Flower Picture

Always trying to stretch my comfort zone

I think everyone should regularly do something outside their comfort zone to gain new skills, push themselves and to feel more comfortable in different situations.
Next week I will be throwing myself out of a plane strapped to a random person, putting my life in their hands, in an effort to take my comfort zone to a massive new height!

One idea I also live by is that anything is possible if you have enough time, you just need to put your mind and energy into it.

A new zone

Recently I needed to find an extra special gift for a very special friends birthday. I decided to create a picture for her wall, I knew this would take me out of my comfort zone, as making a big piece of wall art is something I’ve never done before.

After seeing the great work of my friend Cosmo over at Cosmo Cards I chose to do something in the style of his laser cut pictures.
Even though I was able to ask Cosmo for help and a few pointers there were a lot of new techniques to master:

  • Paper – I had cut paper to make paper chains and snowflakes when I was a child but nothing near this level of paper cutting.
  • Adobe Illustrator – My Illustrator skills were very basic.
  • Print design – being a digital designer I’ve not had much experience with large print work.

Here is the final present

The laser cut paper is sandwiched between two sheets of glass in-front of the white background, to add depth and shadows that change depending on the lighting.

Initial idea

When I started this project my idea was to create a piece that incorporated 2/3 different scenes, seamlessly blending between them.
Here are a couple of early designs..

It became obvious that this idea was going to take quite a bit of time to get right and that didn’t fit the available time-frame, so I made the executive decision to change to just one scene.
I think the one scene approach allowed me to create a more coherent and better looking piece.

I’m not going to hide the fact the one piece of work was a major inspiration, I have a copy of this on my wall and I really like the complexity of it. There are so many hidden elements that you can look at it time and time again and still find new things. However this adheres to different boundaries as it doesn’t need to be cut from paper in one complete piece so it has layers in the image.

Always test

After I created a composition I was happy with I sent it to be cut but what came back wast quite what I was expecting:

A major part of any work is testing!
I know this from the digital world as there are a lot of unknowns and differences between browsers, equipment or the day of the week. This still applies to print work.

The first cut was not a complete disaster, testing never is, it highlighted the need for the lines to be thicker as the laser cutter was either not able to cut that fine or they were sucked out by the vacuum that collects the off cuts.

So I went back and thickened all of the lines and tweaked little bits, I could have spent forever slightly tweaking little bits here and there, and I did spend quite a lot of time doing just that!

During all of the little tweaks, improvements and thickening of lines one aspect was lost, a little Lama hiding in a corner, no one else will ever know that something is missing and I only noticed when I got the final framed picture but it really bugged me for a while.

Final verdict

Thankfully the present was very well received and I’m very happy with the finished piece. The fact that I was able to accomplish this with very little prior knowledge of the medium was a big bonus and strengthens my belief that anything is possible.

My illustrator skills vastly improved by the end of this process which i’m sure will help me in future projects.

All of the designs: