Enduring Tree Design

How in the world does a creative notion turn into something you wear? It is a question that you may never have considered, unlike myself who is quite obsessed with it. Think of those times that you are online, scrolling through page after page or you walk by a shop window and something jumps out at you that screams, "LOVE it!" That is my favorite moment.

As an artist and textile designer, my role is to create that "must-have" print. And here's a secret, I have found time after time, my most favored prints are the ones that start from a beautiful silk painting but more importantly, takes on a completely different look when turned into a textile design. 

The Enduring Tree painting, used to create one of the best selling leggings, is a perfect example of that.

Debbie Sun silk painting to textile print

This particular design has a whole backstory. I tend to draw inspiration from the world around me, particularly nature and architecture. A few years ago I was taking an outdoor yoga class at the Parc de Ciutadella in Barcelona, Spain.  Working on balance poses, I found the perfect spot to focus my gaze; a beautiful old tree with its roots climbing down toward the water's edge. I was amazed at how the roots were able to find their way through rocks and walls, surviving and thriving through its tenacity to find water. This heroic tree rooted itself so deeply into the earth against all odds. What fortitude to witness.

And so, inspiration struck to start a new piece of hand drawn botanical art. I began to really take note of the tree, seeing its movement and strength, and envisioning how I would capture its essence. Once I got it, I went to the studio, a space I rented in a basement with 30 other artists. Inspired and ready, I sketched out the shape of the tree, traced it onto a piece of silk, and then went about painting it.  

Sketch for Enduring Tree painting and design

I fondly remember how excited I felt while working on this particular painting. The colors, the design, the way it took on a life of its own, it was truly an inspiring process. 

One of the things that I really enjoy about working on nature-inspired art, is exploring ways of capturing rhythm and flow.  For the movement in this painting, I used the salt technique to accentuate the texture of the water.  Little did I know at the time, the water would be a prominent element in the upcoming textile design.

Enduring Tree silk painting by Debbie Sun

So generally in my art process, after finishing a painting, I then move onto the digital aspect. Using Adobe Photoshop and a high-res photograph, I can begin to manipulate the image by isolating and moving around shapes and highlighting textures to create a new piece of digital art. With consideration of placement and layout, the digital image is turned into a repeat pattern which can then be printed with dye-sublimation onto fabric and made into yoga leggings, tote bags, and a myriad of textile products.  The opportunities are endless.

Deep Roots design for leggings

In the case of The Enduring Tree painting, I wasn't quite sure how a painting of a single tree would be worked into a repeat pattern. With some playful exploration on the computer, essentially trial and error, I found a way to reinvent the tree into an abstract image, featuring the texture of the water and the intricate details of the tree trunks and roots. This repeat design, called Deep Roots, has become one of my best sellers.