Saturday, 31 March 2018

Make It In Design Winter School

Hi everyone.

I started my last blog post by saying that I couldn't believe it was almost Christmas and now I'm starting this blog post by saying that I can't believe it's almost Easter! Somehow, nearly four months have gone by since I lasted posted and I can only apologise for my lack of contact.

Although it is officially spring in my part of the world, even though we don't yet have the weather to prove it, I am going to blog about Winter School today. As part of my New Year Resolution (remember those?) to commit more wholeheartedly to my designing career, I enrolled on the Make It In Design Winter School. This took place for four weeks during January and according to the blurb is "an exciting global online design event that gives you experience working to Autumn/Winter 2018/19 trend briefs, helps build your portfolio and connect with other designers and gives you the opportunity to get your work published."

There were several reasons why I decided to enrol in Winter School this year and one of them was because Make It In Design is one of the leading global organisations for providing courses and information on surface pattern design which is an aspect of designing that I am keen to learn more about and develop further skills in.

Surface Pattern Designs On Mobile Phone Cases

Unfortunately, the experience of Winter School was not quite as good for me as I was hoping it would be. A lot of this was due to the technical and administrative problems I encountered which were very off-putting. However, as a result of the complaint I made regarding some of these issues at the beginning of the course, I was given a free place on both the Intermediate and the Advanced tracks, even though I had only signed up for the Beginner track.

The other problem I encountered which I felt put me at a bit of a disadvantage was that I am currently not using any of the "industry-standard" computer graphics software programs such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. Because I came to designing via crafting, I have been managing quite well, at least until now, with crafting based programs such as CraftArtist Professional 2. However, not having the programs that most of the other course participants were using probably didn't help.

My Design For Beginner Brief 1: Neutral Art

Anyway, despite all of the above problems, I did eventually manage to produce designs for the two trend briefs for the Beginner track and the two trend briefs for the Intermediate track. (I didn't attempt any of the Advanced track briefs in the end). I also enjoyed interacting with some of the other course participants in the Winter School Facebook group and being inspired by their amazing work. And I did learn quite a lot more about surface pattern design and other aspects of art and design which was very helpful.

My Design For Beginner Brief 2: Autumn Equinox

My Design For Intermediate Brief 1: Bright Blooms

My Design For Intermediate Brief 2: Kabuki's Kingdom

It was also really useful to see my designs, alongside those of all the other participants, in the online Winter School Galleries and to feel that despite my inexperience and lack of technical expertise, my work did not look at all out of place. You can view all the 2018 Winter School Galleries here.

I definitely feel that I have raised my skill levels in surface pattern design, which was one of the main reasons I signed up for Winter School, so I don't have any regrets about doing it, even if it did turn out to be a lot more stressful and therefore a lot less enjoyable than I would have liked. So, onwards and upwards.

Happy designing and Happy Easter.

And I promise to be back before Bonfire Night!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Downloadable 2018 Calendars

Hi everyone

How did it get to be December?! This year seems to have flown by, although I probably say that every year now.

I've been very busy recently and have finally set up a designing website and the relevant Social Media pages. I really enjoyed doing all of that, especially the website portfolio, although it did take a lot longer to complete than I'd expected.

Here are the relevant links if you have a moment to drop in on any of them:

Just before I embarked on all of that, I made sure I had designed some downloadable 2018 calendars for my Etsy wall art shop. I really enjoy designing calendars and not just because I prefer New Year to Christmas. They are quite a straightforward item to create, once you have the template and layout sorted, so I thought I would share some of my designs with you in this post.

For the first design, I used elements from a lovely digikit from Crate Paper called On Trend. It has a 'modern vintage' look to it, if that makes any sense, and is packed full of gorgeous embellishments from butterflies to florals, pocket watches to birds and tea-cups to word art. The background papers are fab too and I created my own from one of them.

For the next design I used a Creative Commons photo of some beautiful trees that are bursting with pink blossom. Just what we need to remind us that spring will turn up again eventually! I added some elements from a digikit called CS English Town (from the late lamented DaisyTrail) which seems to give the design a slightly more quirky style. 

