Surface design : Oksancia

Oksana Pasishnychenko is a happy soul. In fact, she refers to her business Oksancia as “optimistic art”. Her illustrations and surface designs are filled with happy animals and people that have more than a hint of kawaii. But what I love about her work most are the fabulous floral designs. (Is it just me? Oh, I do have a thing for flowers!)

Her palette is soft and warm, with a predominance of coral reds and yellow-orange (even though she has said in the past that her favourite colour is blue ;D). Her surface designs showcase some wonderful drawing skills, full of gentle and flowing lines that demonstrate a great understanding of plant forms gained from close observation.

bright garden flowers




Oksana grew up in the Ukraine, fascinated by images from a very early age. After watching her draw and paint what seemed like hundreds of pictures of ‘cats, and other weird animals’, her parents decided to send her to a local art school at the age of six. She loved it, but after a year the teacher changed and she decided to pursue other interests.

Despite moving around a lot (first to university in Kiev to study Literature, then to Groningen for a Masters in Dutch Culture), she always kept up painting in her spare time. She soon became interested in vector illustration, and started contributing her work to microstock agencies. This turned out to be the perfect backdrop to her life. She says of this outlet “Gotta be thankful for microstocks when you are a digital artist who loves to travel the world!”


folk tulips


underwater garden


Not one to sit still, Oksana and her husband Alex have now moved to California!  I’m looking forward to seeing what turns up next.


poppies – silhouettes


flower dream


You can find Oksancia on Spoonflower here, and see other examples of work on her own website here.


With thanks to Oksana for sharing her words and images here.

Surface Design : Irrimirri {Miriam Bos}

The world of Miriam Bos is filled with mermaids and butterflies, rabbits and bees. It is an idyllic place, brimful to overflowing with the joy of living and the warmth of friendship.

Now I’m usually not one for general cuteness, but what struck me about Miriam’s designs are her wonderful drawing skills and her absolutely superb colours. These colours are rich and full with great depth, despite the minimal use of graduated tone to create three dimensional effects. They are warm, filled with light, and inviting. This so obviously comes from a deep understanding of and love for colour. Flowers appear like jewels and jellyfish glow like chandeliers.


After completing school, Miriam studied Illustration at the renowned Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, graduating in 2002. Then after a brief and unhappy stint working for a greeting card company (who basically asked her to breach copyright by getting her to copy artwork from other artists and companies), she set out on her own as a freelancer, which she has been doing ever since. Miriam points out her surname is ‘Bos’, which is the Dutch word for ‘forest’. She says she liked it for a business name, and “That’s why trees and forest critters keep occurring in my work!”

flowers in my garden


strawberry fields forever


Although sometimes she simply starts a drawing and keeps going to see what comes of it, more usually she makes a sketch beforehand, “because I hate it when I’ve painted something and then think it would’ve looked better if I placed it in another corner. I can be very precise about what I want I guess.”

And inspiration can happen at any time. “I always have all kinds of silly images and ideas popping up in my head, so wherever I go I always carry paper and pen with me to write it down. Or, in case I forget my pen, I use my phone to write down notes.”

flower power (dark)


“It was when I was 10 that my parents told me about the Academy of Arts, and I knew that I wanted to go there. I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. They told me that I needed to do very well at school to be able to get there, and from that time on it was my goal in life.

“I was always very creative from a very early age. My parents, especially my mum, encouraged me a lot. She is a very talented person herself. She is great at sculpting, decorating, and sewing. She can also draw, though she never really took it further. When I was little she taught crafts workshops; she knows a lot about craft materials and how to work with them, and consequently my sister and I were never short of materials to use. My mum made sure we had all we could wish for and we often had weekends of arts and crafts together.

“My sister is also quite creative, and is now a jeweller. My dad is creative in a different kind of way. He is very clever with constructions and such. He helped build the kitchen in our house. So I guess we were all creative, but in different ways.”


ditsy sea turtles

funny bunny bikers

But despite the fabulous love and support from her family, there have been hard times too. “Towards the end of my time at art school, I had a major block. I had the feeling that everything I created was ‘wrong’, not tasteful, not good, too cliche and so on. Just not right. Don’t get me wrong. I loved art school, and we were taught to become our own critics, which is good. But I am very much a perfectionist with things and I was very critical of myself. Nothing could happen spontaneously in a drawing any more. Every line I put on paper I thought about before I drew it, and at that point I hated everything I made. When I look back I see that my work then looked stiff and forced; it didn’t feel flowy and nice. I knew I could do much better, but the flow was missing, and it took me more than a year to get over it. Now I like my work and I love working on art again. But it was a pain at that point; it’s not easy to change yourself.

