This week we’re visiting Southwest Virginia to meet illustrator and designer Annie Parsons, known as anniedrawsthings in the Spoonflower Marketplace. Inspired by the farmland and mountains of her quaint town, Annie describes the region as, “full of art and history, and home to a vibrant bluegrass scene.” She goes on to say, “my home also served as the inspiration for my newest collection, Fine Little Country.” And, if the name Annie Parsons sounds familiar, it may be that you’ve had a glimpse of her whimsical watercolors in our Party Pennants DIY tutorial. You’ll want to bookmark that one for later. Right now, we encourage you to settle in and spend some time getting to know our dear friend, Annie. You’ll be glad you did!
My day starts with…
“YouTube videos of the ocean, painting without a plan, and as much quiet as possible.”
I fell in love with design when…
“I realized that my artwork could become a useful part of people’s everyday lives. I’ve always loved drawing and painting, but surface design has helped me take my work to the next level by thinking about the practical application of each piece.”
What’s in your toolbox?
“Watercolors, gouache, a sketching pencil and eraser, washi tape, a light board for tracing, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and tons of brushes and pens.”
What is your process when creating a new design?
“When I have an idea that I want to turn into a design, I start by making rough sketches in pencil and ink. My goal in this stage is to figure out the individual motifs and to create a rough picture of what the design will look like on a finished garment or product. Then, if I’m working in traditional media, I’ll paint my motifs in watercolor and scan them. From there I’ll create the repeat digitally in Photoshop or Illustrator, moving elements around like a puzzle until it flows perfectly. My last step is always to upload the pattern to Spoonflower and try it out on the Sprout Patterns and Roostery previews. Seeing what the pattern looks like on a finished product helps me know if I have everything just right or if I need to go back and tweak something.”
When I’m in my studio, I feel…
“Fired up and unstoppable.”
Who or what influences or inspires your work and why?
“One of my biggest inspirations is looking back at vintage garments. I really love fashion history, and it’s hugely helpful to see motifs and color combinations that were popular a long time ago but haven’t been used in a while. I also love to pull inspiration from current fashion trends and art history. For my most recent collection, I relied a lot on quick photos of my surroundings. Every pattern is an opportunity to learn something and find a new source of inspiration!”
If I could live in a painting, I would live in…
“Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville by Monet.”
What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“Anything with a bright color or pattern! Strong colors can transform my mood and my confidence, and the more I make patterns, the more I appreciate them in my own wardrobe. The first thing that comes to mind is a fluorescent orange sweater that I wear to meetings whenever I’m nervous. I also basically live in colorfully patterned shorts that my mom (who’s my business partner) custom made for me, and striped shirts are my kryptonite.”
I’d love to see one of my designs turned into a…
“Notebook, planner, or stationery set. I’m a sucker for paper products with cute patterns on them, and I do my best brainstorming in a journal with pen and paper.”
The secret to a strong collection is…
“A healthy friendship with color, a scale that works for a wide range of products, and a subject matter you absolutely love. If I have a strong emotional response to a certain motif, color choice, or composition, I know I’m on the right track.”
Best advice I ever received is…
“’Don’t junk it up’, courtesy of my kindergarten Sunday school teacher when I was working on a craft project. I don’t think anyone has ever described design more accurately or succinctly.”
What drew you to Spoonflower?
“Spoonflower has made surface design such an accessible outlet for artists; they invest real time into helping designers succeed. I’ve felt so welcomed by their staff and community even though I had no idea what I was doing when I first joined! It’s been such a fun and safe place to hone my craft.”
For someone new to trying the design challenges, what advice would you give them?
“Set a personal, measurable goal for yourself and make the challenge an opportunity to try something you’ve never done before. You can use a new technique or medium, or tackle a brand new subject in your design (I had never drawn panda bears before I entered my design “Eats Shoots and Leaves” into the Emerald Forest design challenge in July). That way no matter how many votes you get, you can count the design challenge as a personal success.”
Annie Parsons is a designer and teacher on a mission to create bold, beautiful patterns for everyday use. She loves creating hand-drawn designs using colorful watercolors and inks. You can follow her artistic adventures on Instagram (@anniedrawsthings), check out her Spoonflower shop here, and enroll for her new Skillshare art and design classes here!
Photography by Michaela Stam and Danielle Bullen.