The third design was created using another lovely DaisyTrail digikit called Woodland Walk. This is one of my favourite kits as it has some really beautiful water-colour style images of wild animals, as well as some pretty florals. For calendar designs, I particularly like digikits where there are suitable images to match the months. I added some embellishments from the kits to one of the papers to create my own background.

All final images Copyright Melissa Lawrence 2017

These calendar designs, as well as a couple of others, are all available as instant downloads from my Etsy shop and would make an attractive and very affordable Christmas present.

If I'm not back here again before Christmas, have a good one. 

Happy designing and Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Peerless Designs Tangletastic CD-Roms

Hi everyone.

I hope you are fit and well. I'm trying hard to stick to my resolution of blogging "little and often" although it's rather a loose definition if I'm honest!

There is quite a lot going on in my life at the moment and I am always looking for ways to de-stress. One of my new favourite stress-busters is the art of zentangling. If you've never heard of zentangling before, this definition may help:

The Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle Method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages.
You can find out more at:

Artwork from Peerless Designs Tangletastic 3 CD-Rom
Final Image Design by Melissa Lawrence

I first came across zentangling when it was demonstrated on Create and Craft by Mel Heaton. To be honest, I was put off it at first because it felt too "regimented" and also because I didn't have enough confidence at that stage in my artistic skills and thought I couldn't do it.
Then along came Sarah Hallam, the multi-talented artist, designer and founder of the crafting company Peerless Designs. She had produced an amazing range of CD-Roms called Tangletastic which were her version of zentangling and perfect for people like me who were put off by "proper" zentangling and wanted to do their own thing with pattern and design using Sarah's wonderful artwork.

Artwork from Peerless Designs Tangletastic 3 CD-Rom
Final Image Design by Melissa Lawrence

Thanks to Sarah, I now feel much more confident about zentangling or "tangling" as we non-purists prefer to call it and have been frankly amazed at some of the designs I've been able to produce. Yes, it is incredibly relaxing to do and a great stress-buster, but it's also helped develop my art and design skills, as well as increased my awareness of pattern. So whatever your reasons are for wanting to try it, just go for it. You won't be disappointed and your family and friends might not even recognise the new, wonderfully calm you!

Artwork from Peerless Designs Tangletastic 3 CD-Rom
Final Image Design by Melissa Lawrence

Happy designing!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Art Journalling The Digital Way

Hi everyone.

I hope you are having a good summer, assuming it is summer in your part of the world, of course.

I recently made a Mid Year's Resolution (as opposed to a New Year's Resolution) to change my approach to blogging and go for "little and often" rather then "long and infrequently"! So I'm starting as I mean to go on with this art journalling page, done the digital way.

I started art journalling in the real world last year, thanks to a brilliant book I found by art journalist Dawn DeVries Sokol called Art Doodle Love. I'd highly recommend it, especially if like me you are new to the wonderful and creative world of art journalling.

One of the problems I find with art journalling is that I can't draw, at least I don't feel I can but that's a whole other story. So when I discovered a fantastic digikit called Pitkinesque by Gibby Frogett Craftations, I was delighted to realise that I could now create just the sort of designs I was looking for but digitally instead of by hand. Here is the first page I have done.

Artwork by Gibby Frogett Craftations
Final Design by Melissa Lawrence

Thanks to the very inspiring items in this amazing digikit, I feel that it might not be too long before I feel ready to have a go at creating art journalling designs with my own hand-drawn artwork. In the meantime, I'm just really glad that there are such talented artists out there who are willing to share their considerable artistic talents with us lesser mortals!

Pitkinesque is a Personal Use Only digikit and currently only intended for DaisyTrail members. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Sunflowers & Stars Digikit from MJM Studios

Hi everyone.

So things haven't exactly gone according to plan since my last post due to my "hormonal hell" (as I've taken to calling it) which has pretty much brought my life to a complete standstill over the last couple of months or so. Fortunately, I do seem to be moving forward again now, thanks to a combination of HRT and a lot of rest but I wouldn't say I'm quite out of the woods yet.

