‘Tis the season of thankfulness and celebration where there is many things we’re all grateful for, and the Spoonflower Marketplace is one place to start. With a creative community of over 20,000 independent artists worldwide, we would not be the world leader of indie pattern designs if not for this pool of talented designers. For our December spotlight, we have the opportunity to chat with four of those artists as they share their advice to old and new artists alike and shed light on their plans for keeping inspired in the year to come.

Julia Green portrait
Ksenia Dusmikeeva portrait
Cynthia Arre portrait
Caja Wong Chung portrait

Meet December’s Featured Designers

Julia Green from the United States describes her work as humorous, playful, and imaginative. We asked Julia to share 3 fun facts to help us get to know her better: “I have a twin brother, used to be in an indie rock band and once had my artwork featured on Saturday Night Live.”

Cynthia Arre from the Philippines illustration style is fun and whimsical with a retro kick. We asked Cynthia to share 3 fun facts to help us get to know her better: “I used to be a dog person, I taught myself Japanese by watching hundreds of dramas, movies, and anime, and third, I can’t stand the sight of lizards.”

Portrait of Cynthia Arre and cat

Simply put, Ksenia Dusmikeeva of Russia likes to draw cute things. We asked Ksenia to share 3 fun facts to help us get to know her better: “I love to travel and have visited 33 countries. I’m a cinema addict—and can watch up to 6-7 movies a day. I design and print silk-screened merch at home.”

Ksenia Dusmikeeva portrait in the garden

Caja Wong Chung is a Dutch designer living in Spain. She says her work is, “100% meso complex and colorful.” We asked Caja to share 3 fun facts to help us get to know her better: “My cats can do a high-5 gesture on command, I make a heavenly mojito and thrift stores makes me happy!”

Which color best expresses your personality?

Julia: Blue, because it can have many different moods depending on what shade it’s in. Like me.

Cynthia: Hmm, I would say purple. It’s playful and adventurous and just as dependable and consistent.

Ksenia: Blue. It’s easier for me to work with and it suits me.

Caja: I love all colours!

What inspires your work?

Julia: I love vintage illustration—typically from the ’40s-’70s—though it’s all wonderful. I love the simplicity in color and line often found in old books and applying them to my own work. Cartoons and video games in the ’90s have also heavily influenced my humor and the kinds of things I like to draw. I watched a lot of Nickelodeon as a child and the shows during that time really were quite strange and pushed the boundaries what kind of programming was normally shown to kids. I recently rewatched a lot of Disney animated movies like 101 Dalmatians and Bambi and remembered how beautiful those films are, and saw many similarities between my work and that artwork.

Julia's Mischievious Meows design, featuring black cats investigating green and yellow flower pots with kelly green and mint green plants coming out of them.
Mischievious Meows by juliagreenillustration

Cynthia: My cat, my breakfast, things happening around me. Recently I’ve been interested in biodiversity conservation so I’ve taken to drawing native flora and fauna, especially raising attention to endangered species.

Ksenia: I always try to find beauty in simple things. I can be inspired by a lot; a combination of textures, colors, lights, nature and all living things, some beautiful and cute little things, too. I also have a British shorthair cat named Yoshi and she is the funniest and most inspiring creature, cuteness overload.

Caja: It can be anything that crosses my path. This summer I was working on Christmas patterns while outside was 35°C (95ºF) and the pool was full of inflatable flamingos. Now my Spoonflower shop has a “Flamingo Christmas Pattern.”

Caja's design with flamingos wearing Santa Claus costumes and scarves and Christmas tree lights on a pink background.

What do you listen to when you’re creating?

Julia: If I am working on something that doesn’t require too much focus, I have the TV or Twitch Streaming playing in the background. I like hearing people speak, but I don’t want to actually focus on what they are saying. I also listen to music if I need to focus.

Cynthia: A diverse array of music—usually Japanese pop, musicals, and indie rock but sometimes I let Spotify suggest music to me based on what I’ve already listened to. I also like listening to podcasts that talk about managing and nurturing a creative business.

Cynthia's Spectacular Cats - Jumbo Scale as seen on a duvet cover. The design has a light brown background and rows of large cat faces in all colors wearing glasses. Also in the photo is a sheet set featuring a design by Andrea Lauren called Glasses - White and Black, which has a white background and rows of thick all-black glasses. A person is in the bed wearing glasses, pajamas and petting a black-and-white cat.
Cynthia’s Spectacular Cats – Jumbo Scale design was featured in our Spoonflower home decor launch | Also shown are sheet sets designed by Andrea Lauren

Ksenia: I mostly watch movies and tv series while I’m working, or I’ll listen to KEXP radio.

Caja: I like the silence and the occasional bark of my dog.

How do you get out of a design rut?

Julia: I think the best thing is to take a break and walk away from the project and just do something else. Usually, for me, I will play a video game or do something that I still consider creative, but different from illustrating. I also like to look at Pinterest or flip through books I haven’t opened in a while, just to give my eyes and brain something new to look at. Often this will spark new ideas and get me out of my rut, and allow my thoughts to calm down and give me clarity.

