The Making of a Poppy Pattern

Lately I've been enjoying the time-consuming process of creating repeating patterns out of my watercolor paintings. I'd like to share the process of creating my most recent pattern with you, starting with an arguing couple in a public park and ending in a poppy pattern.

On a really beautiful and sunny day in Reykjavik, I walked to the nearby botanical garden to paint. I was going to paint some small blue flowers, but an annoying arguing couple decided that the botanical garden park bench would be a great place to work out their relationship issues. I moved away from their argument and found a flower that matched my shirt. Serendipity? Yes.

Then, a few weeks later, I started to paint a pattern idea in my sketchbook while sitting at a lovely cafe in the botanical garden with an illustrator friend who was here for a visit. I just loved how the reddish-orange in my portable little watercolor set was already the perfect poppy color, so it was easy to start a pattern. I referenced my earlier painting as I made up this winding pattern.

Of course, this painted pattern idea was not a repeating pattern, and it would require some work to make it into one. I scanned the painting and started to work in photoshop, creating a grid and first and foremost figuring out where the flowers needed to be to make a nice repeat. I erased the paper background because the shading and texture in paper is not easy to make look seamless in a repeat pattern.

The way I was taught to create patterns in photoshop is by creating a grid of sorts. Really, any rectangle or square will do. And then make sure that the edges line up. The top needs to line up with the bottom of that rectangle and the right side needs to line up with the left side. So the focus is on the edges, not the middle. But for a floral pattern like this one, a visual balance is really important. I needed to be sure that the flowers were seemingly equidistant from each other. I didn't want one flower to take your focus from the others. I wanted it to appear evenly spread out.

I cut out some of the flowers and repeated them on individual photoshop layers and created these guidelines to see where a natural repeat would be. Then I created my rectangle on a separate layer. Then I began the long and tedious process of copying and dragging items from one edge to the other, along with the rectangle, so I can be sure these edges line up perfectly. I started with the flowers and then I needed to make the stems and buds match up on the edges and appear evenly distributed throughout the pattern. This is not a quick process, but if you are someone who enjoys tinkering, this is quite enjoyable.

When I feel like I'm getting close, I test my pattern to see how well it repeats. I create a duplicate document, crop the image at the rectangle, flatten the image, select the image, and define it as a pattern (Edit > Define Pattern...). Then I can open a new document and make it large and fill it with my newly created pattern. Any big mistakes will be obvious immediately, and the pattern can be closely inspected so you can tell where an improvement might need to be made.

Click on one of the 5 thumbnail images below to page through the process in a lightbox.

Before wrapping up my pattern, I wanted it to have the same sort of colors as my original painting. Scanning doesn't always give the most accurate colors, so this kind of color adjustment is almost always required. I adjusted the poppy color from the red of the scan to the reddish-orange of the painting. And I added an off-white background in place of my white rectangle. The background appeared flat to me, so I added noise to the background using a filter. This helped the background to better pair with the paper texture of the painting.

I am really happy with the result. I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of the process! Cheers!


On July 18th, Chris and I spent the day in Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands), a town and archipelago off the southern coast of Iceland. More specifically we spent our time on Heimaey (Home Island), the largest and the only inhabited island of the 15-18 islands (depending on who you ask and how they are classified). Some of the other islands have hunting cabins on them, but no year-round dwellers. We took the earliest ferry there and the last ferry back, giving ourselves plenty of time to explore this relatively new island. The weather was beautiful, the sun was plentiful (which resulted in some humorous and painful sunburns on my unprepared face and neck), and because Heimaey is not very big, we felt we were able to take nearly all of it in. We walked nearly the entire perimeter of the island, hiked up to most of the peaks, spotted puffins, explored coves, and relished in the natural beauty of these islands.

Here are some photographs taken throughout our day of exploring.

My Spain Trip

Hello lovelies! I am still feeling the warmth and sun from my vacation as I sit here in Reykjavik, which has really been helped by the beautiful weather we had here this weekend! I took so many pictures on my trip to Spain that it became an overwhelming task to sort through them all, select those I wish to share with you, and color correct, etc. But I think, before too much time passes, I should share my pictures with you. Why not today? Why not now?

My husband and I spent a week in Barcelona, then we rented a car and drove to Cadaques where we stayed in a lovely casita in a national park for the weekend. Then we drove back to Barelona to catch the train to Madrid where Chris attended meetings on the project he is a part of. While in Madrid, we shared a lovely penthouse with Bjarki (friend and coworker of Chris, also there for the meetings) and his wife, Linda (my partner in relaxation and appreciation of Madrid).

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip. Click on one to open up a lightbox in which to flip through them one at a time.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures! I'll share more photos of inspiration as I make some Spain-inspired illustrations and patterns!