All things work-wise have had to go on hold but I have just started to try and catch up on the projects I was doing before things went so awry. I was pleased this week to be able to finally finish the samples I was asked to do for Michelle Jackson-Mogford to help promote the fabulous new digikits she launched on DaisyTrail way back in September.

If you would like to see my samples from the first three digikits you can find them here:

My final samples come from a digikit which Michelle has called Sunflowers & Stars. Like all the other kits, it was inspired by one of her favourite artists. In this case it was Vincent van Gogh, the famous Dutch post-Impressionist painter.

The first design is for an A4 'Year At A Glance' calendar which I had actually managed to complete before I went AWOL and when 2017 still seemed fresh and new in everyone's minds. I used a calendar template I had already designed using the CraftArtist 2 Professional computer software and added a background paper from the digikit. I then blended in some of the lovely hand-painted embellishments to create my own bespoke background. For each month, I chose a different and appropriate embellishment and finished the design off with the artist's own quote which was one of several that Michelle had included in the kit.

For my second sample I wanted to do something a little different and used a design mock-up photo of two notebooks. This is the original photo:

And here are the designs I've added using some of the gorgeous hand-painted sunflower embellishments and a section of digital material from the digikit. Quite a difference, isn't there?

My third project is a piece of wall art which I must admit is probably my favourite of the three. I found a Creative Commons image on the internet of one of van Gogh's self-portraits and took it into the Cut Out Studio in Craft Artist to remove the background. I then added some appropriate embellishments to one of the scroll embellishments from the kit. The background was a blend of a digital background and a section of digital material with star gem embellishments added to create the starry sky. Finally I "frayed" the edges digitally to give it more of an artist's canvas look.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with all of Michelle's digikits and I can highly recommend them whether you are new to the wonderful world of digital crafting and design or just starting out on your journey. Like most of us who admire her work and have been inspired by it, I can't wait for the next ones.

Happy designing! 

All final designs copyright Melissa Lawrence 2017

Friday, 16 December 2016

Favourite Christmas Digikits

Hi everyone.

Well, not long to go before the Big Day now. Hopefully you are keeping on top of the pre-Christmas stress and not drowning in a morass of mince pies and mistletoe.

I've been working round the clock recently trying to reach my pre-Christmas sales targets for my handcrafted cards, stationery and gifts business Melissa Lawrence Designs. I'm well over halfway now which is very pleasing with about 10 days to go. Someone even came round last night on their way to India and bought some items for their family over there. MLD goes global!

As I've often mentioned before when blogging, I'm not a great fan of Christmas and find it something of an endurance test but I do enjoy designing (and crafting) with all the gorgeous and inspirational artwork associated with the festive season. Because I've been so focused on making products to sell over the last few weeks, it was really nice to sit down at the computer for a while yesterday and work on some Christmas designs for this post.

I decided to pick three of my favourite Christmas digikits and create a card front design from each one. All the kits are available to download from the DaisyTrail website at the moment if you want to check any of them out for yourself.

The first kit I chose is called Hearts and Roses Christmas which has been designed by Hearts Designs. I love everything that Hearts Designs create. Their style is vintage but with a trendy twist and their kits contain imagery in soft, muted colours which provide a welcome variation from the usual Christmas colour palette.

For this 6 x 6 card front, I selected one of the vintage style toppers from the kit and used the decoupage tool in CraftArtist2 Professional to add some extra depth. I created a matt with a "messy" edge from one of the digital materials to go behind it and a background that already had a matt built into the design. The frame round the edge is an incredibly useful embellishment from the kit that I've used lots of times in various designs, as are the ribbon and the gems.

For my second design, I went much more "cutesy" with a card front from a DaisyTrail digikit called Cosy Up Christmas which is full of incredibly cute creatures, all wearing various hats, scarves, jumpers etc. The original images are clearly hand-drawn which gives the artwork a lovely nostalgic feel.

The starting point for this design came from a Christmas card I saw in a local shop which gave me the idea of putting the different creatures from the kit inside or on top of the different letters. I chose "Noel" as it fitted more easily on the page than "Christmas". I picked a background paper from the kit that had a felt-like texture to it, adding to the warm, cosy feeling of the design and also included some other embellishments such as the bells and the holly for balance.

