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Spring Mud

Spring is absolutely beautiful - I love the colors, flowers and new leaves, the fresh smell of nature awakening, etc. But spring's newness comes from a really grimy, muddy place - all the rain and melting snow, especially in my northern city where the snow is heavy and sticks around until March, forms a gross stew in backyards and fields and on hiking trails. For an interesting moment in early spring, it's disgusting and beautiful outside. 

With this spring pattern, I want to try and communicate the texture of muddy spring as well as the beauty of floral spring. I'm also inspired by leaves, especially ginko leaves, and by all the yellows of spring. 

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And now for my sketches:

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The leaves are fairly straightforward, although I'll have to experiment a little in AI to convey the delicate vein texture of the ginkos. 

The mud is a little trickier - I have three main ideas at the moment. 

  • Cracked earth texture: at the top left, I have some sketches of dried, cracking mud that I would probably place as a (translucent) background to the leaves. I do wonder if this approach will add too much visual confusion; I'm also aware they don't totally read as mud, and I think that would get worse after I have to recreate the texture in Illustrator. 
  • Abstract flowing texture: at the top right I have a very abstracted sketch of mud in a more watery, flowing state. It would probably wind around leaf drawings, which I think would be very visually successful, and it would also emphasize the actual melting of snow and the earthy soup that comes from that. 
  • Mud splashes: these are at the bottom - they absolutely read as mud, which is good, and they retain the idea of "grossness." I don't think they'll make quite as pretty a pattern as the abstract flowing texture, though. 

I'd love to know what you think about any of my sketches, but particularly the mud ideas!

FINAL PROJECT:

First, some of my vector artwork - I worked a long time on the ginkos and ultimately discarded the full leaf-and-stem version. Ginko trees mean spring to me personally, but I thought the abstracted leaf texture felt more playful, a bit floral, and spring-y in a global way. 



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My pattern blocks based on the mud splash idea felt VERY messy, so I quickly discarded that idea. Even by limiting myself to the mud flow in the background, I tried dozens and dozens of pattern blocks with transparency, different ginkos, different scales or arrangements... I definitely still feel like I'm figuring out what "works" in pattern design. Here are a few pattern blocks that I rejected: 

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And below is my final pattern! I think the abstracted ginkos were successful, but I don't think I was able to communicate the mud & messiness to the extent I wanted. (When I tried to emphasize the mud, I wasn't able to keep it aesthetically pleasing.) I might keep playing around with it for my own portfolio, so I'd love to hear any constructive criticism you might have, as well as thoughts on the colorways. Thank you!

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And some other colorways:

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*update*

A few months later and more photoshop-savvy, I decided a blended texture would work better for the mud than the strong, vector-drawn lines I had in place earlier. I'm liking it better this way, but still open to change: 

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