What Happens When the Art Director Draws a Blank?

Becoming-your-best-art-directorOpportunities to design on your own, outside of the direction of a client, art director, or agent, offers a liberating creative experience. We all dream about this type of opportunity, don’t we? Sometimes the experience is just as we imagined and then there are those other times…the ones where we are the art director and find ourselves feeling lost, overwhelmed, and the worst—unproductive. There you sit, staring down at your computer, iPad, or sketchbook, wishing it would come to life with an answer to your biggest question. What should you draw today?

These moments can cause you to doubt what you are meant to create and where you fit in within this vast design industry, eventually leading to the waiting game. You wait for someone to tell you what to do. You wait to be “discovered” by your dream client. You wait for someone to show you the way. There’s one word in these examples that is the hint to your solution—and that is the word “you.”

We are often our best guide, teacher, and art director. Accepting this on the surface level is easy; however, tapping into this ability is not. Often enough, it is buried deep under self-doubt and information overwhelm. And all this “guck” doesn’t go away with the snap of our fingers.

Most creatives long for a way to dig themselves out of this situation. I know I find myself in similar situations from time to time. I have found that the best way to move out of this “waiting” mode and into a creative mode is to tap into the core of my artistic style and what I love to create. You can explore the first step of the process in this video.

Over the years I have learned an important lesson. With the right information, and the right level of focus, you can remove those barriers that cause you to doubt your creative vision. Just because you work in a vast industry doesn’t mean you don’t have a fresh approach that agents, clients, and art directors are longing to see. You owe it to yourself and your passions to tap into what it takes for them to see your talents.

Where I’ve found this level of confidence to be really helpful is with the big question of “what to design each season.” Wouldn’t you love to be more confident in your decision making skills in this area? How about determining who to market your work to? The more confident you are, the more easily you know the answers to this pressing question.

You can become the art director of your brand and career. Hopefully you’re up for it. I’m here to help, and what I suggest doing first is a reflection of your own work, using this quick video exercise.

Get ready. Get set. Action!

Featured Designer: Alice Acreman


I would describe Alice Acreman’s work as a breath of fresh air, a peek into another world, an escape from the mundane. The layers of motifs, rich colors, and mysterious storylines she creates all work together in such a dynamic, cohesive manner.

Alice was awarded a bachelor’s degree in Fashion in 2014, where she focused her studies on the influence of nature and technology on print design. After designing for a global retailer in the USA, she became frustrated with two things: 1) the wasted resources; and, 2) the speed at which garments became irrelevant. She turned this frustration into motivation. The outcome was the creation of her own ‘slow fashion’ brand with a focus on timeless artwork. Alice’s artwork can now be found on scarves, kimonos, pillows, and wall hangings.


Each print is handmade by Alice, using a mixture of watercolor painting, sketching, and collage. Once ready, it is digitally printed. When we asked Alice about how she creates the collages, shared this with his: “By layering artwork printed and drawn on different papers, I arrange the collage until I’m happy. Then, the collage is scanned in the final layout to be printed onto silk. Each scarf design can take days or weeks to finalize.”


Alice’s goal is to grow her brand to be able to help charities and spread awareness of global issues through her prints. Please explore more of her work at www.aliceacremansilks.com.

Featured Designer: Erin Dollar


With the support of SURTEX, each month a new post will be highlighted on Pattern Observer, featuring the work of one of our Textile Design Lab members. This month we are thrilled to feature the work of TDL member Erin Dollar. Erin Dollar is the designer and maker behind Cotton & Flax. With a background in fine art printmaking, Erin brings a simple, modern aesthetic vision to Cotton & Flax, which she founded in 2012. It’s an honor to have Erin in the Textile Design Lab and we look forward to bringing her work to the SURTEX show in February 2019.

This is some of the fascinating insight into Erin’s background and drive that she shared with us. Enjoy!

“I studied fine art at UC Santa Cruz, where I focused on printmaking. I was obsessed with old-school techniques like lithography and woodcut relief printing, which was very labor intensive, but offered such a distinctive look. I spent so many long days and nights in the print studio, completely in love with the process of creating images that could be reproduced in such a hands-on way.


