Using little more than Muji gel ink pens Shanan Campanaro creates highly detailed drawings then degrades them with a dash of water to reveal unexpected patterns for her line of wallpaper, pillows and scarves, Eskayel. Her simple set of tools provides the foundation for an extensive process that involves painting and then digital manipulating her analog work. We recently caught up with the self-proclaimed neat freak at her Williamsburg studio to learn more about her latest collection, and the surprising way in which she creates such whimsically structured motifs.
Campanaro starts by drawing, usually working small. She uses the water-soluble Muji pens (or sometimes Higgins inks) to paint primarily pictures of animals, and then distorts the lines by flicking water onto the paper to make the ink bleed. "I like to work on a couple pieces of paper on top of each other so that it sinks through, and then I'll draw the same thing a couple of times," she explains. While she prefers pens over brushes for cleaner lines, she then counteracts that precision with a loose application of water. Campanaro demonstrated her method for us on a painting of a rooster she is doing for an upcoming exhibition called "Rare Birds". Although "everything comes from a painting", at the end of the day "everything has to be done on the computer".
While she says she always paints stuff "not for wallpaper", this medium is often at the back of her mind. While painting, Campanaro tends to notice an element that might look good as wallpaper so she'll stop and photograph the work at that point because, she explains, "for the painting to have more contrast and depth and look good as a painting, you kind of have to ruin the part that was good as wallpaper."
The creation of the pattern marks the beginning of the digital aspect of the process. After scanning in a photograph of her painting, she begins to inspect it in Photoshop, looking for interesting areas where the ink has bled. This begins a lengthy trial-and-error process where Campanaro zooms in on and crops a fraction of the painting, copies it, multiplies it and decides if it makes a harmonious pattern. As we saw on our visit, this part of the operation relies heavily on Campanaro's trained artistic eye and experience as a designer.
The Central St. Martins grad is mostly inspired by travel, and she enjoys bohemian settings in places like Indonesia, Mexico or Capri. These destinations tend to show up as the themes for her collections, although her latest, "Poolside", draws from time spent back home at her parents' house in San Diego. The collection includes eight different patterns, and spans bold geometric designs in "Solitaire" to the abstract motif of "Splash".
Campanaro—who’s also an unexpected sneaker freak—likes working in the commercial realm of art. After receiving her degree in fine art, she began looking for jobs at streetwear labels and ended up making T-shirts in London with two friends from school. This actually marked the beginning of Eskayel, whose name is a phonetic combination of their initials, S, K and L. The company is now a solo act with a different purpose, but Campanaro still collaborates frequently, and she co-founded the charitable arts organization FOOLSGOLD with her friend Maria Kozak, where many of her wildlife paintings end up on display.
The industrious designer never stops thinking of ways to expand her talents. Whether experimenting with different types of paper, creating custom textiles for furniture upholstery or adding new products to her shop—last year she threw woven baskets into the mix of wares comprising her online shop—Campanaro continues to successfully combine fine art with commercial sensibility. Keep an eye out for her at the Javits Center during the upcoming ICFF in NYC, and for her next collection, "Akimbo", debuting July 2012.
Images by Karen Day. See more in the slideshow below.