Monday, 11 June 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Stephanie Richards


My ability to describe and visually interpret the things around me has been apparent from a young age, and even as a child I spent hours filling my early sketchbooks with drawings of trees outside the classroom window and things around the house and garden. Even my school books were illustrated with maps and accompanying imagery, drawn by eye from text books. When I was young, drawing has been a way of really seeing and understanding the world around me and I have since learnt to capture the things that inspire me on paper in my own observational way. It was during my Art and Design Foundation Diploma course at York College that, along with three dimensional design and graphics, I was introduced to the world of textiles. I was hooked after two weeks and spent the rest of the year exploring the field of surface design, which (I was overjoyed to find) encouraged all the areas of design I loved the most: research, drawing techniques and composition.


This path opened so many doors, and eager to learn more about the textile industry and excited at the prospect of broadening my skills in a creative and specialised environment, I enrolled onto a three year BA (Hons) Textiles and Surface Design course at Cleveland College of Art and Design. This college, celebrated for its hands on, traditional approach to design practice, helped me to grow as a designer and nurtured my passion for well exectuted, hand drawn and screen printed surface designs for Interiors.


My drawing sheets, layered with bleeding ink backgrounds, crisp pencil illustrations and flat gouache detail, perfectly demonstrate my aim for my work - to develop hand produced designs which are inspired by the most beautiful remnants of the past but offer themselves as a contemporary interior surface. I graduated with First Class Honours, armed with industry and trade show experience and a portfolio demonstrating my ability to develop, finalise and screen print designs for Interior fabrics and wallcoverings. I originally began using sketchbooks as a visual diary of drawings and paintings inside and outside of school. I now use sketchbooks to document all my experiments and ideas and so they usually include a pattern of sketches and photographs interwoven with things that inspire me.


I try to sketch at least once a week and if I get the chance, prefer to spend a whole day drawing to really get into the flow of where it is going. I cherish every chance I get to draw. I try not to begin a new sketchbook without some sort of plan as to what I will include in it - whether it be a theme, a project or an inspiring object or image. When I have a starting point I find the book will tend to flow by itself and it makes more sense as a result. I work best with a general framework, which means the messy, experiemental side of my process can take place naturally along the way.

When starting a new project I gather my research first and play around with colour, texture and imagery in mood boards until I create an impression of the direction I am going in. Although this almost always changes along the way, it serves as a reminder of my original ideas and sparks new ones when I need inspiration. I usually visit exhibitions and museums and collect photographs from trips and places of interest. I read design magazines, visit design websites and refer to my ever growing collection of beautiful books.


I begin by - researching, collecting, photographing, photocopying, reading, searching, note-taking, visiting, travelling and visualising. I develop and finalise my ideas by - sketching, drawing, mark making, painting, collaging, arranging, repeating, tracing, experimenting, problem solving, sampling, testing, printing and packaging.

My most recent sketchbooks have included my design process from concept to final design, documenting my ideas, thought process and experiment outcomes, so they usually form a structure from start to finish. My early sketchbooks were a collection of individual drawings or a combination of sketches and evaluations of paintings and art works for a particular theme. I have included notes and written reflections in all my sketchbooks to document the things that inspire me and areas to improve on because I find I tend to both make mistakes and learn something new everyday.


It is difficult to choose one medium because I like to experiment with as many as I can and layer them to create different effects. I would have to narrow it down to either ink, due to its versatility, or pencils for fine detail.

I don't have a favourite sketchbook but I do have favourite sections and pages in each one where an idea has developed well and creates a fantastic impression of my theme or project. I am pleased with the last few sketchbooks I produced during my degree because I packed in so much of the knowledge and skill that I had aquired over those three years, and I was really proud of the final result.


There is one page in my very last sketchbook from my major project which included a layout experiements for a design, a watercolour and ink drawing and a layer of tracing paper with detail over the top. Whilst I was painting, a designer (Helen Stevens) who was visiting our course commented on how much she liked it, and I am reminded of her kind comment everytime I see it.


Stephanie is currently taking on commission work, developing new surface designs for Interior products and wallcoverings, as well as networking and visiting design and trade fairs. You can find out more about Stephanie on her blog here and also follow her on Twitter @stephkateprint

Thanks for taking part Stephanie, its been great to peek into your sketchbooks....

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