“During that period I made a lot of fantasy paintings (fairies, mermaids, and nymphs especially). It’s a totally different style of work compared to what I make nowadays, and at school they were considered wrong and cliche. But because I wanted to get past my block I made them anyway, just because I could. I felt a bit like a rebel, though in the end it’s silly if you think about it. But it helped me get over it.”

Through her career, she has had a great time working on some really fun projects. “For instance, I have lived in the USA for half a year to work on a project for a Kid’s museum in California. It’s called Kidspace (Pasadena), and they have this great exhibit about bugs and the like. I worked on animations and some graphic design for this project, hired by MAD systems. It really was a great experience, and there were plans that I would stay and live there. But most of the time I was animating; I like it, but I love illustrating more.”

Now, Miriam is working towards her dream goal of illustrating and publishing her own children’s book. “I like writing, though I am not that good at it. But perhaps I will be able to do a real children’s book in the future together with a writer. I’ve done some educational children’s/story books in the past, which is fun, but not quite the icing on the cake just yet.” {Would any writers like to take up her challenge? Those illustrations are very gorgeous!}


miriam bos – sketchbook


Miriam works from her home, which she shares with her husband. She loves the way it’s set up. “Our living room is also my working space. We have a large living room, and in one of the corners I set up my computer corner – a big desk with an iMac and a Cintiq (yes I am spoiled). The walls are covered with pretty cards and art from fellow illustrators. And on my other wall I have a card rack with my card designs in them and shelves with some of my work in books and my fun kokeshi doll collection. My creative space is colourful and cheerful and a bit chaotic, which suits me I guess.

“And then there is the other corner of the living room where my husband and I both have a table where we can be creative with paint and paper and such. All my painting and drawing stuff is there. My husband Coen sometimes has this urge to create something as well – last time he was making himself a papier mache helmet. Just out of the blue. He loves working on silly ideas he has every now and then. And he draws a lot there too.”


miriam bos – workspace

And a final piece of advice?
“Do what you love best. I think my parents told me this. At least they always encouraged me to do so, and I love them for that.”


You can find more of Miriam’s work on her own website (she apologises for most of it being in Dutch, although the blog is in English!). There, you can see more examples of her illustration, comics, and some freebies (including Christmas decorations). You can also purchase her fabric designs through Spoonflower here.


With thanks to Miriam for generously sharing her words and images.


Design How-to : Colour


Welcome to the next instalment in my series on Design How-To. (You can find the rest of the series here.) I trust you’ve been enjoying it so far! And I really hope it’s been helpful. This post is on the ever wonderful Colour. (And yes, this one’s a little longer and more involved than other posts so far – but please stay with me! There’s HEAPS to know.)

I know there are quite a few sites out there dedicated to colour alone, and that really is no wonder. It is often the first thing we notice about something, apart from the overall form of the object; it is an important part of our initial impression.

The importance of Colour is also attested to by the plethora of books written about it; it is most definitely a whole area of study on its own. And although I obviously have no claim as any kind of  trailblazer, I would like to gather a few thoughts together here, in the hope that it might confirm or extend your ideas on how to work (and play) with colour. I hope it might even encourage you to experiment and surprise yourself! So here goes…


Colour is sometimes referred to as hue. There are three primary colours (red, yellow, blue), which can be mixed to form secondary colours (orange, green, purple), and tertiaries (those colours in between the primary and secondary colours). Colours can be darkened with black (tone) or lightened with white (tint), and muted with various shades of grey (value, or saturation). There are infinite variations that can be achieved.

And although I do agree that there are some hues that I love more than others (um, I could be a little obsessed with aqua), I do not have a colour I hate – each colour is perfect and wonderful when used in the right situation (cue ‘bottle green’ and ‘mission brown’ – so often misused and abused, hence the collective hate).

Colour, and colour combinations can be clear, muted, loud, subtle, pale, strong, murky, and more. They can be utilised to enhance the ‘mood’ of a piece – cheerful, romantic, bold, fresh, and many others besides.

Johannes Itten, painter and educator at the Bauhaus, developed the Colour Wheel (or Sphere) in the early 20th Century from earlier colour theories, and now his Wheel has become a standard reference tool around the world. His book The Art Of Color, first published in 1960, is still a pillar of reference.

When choosing colours to coordinate, use the colour wheel as a guide; here are some basic ideas.

  1. Two colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel look good together, and are referred to as complementary, e.g. yellow and violet.
  2. Three colours that are equally spaced from each other on the wheel, forming an equilateral triangle, also look good, e.g. blue-violet, yellow-green, and red-orange.
  3. Two or three colours right next to each other on the wheel are called harmonious, and look good, e.g. violet, blue-violet, blue.

