By Geoff Jaeger
Australian designer Kevin Brackley creates surface patterns inspired by the beaches and natural beauty that surround him.
Based in Sydney, his style embraces both analog and digital media, whether it be painting with watercolours, sketching with ink, or digitally refining and manipulating artwork for a variety of products.
Kevin’s designs often embrace an exuberance of colour, or explore a more Scandinavian design aesthetic. Drawn to both flora and geometry, he aims to instil a sense of joy and wonderment in his art.
I interviewed Kevin for THETRAY.SHOP following his recent collaboration with co-founder Rickard Vikström. His work is currently featuring across a selection of THETRAY.SHOP products – in fact, they’re somewhat of a floral sensation! I begin at the beginning...
Can you tell me when your desire to design all began?
I think I was born with a desire to create. From an early age I was exploring creatively in one form or another; making my own toys or doodling. My father was in the air force for a time and he’d bring back old parachutes for me to play with and I’d imagine all sorts of fantasy worlds.
It was only a few years ago, however, that drawing and designing became a serious pursuit. After leaving a marketing role in a law firm, I was able to devote more time to the personal creativity that had always appeared at night and on weekends.
Tell me about your design practice. What inspires you, and how do you bring an idea to life?
My inspiration comes from quite a lot of things: nature, shapes, movies, various trends I see on trend forecasting websites. When I get ideas, I try to either sketch them on paper or the iPad using Procreate. I always like to have some kind of reference at the beginning of an idea.
Sometimes I research my early ideas more through Pinterest and other websites. Other times, I’ll develop my sketches further by myself because I don’t want to be influenced too much by other designers. It can be hard to stop this happening.
Once I have sketches I start working on them and keep working to achieve what I’ve set out to create.
And how do you know when a design is done?
Sometimes it’s just a feeling I have. I feel at peace with it. It can happen when you completely re-colour a design updating the pattern entirely. I think I intuitively know it’s finished.
What mediums do you work in, and which do you prefer?
I use a range of mediums, usually ink pen and paper, and more often these days the iPad. I often scan my images into Illustrator or Photoshop. Often I’ll use watercolour and ink pen over that. It depends how much space I have available at the time, whether I’m working in a studio or on my dining room table.
Would you describe yourself as a commercial artist?
I’m not sure. That definition can be different for many people. I try to stay relevant, while injecting my own personality into my art. I guess you could say I’m on the journey to becoming a commercial artist.
Which designers do you admire most and why?
There are so, so many designers and artists I like – for a number of different reasons. Florence Broadhurst is one person who comes to mind. She just had a wonderful sense of style, reinventing herself in her mid-fifties and being so successful.
It’s wonderful to see someone else achieve success, and how age doesn't always have to be a barrier.
Who is your ideal client?
I really enjoy working with people who understand the collaboration process and have a good product. It’s one reason I’m loving working with THETRAY.SHOP.
What type of products would you like to see covered in your patterns?
Anything and everything. Wrapping paper, stationery, wallpaper, home decor, furniture, tiles – maybe even an airplane.
How do you approach a design idea, and how long might it typically take to complete?
When I have an idea I like to see what else is out there; what’s been done before and how other artists and designers might have achieved it. I then think about how I can bring my own design aesthetic to it.
The process can take anywhere from days to weeks, particularly if I’m working on a collection. And it will depend on how inspired I am. The design process is very much a case of going with the flow.
How did you begin collaborating with THETRAY.SHOP?
I came across THETRAY.SHOP at Sydney’s The Big Design Market in 2016. I really just stumbled across their product and liked it immediately. I struck up a conversation with Rickard who approached me some months later after seeing my designs on Instagram.
So Instagram has been very successful for you?
I have to confess I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. I really enjoy putting my work out there, and it’s a great platform for seeing what other artists are doing. However, the new algorithm has really changed my engagement.
I now receive way less comments, even though I think my work has improved. I recently took a three-month break, only looking every now and then. I think it can sometimes have quite a negative effect on creativity.
Right now, I’m posting about three times a week and focusing on more of a colour theme for my feed.
What projects are you working on this year?
I’m currently developing a set of digital resources so pattern designers can showcase their work. I’m also putting together a collection of art prints for sale, while continuing to reach out to companies for possible work and collaborations.
And, of course, I’ll continue working with the Four Corners Art Collective I co-founded in 2015. We had a very successful exhibition together in New York during 2016.
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