Fritillary, 1885 by William Morris (Block-printed Wallpaper). 

I enjoyed taking this opportunity to recreate digitally in Adobe Illustrator a sample of the genius of William Morris. It is thrilling to explore Morris's lines, and learn more about his contruction of beauty.


Having posted a rather cheeky reference to Alphonse Mucha in my completed A Modern "a la Mucha"?, I thought I ought to tackle the real deal. On disk I had a copy of one of Mucha's line drawings: "La Fleur" (1897).

I wanted to explore how he used lines so effectively - especially line weight to subtly emphasise more important structures, and lessening off on the weight for the fine detail. Using the Brush Tool in Adobe Illustrator, I first started with the 3 point oval brush set at 5pt stoke in Black so set the strong lines. Using the same brush, I then alternated between 3pt and 2pt in providing some of the details. The really fine shading and line was done with the same brush set to 1.5pt

I created a frame using a rectangle and circle, and using the Shape Builder Tool to unite them. I kept a copy of this shape, using one instance in conjuntion with the outside rectangle to form a compound shape, with fill set to a rich peach. The other copy of the arch I used with a thick 25pt black stroke. Underneath that I chose a light ochre with Blend mode set to Overlay.

Mistakes are perfectly fine so long as you learn from them, and looking at the picture on a different screen I notice how I threw the balance off by not choosing the correct line weights (exploring this was the whole purpose of the piece anyway).  The flowers and hand to the left of the face have not enought variation - the hand essentially disappears! The eye can't easily see the outer forms of the flowers, giving an unpleasent chaotic effect. The opposite is true in the bottom centre , where I used some heavy lines in what are details. This draws the eye to what shouldn't be a key area of interest. Lessons learned!

A good way to deal with the line art is to select it all, Expand, Ungroup and then use Pathfinder: Divide (and ungroup). Then you can delete any bits where lines overlap.


La Fleur

I started drawing this as an exercise to explore when better to use the Pen tool, the Brush tool and the Pencil tool to make your desired lines in Adobe Illustrator. There was no notion of a fairly completed work emerging. Since I enjoyed the challenge, learn from it and in fact am pleased with the final outcome, I decided to post it on here for record.

Of course it has nothing really to do with that great giant of art & taste Alphonse Mucha, but I felt it gave a nod to him with in having a female character to the fore, with circular repeated patterns and floral motifs. 

Clipping masks were used to house the patches of shading of the main figure within her body (the clipping mask). Ah I'm going to correct myself - I could have done that, but I actually changed the drawing mode after creating the body outline to the Draw Inside mode. I created the flowers very quickly with the standard Brush tool. Below that I created a layer for blocking in the flower colour, which I did using the Blob Brush tool.

Radial elements were created in one of two different ways. If the decoration was to appear at certain spaced points, I grouped the ornament's contents and used the Rotate tool to move them radially from the centre. The way you ensure that is to have the group selected, choose the Rotate tool, then with mouse left click on the centre whilst holding down the Alt Key - this defines the central point around which the Rotate tool will calculate from. Up pops the Rotate tool dialogue box, asking how many degrees do you which to rotate from the current position. If you want 20 iterations, you can type in 360/20 and let Illustrator calculate what degrees that is. 

Once you've set the degrees, the important bit is to click the Copy button. This will create a Rotate transformation as a copy, leaving the original where it is. 
Now for the fun bit - you repeat that copy sweeping round your point by repeatedly pressing Cntrl D to duplicate that transform until you go full circle or as far as you like!

The second method I used when the copies have no spacing around them, was to create a Pattern brush and apply that to the path of a circle. For elements which did require some spacing, I created a straight horizontal path with the Pen tool, and spaced out my elements on this path, then made the path have no stroke but keeping it in the definition of the Pattern brush.


woman modern mucha8

I have long admired the style of modern images made by these rounded "pill-like"forms. Just how to understand the construction a composition by a master illustrator? That is the point of recreating this image - not just it as an detailed analysis of the image itself, but also exploring how features of Adobe Illustrator CC can be best utilised to create desired effects.

The Blend tool was a superb instrument in creating regular patterns, as opposed to my first choice of creating a position Transform and repeating it. So in the example of the welded poles, the diagonal details were formed by two paths at the extremities, and the Blend tool used to create regular iterations. Eventually these were broken out using Object: Blend: Expand to form the individual paths, and those then expanded from paths to filled objects. The pole form was a heavy path with rounded caps which was then expanded, and this used as the Clipping Mask (Cntrl 7) for the diagonal shapes. 

Blends also came into their own in the details on the buildings. This was true of the horizontal and the vertical decorations. I tried using the Pen tool for the horizontal rows, but the Blend tool was more precise. 