Another idea to consider is the value of the colour – dusky pink will most often look terrible with a clear bright red, even though they have a similar base hue.

When using colours, consider the fact that coloured light reflected from one object/area can alter the colour of another object/area. You can probably understand this best by thinking about what colour the walls in your house are painted, and how they look different from one room to the next, depending on where windows and furniture are. This concept can also be useful to remember when you are making much smaller things!

Because it is part of our primary impression, colour can really enhance the ‘mood’ of a piece. Saturated (pure, rich) colours generally make us feel more positive than dull or subdued colours. But each hue has it own associations too – yellow is a bright happy colour, often associated with sunshine; alternatively, dull yellows (mixed with greys) can sometimes look a bit sickly. Red is the colour of blood, and so often is associated with danger and passion. Pink, being a softer version of red, can be associated with the feminine. Blue is a cool colour, associated with water and the sky. Light blue suggests tranquility, and dark blue suggests stability.

Still with me? Excellent!

Let’s look at a few examples of works that have used colour well.


henatayeb – flowermaker


This gorgeously delicate image uses a very simple technique of enhancing one area with subtle pink to denote the beauty of what this worker is doing – threading blossoms onto string for garlands. We are always drawn to an area of colour if the rest of the item/image is neutral.


artdecadence – like clouds


In contrast, this image has great saturated colour. However, its intensity is balanced by the pale skin, and the tranquil pose of the subject. Note also that the turquoise and deep orange-red colours are close to opposites on the colour wheel, which is why they look so good together. (And a note: Despite not being exact opposites, the turquoise and red still work because of their saturation – both colours are intense and rich)


colorsbyliza – pillbox


This cute little pillbox also uses turquoise and red (less orange than previously), but adds in gold. These three colours form close to an equilateral triangle on the colour wheel, and the small shifts in hue within the turquoise areas provide extra richness. I am also quite taken by the metallic sheen of the gold next to those rich hues.


anopensketchbook – succulent container


A collection of hues that sit next to each other on the colour wheel look great together too. The greens and blue-greens in this print are not pure colour, but have been mixed with grey to dull the colour, conveying a much more gentle mood. The tiny spots of pure yellow and orange-red provide subtle yet vibrant points of interest.


tenthings – sienna earrings


The liquid translucence of the gems in these earrings gives great depth to their colour, which is enhanced by the warmth of the gold setting to create a rich and glamorous look. Think about how the ‘mood’ of their appearance would change the look if the green stones were a milky green, or if the setting were silver.


lydia meiying – fish scales and mermaids


I adore this surface design – the choice of colours is great, but what I love is how the outlines use brighter, contrasting hues (especially the red scales with light turquoise lines) – so much more intriguing as it is unexpected.  We have come to expect that outlines in drawings are darker, often defining areas of shadow, so to use colour in this way creates a wonderful surprise.


amberstudios – shaggy scarf


Here’s a fabulously wild piece to finish. It might look like a bit of a mish mash of whatever the artist found that day in her studio, but somehow the piece manages to work! How? If you take a more considered look, you will see that there are multiple areas of magenta and red hues throughout to visually tie the piece together. Likewise, there are also multiple areas of green. Note also that all the hues used are fairly vibrant, pure colour; not too much that has been toned down with greys. And the structure of the scarf is another element that helps to bring cohesiveness to this – we can follow the strong lines of of fluffy green from the neck to the bottom of the piece. Certainly not a wearable for the faint-hearted, and certainly not something for a beginner to attempt, but you cannot deny that impact!


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is a huge amount more to be said about Colour and how to utilise it to enhance your work, but I hope these few brief examples have got you thinking just that little bit more about how to apply it to your own work.

The last thing to remember is that these ideas are guides, not hard and fast rules! But it IS vital that you understand the fundamentals before you start trying to dazzle the world with your amazingly wild colour combinations. There is SO much to learn about colour, and how it works, so ‘Steady as she goes’, I say!


If you’ve got a project that you’re proud of, that uses any of these Elements and Principles, I would LOVE to hear about it! If you’ve got a pic of it up online somewhere, please add a link in the comments below, so you can show it off!! 🙂

(and add a little comment about how you’ve used the Element/Principle/s?)

Well hey, you know what? I think we’ve covered all the Elements of Design, so in the next How-To we will be starting on the Principles! Just as a refresher in case you’re wondering, you can think of the ELEMENTS as a series of tools you can use, and the PRINCIPLES as the methods you can apply in using them. And there are always crossovers between these ideas; each element or principle rarely works in isolation.

