Succulent sketches

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This week I am focusing on design for the home decor market. Florals are always popular and (excuse the pun) spring up every year. That said, it's no good churning out the same old same old print. The trends evolve and a new and fresh take on an old favourite is always well received.
I'll be focusing on the weird and wonderful shapes, colours and vibes of succulents. They're gorgeous, unique and a little odd - the perfect subject matter for an updated florally look. 

Thanks to Lilla Roger's coaching in MATS, my approach to working on a new design or print of a specific theme or object has changed. I begin by taking time out to really look at details and shapes to get familiar with what ever I'm drawing. I do this by sketching observations, looking at key things that stick out to me, jotting any notes, ideas or thoughts down as I go. I'm not concerned with having any of these sketches for the final piece at this point. The main focus is to experiment, warm up and get confident with the subject matter.

Then I can step back, see what's working. Have any interesting shapes become apparent, does a certain sketching style work well? What do I need to redraw? 
I tend to switch between pen, pencil, brush pen, and watercolour (used more for line work than anything else). I also so some sketches digitally, working on my Wacom Cintiq away from the computer, then saving the sketches either as pdf layers or a flat png if I know I'm going to take the drawing straight into illustrator.

Once in Illustrator I live trace all my images, playing around with the settings until the traced images are a true enough representation of my original sketch. Sometimes this just doesn't work, so I will re-draw the object in Illustrator. 

Now comes the tedious part. Ungrouping, deleting, manipulating, regrouping and organising onto layers. Time consuming but I actually enjoy creating multiple variation of my icons using, the different segments and creating silhouettes. 

At this point I should be left with only my favourite pieces and a few "hmm maybe you'll work somewhere" objects ready to be arranged and recoloured. I upload my colour swatches or create new ones and off I go! Here is a quick tutorial on how to create colour swatches in Adobe Illustrator CC.