“After college, I joined a co-operative printmaking studio in Portland, Oregon, and continued to create fine artwork. While I was a member of that studio, I learned to screenprint by watching my friends create their own artworks. I started experimenting with screenprinting, which led me to printing on fabric to create more utilitarian pieces that fell more under the umbrella of ‘design’ than ‘fine art.’ I felt pulled toward creating a brand around my new textile experiments, and Cotton & Flax, my home decor company, was born.

“Since then, I’ve sold my home decor products online, as well as through indie boutiques and even major retailers like West Elm and CB2. I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with other brands to license my designs, which has led to lots of products featuring my artwork, including two fabric collections with Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

“I’ve included a mix of designs to share with you in this post. Some are from my textile design work for my home decor company, Cotton & Flax, and others from various client projects. The fabric bolt I’m holding is from my new collection of fabrics for Robert Kaufman, called “Balboa”—29 new fabrics that will debut in stores in November. The notebooks were created in collaboration with Scout Books in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I love their use of natural materials in their production process. The throw blanket shown in this post was created as part of a class I taught for The Crafter’s Box, where we stenciled throw blankets with an original pattern design.


“Joining TDL helped me find a community of other surface pattern designers, and I’ve learned so much from them in the time I’ve been in the Lab! It’s been a wonderful resource to me as I continue to collaborate with brands to create one-of-a-kind patterned products . This industry is so vibrant, and I’m grateful to have found a group that has supported and guided me along the way.”

Please visit Cottonandflax.com to see more of Erin’s beautiful work and bring a bit of her style into your home!

Featured Designer: Maribel Castells


Today, I am delighted to feature the work of Maribel Castells. She instantly drew me in with her unexpected color palettes and the stories she uses in her work. I was both curious and excited to hear her story.

Maribel worked as a graphic designer for 15+ years, but always had a dream of becoming an illustrator and creating her own patterns and images for children (books, decor, and stationery). Maribel shares: “When I was little, in the late 80s, I was always painting, creating my own magazines, making collages, and drawing floor plans. Geometry, retro patterns, and a collage approach were my obsessions back then… and still are.”


These examples from Maribel’s portfolio reflect her work’s main passions and favorite color palettes. When I asked her about inspiration and techniques, she told me, “I’m inspired by folk, old stuff, and vintage aesthetics. I feel close to joy, nature, a simple life, and feeling a sense of belonging. I work mainly with digital for the final piece (psd brushes), but sometimes I mix it up with collage bits of old papers or textures. For repeats, I work in Illustrator or Photoshop.”

Maribel is currently focusing on building her career in illustration, specifically in surface design, children’s publishing and editorial. “My dream is to have my own collections on children’s decor, products, fabrics, and illustrating books for children.”

You can see more of Maribel’s beautiful work on her Instagram page.

Featured Designer: Mengly Hernandez


Today I am thrilled to feature the work of Mengly Hernandez, founder of Linea Germania. I was immediately drawn to Mengly’s patterns because of their bold scale, dramatic sense of movement, and organic line work.

Mengly is a native New Yorker whose journey began with a silk screening class, which led to experimentation on making scarves on her living room floor. First, for herself and friends, later for customers. What started as a hobby has now grown into a business with customers worldwide. Linea Germania is carried in stores in the US, Sweden, Japan, France, and the UK. Some of the more notable shops you can find these beautiful scarves at are Steven Alan Japan, Solange Knowel’s Saint Heron Shop, and The Cooper Hewitt museum shop.


A mark of distinction about her work is that Mengly still makes all the patterns and they are often drawn by hand. When I asked her about this, she shared: “A passion for textures, colors and shapes is deeply rooted in me and inspired by my grandmother, a lover of beauty who’s discerning eye extended to interiors and bold personal style.” She added, “I also find inspiration in varied places the world over.”


The beautiful images in this post are from her latest collection “Daydreaming in Present.” You can also view additional work from Mengly Hernandez at www.lineagermania.com.

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.