Patterns and Creative Imperfection

teal painted paisley pattern with 2 paintbrushes above and a paint tubeThis week I began creating patterns as part of the Creative Bug 31 Days of Patterns Class taught by Lisa Congdon. The focus has been on basic patterns such as gingham, basket weave, argyle and more using gouache paint. (Gouache paint is a more opaque watercolor.)

Pattern making is so relaxing, comforting, and incredibly meditative. The repetitive brush marks allow me to focus on the brush strokes and connection to the paper. I see why Zentangle is so popular. I see lots of patterns in my sketchbook in the future.

marker code with an Ozobot lit up in Green
Creative Imperfection with Coding
It also got me to thinking about patterns in general. In school, we teach patterns very early. During CS Week and Hour of Code in December, I visited numerous TK, Kindergarten, and first-grade classrooms with Ozobots and we talked about, read, and explored different patterns.

"Blue, Black, Blue." Let's see what Ozzy does. About 60% of the time Ozzy went noticeably faster after traveling over this code to the screams of delight of students. In fact, that's the fast code that helped encourage students to play with patterns and discover other codes for their robot.


glittering chevron pattern with watercolor set and 2 paintbrushes
Proud of my wonky Chevron Pattern
Painting with patterns is similar. About 60% of the time, the finished product comes out as expected. Other times, it looks a little "wonky" as Lisa Congdon explains and further describes the beauty of creative imperfection. How often do we have a vision for a final product and self-edit ourselves during the creative process when it doesn't meet expectations rather than experiencing surprise and delight with the imperfections?

This week, I was so ready to quit the chevron pattern with the precise brushstrokes and angles required that I couldn't quite master. Switching to metallic watercolors and black paper did not really help with my brush strokes or angles but made me happier with the final product. An example of creative imperfection. I tried something new, not knowing the outcome but willing to find out. It is that creative exploration process that makes it perfect in all its "wonkiness" because of the learning achieved in the process.

2 scallop patterns one with purple background and yellow swirls, the other with teal background and yellow swirls
Beyond precise brush strokes, painting many of the patterns required multiple steps. For the gingham pattern, vertical lines are painted. Then, you wait for the paint to dry before painting the horizontal lines. Then, when these are dry you apply additional paint in the intersections. Similarly with the scallop pattern. First, I applied paint to the entire page. Let it completely dry and then go back and create the scallop pattern in a different color. Multiple steps with multiple opportunities to step back, reflect, and see things differently throughout the process as opposed to when complete.

As students return to school to start 2018, it makes me acutely aware of providing opportunities for pattern play with its repetition and multiple chances to reflect during the process, and lots of moments to promote and celebrate creative imperfection in whatever subjects we teach.