As a designer, I like to use odd numbers, especially three’s.  Five can be too many and one just not enough.

You might think this is a strange analogy, but the same can be said for books written on a similar topic, as I’ve just learned.  If it’s something truly of interest to you, reading three is always going to be better.  Why?

32.WebImage.CathyJackCouplandIt’s all about perspective and engagement, as each author’s view is different.  And that’s exactly as it should be.  I don’t what to read the same re-hashed blurb over and over.  I can go to the internet for that.

I’ve just finished my second book on the Bayeux Tapestry and about to begin the third.  The more informed scholarship on this topic in the last decade or so is really quite phenomenal.  So far, each has brought something different to the table.  Whether it’s a unique focus, more detailed research, links to other artistic endeavours or simply better quality images.

And I think this’s totally relatable to the way we produce art, particularly if we want it to zing with our own personality.  To stand out, you have to determine your point of focus.  What makes your work different from someone else’s?  What’s your most notable signature or the perception you actually want people to take away with them after seeing your work?  What makes your heart sing?  The answer is, of course, to design your own work.  And some, I know, find that daunting.

37.WebImages.CathyJackCouplandMy answers to those questions are:  colour and design are my points of focus. My difference is the highly stylised way of drawing and mark-making I produce – I make things intricate even though I simplify.  People are uplifted by my work.  For me, art should be edifying.  My heart pops when all these elements coalesce and I produce work that’s technically proficient, creatively stimulating and personally gratifying.  But it’s taken me years to get to this point.

So where does the benefit of 3’s come into play here?  It’s my base beginning.  When I’m designing I’m never satisfied.  So when I draw a leaf, I draw 3 – in 3 different sizes – S, M and L.  If appropriate, I’ll utilise that leaf by rotating, mirroring, and inverting.  I’ll use it in 3 different positions in the design – may be more depending on the size, but three’s always a good place to start.  And I’ll colour that leaf in 3 different ways.  So those 3 little leaves have now turned into 81 different design possibilities.  Do you get my drift?  If I fill them with three different patterns that then becomes 243 different design prospects.

36.WebImages.CathyJackCouplandAs a designer, that’s a lot of design potential – from just 3 leaves.  Look closely at these 3 images, can you see any similarities?

By starting with that base of three, the possibilities grow exponentially.  So if you’re at all unsure, don’t know where to begin – start with three of anything, copy in three different sizes, use 3 colourways, use them in at least 3 different positions and fill them with 3 contrasting patterns. Just stamp it with your energy and personality.

Imagine what you could do with 5!

And if you can do it with a leaf, you can do it with anything.

And that’s just the start of your design process.  Isn’t it great?


cathy jack coupland