Cynthia: Going on a trip to an unfamiliar place usually shakes up my system and takes me out of a creative rut. If I’m unable to leave home, then I do something totally unrelated to the task at hand—for instance, cook, answer crossword puzzles, or maybe play a board game with my husband. Something in my brain tends to get unlocked whenever I do these unrelated things.

Cynthia's Exotic Tropical Fruit design featuring a range of tropical fruits on a cream background.
Cynthia’s beautiful Exotic Tropical Fruits design

Ksenia: I just don’t do too much. Some may call me lazy, but I have such a leisurely pace of life. I don’t always succeed, but recently I try to minimize all sorts of nervous moments. So basically I draw only what I want. Well, if a creative block appears, you just need to relax a little more, do things that bring you peace and joy. Do not be afraid to do nothing or do little, live the way you want, because there is no right model of behavior.

Caja: For me, it’s more a time issue, so many ideas and only 86,400 seconds in a day.

A fabric stack of Caja's holiday designs, there are snowpeople wearing hats on a mint green background; fabric with doughnuts with green, blue and red icing on a white background; Santas in spaceships; unicorns wearing Santa hats and more.
See more festive designs from Caja

What are your favorite design tools?

Julia: I have never ever considered myself a painter so I actually really, really love working digitally. I love drawing and that is what I am doing when I work on my Surface Pro in Photoshop. I sometimes miss working in charcoal or chalk, but it is so messy and dries out your hands.

Cynthia: I love traditional media—watercolors, gouache, pencil and ink—but a few years ago I learned how to use digital brushes in Photoshop and Clip Paint Studio and have been using this medium for making my recent Spoonflower patterns.

Cynthia working on a laptop with a drawing of dog faces wearing glasses.
Cynthia working on a new design

Ksenia: iPad and Procreate! There’s still something to be improved, but it’s brilliant. I draw everything in it, from sketches to the final images and patterns. Also, I don’t have a studio and don’t even have a desktop. For the past 8 years, my sofa has been my workplace, a place to sleep and relax. All I’m saying is external conditions shouldn’t stop you from being creative. You have everything to make art.

Ksenia working on a drawing for her Belarusian Folk Art design featuring a woman wearing an apron with large flowers on it, and flowers all around her.
Belarusian Folk Art tea towel by stolenpencil

Caja: Pencil and paper, my trustworthy Wacom tablet, and of course Photoshop and Illustrator.

Do you have design goals for the year to come?

Julia: Continue to develop my collections more, work on more board books, convert my garage into my dream art studio, get my work into more stores.

Ksenia: On January 1 I started a huge project—Stolenpencil 365—and ever since I’ve drawn every single day no matter what. Apart from this project, I also renovated my apartment as a designer and traveled a bit. Therefore, it was necessary to somehow combine this with project 365. Sometimes it was a fun thing to do, sometimes it was almost impossible, but I did it anyway. And now when it’s coming to an end, I look back at what I did and I must say it’s totally worth it. Maybe I didn’t attract too many followers on my Instagram, but I realized that I have endurance; I have gained material for the future, through lots of interesting work—a lot of complicated ones, too—and I improved my skills.

Ksenia's Night Garden Moths pattern which has a blue background and blue, red and white moths flying around blue, red and white flowers
Night Garden Moths by stolenpencil

Caja: Cats, definitely more cats.

Lastly, share your tips for creating new collections on Spoonflower in 2020:

Julia: It’s important to think about scale and how a pattern might be used. It’s also important to have a variety in your collection, like a large scale print, a medium, and a small. For inspiration, I look at the Weekly Design Challenges, Pantone’s design blog and their Color Of the Year for color ideas. I also walk big box stores to see what recurring themes are happening between them. If I notice a trend, I analyze it and consider how I might be able to create my own version and have fun with it too. My 2020 goal is to create more collections for Spoonflower

A look at Julia's sketchbook full of holiday ornaments, Christmas trees and stars. The sketchbook lies on a desk with coasters that have cat drawings on them.

Cynthia: To make a cohesive collection, create a color palette composed of 4-5 colors. Decide on a theme—it can be anything you want—for example, “flora and fauna” or “cursive shapes” and build your designs around the theme and color scheme.

For sustainability, you can build color palettes around seasons, too: Minty-blue hues for winter, warm reds and yellows for autumn, and then use those colors for the collections you will make in the corresponding months. To get more ideas for themes, research and read up on current events. An idea for a motif might come up from what’s in the news lately. Try not to self-edit and go have fun at first. Prune your designs only after you’ve made several already, that’s when the style or look for the collection usually comes out.

Cynthia also offers this advice: If you feel that you don’t have a particular style yet, just keep creating. That was what worked for me. If you look at my work through the years, you’ll see that I went through a vector illustration phase and a freehand phase before I reached the digitally drawn style that I’m quite comfortable with. And it was upon reaching this style when I started making designs I really am proud of (and that happen to make good sales too).

Ksenia: Draw whatever you want. Start with simple doodles. I do this and sometimes I don’t know how this will end; the plot is born gradually. Use a limited palette, this technique is also useful for creating collections. To upgrade your skills, participate in the weekly Spoonflower challenges, it’s fun and useful. Though it’s not necessary to participate in each, if you take up a topic that isn’t close to you, you will see how much going out of your comfort zone will benefit you.

Caja: Be original, create what makes YOU happy!