This week I had an arty evening at Oliver Bonas, Glasgow, creating animal characters with their London-based designers and a small class of like-minded creatives.
The theme was all about the brand’s autumn/winter ‘story’ of KINSHIP, WOODLAND ADVENTURES and FANTASTICAL FRIENDS.
Browsing around the store beforehand was a delight, as the colours, patterns and designs they feature on their fashion and homewares are always innovative, clever and VIBRANT.
The packaging on products like soap and beauty products and even their tissue paper is just so FUN. Bold/neon abstract prints that are really quite simple but so eye-catching. Even the inserts on their frames are amazing enough to just keep instead!
Here’s some insight into their A/W animal theme and why TIGERS feature so prominently.
The patterns make you want to buy the product, and this is why I wanted to get into pattern design because it is so versatile, persuasive, exciting and EVERYWHERE. Oh, and I now want to live in a branch of Oliver Bonas!
Gold handled tea pots and tea sets. Jazzy chartreuse and sage abstract florals. Fabulous!
I loved the embroidery detail on this sage green scarf (above) which gives it a real hand-finished quality with the level of detail. It also fits nicely into the idea of woodland walks all cosy in autumn layers. I love stitch marks and want to use them a bit more in my own designs. Maybe even in my characters?
The metallic print on this bag (below) also taps into the animal theme, and I can really see myself buying it - if I didn’t already have too many cute bags…
The blankets/throws are really cool too in sorbet shades which seem like they would suit summer best, but work so well in-store; a bright yet cosy contrast to the darker, more opulent shades.
So after a browse and a few sips of pink lemonade (Prosecco for some but I was driving), it was time to get started.
We had a few rounds of warm-up exercises lasting from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, where we had to interpret a ‘character’ from a random selection of animals, using a colour and a specified ‘decoration’ for that animal, also picked at random and limited to one. Pressure!
Luckily there were a few Oliver Bonas ceramic animal ‘friends’ dotted around for inspiration, which helped me a lot with faces and basic body shapes.
It was quick-fire fun and we initially used felt tip pens. Some of my combinations were:
A purple lion + bear with spots
A yellow owl with stars
A blue dinosaur with flowers
A turquoise bear with dots
My drawings - really more like sketches or outlines - are naive and childlike, but I quite like that aspect.
Obviously this Tiger & Bear duo are not very polished after only 2 or 3 minutes, but I like how having a time limit and colour restriction can shake up your interpretations into something that you wouldn’t normally create. An interesting dynamic.
I think my FLORA-SAURUS was pretty ingenious:
Once we all agreed we were raring to go on our main animal character of the night, the same rules applied and I my pick got me a GREEN OWL with stripes.
For this more in-depth character we moved on to using watercolours which upped the ante a bit.
We were advised we could sketch outlines in pencil first, but with only 15 minutes in total, I just wanted to dive straight in with my watercolour brush!
I really like my owl, and would like to work on him a little more. Or maybe it’s a her?
I know owls have been a bit over-represented in the last decade or more, but they are popular for a reason and I have always loved them - one of my childhood cuddly toys being an owl.
Finally, we had 5-10 minutes left to work freestyle on anything we wanted - any animal in any medium. I really enjoyed working on my FLORA-SAURUS dino so I created a more in-depth version who I named ‘RUPERT’.
He came out in fire-breathing orange and as there were metallic oil-pastels being passed around, I added those in too - the bronze feels like a nice touch don’t you think? I’d like to experiment with this medium a little more as the pastels resist the paint giving a lovely texture, though precision isn’t easy after a few minutes of use and the warmth of your hand.
A really great evening all round and I made some new friends too. Watch this space for more character creations!