This month I participated in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search. For anyone who is not familiar with this competition you can find out a bit more HERE.

These days my workload is pretty heavy and it’s difficult to make time for any personal projects, but this competition was a great way for me to just have a bit of fun and to create for the pleasure of it. Having a deadline also gave me the motivation to put in a few late nights to finish it. This post shows a bit of an insight into how I work when facing a brand new brief.

Written by Danielle McDonald

This was my final submission:


I did not have a lot of time to dedicate to this one, so it was a great lesson in just getting on with things. But first things first – THE BRIEF.

It was a long one, but in a nutshell, we were challenged to design a pattern for some sneakers. They were to be marketed to a young New York Shop owner who loves vintage, floral, quirky things.

When I am excited by a new project, I am usually bursting with ideas and can barely scribble fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. I find it quicker to write everything down, rather than draw at this stage. Nothing is too silly or odd. I just jot it down.

I did not have a great deal of time to flesh out each of my ideas, so I just picked one and started sketching. I loved the idea of drawing shop items with tags hanging off them. We were required to include at least ONE word, so the words SHOP LOCAL immediately sprang to mind.

danielle mcdonald ideas

From the sketch stages I started to play around with some rough patterns, but my initial drawings just seemed too boring for me.

danielle mcdonald ideas 2

I felt a little restricted by my understanding of the brief, so I decided to just follow my instincts and bring in a bit more fun.

danielle mcdonald ideas 3

Ok, so I DID realise early on that my designs were going to be a bit more suited to the KIDS who might come into her shop, but what do you expect from a Children’s Book Illustrator?! I was having so much fun that I just went with it.

From here I played around a bit with the technique I wanted to use.

gts 2015 rough 4 print

I ended up tracing off some of the designs using a brush and black gouache. By changing the pressure you apply to the brush as you trace, you can get a lovely thick and thin line. You need to add quite a bit of water to the gouache to get it to flow off the brush this way, but it’s lovely when you get it right!

danielle mcdonald illos 1

­I always create my artwork in black so that it creates the greatest contrast when scanning. From here, I convert the images to line work in Illustrator so that I can colour it up. I have fallen into this technique after years of working with clients who often require various colour ways or colour changes to artwork. It’s so much easier to make these changes on the computer than to recreate original hand painted pieces every time.

I am very lucky to have a Wacom Cintiq and it really does allow for a more natural drawing style when drawing directly into the computer.  So next I create the base shapes that will sit behind the line work.

danielle mcdonald cintaq

Colour is my favourite stage of the design process and I just love playing around with various combinations. It can completely change the look and feel of the final piece.


I did not get a lot of time to mess around with this one, so I settled on a palette pretty early on.

To create the pattern effect, I basically stepped out the designs into a basic repeat to work out where the gaps were in the design. I then drew some extra artwork to suit the spaces. I was pretty happy with the final artwork in the end.


Next was the presentation. The brief was to design a pattern, so I wanted this to be the main focus of the artwork. I think it helps to show the application of the design to the product, so I did a quick drawing of a sneaker to indicate the scale of the pattern. Then it was a question of adding my name and a bit of interest around the odd space that my layout created, so I used some initial sketches as a bit of a decorative element. I am not sure that it totally fits the brief, but I had some fun!


So there you have it. A bit of a long one today, but hopefully something resonated with you. Please feel free to visit my blog for a bit of an update on on my latest books, and some exciting news on some international publications of my work. Best wishes for a creative month.