In conjunction with those Blends, the Shape Builder tool and the Live Paint tool really came into their own, as well as the Path Finder options.

The gorgeous "white mask form" was created by using intersecting circles. Clouds also were formed by intersecting circles, which were then merged into nice bubbly forms - the lighter clouds had a horizontal line cutting across them - and Shape Builder tool with Alt Key to subtract the extraneous circle forms below the horizontal.

This was a purely didactic exercise, and I gained a huge amount from working on it in terms of exploring Illustrator tools and effective workflow.

city welder scene2

As part of my continuing learning Adobe Illustrator CC, I am attempting increasingly elaborate projects. I love the iconic Soviet poster style of 2 colour portraits - real quality of line and using blocks of colour to represent faces etc. Key facial features have to be spot on and engaging - and the overall rhythm of line weight needs to both resonate and hold together.

I don't know the orginial artist of this work in order to credit it, but I gladly pay tribute to her or his artistry. My real intent here was to explore those areas of areas which aren't just solid colour blocks, but semi-translucent or textured. I experimented with the chalk brushes included with Illustrator CC, either with the Brush tool or applying them to style paths made with the Pen or Pencil tools, then expanded into fills.


soviet young point N0 TEXT

I love logos which cleverly utilise negative space. LogoLounge do a superb job in collating logo ideas and inspiration, and also spotting annual trends. I picked up a 2nd hand copy of their LogoLounge 2, which is a bit out of date but still a useful resource for some classic designs.

This logo ticks all the boxes for me, so I wanted to learn more about it by trying to recreate it. The design firm was Eskil Ohisson Inc for the client T Rowe Price. I particularly like how the eye on one side is treated in reverse on the other, giving really beautiful balance and interest.

The technique I used was drawing an outline, forming the shapes to cut out of the main body by using Pen tool, Blend tool for the horns, the Pencil and Pen for the facial features.

mountain goat


Advertisment can be a great place to find colour and images that work well. This really caught my eye as something to try recreating digitally - from an Aeroflot 1960s promotional brochure, again from the book "Designed in the USSR 1950-1989" (p233).

Initially I was keen to recreate the famous Aeroflot globe logo, a genre beloved of travel companies to this day. The happy baker was pretty fun, so he got added in. By this point, I felt it was worth carrying on to completion. I used the Pencil tool for the woman and child, the Pen tool with Reflection tool for the airplanes. The globe logo and the wings logo were created using the Shape builder tool. The real fun aspect of this design is that it is in the form of a question mark, a lovely touch!

In Adobe Photoshop, I added a slight texture by imposing a picture of old paper onto a top layer, with Blend Mode set to Color Burn.

aeroflot advert 1969

More inspiration from the book volume "Designed in the USSR 1950-1989" published by Phaidon. (See Vectoring an old social awareness image for my previous work inspired by this book).

"Technical Aesthetics" by the VNIITE Institute was a monthly magazine published in the former Soviet Union. This original illustration featured on the magazine cover for August 1969 edition.

I just loved the design, the rhythm in the shapes, cupped in a beautiful "egg" shape - for which the Clipping Mask feature (Cntrl 7) in Adobe Illustrator was just perfect for. This provides the rounded ends of the tools.

Using some colour palettes from my CC Library, I played with some colour themes which I enjoy.

technical aesthetics VNIITE cover8 black

technical aesthetics VNIITE cover8 red

technical aesthetics VNIITE cover8 green



Designed in the USSR 1950 1989During a visit to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow (a guided tour actually), my eye was drawn to a new featured volume "Designed in the USSR 1950-1989" published by Phaidon.

This book is a product from the really important work of the Moscow Design Museum, who have sought to preserve vast amounts of innovative design produced in the former Soviet Union. As you would expect, the illustrations are superb, and the text highlights interesting differences in approachs in product design etc. There are sociological and political discussions of interest for today's historians and designers. Evironmental campaigners ponder how today's manufacturers might begin to create robust, long lasting and easily repairable products - characteristics which would benefit our ecologically greatly, and which many of these items had in spades!

I loved the style of this social awareness poster: "1st of September - The Day of Knowledge" by Miron Lukyanov (1986). The vector below is based on part of that triptych, fond on page 107 of the volume.

Using Abode Illustrator, I enjoyed seeing how careful layering with solid blocks of colour can create depth of shadow and light (the original would have been designed for screen printing). The Pencil tool was great for blocking in using the Fill colour rather than Stroke, using a circlular "blob" method which are then expanded, ungrouped and merged (the hair background, the landmasses on the globe, fingers).

I used my own pressure-sensitive Brush presets to create varying line qualitiy and weights, especially in the hair details.

