Or, some encouragement for you to get making.
For some time, I have found myself entertained by the flowcharts I encounter whilst idly poking about Pinterest. I’m always drawn to them, it’s their visual logic, and the general look of them; they are often created by hand and finished digitally. More often than not, they are a brilliant combination of wit and pith. In the spirit of “having a go”, I attempted my very own flowchart, asking the question of the reader whether they ought to bother getting creative and make something themselves. The answer of course, is:
A resounding yes.
Make something. Get creative.
So here is the result of my very first flow chart. I enjoyed the process so much, I shall be attempting more. I have discovered flow charts are a wonderful mix of ideas, text, layout and pen work. For those interested, I have included some photographs documenting the steps I took to create this chart, with some of the pitfalls and limitations I encountered (and how I got around them). After reading this flowchart, I hope you are inspired to make something yourself. Anything will do. Just get started. It feels good to make something. If you’re keen to have a go at your own flowchart, you can read about how I went about it, just scroll down.
Here is a brief description of the process. It’s important to explain that I employ a ‘make-do’ policy, in that I try my best to create something with what I have at hand. Some of you may have been lucky enough to attend art or design school, and so you might consider some of my steps odd or redundant, but anyone with a sympathy towards design or creativity would understand that the process of discovery of how to realise a vision makes up a huge part of why making is in itself so enjoyable.
Don’t be put off making and creating by what you don’t have. Make a list of what resources are available to you. If you’re starting out, that won’t be a whole lot. This is brilliant.
You have a love of painting and paintings. Imagine walking into the studio of a professional artist. There are blank stretchers lining the walls and pots of paints in every shade imaginable. Every type of artist’s grade brush, a huge easel; the real deal. If you have never painted before, even despite a deep interest in art and painting, you would no doubt feel incredibly daunted by the entire arrangement.
Better to start small, at home, at the kitchen table.
Having too much gear and no idea is limiting.
It can be frightening. Try with what you have at hand first, try something, take baby steps. As you progress, your knowledge will deepen, and slowly, naturally, your equipment/tools/kit will evolve.
Don’t blame your lack of materials/equipment/dedicated workspace. See it as part of the challenge, embrace these limitations. If it was limitless (consider the professional artist’s studio), you wouldn’t know where to start. Embrace the limitations as a way to get you started, as a natural way to shape what you can do, right now.
I work with a now superseded Apple Mac Pro, a small Wacom tablet and pen, and Photoshop. I have a Nikon D70 (remember those)? For this first flowchart I used my beloved Lamy Safari pen (over 20 years old and still going strong) and Parker Ebony writing ink.
I started out brainstorming. I like to write by hand with my Lamy pen, I get a good flow of ideas happening that way. The dining room table is cleared and I work on this surface when I need some extra space for cutting fabrics, or, in this case drawing on large pieces of paper. I drag out an extension cord and plug in a good work lamp.
Here is the first layout of the flowchart, you can see some of my thinking process, ripped paper pages extend the flowchart downwards. It got messy. This sort of mess is good I say.
To solve the problem of layout, I began by using Post-its and a whiteboard marker, drawing the joining arrows and lines on our white dining table (yes, the marker came off easily). I could move around the text boxes to get a good fit, I think this saved a lot of re-drawing in the long run. Windex removed the marker lines well.
Two sheets of A3 tracing paper taped together (I used Canson 110/115gsm heavyweight, transparent smooth). Pencilling the layout into place, using the Post-its on the table as a guide, you can see my eraser was often employed to fit the text and outlines correctly. I used the two A3 sheets as a size limit, and worked the chart into this space. It’s finding that balance between legibility, the size of your handwriting and fitting all of that into a logical layout on a reasonably sized piece of paper. If you intend sharing your flowchart in a digital form, consider that the handwriting must be legible when seen in a smaller size… All part of the learning curve, but great fun.
Working with hot pressed paper (Archers watercolour HP 22 x 30 inches, Natural WH, 140lb/300gsm). This has a beautiful smooth surface and a lovely feel under your fingertips. A soft cream. Use anything solid and smooth and large enough to take your intended image. I scanned my pencilled image in 4 scans (I only have an A4 scanner), printed the scans out and stuck the sheets together to make a facsimile in plain paper of the pencil design. I then cut out sections of the flowchart and used painter’s removable tape to hold the section in place on the Archer’s paper. This is a low tack tape, check first that it doesn’t leave a mark on your paper before using. I used the cut-out sections as a guide and wrote with ink directly onto the paper. I only pencilled in the ‘starburst’ and 3 vertical lines that were used as a guide to keep the chart from becoming too wonky.
Be patient and let the ink dry sufficiently. Do a final once over on the image with a hairdryer and then erase any pencil marks.
I originally intended to use a watercolour wash to add blocks of colour to the chart, but after discovering (via another project) that the ink I was using was not waterproof, I realised that I needed to find another way of adding blocks of colour to the chart. So, the pen and ink version on hot pressed paper was taken to our local Officeworks and scanned into jpeg format. Here’s a small version below of the file, uncoloured. I knew that I could then add the colour digitally, since I always intended to publish the flowchart here on this blog. (The original hot pressed paper version is now effectively redundant).
The jpeg file was opened in Photoshop and layers were used to allow me to add in the blocks of colour and then sit the handwritten text on top. The opacity of the colours was reduced to about 60% just because I liked the look. The wonders of Illustrator et al are on my bucket list, but Photoshop is still serving me well for these sorts of tasks until I can afford to hop over to a new way of doing things. Again, use what you have available.
Remember, let the limitations around you set you free…
Wishing you happy days making,