.
It's been a quiet 9 months on the blog front because my son Viggo was born in September and has been keeping my hands busy. It's been an awesome nine months of self discovery as a first time parent.
Viggo is now on Scandinavian style daddy care which means I am able to get back into illustrating for Mindfulness Moments, my third Mindfulness Colouring Book. So my pencils have been sharpened, my desk has been tidied and I'm back to work! This book will be different to the first two books which is very exciting. It will include Mindfulness exercises and craft activities. Stay tuned on my instagram for some behind the scenes labelled #behindscenesmindfulcol.