A Congratulatory Shell Painting

Yesterday I painted a congratulatory scallop "card" for a friend who defended her thesis today using watercolor mixed with white gouache. I'll be going to a party to celebrate Dr. Warsha tonight. Her thesis was about scallops, so I went with it. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I think I'll be painting more shells in the future.

On Vacation in Spain

I have been on vacation in Spain, gathering inspiration around every turn. I spent a week in Barcelona, then a weekend in Cadaques, and now I'm in Madrid. For the first two days in Madrid I was ill, but I have made a full recovery and yesterday I was up for exploring Madrid.

While in Madrid, my husband and I are staying with a wonderful Icelandic couple who are here for the same reason we are. He is going to the meetings with Chris, and she and I are having fun exploring. Yesterday we had breakfast at a cafe by the metro stop nearest to our apartment. The fresh squeezed orange juice was divine, as always! Then we wandered around Parque de el Retiro and paused to sit on the grass and draw and paint el Palacio de Cristal as she read a book (1984 in Icelandic). It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon!


Then we went to Reina Sofia, the modern art museum, where I nourished my soul visiting Calder and Rothko and Picasso and van Gogh and Klee, etc. etc. ...  I met a new favorite, Lumière, through the hand-colored 1899 silent films called Serpentine Dance. I found a video online. If you don't want to hear someone talking about it and just want to appreciate the beauty, mute it. :)

Shot and hand-colored - frame by frame - at the end of the 19th Century. Still captivating today, but just imagine what it must have been like to watch an image move and transform like this in 1899! A beautiful example of the earliest cinematic ART.

I watched this over and over as it looped on the wall of the gallery. The collection had to do with visual art as poetry, and I understood it so well as I watched her twirl. Also, I want a dress like that. :)

Hope you have a great day! Remember to twirl! :)


Today I learned of the recent discovery that the Opah fish is the first fish known to be warm-blooded! Upon doing a search for images of this fish, I was blown away by its enormous size, bright coloration, and polka-dotted pattern. It looks as though Wes Anderson invented it! So, in the spirit of excitement at this recent discovery I decided to paint one. Mine is one twenty-sixth the size that these deep-water fish can grow to be, which is 2 meters long!

After a quick initial pencil sketch I painted with gouache. Here is how Opah turned out, and some pictures of the process below. :)

I wish everyone a great Friday evening and a wonderful weekend! Opah!

April Project: Day 30

Hello, dear friends! Today is the final day of my month-long daily art posts! It has been challenging and really fun. I feel like making myself share something each day has made me a lot more productive, and I've gotten a lot of ideas started for more projects I want to continue with.

Today is also our last moving day, and because of this I haven't had much time, but I'll share a little ink doodle I did. I think it would be so much fun to take a ceramics class and make tea-couples! Teacup couples. It'd be silly, but so much fun! :)

I think I will take the weekend to unpack and settle in to our new apartment, but I will continue to post things here and elsewhere to share what I'm up to and what I'm making in May. Thank you so much for visiting, and check back soon!

April Project: Day 29

I was, unfortunately, not able to do my blog post yesterday because the internet at our new place was not yet up and running. It was such a busy day, so I posted to Instagram and my facebook page via my phone, since I still had 3G on my phone. So, here is what I posted for day 29. It is a little pencil sketch of a coatimundi, an animal I was only recently made aware of. I think they are related to raccoons, but they have these adorably long snouts. I decided a profile portrait would capture that best. :)

I promised to share more colorful and playful things as soon as I was able. It is another full day of moving, though, but I will see what I can do.

April Project: Day 28

So, some days it is hard to find the time to make something and play. Today was one of those days. Tomorrow we are moving to a new apartment, so I've been a little preoccupied. I didn't let that get in the way of my weekly Tuesday traditional art skype with my dear friend and fellow artist, Kari Pearson. I love being able to talk with her about life, the challenges of continuing our creative practice, and trying to propel our creative careers forward.

Today, after talking and catching up a little, we decided that our art for today could be a 10 minute sketch of each other as we were video chatting. Kari set a timer for 10 minutes and we giggled and got started. Here is how that went.

One thing that really made us laugh was that Kari's drawing of me looked like I belonged in American Gothic. :) What I think is funny is that this may actually be what I look like when I'm creating and focusing. I look at my face in the upper corner of that screenshot and giggle. I look as though I have never taken a screenshot before and I'm anxious about it. :) Here is Kari's drawing of me. We joked that it is an accurate portrait of my duck lamp, with American Gothic me in the foreground. :)

I'm going to try to fit in some art time tomorrow, too, to continue this April Project. Check back soon! :)

April Project: Day 27

I gave myself one hour at the end of the day to paint. I didn't have a plan, but I decided I would do a portrait, and as soon as I started I thought of Frida Kahlo. This is based off of a very colorful photo of her. If you google image search for Frida Kahlo, you will certainly see it. I hurried a lot to paint this quickly, and I wanted to spend more time, but I stuck to my hour of time and I think it is okay. I might have to dedicate a little more time for Frida Kahlo in the future! She is so beautiful and colorful and amazing!

