• Narelle Callen

Developing a new collection

Developing A New Collection

Starting inspiration

Working on a new collection is not something that can easily be pulled out of the air. Certainly, the way I work, I need to prepare the ground by developing the theme, collecting inspiring shapes, ideas, colours, grouping of shapes or lines or images and ideas of light and shade. These might be from photos, or sketches or my observations.


I thought it might be interesting, and for some people useful, to see and read about how I do this. Of course, I am only one person, and have pretty much come to this way of thinking and working in my own way. So, if any of this seems very different from how you work or how you were taught, then I’d love to hear about your methods.


As you know I am both an artist and a designer. I had been wondering and even stressing about how different my paintings are to my patterns. There has been no consistency between my painting style, themes or even palettes and those I have been using for my patterns. I realised that the sources of inspiration are quite different and this is most likely the reason my art and my patterns are so unrelated. If I want these two things to be a bit more cohesive, so that my style is more recognisable, then I need to work on these together. What better way then starting from scratch on a new collection using the same source ideas. So here we go. Join me in my efforts to make this work and together we’ll see if I’m on the right track.


I want to merge my art and design practices and output and have realised that the process of sourcing inspiration and developing these ideas into usable, malleable ideas that can be either painted on paper or canvas or used more literally in patterns for surface pattern design is possible and sensible.

This week, I have been sourcing physical things that may lend themselves to inspiration. These things are photos, shapes, found items, words, statements, and colours of course.

Here are some photos of our current abundance of limes from the garden which I thought would be a good place to start and experiment. These are very beautiful and the shapes are quite interesting. The flowers buds are tiny and round with little dots on them in the same way that citrus has little dimples on the skin. So, this is a great place to start.

I prefer to paint in a more abstract way, so I wouldn’t literally paint a collection of limes. However, I can use the shapes, the details on the skin, the colours of course to develop sketch ideas for a collection of patterns and abstract paintings.

To start, I just want to sketch these limes and their leaves to get to know the shapes. I am just playing around, as you can see from my efforts. I find this is a good way to think about the shapes and understand how they are put together. I can use the shapes, the texture, the colours, the overall combination and composition of the fall of the leaves etc. I am working quite quickly and not fussing too much about the details. However I want the shapes to be about right. I want to pick up some of the details of the leaves and the shadows and light.

Looking and feeling these limes, passing them around in my hands and looking at the light and shadows they form, I am noting down all the things that go together. For most beginnings, these are common themes and the basic elements of art and design.

Colour – Because we are so visual, colour stands out straight away. I am looking at like colours (the variations of the greens) , complimentary colours (are there any orange tones here), analogous colours will be the yellows and blues which I can see in the flowers and the shades of green and even reflections. I will use these colours to create a basic colour palette. During the next stages of this process of developing a collection this palette will be refined, because I will need complimentary colours, tints, shades and contrasts. I will tell you how I choose these as we progress.

Shapes and forms: For every small element that forms the shape of these lovely limes, there are lots of similarities and things that can be put together and expanded on to make the patterns and form the shapes in the paintings. The most obvious ones are of course the round shapes, the leaf shapes, the indentations on the edges of the leaves, the shapes of the light and dark areas, the negative spaces between the leaves and fruit. The shapes of the flowers of course, and I noticed that the flower buds have five divisions across the top, forming a star shape.

Light and dark: Light and dark elements that are revealed in the photos and also the sketches are going to help me make and develop the layers of both the paintings and the patterns. Light and dark help us identify the forms of the leaves and the fruit, the indentations and curves and also the tiny details that give us clues about the shape of the elements.

Texture: The fruit holds quite detailed texture and as you know it is dimply and shiny. These limes are not smooth like oranges. They are quite bumpy, more like bush lemons. The leaves, in contrast, are smooth on the top and underside with a more jiggered texture on the edges. The veins in the leaves influence the bumps and folds in the surface of the leaves.

To make the visual effects and overall emphasis of any artwork that is derived from these, I really want to include the idea of contrast. My sketching process needs to explore contrasting shapes, forms, colours and textures and light and dark areas. Contrast helps us make things more visually interesting. So I’ll collect contrasting shapes, colours, patterns, motifs, and words.


My next part of the process will be to develop lists of words. Words that describe, complement, go together with the idea and physicality of these limes. I need about 20 words and these might include things like tangy, smooth, dimpled, green etc.

Following this process, I will development some motifs and shapes and prepare some thumbnail sketches that I will use as visual guides for both the paintings and the patterns. Stand by for the next part of the process.


If you’d like to join me on this journey and even collect some ideas and physical things that might help you put together your own new collection, I’d love to have you along. Drop me a line to tell me what you are working on.


If you know anyone who might be interested in this blog or my artwork, please share this blog with them.


Until next time, stay safe and well.

Narelle xx


This blog is by Narelle Callen, of The Callen Collective. You can find more artwork at https://www.callencollective.com.au

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© 2020 by The Callen Collective. 

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