Designing on a Grid

I recently began a 100 day project called "100 Days of Hand Stamped Fabric". Every day I carve a rubber stamp, print it on graph paper in a repeating pattern, and finally, print it on fabric. Whether I'm stamping directly on graph paper, or on fabric with the faint lines of the graph paper showing through from beneath, the placement of my stamp is guided by a grid.

This project is not my first use of the grid in my artwork. Initially I was inspired by the painter Adolph Gottlieb. It was several years after graduating RISD. I was living in NYC, working in publishing, and attempting to build my freelance illustration career on the side. At that time, I was working towards developing my visual style. I began an early morning routine in which I'd wake up, make myself a coffee and pick an art book off one of my bookshelves. Then I'd spend an hour looking the artist's work. If there was some element of the art that I loved, I'd make note of it so I could experiment with it in my own work. That particular morning I picked Gottlieb. 

In many of Gottlieb's paintings I'd noticed that he'd used a grid to compartmentalize the space. Within each compartment was a some type of sign, symbol, or design. I was immediately drawn to these images. First off, aesthetically I was attracted to his use of:

1. A limited color palette

2. Two dimensional space

3. Flat, textural color

These elements struck me as bold and modern. I remember feeling so inspired and intrigued....

 
 Vigil, 1948

Vigil, 1948

 The Seer, 1950

The Seer, 1950

 T, 1950

T, 1950

 

Additionally, I was captivated by:

4. The mysterious signs and symbols

5. The assembling of individual elements into one image

6. His use of a grid-like layout to compose the space

As my hour with Gottlieb's book of paintings drew to close, I'd made note of my observations to come back to them at a later time.

Several days or weeks later, while working on an illustration to use as a self-promotion, I incorporated several of these stylistic elements into my design process.  My illustrative style had already made use of the first three elements listed above, but the image below was my first to make use of symbols to represent the idea and/or feeling I was trying to convey, as well as the use of a grid to organize them into a cohesive whole.

 
 

Designing on a grid was somewhat of a breakthrough for me. After releasing this image as a self-promotion, I received more calls and assignments than I had from previous promos. This allowed me to dedicate all of my time to my freelance illustration business (rather than work in publishing as I had been, and illustrating on the side in my free time).

This series of paintings that I'd felt such an affinity to are referred to as Gottlieb's Pictograph paintings. You can see more of them on my Pinterest board "Art on the Grid" (along with some other works of art that make use of the grid.) If you'd like to read more about the artist, The Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation is a good place to start.

Another resource I just found, artsy,  offers Gottlieb's work to purchase (for those who have wads of extra cash lying around), but they also have some of his works on grids which I hadn't seen before.... 

Happy Sukkot!

Today is the first day of Sukkot, one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It's sort of like Thanksgiving in that it celebrates the earth's bounty, but it's also a commemoration of the 40 year period the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert after escaping their lives of slavery in Egypt.

The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah, which means "booth" or "tabernacle". The sukkah is a temporary structure with four walls and a roof loosely covered with branches so that the stars are still visible. During the harvest season, farmers would build and live in these structures out in the fields, and during their exodus from Egypt, Jews would live in dwellings such as these.

For several years, I used to build a sukkah of our own in the backyard. My family and I would eat our meals inside, and one year we even slept in it overnight. I stopped building it in recent years because it was a HUGE job, but for the years we did have it, it was a wonderful experience. 

Besides the sukkah structure itself, the holiday includes a ritual which involves shaking the lulav and etrog in all directions (signifying that G-d is everywhere). The etrog is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon, and the lulav is three different plant species all bound together, and named for the largest of the three. Combined, the lulav and etrog are four species, all of which are mentioned in the Torah. There are several explanations as to why these particular species were chosen for the ritual, but my favorite one likens each of the species to a part of the human body. With the etrog as the heart, the willow as the lips, the lulav (or palm) as the spine, and the myrtle as the eyes, it's said that through the use of these body parts we can serve G-d by helping others. 