So next? Perhaps Repetition – or the other side of the coin, Contrast… What do you think? Seeya soon!

Julie x


Surface design : Jo Bound – Boeme


Utterly luxurious. You know I fall in love with fabrics every day, but these are so very special. Jo Bound of Boeme creates fabulous designs for glorious surfaces.


paon – teal – cotton velvet


Originally studying textile design at Nottingham (UK), Jo worked for the past 20 years for leading fabric companies such as Malabar, Sanderson and Harlequin. But it was only recently when Liberty approached her that she decided to quit the corporate world and start her own brand. “Boeme is the culmination of my life’s work and it has a very distinctive look. My aim was to offer a portfolio of beautiful fabrics with a fine art, illustrative quality to them.  I feel that a lot of fabrics on the high street seem as if they’ve been instantly produced and lack depth. I’ve tried to create a collection that has a lot of thought in it; fabrics to cherish like antiques.”

Even a quick view of her work bears testament to the fact that she is an avid collector of antique textiles. Chinoiserie, hints of Roccoco and Victoriana all make an appearance in various guises, but are given fresh insight through the use of scale and colour. Jo’s other inspirations come from the everyday countryside around her home, and she loves to visit the nearby Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley.


floressa – duckegg – viscose/linen


madame pangon – navy – cotton velvet


The colours of her designs are gorgeously rich, and the base cloths they are printed on include pure linens and velvets, to create fabrics of great luminous depth. The Art Deco inspired Madame Pangon and the peacock print Paon, which are both printed on rich velvet immediately conjure for me dreams of pure tactile and visual lusciousness.

Not content with simply creating allover repeats for fabric, Jo also creates amazing scenes for stand alone panels, which can be used as wall coverings, or framed pieces. The fabulous Magnus Opus is one of these. Stylistically taking its cues from the great scenic wallpapers of the 1800s, it prints at a staggering 414cm wide and 260cm high – guaranteed to make an impression!


magnum opus (detail) – linen


But most of all, Jo wants people to feel at home in their homes, and believes that this can be achieved through a vigorous openness to variety. “A collection of things that the home owner really loves is so much more appealing than carefully matched shades of cream.  “I collect antique textiles and surround myself with cherished items I’ve found in eclectic places that a lot of people might call junk – but for me they are inspiration. Decorative objects cheer us up, they’re real value for money.”


jo bound


You can find more of Jo’s work at


With thanks to Jo for sharing her words and images.


Meet the Sponsors for July – and some new friends!


Welcome back to my wonderful sponsors and friends – Middlemost Clothing, and First Light Photography!


I’m sure you are familiar with the work of both these beautiful people – Janine from Middlemost Clothing makes clothing and accessories from gorgeous vintage fabrics and other treasures  – and she has recently expanded her range to include fun little badges of linen and leather with custom text on them. So if you’ve got something to say to the world, get a beautifully crafted badge to say it with. You can find her by clicking the image below.

middlemost clothing


And Sue from First Light Photography also continues to add to her portfolio with the peaceful and beautiful images of the country. They are always gentle, always full of life lived and loved. {Click on the image to see more of her work}

White Spring Blossoms Photograph - blue sky, spring, sunny, clouds

first light photo – ‘spring sky’



You might notice a few extra banners on the site… these are my new friends (except for Janine from Jiniku (gorgeous clothing, love that dress I bought!), she’s a friend already, welcome back)! We’ve all done a bit of a banner swap for the next month or so, and these lovely makers and bloggers are showing off my banner on their blog too. So hi again Jiniku! and welcome to –

Shelley of Spincushions (gorgeously fun felt pincushions),
Amanda of Wayfaring Magnolia (vintage clothing & accessories),
Annaig from Annaig’s Gemstudio (amazing gemstone cutter, check her video!),
Rebekah from Bekahdu (fabulous hand painted and stitched art quilts),
Hannah from Banana Apple Orange (fab patchwork quilting & children’s clothing from vintage fabrics),
Suzie from Suzie Wheat Vintage (jewellery made from repurposed vintage pieces),
Jane from Earth Apple Jane (making intriguingly textured jewellery from potatoes, no less!),
Ron Cristy (truly and amazingly beautiful woodwork and cabinetry)
Anna from King Billy (Kid’s clothing and accessories and stuff for grownups too)

and lastly but not leastly –
Linda from Blue Jacaranda (art cards, and gorgeous prints and printables).

All these wonderful people have some fabulous things to show off to you, so give them some love ~ click on their banners in the sidebar here, go visit their blogs, and their shops!