Also I found the swatches feaure for creating colour groups or harmonies, taking the deep shadow red and generating 2 colour harmonies using different rules to get some good value greens, blues etc. (This webpage is useful:

For details on the fingers (nails, folds etc), I used my brushes to create paths, expand and ungroup them, and create a Compound Shape (Cntrl 8). Using Pathfinder, I think used Subtract Top to cut out the compound shape from the lighter finger shape created with Pencil tool loops set to the Fill colour.

A light Distort Effect was applied to the page edges, and the Blend Tool set to 2 copies to create the middle pages.

education sov cmacaulay

Thumbnail of the original from the Volume here:

Designed in the USSR 1950 1989 triptych

This little set of what I called "Geometric Forms in Circles" are quick studies I made of some stunning Promotional artwork for "Electric Minds: Loft Parties 2012", a venue in Shoreditch, London. The originals are finely textured and have great typography giving the event details, but I simply wanted to recreate the geometry of the original artists.

The simplicity and clean lines of the orignals are inspiring, and illustrates the beauty which can be achieved with simple geometry. The radial spokes were created by marking a diameter across the circle with the Pen Tool, and the using the Rotate tool to send it through a rotation of set degrees (360/n). Upon this set of spokes, other geometry could be drawn - circles in the first two examples, then lines and hexagons in the last two.

Making sure that all intersects are complete and clean, selecting all the lines you can then use the Live Paint Tool to fill in alternating shapes with black, leaving a blank space between. This space for a second colour can be supplied by having a copy of the original outer perimeter circle, and setting it's fill to a suitable second colour.

Alternatively, as in the case with the hexagon example, shades or tints of the background can be added to create tonal interest, again using the Live Paint Tool. 

[Fun Note: The Live Paint Tool lives on the same menu button as the Shape Builder tool. Why I mention this is that while creating the hexagon-based version below, I started to notice some extreme processor lag, as thought it were suddenly performing massive calculations? Well, it was! Inadvertantley, I selected the Shape Builder tool when shading, which meant each time a filled shape was created, Adobe Illustrator was recalculating all the other shapes at the same time!! So just a note for should you ever experience this - check you have the right tool from the menu!]


blue circle using inner circles

orange circle made up of inner circles rotated around radius

yellow circle made of angled lines

Green circle with radial lines intersecting hexagons

I just called this cartoon "big guy luvs his mum".  It is a recreation of part of a Liam Longcroft original work, again attempted from admiration & inspiration. I was particularly struck by the sheer quality and flow of his lines - particularly in the exaggerated muscular arm nearest to the viewer. Also I love the boldness of the exaggerated distortion in perspective, the difference in arm size that results is extraordinary!

The inked lines are made using my own art-brush, the same as described in my article "Jackie K after Jeffrey Everett". To create better flowing lines, I used a technique that encourages bold flowing strokes, often overshooting before and after where you want the final line to be, but safe in the knowledge that through expanding the strokes and using Pathfinder: Divide, the resulting extraneous line elements can be independently deleted. Once this is done, Pathfinder: Merge can knit the line work together.

Colouring was done using Blob Brush on lower levels, with some use of the Blend Modes to create shadow tones on skin and t-shirt etc. 

Finally, to create the white outline to add emphasis and separate from the background, I copied the layer with the linked outline, used Pathfinder: Merge and Pathfinder: Unite to create a shape representing the figure as a whole, then using the Appearance Panel to add a think white stoke to this layer, placed one above the background elements.


Growing up long before either the Internet, Free View, YouTube or Netflix were a thing... my favourite visual treat in the weekly schedule were the Saturday afternoon TV cartoons. Typically, these were of the classic mid 20th century Tom and Jerry/ Bugs Bunny/ Daffy Duck genre. The lush smooth animation style was so labour intensive - but I didn't care (or know about that) as a kid - it was my perfect idea of a cartoon.

During the school holidays - the diet was different. Laurel and Hardy offerings were unbeatable - but then would come cartoons of a quite different visual and animation style - the 60s/70s Pink Panther is ingrained in my memory. I really didn't like them as a kid - they seemed weird & quirky, the drawing wasn't lush but jagged, simplified, angular and jerky. 

But hey, one of the things about getting a bit older is that your tastes change, your character grows. So when perusing one of my illustration example books, I was strangely taken by the graphics of Sean Sims, particularly this car driver (which inspired me to try and recreate it).  It was a super education on how efficient this style is - and actually just how beautiful the "construction lines" are. 

Apart from the style, on a technical basis in Adobe Illustrator I found great use in the "draw inside" mode as a really useful tool - in the hat, the scarf and the trousers. Another useful technique was using a very subtle Roughen Effect on things like the side grills and and bag in the back. 

I really got a lot out of tackling this work - technically and artistically. Maybe I should give the quirky Pink Panther another chance after all :)