I don't have a sukkah this year, but if I did, I might use my illustration shown here as one of the decorations. If you'd like to download this image to hang in your sukkah, feel free, you can get it here. Hang as is, or color it in. One suggestion that I have is to laminate it with one of the thicker weight lamination films at your local copy store. This will protect it in the rain, keep it hanging flat, and give you a stiff border through which you can punch some holes to hang it. If you remember, please send me a pic of your sukkah, would love to see it. Chag Sameach!

Passover Buttercrunch Matzah Recipe, Illustrated

I've been wanting to illustrate a recipe, and now that Passover is here I thought I'd work on the most delicious, addictive Jewish holiday dessert ever - Chocolate Covered Buttercrunch Matzah!

In addition to exploring recipe illustration, this is my (a little too late) attempt to add a personal touch to the holidays. I had planned on actually MAKING the dessert to bring to my sister's Seder, along with print-outs of the recipe for the kids to color. With time running short, I still need to hard-boil and peel two dozen eggs, make the Charoset, and bag up the chametz. Looks like I may not be getting to this little project after all... but there's always next year. 

Another idea I'd had was to print this out onto card stock, reduced, and use it as a gift tag to accompany a tin full of the buttercrunch matzah. I'd give it as a little spring-time gift to Hebrew school teachers or anyone else I've been feeling grateful for.

If you'd like to use this image for a personal project this Passover, feel free to print it out. I'd love to see what you do with it, so send pics if you can.

Happy Passover!

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Challah Cover Workshop

To make these challah covers we used burlap, white felt, colored chalk, scissors and glue. I cut the burlap ahead of time. Workshop participants removed strands along the perimeter to make a fringe as long or as short as desired. A line of glue stopped it from fraying any more. Designs were sketched onto the white felt, cut out, and glued into place. Colored chalk remnants blown away. Done!

Easy, inexpensive, rustic, unique. My daughter and I made the ones below and alternate with others we’ve made to make each Shabbat meal special….

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Holiday Gift Bag

 
vickykatzman.com/chanukah
 

This quick tutorial accompanies the Peace, Love, Chanukah cut & sew I designed for the Spoonflower holiday gift bag contest. I used my cut-paper design which I originally used as a Chanukah card illustration. Enjoy!

Supplies:

  • Peace, Love, Chanukah cut & sew pattern.

  • Scissors

  • Ribbon or String

  • Safety pin

  • Needle & thread

 

How To:

1. Cut out the pattern pieces along the dotted lines.

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2. Place right sides together. From top of design, measure down 1" and place pins at the 1" mark on both sides. Continue pinning along the side and bottom edges.

 step 4

step 4

 step 7

step 7

3. Starting at the 1" mark, backstitch then continue to sew around the perimeter using a 1/4" seam allowance until reaching the 1" mark on the other side. Backstitch to secure.

4. Trim tips of the bottom corners at an angle.

5. Press seam allowances open.

6. Turn the unfinished top edge under 1/4", iron and sew.

 step 7

step 7

7. Turn top edge under again, this time 3/4", iron and pin. Starting at a side seam, sew around the top of the bag, keeping seam 1/8" from bottom edge of fold. Backstitch at the start and the finish.

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8. Turn bag right sides out and iron seams flat.

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vickykatzman.com_chanukah_gift_bag_tutorial

9. Measure anywhere from 20" - 40" of ribbon or string depending on how long you'd like the finished handle to be. Pin the safety pin through one end of the ribbon, then thread safety pin through and around top seam of bag. Pull ribbon through until both ends align, then make a knot near seam opening.

All done...time to fill it with your gift!

vickykatzman.com_chanukah_gift_bag_tutorial
vickykatzman.com_chanukah_gift_bag_tutorial
vickykatzman.com/chanukah_wine_bag

Just for fun, changed out the ribbon to this slightly fancier one with a silver trim. This bag is wide enough for two wine bottles!

vickykatzman.com

Included in the Peace, Love, Chanukah cut & sew available through Spoonflower, follow the same instructions as listed above to make this one. Disregarding the fact that I need to practice my sewing skills.... this little bag is the perfect size for  gelt. Happy Chanukah!