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From Accidents to A-Line Dresses

The tail of unintended consequences of how a jigsaw led to a dress being compared to Zara… and I learned a new skill.

In level 2 I had made a Redbubble shop called ‘YorkshireLad’ and intermittently sold T-shirts with Yorkshire phrases. I’d since put up an occasional painting and sold prints and cards but had not really pursued it or thought it through. I think I thought it ‘diminished’ my ‘brand’ and was a bit snobby about the whole thing.

As part of 3.2 I have had to ‘Locate my Practice’ and have come to see selling my merchandise as part of an income stream with my originals paintings at the top, my Giclée prints next, and merchandise ‘wearing’ my paintings at the bottom. An original painting might be £500, a print £100, and the design element on merchandise £6. I am a great lover of the principles of Bauhaus and if art can be incorporated into the everyday so much the better. Also, six pounds will buy a tube of paint and I don’t think pride should stop me earning money or building followers wherever I can find them. I had therefore started to put my new paintings on Redbubble under a category I called ