Debbie Clapper, the artist otherwise known as gneural, has mastered the art of freehand drawing and painting without the aid of a ruler or straight edge. That may be due to the fact that she’s been drawing nearly every day since the age of nine, but we like to believe that it’s just natural born talent. Easily recognized for her pattern study work, we’ve come to regard Debbie as the pattern design queen of Doodle Addicts. Incorporating everything from swirls and bubbles to geometric and tribal inspired shapes, she brings pages alive with pure, unadulterated creativity and always surprises us with what she comes up with next.
If you’ve ever wondered the extent to which you can create something new from a technique as seemingly straightforward as lines coming together to form patterns, Debbie’s work exists to show you that with creativity and a spark of imagination - there are no limits to how far you can take it. Her patterns are as diverse as they come, with some quickly recognizable as geometric shapes or tribal designs while others take a minute to sink in and can be best described as pure consciousness on paper. Although some of her more intricate patterns are quite a sight, there’s something also quite remarkable about her less elaborate designs. One of my favorites in particular is “Pattern Study 10: Green,” which is made up of green swirls thoughtfully placed on the page. It’s nothing too ornate, but shows just how skilled Debbie is in creating a beautiful pattern and executing it perfectly.
As if the beautiful patterns weren’t enough, Debbie also has quite a way with color. Whether it’s the vibrancy of one of her monochromatic pieces, or a mix of hues that work to immediately draw you in - there’s no denying just how eye catching and fun the use of color in all of her art is. This breathtaking use of color can easily be seen in her piece titled, “Pattern Study 1,” which incorporates pink, blue, and yellow to create a pattern full of life, movement, and that also borders on an optical illusion. In an effort to learn more about how Debbie came to her pattern study work, we reached out and got the inside scoop. Keep reading to learn more about the creativity and vision behind the artwork of gneural!
Interview with Debbie Clapper
Your pattern work is always so refreshing to see, we love the imagination and dedication that comes through with each piece! What is the driving force or inspiration behind them?
The inspiration behind the “Pattern Study Series” has been to get my ideas from my brain to my hand to the paper with as little thought in between as possible. These drawings are meant to be quick, on the fly studies of what comes to my mind in the moment. I have been describing these studies as “stream of consciousness drawings”.
Aside from the line work and intricate design of the patterns, something that is always striking in your work are the colors. What are some of your favorite tools you use to achieve such vibrancy?
I’ve recently fallen in love with Posca pens. I love the way they lay down color on smooth paper - it is very opaque, vibrant and matte, all at the same time. Aside from Posca Pens, I love Krink and Montana paint markers. They both have a great array of colors to choose from, as well as a good selection of neons and metallics. When I’m painting a mural, I usually mix my own colors. I create the palettes in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I have a personal palette I pull from all of the time, that has my main favorite colors in it. Hot Pink / Magenta is always on the list!
What other things aside from art inspire you?
Graffiti art and M.C. Escher’s works are huge inspirations to me. Architecture, the 1980s, Synthwave music, talking to other creatives and going for long walks and hikes also inspire me. Some of my best ideas and strategies come to me when I’m out walking or hiking.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your art career and how did you overcome them?
Let’s get down and dirty with the challenges. I almost closed the doors completely a few years ago. There was an individual in my life who I had given a pretty significant voice of authority. This person dismissed what I did as a creative and pushed me towards leaving everything I loved about art and design to join their idea of how life was supposed to be lived. I went through a very dark period where I didn’t make any art for about a year (which was something I had never gone through before - at least not for that long of a period). I was depressed. I didn’t feel like myself. Anxiety was all I knew and felt. I finally realized that I missed creating and I couldn’t handle it anymore, so I started drawing again. I also started praying about it (I’m a Christian), and freedom started to be birthed in this area of my life again. I came out on the other side feeling more inspired, excited about art, and more confident in who I truly am. It was a part of the journey I’ve been on, and it has helped me to learn to be kinder to myself, to appreciate the uniqueness in how I’m made, and, with all of that, know that art is not the only thing that comprises my identity. I learned that I get to share and express creativity with the world, and have been given the opportunity to help bring creativity out in others.
On a slightly lighter note, the business side of things was very hard for me for a long time. I was always changing how I priced my work (going up and down and all over the place), was afraid to charge clients what I’m worth and was intimidated by licensing, so I avoided it for a while. Things got bad enough in this regard that I finally hired a business coach, and started to learn how to own being a businesswoman, and become more professional. I added structure to how I price things, and set a minimum price point that I will not go below for each type of artwork that I sell or license. Having a good foundation for pricing has helped me land bigger client projects and to sell my work for what its’ worth.
When you are "stuck" in your creative process, what do you do to get you out of the funk?
I create. Over the years I have found that if I let myself create without any inhibitions or judgment on myself, it helps me to overcome creative block and to move forward. It doesn’t matter if what I make is good, bad, ugly, beautiful, or any other adjective. On the rare occasions when I still struggle, I allow myself to have the room to not create, and to just be, knowing that it is all part of the process. Some days you just have to let it be what it is, even if that means feeling creatively blocked and doing nothing about it.
What is a tip you'd have for someone who wants to improve their pattern design skills?
Start creating mockups of your favorite pattern designs to see how they translate to surface / textile design. If you are serious about wanting to license patterns, you have to understand scale, and what works or doesn’t work composition wise. Make adjustments as needed. Experiment. Hone your skills in knowing what looks good and what doesn’t. The more you can get your head wrapped around scale and such, the better you will do when designing and presenting to clients in the future. If you aren’t sure on how to make a mockup, you can buy affordable pre-made mockups from sites like Creative Market and Yellow Images, or you can build your own mockups using apps such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Dimension.
Which artists on Doodle Addicts do you recommend everyone follow?
There are so many! My favorites are: Elle Duffey, OKAT, zamzammee, Diana Koehne, Junkyard Sam, Vahid Fazel, GROBO, Slavica, Jason Heglund, Kazuhiro Higashi, Tanya Shyika, FRENEMY, Joe Tagg, erik cheung and Taro Baugnon.