Today I am featuring the work of Alyssa, the talented artist behind Because Patterns. Alyssa has created this beautiful pattern for Autism Acceptance Month. She has graciously shared her work and experience on living with Autism with us. Please check out her facebook page and Cafe Press store. You can also buy this print here. For the month of April, 25% of the proceeds from the sale of this print will go to Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Ann: How did you get started working in pattern?
Alyssa: I can't sit still in class no matter how hard I try. But drawing keeps the fidgeting to a level where my teachers are (usually) OK with it. So I'd grab whatever paper I could get from the drawers in the classroom and just scribble all over them. In 7th grade, I grabbed graph paper from the math room, and I went for symmetry and for using the vertices as endpoints. It grew from there -- my first one was on an 8x8 grid, and I can still produce it from memory.
Ann: Wow, that's really cool. Do you remember all the patterns you've made?
Alyssa: I don't remember all of them, but there are a few that I can reproduce from memory, and I have all of them still... somewhere. Finding them is another matter.
Ann: Do you have formal art training, or are you self taught?
Alyssa: I've never had any formal training besides the typical art classes from elementary and middle school, which I did OK in. I can't really draw anything besides straight lines all that well and everything later demanded that I be able to draw still lifes or people, which I can't do. So that was as far as my formal stuff went.
As far as informal stuff, my mother taught me to sew, so I combine that with the block printing we learned in 8th grade to make a lot of my own clothes with patterns.
Ann: Oh cool. Do you still make your own clothing?
Alyssa: Sometimes, when I have time. Which isn't hugely often since I'm a triple major in college and doing activism, but it's some.
Ann: What are you studying?
Alyssa: I study mathematics, mechanical engineering, and Chinese.
Ann: Mandarin or Cantonese? And what's your favorite kind of math?
Alyssa: Mandarin, simplified characters. Though I do know a little bit of Shanghainese. My favorite math so far was probably Real Analysis, though I really am liking Difference Equations. Complex Analysis and Differential Equations tend to annoy me.
Alyssa: I've been told that people who know what to look for would be able to tell I'm Autistic from my patterns.
Ann: Really. How could one tell?
Alyssa: I'm not sure how one would tell. I can spot other Autistic people by how they move, but not by their art.
Ann: What are your inspirations?
Alyssa: I tend not to have things inspire me all that often. Like, I'll just sit and draw, mostly, not looking at real life stuff much. For the Autism Acceptance ones, I purposefully chose the color scheme to make it kind of like the world, and I happened upon the person shape by accident making a design to fit an empty space in a different pattern. I'm the only one who has seen that other pattern as of right now.
Ann: So purely abstract. Very cool.
So is all your work done on graph paper? With pen and ink? Do you use other media?
Alyssa: Except for sewing stuff, everything at least starts as pen on graph paper. I'm kind of picky about my pens, but the ones I like are pretty standard and inexpensive. I like the Pentel RSVP fine tip ones, black.
My current profile picture I did in Paint. I copied the lines off one that I had drawn square by square into Paint, then used the paint bucket tool to color it in.
For the Autism Acceptance ones, I copied from the graph paper onto dot paper so that the lines wouldn't show as much, then colored it in with some artist markers, then redid some of the lines with gel pen to make them stick out more.
Ann: Wow that's great precision. You work so well with simple tools!
How do you choose colors?
Alyssa: It depends on what I'm using to color.
If I'm using the Pentel RSVP pens, they only come in five colors so that's kind of my decision made. If I'm using gel pen, I'll grab a color, then start choosing later ones based on what I think will look good with every color that's already there.
For the markers, I chose my color scheme ahead of time, it's probably the only time I ever did it and that was only because those markers are like $4 each!
I'll also often try out multiple color schemes with the same design. I think there are two or three other colorings of my profile picture saved on my hard drive, one of my patterns has seven different colorings.
Ann: I think the fact that your designs work well with or without color attests to your strong designs.
Thanks for sharing your art and experience with me.
Alyssa: You're welcome, and thank YOU!
More of Alyssa’s artwork:
A drawing on graph paper:
A pattern tiled six times. Look how nicely this tessellates!
A two color pattern.