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Exercise 5.1: Your Own Work

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

The first exercise for part five had an interesting premise. I was asked to review my previous work with the aim of selecting pieces that could be used in different areas of authorial practice. There have been several times where I have thought to myself that a design would look good for a particular purpose, but for this exercise I needed to consider some of the practicalities of making that a reality.

To get a gauge on what work I had to choose from, I gathered up and sorted through all the digital and physical media that I have made so far, including looser development sketches, test pieces and experiments as well as final designs made for specific briefs.

Media from previous exercises spread across my desk.

It was nice to see so much of my work gethered all in one place and having large desk overflowing with sketches, scraps and collages felt as a good milestone for everything that I have achieved so far as it's easy to forget the journey when i'm constantly looking ahead to the next project.

I first considered which areas of authorial practice these pieces lend themselves best to. For each item I decided to avoid the areas that were already specifically covered by brief so that I could focus on finding new uses for the work. Interestingly, my sketchbook didn’t hold much that I felt was worth reinterpreting as my early drawings were much rougher and only created as shorthand for ideas to be developed at later stages. However i can see how this has improved as my line work has become more controlled.

I narrowed my options down even more by steering clear of any final outcomes that had already been designed for a specific purpose, leaving me with a selection of images that were either by-products of the process or created for exercises with experimental contexts in their briefs. I compiled my favorites and annotated them with what I liked about them and what they could alternative uses that could have.

Annotated favourites

The context of a drawing can change dramatically depending on the purpose of the object it is printed on and what environment it will be seen. Common surfaces such as phone cases, t-shirts and canvas bags are templates are marketed based on the customers attraction to the artwork itself, whereas bespoke coverings for products with a specific function can be strengthened by the featured artwork matching the theme or function of a product in a complementary way.

With this in mind, some work such as the first abstract painting I did for exercise 3.4 felt suitable to turn into patterns that could be used on fabrics in interior design projects, whereas others such as the lighthouse from exercise 2.9 made good candidates to be printed relatively unchanged on bathroom items that matched the theme. In the case of the cat from exercise 4.6, children’s publishing is definitely on my list of things to try at some point, but I want to be able to dedicate myself to developing something like that on a larger project, so I didn't move forward with that one this time. At this point I felt that the most common area of authorial practice for using these images fell into the category of decorative illustration, so I began looking at printing websites such to see what kind of products I could feature my images on.

There is an overwhelming amount of companies with websites that allow you to buy your own designs to be printed onto products to be delivered to customers. As my targets were for domestic settings I looked at several multipurpose print-on-demand sites to see what the options were including Vistaprint, Zazzle, BagsOfLove and Printful. In terms of balance between affordability, variety, quality and ease of use, I decided to give Zazzle a go to mock up some of my designs.

I made a few small changes to my source files to make backgrounds transparent and clear and mocked up some products using the website's own built in editing tool. I found that borderless designs without a background were easier to place across unusual products as it is not bound to the aspect ratio of a standard rectangular frame, the cat bowl being the best example of this from the four below.

1. A Cat bowl

Using Adobe Illustrator to trace my line art from my five line cat drawing, I attached it to this white ceramic pet bowl. I feel the cat has a lot of character for something mostly minimal and the style can be expanded to include other pets products drawn in the same style.

2. Coasters

My fruit and vegetable illustrations are suited to kitchen based items such as tablecloth covers or tea towel designs that support an atmosphere of home cooking. In this case i used them as tableware options as coasters featuring compositions that removed the point of sales details required in the original brief.

3. Scatter Cushion

This abstract pattern looks fitting on this small scatter cushion and I can envisage it adding a splash of colour to the dark monotones of some living room seating. This was the most expensive of my four mock ups as it would involve the most production time.

4. Hand Towel

Nautical themes are popular in interior design for bathrooms, so my lighthouse illustration fits in appropriately here. This version is a hand towel, but other similar products that i looked at included bath mats, full sized towels and flannels. The simple black and white style of my original drawing would be less affected from being printed on fabric than if I used a detailed colour design on the same material.

As an experiment to see how good the quality of one of these items would be in person, I ordered the lower cost hand towel as it seemed reasonably priced at £13.44 (including postage and packaging) and something that would have some personal use too.


A few weeks later, my order had arrived and I'm pleased with the result. I happen to already have a bathroom that follows a nautical theme so I arranged a few relevant props for some photos of the final product.

The design has translated really well onto fabric and although the quality of the towel is fairly basic as I expected with the lower price point, it is still absorbent and dries well, serving its purpose in being practical with an aesthetic that fits in with the rooms theme.

As a proof of concept, I'm happy with my purchase. Although as a creative, if I was to aim for any full production runs of these products with the intention of selling them to the public then I would definitely do a deeper dive into comparing and setting up a cost effective production with companies that specialised in making these types of products. This has been a fun exercise though and has opened my eyes to the vast number of purposes that I could be making my artwork for in the future.

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