Words by Katrina, Senior Designer.
Flowers. Having a thorough knowledge of these botanical wonders is a non-negotiable for any great fabric designer. From ditsy daisies on intimates to intricate orchids for swimwear or big bold poppies on apparel - each species has its place in our design library.
Images of plants and flowers are so readily available that we tend to use them solely for our art references. And while using a picture of a flower online or from a book as a reference are valuable time-saving tricks, drawing from nature provides us with so much more information about the subject.
Want to take a trip to the big outdoors? Read on for three top tips on how to make the most of your research time and get some fresh inspiration for your next fabric design.
1. Draw Instinctually
Luckily for us, we live in gorgeous Sydney surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty. We recently headed to The Botanical Gardens, sketchpads in hand, for a fresh burst of botanical inspo. One of the greatest things about working ‘en plein air,’ is the great opportunity to capture the essence of the flower or the gesture of the leaves without getting too caught up in the detail.
We tend to work more quickly here as time is limited and, without the comfort and familiarity of the studio, our habits are immediately broken. It gives you permission to free up your style and your approach to the work.
TOP TIP: Make the most of having a three-dimensional reference and try to capture the same flower from a few different angles.
2. Grow Your Reference Library
Take photos of different species of plants to add to your personal reference library. Take detail shots as well as wider shots. Really look at each plant. For instance, we were inspired by the pink underside of this tropical plant and the graphic nature of the leaves.
Notice how the three species on the left below have been planted together? They thrive in the same habitat and would likely be found in nature this way. It makes them perfect perfect partners for a print, which tends to look more ‘believable’ when its species of Botanics are somewhat related. Despite all being tropical leaves though, the three have very different shapes, which gives a print design for fabric more interest.
3. See Beyond The Flower
When sketching, always look more at the flower than the page. This will help stop you from “assuming” a part of the flower has a particular shape. In fact, try not to see it as a flower at all, if you can. Half close your eyes to make it an abstraction and just draw the shapes that are there
Camera or phone to take reference photos for when you return to the studio. You can use your photos for drawing reference or you can put them directly into your photographic-style prints.
Sketchbook with a hardback cover - this will give you something more solid to lean on than your lap.
A wide-brimmed hat, sunnies, and sunscreen. Obviously. We’re Australian.
A tight edit of pens and markers or paints. A large collection might be too much to lug around with you, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking to get to your painting spot.
Rug or little fold-up stool. This gives you more options for painting locations. Not all the best flowers are perfectly situated by a little patch of grass! You may have to sketch on a paved path or perch on a patch of dirt.
And until then…
Take photos if you see a flower or interesting leaf on a walk around the block or in your own garden to use in your designs. We're constantly on the lookout for inspiration. It's also a great excuse to treat yourself to some fresh flowers every once and a while to paint or draw from.