UK based illustrator Rick Crane (known on Redbubble as thepapercrane) keeps his work incredibly focused. There is experimentation and exploration in his designs, but behind each illustration is a clear concept, rendered with the end product in mind. His approach is a perfect blend of art and commerce – create what inspires you, but be aware and cognizant of the audience.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”My favourite things in life are mountains, birds, clouds, rivers and the night’s sky…”[/tweet_box]
Your work in your store shows a strong focus on creating designs that work across the bulk of the available items. When you start a design is your goal for it to work on as many items as possible?
When I first started putting my work online the focus was purely t-shirt design. Since then, the rapid growth in print-on-demand means that designs can now be applied to an ever-growing range of products. However my starting point has remained the same; If it works for a t-shirt then it will usually transfer easily to the other items. When designing for t-shirts I always consider the overall shape, the negative space or potential framing so that the image is self-contained.
Did you have to adjust your style at all to fit t-shirts?
My style evolved quite quickly to work as t-shirt designs. It’s a great format as you can create concepts or just visually appealing imagery without the restrictions of any brief, client or brand. I love the ideas process and have so many in my sketchbooks. It’s always good to have a second opinion though, to bounce stuff around with other creatives so you can continue to develop as a designer/artist.
Have you created designs specifically for other items – say, mugs or phone cases?
Not specifically, but I feel many products on Redbubble also lend themselves well to repeating patterns. I have produced some pattern designs in the past but would like to make time to create more.
Any items you wish you could design for?
I really appreciate well-designed fabrics, rugs and ceramics so would like more opportunities to design for these. I have also really enjoyed creating designs specifically for wall clocks. I see wall clocks as a classic design item and the whole concept of time and our relationship with it interests me. I like the idea of design ideas that relate directly to the product in a playful way.
What’s your work flow from sketch to final image in your store?
Ideas come to me at random times (often when I am trying to go to sleep), I will at that point make a thumbnail sketch so that I don’t forget them. Then I will sit on the idea for a while until I feel ready to either take them to the drawing board or straight into illustrator. When working with pencil and paper, I usually use my light-box to refine and then ink up. It is an invaluable tool, which my multitalented late Grandfather made (he was a pointillist and a poet amongst many other things).
Once scanned I will clean up and add colour in Photoshop before preparing the final .png file for digital print (or layered file for screen print). I am yet to adopt a more modern approach to my workflow as I am not that great at adapting to new technologies. I also really appreciate time spent away from a screen, using more traditional mediums.
With a few exceptions, you work mostly digitally. When a piece is done, are you creating the individual files for the various items (t-shirt, mug, etc.) at that point?
The great thing about Redbubble is that you can cover nearly every product with just one file. So once I am finally happy with the design, I just have to create a large enough .png to cover every product. Sometimes you have to rework the design a little to work as a sticker. It’s also great that with many products you can easily create repeat patterns at the upload stage.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”The humbling beauty and creativity of the natural world is a continual source of inspiration for me.”[/tweet_box]
I check my shops and social media sites most working days. I like to have everything up to date and keep all the conversations fresh, while at the same time appreciating other people’s work.
I believe having a presence and building an audience on social media is an important part of selling online. I know not everyone likes to promote themselves but with so much creativity and visual content out there it helps if people can easily connect with you. I am increasingly getting enquiries and request via social media and feel it is good to be as responsive as possible.
I also take an interest in analytics and statistics and find it useful to link my online shops to web analytics. Amongst other things, I can see where traffic is coming from and gauge which social media sites are worth investing more time in and when.
Your design “The Final Adventure” is an incredibly seamless collage that acts as a conceptual counterpoint to your equally gorgeous design “Fresh.” Your collage work has the same ‘voice’ as your clean line work — is that a conscious choice to keep everything focused on the natural world? When do you find yourself turning to collage work?
I love collage. Even though I am using readymade images, it is usually much more time consuming then other forms of media, as I try to achieve that seamless appearance. Therefore I don’t create as much as I would like.
Usually I have an idea and take sometime to think about how I want it to look and which approach would be best. If I feel it should be collage, the idea usually remains a sketch in my book until I can afford the time and patience. Whatever approach I take it does always seem to relate to nature. I have a strong fascination with the natural world, from the depths of the ocean to the depths of the universe. My favourite things in life are mountains, birds, clouds, rivers and the night’s sky and my designs nearly always contain at least one of these things. I have lived in cities but I am much happier in the countryside, it is where I feel most at ease. The humbling beauty and creativity of the natural world is a continual source of inspiration for me. To maintain a connection with it, to sense that wonder and that oneness is an essential part of my life.