When Do You Give Up on a Design?

When Do You Give Up on a Design?

I have been taking an online class Designing with Circles 1 and 2 by Gail Harker and wrote a post a while ago showing some samples from my sketchbook. Of course, I just showed you the pages that I liked. As part of the course, I and other students had an online discussion with Gail going over questions we had sent in and showing pages from student work. It was a very interesting discussion and I learned that you shouldn’t give up on a design if you don’t like it, you should see if there are ways to change, crop or enhance your design to improve it.

Ugliest Doodle

One of the class assignments is to doodle. I have a very hard time doodling and the photo above shows what I called “The Ugliest Doodle Ever”. The background was done with breakdown screen printing and the doodle was done with colored markers. I sent a copy to Gail and said she could use it as an example of what not to do. But Gail saw something in the doodle that I hadn’t even noticed. She saw a prehistoric bird in a cave drawing. I never saw the bird before she pointed it out. During the class discussion, she showed how she had put the image into Photoshop and made some changes making the drawing a considerably better design. So I was inspired to take this really ugly design and improve it.

Ugliest Doodle 2

The first thing I did was erase the big “femur” in the middle of the design going over the bird’s legs. That made a huge difference for me because that part really bugged me. But the design was done in ink and I had given up because I didn’t know how I could make it any better unless I just painted over the whole page.

Ugliest Doodle 4

Then in Photoshop, I filled in the background pattern and redrew the green legs. Now I was ready to play with filters, lighting and color.

Ugliest Doodle 5

This is using the “posterize” filter. It highlights the edges with black. Another thing Gail pointed out was the “alligator” on the right side of the design. She suggested that the design could be cropped in different areas to take certain parts and use them as a separate design.

Ugliest Doodle 6

I don’t remember all the filters and steps I did in Photoshop but just played around and saved the ones that I thought had potential.

Ugliest Doodle 7

As you can see, it really changes the look of the design and gives you thoughts about how you could use the design differently.

Ugliest Doodle 8

I think this one is neon glow.

Ugliest Doodle 10

Or how about purple and black?

Ugliest Doodle 12Or orange anybody?

Ugliest Doodle 14

This is my favorite one. I can actually think of how I could use this in a textile context. It was really an eye opening experience. I think that we might all have a tendency to give up too soon on certain designs that don’t work out the way we intended. What do you think?


23 thoughts on “When Do You Give Up on a Design?

  1. When do I give up on a design? About 30 seconds before I tear all my hair out. I find it difficult to give up especially after spending a long time on something – even when the sensible side of my brain is saying ‘walk away now – it’s a lost cause’, the optimistic side is saying ‘keep going, there are still possibilities’.

    I like the last one best too and I’m thinking lace, silk thread waste, silk fabric, white merino, bit of stitching…….

    1. I think perseverance is a good thing Lyn as well as optimism. So not giving up is a good thing, right? Hmmm… those ingredients sound wonderful. 🙂

  2. That was a great exercise Ruth. learning to look at something from a different point of view is very useful. Lyn you should walk away and look at it again tomorrow or the day after. Often when you come back to it you can see something different. This makes me want Photoshop more.

    1. Thanks Ann – I found it to be very useful. Photoshop is fun to play with and if you get Elements, it is less expensive.

  3. Great post Ruth. I confess I have a pile of work in progress pieces that I feel aren’t quite right and am waiting for the magic inspiration that will save them from my deconstruction bag. Good idea to use photoshop, I may have to give that a go with my Pollock piece…
    May favourite is the purple and black but I can see the orange one making a great backdrop too.

    1. Thanks Teri. Yes, I think we all have those. I hadn’t really considered putting photos of textile pieces into Photoshop before but now I can see the advantage of it. It gives you a whole new perspective on a piece. I like the purple and black one too and actually most of the designs could be used in some way. If you “photoshop” the Pollock piece, I’d love to see the outcome!

  4. Ruth, I am stunned by the results you got with Photoshop! So I am putting P/Elements on my wish list. The designs you made are intricate, but I could not see the application to textiles until the last photo of your doodles, which called my attention to the alligator section. Now I can imagine wonderful things! Keep us posted on your work.

    1. It is amazing, isn’t it? I enjoy playing with photos in Photoshop and you can get some excellent ideas that do translate well to textiles. I will keep you updated on my progress.

  5. Having worked in photography and graphic design for a long time, often the hardest part for me is knowing when a design is really done– it’s hard to stop tweaking, especially when you’re playing in Photoshop! Ultimately, I suppose, you make that decision based on what pleases you– if it doesn’t look quite right, keep at it until it does.

  6. That’s a great exercise with some great results – and it’s interesting how different people see different things in the same design. Look forward to seeing the final textile piece!

  7. I use aerial photos that I find on Google images. They are taken for high and look like maps, but more interesting. You can enhance them with you program or just print them onto photo fabric. I took the image of the city of Dubai and used a little watercolor inks on it for stains. Threadpainted some veins and cut out leaf shapes. It looks exactly like autumn leaves. Saved some others to try out of interesting cities, including an aerial view of the Great Pyramids.

  8. Ruth, I probably would have done the same thing and have been ready to write it off. It’s great you took those few steps further to discover some interesting new things to do with your lost cause. I like the neon glow and the last one. Of course, they both fall into my color ways. I could see either of those being suitable for a textile design. Good job persevering!

    1. Thanks Marilyn – but I certainly wouldn’t have done it on my own without a little nudging from Gail Harker. Hopefully, I will remember this lesson the next time I am disappointed with the results of one of my designs.

  9. Photoshop is a wonderful design tool! I can spend hours playing around with different filters, effects etc. Problem is… when to stop? There are almost infinite possibilities! But every now and then you hit pay dirt, like you did with the version in your final photo… love it! I often use PS to apply filters to an image of one of my paintings, then create a new painting from my manipulated image.

    1. I agree – it is hard to stop once you’ve started. I need to start trying some of my old designs and manipulating them – perhaps create a series of work.

  10. I was going to say something similar to Colormusing and Deborah above me. I can’t draw or doodle, but can spend hours on Photoshop. ‘Save as’ is my solution. And it’s interesting to see the progression of a design or image as you add to it and alter it. Sometimes I’ll delete a few, but quite often some are the basis of a new string of designs 🙂
    It’s a good idea to keep a notebook and list the stages when you’re playing on Photoshop, even write down the settings of each effect. It helps to remember the filters.

    I like the effect posterize had on the green area, but that looks good anyway 🙂
    Interesting post, Ruth 🙂

    1. Thanks Zed – yes, it would be a good idea to write down the steps. Perhaps I’ll do that next time 😉 And yes, I use “save as” too.

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