I’m starting to see pumpkin recipes. The farm stands will soon have fall squash and mums rather than Jersey tomatoes to sell. The summer folks have mostly gone back to the city. The strains of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” are starting to sound in my ear.

WHAAAAT???? Not now! Now yet! We haven’t even seen Halloween.

Actually, it’s already too late to start thinking of Christmas 2013; the companies that buy for Christmas have already bought and the products are in production. But, I wanted to try my hand at some Christmas designs anyway since “Christmas Always Comes” (a nod to Dr. Seuss).

What do you think of this one?


Christmas-y??? Really????

In a way…

When I was growing up, my family always liked to tell “stories” around the dinner table. My aunt’s favorite was a long tale of an old man who ended up in court after a day of constant calamities. I don’t remember all the details; I only remember the punch line when he was asked what he was doing in court: “Your honor, does a man know where he will end up…?” Not funny–but often true. I started out to create a pattern design for Christmas.

I frequently start my designs by using my own photography. They don’t always have to be award-winning photos. These certainly weren’t.


When I posted my kaleidoscope design on the forum for the Daring Adventures in Art and Life course that I’m taking with the amazing Mati Rose McDonough (http://daringadventuresinpaint.typepad.com/), I was asked to tell a bit about how I created the design. Well, it all started with the Christmas images…

I thought it would be fun to take some of my photos from Christmases over the years and create some kaleidoscopic or mandala designs from them. So I created a large circle in Illustrator and figured out the shape of 1/12th of the circle. It was that shape that I moved into Photoshop.

You can see below both the original and then the silver tree photo inside the same pie wedge shape.

oneslice treeslice

The start of the kaleidoscope

When I rotated and flipped all of the copies of the silver tree, here’s what I saw:


Not too bad but it lacked punch. So I started playing, and playing and playing with it.

I work mostly in Photoshop because I love the things it does.  I’m also a fanatic about non-destructive design. I want to able to reverse anything I’ve done at any time. I refuse to erase so much as a pixel of an original image. I had already created a Smart Object from my first slice pie. Don’t know what a Smart Object is? When you get the chance, take a look at my tutorial at http://patternpatter.com/photoshop-smart-objects-101/

The greatest thing about Smart Objects is that you use them like a template. For me to change this entire image, all I had to do was to edit one Smart Object in the image. I could even put in a totally different image, or I could add filters or adjustment layers inside the Smart Object and that would automatically change every segment of the circle.

So I played. Eventually, I created an image that looked like the one on the left below, changed it to one in the middle, until it finally became the one on the right. All three are progressions of the same starting silver tree image with additional filters, adjustment layers, and blend modes as the only change. I liked the result–but not enough. And now it no longer looked like Christmas…


By this point, though, I was starting to like the lace look and the complexity that was developing.

I’m a lot like that poor old fellow who ended up in front of the judge; I rarely know where I’m heading when I start a design adventure. So I kept following the path.

I had also played inside my kaleidoscope template with the yellow-green tree that I showed at the start of this saga. With the addition of the Palette Knife filter, I changed this first kaleidoscope:


Into this:


I wondered what would happen if  put the filtered green tree on top of the manipulated silver tree. Magic!


I could just picture how this would look  if I could afford to delicately outline part of it in gold leaf.  I love mysterious, grayed, muted colors and I was totally enthralled by my creation, but I know my color preference isn’t universal.

So, the image you first saw was the final result; a brightened version of my muted one. It’s not nearly as subtle but the colors almost remind me of a Klimt image, as you can see in the close-up below.


I’m totally in love with this image, but can I do with it? It’s not for Christmas and it’s really not a good candidate for a repeat pattern either. It simply has too much detail in it.

However, I think it would make a great pillow.


If you think so too, you might want to take a look at it in my new shop at http://society6.com/prancingpixel/pillows.

I’ll leave you with one more possibility (out of many) from my kaleidoscope designs. A mandala design from the hibiscus in my garden


Becomes gift wrap.


If you want to play with my kaleidoscope template, it’s available for sale on my Etsy shop (http://prancingpixel.etsy.com) with full instructions and it works on any full version of Adobe Photoshop from CS4 to Photoshop CC.

‘Til later…