I'll be back tomorrow with something new, so check back soon! :) Thanks for looking!

April Project: Day 26

Hello! Happy Sunday! And happy birthday to my wonderful husband and bestest friend, Chris. Today I've been baking and cooking for Chris, but I put aside a little time to make a little painting. Here it is. I got a little frustrated part way through, but now I think it looks better. I'm realizing just now that there are some things I will want to change and adjust at another time, but for now, here is what I did today.

I'll keep working on my summer piece and I'll share it and the process when it is finished. :)

April Project: Day 24

Today is Bjarnheiður's birthday! She is a dear friend of mine here in Reykjavik, and we are about to head out the door to go celebrate with her. She really liked what I had sketched and really loves this song, so I think it's only right that she receive this piece as a present when I am finished with it. Bea, which is a nickname of hers that is far easier to pronounce, is the kindest person I have ever met. She is so sweet and thoughtful, and she deserves a sweet and thoughtful gift. :)

In the little while I had to work on art today, I sketched the flowers, inked the lettering in gold, and erased out as much of the pencil as I could with my kneadable eraser before putting down some watercolor. I already feel a bit daunted by this piece. I have stared at that bottle wondering just how I am going to put a ship in there. I know it is all part of the process, so I think it'll get there.

I'll be back tomorrow with more. :) I hope you like it so far and are enjoying seeing this progress along the way.

April Project: Day 23

Happy first day of Summer in Iceland! Today is a holiday here, and so far the weather has really been cooperating! Chris and I just went for a run along the ocean and the sun was shining bright. We're not sure if it is because today is a holiday or because the weather is nice, but we were greeted by a few strangers on our run, and someone even smiled at us. It was likely a smile in response to my smile, but that is far better than the annoyed or puzzled looks I normally receive.

Because it is Iceland's first day of summer, I wanted to illustrate a phrase with the word summer in it. And what came to mind is a song I love by Kings of Convenience, a Norwegian duo that sings music that I usually describe as doodle-ie-doo music. It is super pleasant to listen to, and at times makes me think of some soft Simon & Garfunkel songs. The song is called Gold In The Air Of Summer. The video below is a bit shaky, but the song is good. The album is called Riot on an Empty Street. I highly recommend it.

These are the song lyrics...

Without giving anything away,
I can say it's by the sea.
It's a house that used to be the home of a friend of mine.
Without giving anything away,
you'll find ships inside of bottles,
and the garden's overgrown,
the house is white but the paint is coming of.

I didn't know if you wanted to,
when I came to pick you up.
But you didn't even hesitate,
and now you and me are on our way.
I think I've brought everything we need,
so don't look back,
don't think of the other places you should have been
it's a good thing that you came along with me.

Gold in the air of summer,
you'll shine like gold in the air of summer.

So I started on a larger project than I could possibly finish today, but I'll continue to work on the next few days, I'm thinking. Here is as far as I got today.

My idea is that this phrase will be framed by flowers and plants from the overgrown garden that the song lyrics talk about. I love ships, bottles, ships in bottles, overgrown gardens, flowers, gold, summer, cork, ocean, and things that shine... so I think this will be a fun project. Stay tuned for more! :) And have a great day!

April Project: Day 22

Today I painted a dala horse with gouache. It was really fun! First I painted the red horse, and then I decorated it, so it was the same process as with a real dala horse, only flat. :)

I hope you like my little red dala horse. I'll be back tomorrow with something new for the first day of summer (or what they celebrate as the first day of summer in Iceland). Yup, it is a holiday tomorrow. The first day of summer. And there is snow in the forecast. :) Summer in Iceland!

April Project: Day 20

Happy Monday! Today was a windy day, so I stayed in and worked from home. I created a repeating pattern from the florals I painted on Day 8. Here is how it turned out. I'm pretty pleased with it. :)

This is what the process looks like before I define the pattern. I have to make sure the edges all line up properly so the pattern has a nice repeat.

I'll be back tomorrow with something new to share. Have a great rest of your day! :)

April Project: Day 18

Hello, lovely friends! Today I had a very full day of sight-seeing and hiking. I came home late and gave myself a short amount of time (one hour) to put some plants into those cups. I consider them a work in progress, but this was as far as I got today. I hope you enjoy them!

I will have a bit more time tomorrow, so perhaps I'll do something completely different? Who knows. But I'll be sure to be back tomorrow to share whatever I end up creating! :)