I often sit here and wonder if I take too long to do things. As a designer, I find that one of the most difficult things for me is accurately measuring the amount of time it takes me to do a project. You would think that after all the years I spent doing what I am doing, I would have a better handle on how long something will take me to complete. But as I accomplish each new project, I find that I am no closer to correctly estimating the time it will take to finish it than I was years ago when I started out as a designer. For me, it just doesn’t work that way.
I had a very productive weekend. I spent pretty much two solid days repainting the painted versions of the Halloween masks that I designed and photographing them along the way so that I can have step-by-step photographs in the pattern packet. I believe that I began this phase of work on Friday, and that I had fool-heartedly convinced myself that I would be able to button things up by Saturday, leaving me Sunday to write the actual instructions and take the rest of the day “off.”
But once again, things didn’t work out that way. It wasn’t that I didn’t focus on the task at hand of really put myself into it, it was just that damn clock laughing at me once again and mocking my optimistic view of how long it takes me to accomplish things. And as usual, when battling head-to-head against time, I lost.
But in looking at what I have accomplished so far, I don’t feel like a loser. In fact, quite the opposite.
Unlike woodworking patterns, painting patterns are much more involved to develop (for me, anyway.) When I am designing wood items, I simply draw them on the computer and cut them out. It is pretty much a basic process. I draw the lines and follow them on the saw, and there is little change between the computer line work and the actual cutting. It all works out very nicely.
In developing painting patterns however, there is a myriad of things that can be changed and adjusted from the time I first think up and actually paint my first prototype until the final pattern is finished. It isn’t only picking colors, but shading and intensity and several other things that leave room for improvement after a first attempt. This is what tends to slow me down the most.
When I first was with Keith, he wondered why I painted my new designs several times over in the creation of the pattern packets. Like many, he suggested I just take pictures along the way the first time around and I would save myself a lot of work and time. But for me, it just doesn’t work that way.
When I have an idea, it is as if I can see the pieces in my head. They are finished, but perhaps not completely to the point where I would call them “done”. Many times I would begin in one direction when painting the piece and for one reason or another I decide to go in another to improve the overall look of the piece. This happens often enough for it to be impractical for me to try to do step-by-step instructions and photos the first time around. More often than not, I wind up changing things here or there and by the time I would be finished, the piece would look quite different than what I had initially envisioned.
Here’s an example.
One of the first masks that I painted, was one that I wanted to have a certain look. I liked the black and white theme, but in order to give it a Halloween feeling, I used a metallic bronze paint to shade the white diamonds. When I did so, the black looked “flat” and I brushed the tops of the black diamonds with a black metallic finish. The results was acceptable but in looking at it again, it definitely looked ‘muddy’ to me.
It was nice though, and good enough to move on to the next. But I still needed to think about it a bit.
When it came time to repaint it for the instruction packet, I had some ideas. I really looked at it and thought about what made me feel uncomfortable about it. While I did like the overall look, I knew there would be some ways to improve on it.
What bothered me the most was that in the process of making it shimmer was that I lost the contrast. While I wanted the mask to appear to be made of satin, by painting both the black and white diamonds with the same pearlescent paint, they lost a great deal of their contrast and the piece appeared to be muddy.
I liked the way the white sections looked with the copper shading, so I left them the same. However, for the black diamonds, I decided to paint them in a very dark grey first (Graphite) and then shade them in pure black. This made each diamond look crisp and sharp and made a much better impact than the black metallic paint.
However, the matte finish of the regular paint next to the shimmer of the metallic white sections wasn’t the look I was thinking of. But brushing the tops of the black diamonds with the Black Pearl Metallic would bring me right back to where I started. And I didn’t want that.
So I decided to brush the tops of the black sections with some Black Ice Glamour Dust paint. The Glamour Dust is very finely ground glitter suspended in a transparent base. This would allow my shading of the black diamonds to show through, and add some very subtle glitter to the sections.
I thought the result was greatly improved.
Since the black was much darker on the second version, I decided to go with some black shading around the eyes to make them stand out better. I am much happier with the second mask than I was with the first one.
I suppose that I could have settled on the first group of masks if I wanted to do so. When I look at them separately from the second set, they are nice. But when I compare them to the second time around, I realize that these extra days that I am spending on this design is not wasted time at all.
It would be easy for me to create many more patterns if I didn’t do them this way. However, I would have a great deal of difficulty promoting them and selling them, knowing that they weren’t my best work. With over 400 patterns under my belt, I have to realize that it isn’t the number of patterns that I have, but rather the quality of them that is important.
If getting it right means painting things a second time (or even a third!) than that is what I need to do. By doing so, I know that I am truly giving the best of myself and offering the best quality of work that I can to my customers, and also to myself. And to me that is the most important thing that I can accomplish.
I would never be able to sell and market my work if I didn’t provide the best that I possibly could do. If that means that it takes a week to create instead of a couple of days, then so be it. Taking the time to do things right gives me confidence in knowing that I am selling the very best patterns that I can. How long they took to get to that point is not important.
So today I will finish the last three masks that I didn’t complete this weekend. And then I will work on the pictures and the packet. While I had some hopes of finishing it up this weekend, it just wasn’t meant to be. But it wasn’t because I didn’t devote time and energy into things. It is because getting things right isn’t something that just happens. And I hope that shows in the final products.
Have a wonderful Monday.
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. – Albert Einstein
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"