When I want to make an impactful piece of mail art, I add a design motif. In my opinion, the best sort of design motifs are subtle but lovely, and often soothingly repetitive. The “Roses and Swirls” motif that I am going to show you how to make today is one of my favorite designs, and surprisingly simple to make when you deconstruct the process! In the steps that follow, I am going to focus on the Roses and Swirls design motif in a mail art context. You should remember, though, that there’s no reason to relegate this motif to mail art: you can add it to anything — bookmarks, gift tags, notebooks, etc. — and you’ll be rewarded with a “wow!” factor!
You’ll want to start with a calligraphed envelope. In the envelope below, I’ve used Amy Style calligraphy and the diagonal addressing technique from this blog post. I am writing with “Black Sparkle” Iridescent Ink, which makes for a satiny, sumptuous appearance!
After your address is written, you’ll want to add a stamp — or stamps — to the envelope. (I opted to use a set of four stamps that total a little over $0.49 [the standard letter rate].) Even with the addition of stamps, this envelope looks a little “naked” to me. The solution? You guessed it: the Roses and Swirls design motif.
To make this design motif, you’ll always want to start by drawing a rose. If you’re not sure how to make a rose like this, don’t worry! A video tutorial is waiting for you underneath the photo. 🙂
When the ink used to create the rose is dry, draw two curved lines coming out of the top of the flower.
Draw a serrated leaf at the tip of the left curved line, then add a little circle with a stem in the middle of the line as well. If you’re confused about how to draw a serrated leaf, watch the video at the end of this blog post — it will clear things up!
Draw another serrated leaf on the right curved line, an open circle with a stem, and a curlicue. At the end of the line, draw a teardrop shape.
Draw several petals at the end of the teardrop shape. Each of these petals will also roughly be shaped like teardrops.
Remember: the key to this design motif is adding elements! The end goal is to fill up space in order to make the envelope catch your recipient’s eye. In keeping with that endeavor, you’ll want to add a curved line to the underside of the right curved line you drew at the beginning. Add two serrated leaves to this new curved line, as well as a little flower.
Next, it’s time to sprout another line out from the rose. If you look where the pen is pointing in the photo below, you’ll see that I added a line on the left with two swirls, one Black-Eyed Susan-esque flower, and a serrated leaf.
Next, draw another line coming from the bottom of the rose. Make sure the line hooks to the left to keep it in harmony with all the other curved lines! You can end the line with an open circle, then draw a regular (pointed oval-shaped) leaf, a serrated leaf, and a Black-Eyed Susan to embellish the new line.
Lengthen the line you just made by adding two new lines to the end of it. One of those lines will end in a curved serrated leaf, and the other should end in an open circle. The open circle line should feature a couple of regular (non-serrated) leaves and a swirl/curlicue!
It’s time to add some balance to the piece by making another curved line on the bottom right. You can use regular leaves to add visual interest, and end the line with an open circle.
Add a curved line on the left side of the line you just drew. Make sure this new line curves to the left so it can provide a nice contrast to the right curve of the line it’s connected to. End it in a rose that’s just like the one you drew in the beginning, but smaller; and use a serrated leaf, an open circle, and a curlicue to fill up the new line.
You’ll start to notice that your motif is looking really cool at this point! Keep up your momentum by adding another right-curved line. End the line with a teardrop flower, then visually fill up the space with a curlicue, open circle, two serrated leaves, and a Black-Eyed Susan.
Now it’s time to focus more on the top region of the envelope! Draw a line that curves upward like the one shown below. Include a rose on the end, two regular leaves on the underside of the stem; and a serrated leaf, curlicue, and open circle on the top side of the stem.
Now, draw another line under the line you just drew. If you have a stamp collage like mine, make sure the line swoops down under the stamp on the far left! Put a long serrated leaf on the end of the line, and fill up the stem with simple leaves, open circles, curlicues, and a Black-Eyed-Susan.
At this point, you could be done. However, if you’re nit-picky like me (hey, I embrace it, and you should, too!), you can continue to add details until the design motif satisfies you. If you look where the pen is pointing in the photo below, you’ll see that I added a serrated leaf and a teardrop flower to the upper left corner of the envelope.
Next, I added a few more flowers, leaves, curlicues, and open circles. If you look at the photo below, you’ll see everything I drew for this step circled in pencil.
Finish up by using a pencil to draw curved lines coming from the roses, then use your pen to draw tiny dots over the pencil lines. (It’s a good idea to watch the video at the end of this post to fully understand this step.)
Once your dots are drawn and you erase the pencil guidelines below them, you’re finished with the design motif! However, you can see in the photo below that I’ve still got some space to fill: the whole bottom right of my envelope is looking a bit bare. If you’re in the same situation, you absolutely can draw more of the design motif down there … or you can do what I’m doing, and use only the “tiny dots” element of the motif to finish up your mail art piece. To achieve this, you’ll first draw a flourish in pencil like the one below.
Use your pen to draw tiny dots of ink over the flourish.
When the dots completely dry, erase the pencil lines underneath them. Then, use metallic paint (such as Finetec) to fill in the open circles. The glittery paint will lend a bit of luxury to the motif!
Once your paint dries, you’re finished! At this point you should give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done; then go make a couple of other pieces like this because now you’ve got the hang of it!
Of course, you could go ahead and fill in the design motif with watercolors if you want it to “pop”! Sometimes, though, it’s nice to keep the design motif as-is … there’s a sort of sophistication that comes with leaving it as outlines.
As a visual learner, I know that it’s easier for me, personally, to mentally process concepts if I can see them in a video. With that in mind, I created this ~8 minute video tutorial to help you understand how to make the Roses and Swirls motif! It will explain things like how to draw a serrated leaf, where your curved lines should go, and how to add in the tiny dots.
Remember, if you feel that your Roses and Swirls project could benefit from a bit of color, you can always add some paint or colored pencil! The gift tag below — the same tag I made the outline for in the video — looks great with some watercolor!
It is my sincere hope that you can implement what you learned in this tutorial today on an upcoming project! Right now is a busy time of year, so you could always draw the design motif once, then make scans/copies to use for making gift tags, bookmarks, or envelope liners. The design concept is so versatile you really could use it for anything!
Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week!