For my final choice, I selected another DaisyTrail digikit called Manhattan Winter which is not strictly a Christmas kit but has some lovely elements in it for creating snowy scenes which are perfect for Christmas cards. However, as it's primarily a digikit based around the iconic imagery of New York, you don't need to stick to traditional scenes but can go "off piste" with fabulous New York skylines that are much more fantasy than fact. 

I must admit that I cheated very slightly with this design and used one of the pre-designed layouts in the kit as my starting point, mainly because I always panic when I'm building a complex scene that I'm not going to get the perspective right. Once I got going though, I was able to shed many of the original layout's elements and substitute others which meant I ended up with something quite different from the original. I also created my own "story" with the design. Who left the present on the bench, for example? 

As I probably won't blog here again before Christmas, I'll take this opportunity to say that I hope you have a really good one, however you choose to celebrate it and I very much look forward to sharing more designs with you in 2017.

Merry Christmas!

All the above designs are Copyright Melissa Lawrence 2016.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

MJM Design Studios La Senora Mexicana Digikit

Hi everyone.

I'm back again after having to go AWOL in October for various reasons. I've been trying to catch up with everything this week and also get started on Christmas crafting (yes, I know I should have started in August!) so it's been a bit hectic which is why I'll have to try and keep this post pretty short.

I did promise in my last post that I would continue to share the projects I was asked to create from the very talented Michelle Jackson Mogford's new range of digikits. Just before I disappeared, I managed to design three digital scrapbook pages from the incredibly inspirational La Senora Mexicana digikit which you can see for yourself on the DaisyTrail website along with Michelle's other fab new kits.

All of Michelle's kits so far have made me want to find out more about the artist who inspired them and in the case of La Senora Mexicana, it is the Mexican painter and feminist icon Frida Kahlo. I already knew that Frida was one of Michelle's artistic "heroines" and I found her life and work to be really fascinating. So many women artists have never received the recognition they deserve so she is well worth checking out.

For each design, I found a Creative Commons photograph from the internet and based the page around that, using as many different elements from the kit as I could. I was lucky to find a really unusual photo of Frida which looked like it was taken from a wooden carving of her. I used the photo to create the background for the page, then manipulated it in CraftArtist 2 Professional with different blends and effects to create two new images. Then it was just a case of adding some of the beautiful hand painted flowers and other embellishments from the kit, including a word art quote from Frida which I used for the title of the page.

Although as you can probably tell from its title, the La Senora Mexicana digikit has a strong Mexican theme, there are also a number of elements which inspired me to do a completely different piece for my next project. When I came across Frida's quote "I love you more than my own skin" in the kit, it immediately made me want to do a page based around a photo of a mother holding a child. In the end, I think the photo of just the hands touching worked better, especially when I changed it to black and white. I wanted to use the heart pin to digitally "pin" the photo and ended up basing the whole design pretty much around that.

For the final piece, I went back to the Mexican theme again. I had heard of "The Day of the Dead" or Día de Muertos as it is known in Spanish, but I didn't know much about it. I thought it had a much more macabre side to it than it actually does and I felt a bit out of my comfort zone working with a photo of a skull, albeit a very colourful and decorative one. I was relieved to discover that the occasion is actually more about celebrating life than death and I had a great time jazzing up the skull in the photo with embellishments from the kit and then also using it to create the background for my page.

I can't emphasise enough how great Michelle's digikits are to work with and I'm not just saying that because she is an artistic "heroine" of mine! I've almost finished the samples from the next kit I'm working with which is called Lilies and Light (I'll leave you to guess which artist inspired it) and providing I can manage not to go AWOL again, I'll be posting them soon.

Stop press! I've now completed the samples from the Lilies and Light digikit but because they are craft projects as opposed to design projects, you can find them on My Kind Of Crafting Blog. Here is the link to the post.

Have a good week and happy designing.

All the above designs are Copyright Melissa Lawrence 2016