Sketching & The Creative Process - { Flower Thinking }

Sketching & The Creative Process

Sketching is Valuable

Sketching can fast become an indispensable practice that is a routine part of your design process. It can help you to develop initial ideas, select a final idea and to plan the creation of the final composition. Essentially, sketching is a valuable tool to help you take your creative process to the next level, overcome indecision and achieve more design success.

Many designers and artists have good skills in floral design, but they often feel less proficient in the drawing and sketching department. How often have you heard your flower friends utter the words, "I can't draw"? I believe if you can draw a dot or a circle and a simple line, then you can sketch. It's easy to allow our perceived lack of ability in drawing to prevent us from utilising it as a useful tool in designing. Sketching can bring focus, analysis and problem solving to your creative process and have real impact upon your success in working with flowers.
Imagine drawing a simple rectangle on a piece of blank paper.
That simple act will already have you making design decisions, consciously or otherwise – a start to helping you refine your idea:
  • Depending on how you place the rectangle on the paper, you can discern whether the height or the width is dominant, and therefore how the proportions are directed – vertically or horizontally (or maybe you've drawn your rectangle on an angle … another potential design option).
  • The rectangular shape automatically determines that there will be parallel sides, and right angles (points of tension) to work with or contrast against.
  • The ratio between the sides will establish the proportions – are you working with a tall, slender rectangle (dominant height, high contrast between the vertical sides and the horizontal sides), or a low, robust looking rectangle (dominant width, low contrast between the vertical sides and the horizontal sides), or some other proportions?
  • Starting with a rectangular shape also sets the initial visual balance as symmetrical, with a dominant, central axis either horizontally or vertically, depending on how your shape sits on the page.
All this, and more, from one rectangle. One simple geometric shape provides a lot of starting information which can propel your creative process forward.
What you don't draw on the page can also progress your design process, especially as you continue on from the starting rectangle. If you don't add curved or dynamic lines, and no other shapes, your process might see you continuing in a very graphic or structured way – these initial decisions that can impact your final design.

Having to plan your ideas on paper forces you to make some artistic decisions that you may otherwise only encounter when you actually begin the project. Sketching can help to pre-empt and solve fundamental technical problems and design challenges that may be encountered at any time during the project, before you have cut the first stem. Employing sketching as a part of your planning process can save time, money, material … and some grief.
Sketching is a versatile tool, applicable to designs from the smallest ornament, to the most elaborate display or installation. It can also be a very useful tool in communicating your ideas and thoughts to other designers, clients, exhibition coordinators or partners in a team project. This is a particular strength when working with people who do not possess strong visualisation skills.
Don’t let a lack of skill or ability with sketching hold you back. Proceed without fear (as much as you can). Most of the time, sketches are only for your own use and for the planning and design process, not for a solo exhibition at the National Gallery. As long as your sketches convey some core aspects of your design, then they will be a helpful reference to refine and record your ideas, and assist you as you physically create.
Think about architectural drawings and the effort put in to the detail. There is a lot more a risk in realising the overall vision. Precise planning and details are required. Technical problems and design decisions need to be contemplated and resolved before the construction has begun. Floral designs do not have the same risk involved in their execution, but sketching, even with vague details, can still be a powerful and practical design tool.
With the design knowledge you have, you can develop and analyse even a simple sketch, using it to assess the application of the elements and principles of design. A basic black and white sketch may not provide much information about the use of colour; however it may provide you with insights into scale, proportion, rhythm, dominance, contrast, visual balance, line direction, and clues to the possible ways to construct the final design.
An Idea for Your Creative Process
All designers have their own unique approach to the process of creating a design. How do we get from an idea to the finished item? Although it’s different for everyone, making a visual record of your ideas can help the process, and provide a valuable store of inspiration for other projects, that you can return to over and over.

We all sometimes have too many ideas and don't which to choose or where to start. The following practice may help to develop, evolve and refine and idea, and assist in deciding on the idea that is a good fit for your intended project – your final idea. It can help you to explore spontaneous ideas and their potential – all through the use of sketching.
Start with a large sketch pad or sheets of paper.
  • Divide a page in to a series of rectangles, using a thick black pen. The rectangles can be any proportions you desire, but keep them consistent. Perhaps in ‘landscape’ format, with similar proportions to an A4 page (width about 1.4 times the height) … maybe nine or twelve rectangles to a page. Begin in the top left hand rectangle and you proceed through the exercise move across and down the page, the same way we read (left to right, top to bottom).
  • Contemplate a project or concept (design problem/question) at hand, or select an idea or theme to develop.
  • When you have an idea, begin sketching an outline for a design … showing rough components and proportions, without paying to much attention to exact details or content.
  • Keep going for as long as the idea remain fresh, or until the idea keeps developing, or until another idea grows from this idea. As soon as one of these things happens, move to the next rectangle. Begin sketching the new idea that grew from the last one, or, if the last idea has been exhausted, begin with a completely new concept.
The important thing is to keep moving and not to stagnate – let the ideas flow, and catch them as they appear and evolve. This whole process may last for a couple of minutes and a page, or continue for an hour and result in multiple pages of potential design ideas.

Don’t think too much about the designs you are sketching. The moment you begin to analyse your sketch, move on the next rectangle. This will keep your ideas fresh and vital, and provide an abundance of material for you to develop and refine in to workable design ideas later. The idea is to tap in to your creative energy and bring all those amazing ideas lurking around in your depths to the surface, giving them life and setting them free.

For example, think about a tall, sculptural design, with a shape that is uncertain to you. Begin sketching in your first rectangle a familiar shape. Perhaps a classical, circular, topiary shape. This idea might evolve in to an oval shape – move to the next rectangle, and sketch that. Then you might remove the middle so the shape has a circular void. Move to the next rectangle. Change the shape of the void, to maybe a keyhole shape. Then in the next rectangle, keep the keyhole shaped void, but change the outer shape to a hemispherical top with an irregular tapered bottom, like a tad pole. (Don’t worry that it doesn’t make sense how it is going to stand up and balance …. technicalities come later). Keep moving from rectangle to rectangle and allow the idea to grow. If you exhaust inspiration on this first idea, start on another.

Once you have enough sketched ideas, analyse them briefly by suitability and logistical ease, and select one to work with. From this point on, you can develop that one idea further. The sketch will give you a load of core information about the idea, a great start to exploring the concept and a solid start on the journey to realising the final composition.

This process can be used from the small, single designs, to elaborate displays. It can also be adapted for other designs or projects, for example, body flowers or headpieces, or working with a particular container. Instead of starting with a page full of empty rectangles, begin with a series of blank figures, head shapes or container render, and sketch your design over the shapes, moving from one figure to the next until you have enough concepts from which to make a final selection.
Your Turn
Have you got a new creative project on the horizon? Perhaps it's time to get out your pen and paper.
And remember, keep the ideas flowing.
By Mark Pampling
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