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Pattern + Mark Making

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

We start with sketch-booking. Sketch booking for me is actually really challenging, I find I run out of time to do any new research or mark making in a sketchbook and have learnt I have to make time for it. When I do get into it… I really get into it. I’m constantly looking for new patterns and shapes to use within my work. Sketch booking is a great way to expand the port folio of pattern I have in my back pocket. It's a great place to explore with colour and ideas without the pressure of sharing it with everyone (apart from situations like this in a blog - yikes)

an open sketchbook with pattern inside

I thought I would delve into some older works and look at the difference in my own pattern and style compared to now. How I have adapted over the years through study of pattern and print!


If you have followed RJS Print a while you will know a few of my staple patterns I carve. For example the swirling sky above a cosy bothy or mountain, I love carving this pattern because it is really effective in showing a wild Scottish sky. I also love using that technique for water too.

Another favourite of mine is the small leaf pattern I like to add to any space needing filling… classic me. I do love the effect this carve has when printed, its very pretty and therapeutic to do.


Looking back at older works is a tricky but useful thing to do, it's quite cringe to me to some extent because I end up thinking 'gah how rubbish does that look, I could definitely do better now...' But at the same time it's great to give yourself a little boost and see how far you've come.

Floral and mountainous scenes have always had my heart, and I love how much I have played with compositions and styles here over the years. I think with these older prints I was always in a rush, hurrying to get them finished so I could print (fave part), while not a very attractive quality to adopt as an artist, it has given me lots of practice carving.

When I am first working in the sketchbook, whether that is outdoors or just in the studio, I try not to focus on how perfect anything looks, nothing really needs to be shared. Its a personal place for me to let creativity flow. You'll see in these pages I always go back to the flowing sky or the leaf and botanical shapes. Sometimes through trial and error I have come up with an interesting pattern or carving technique that I can come back to if I think it'll work well in another project - more often than not only a tiny element of the research ends up on the final print.

Sketches ultimately make their way onto a block or as a carved stamp - stamping is another great way to explore pattern in a sketchbook. Colour is always a big part of it, it helps me to capture the weather or feel of the place, but colour doesn't always make it into the print either - a lot of my prints finished are black and white.


At the moment I am working on a new design for a commission which is quite different from the Scottish landscape I am used to. It is a Thailand inspired print to be printed on a lampshade.

This will be a two block print, so layered one on top of the other in colour. I’m hoping this will look lovely printed on the lokta as a finished piece. Because of the Thai theme I felt I needed to branch out to tropical botanics and even popped in a few elephants! Now animals is not something I tend to enjoy but I managed to simplify the shape and quite pleased with the result.


The finished piece is a 25cm x 25cm lampshade on a handmade (by my Dad) Oak base. I've gone for a two block print, first the pink mountain/ ocean scene with setting sun and then the green tropical foliage on top. I have designed in a way this should flow nicely around the shade.


If you want your own bespoke shade and lamp base please order online, or get in touch via email at rjs.printmaking@gmail.com


a finished lampshade ontop of wooden base

SKETCH - BOOKING, Top Tips

I always have more than one on the go, different sizes and papers which hold paint/ pencil differently. They don't have to be fancy expensive sketchbooks, the ones you see in the supermarket are as good as any! Set realistic goals for yourself, don't take too many materials out with you, a couple of coloured pencils, a bold marker and a biro is a good place to start. Stuck with colour - check the weather! What kind of colour is the land in general today; Spring greens? Snow? Mud? Or ignore all that and bring a fluorescent pink!


As always, favourite places to buy materials are Jackson's Art Supplies and our local stationery shop, Pencil Me In.


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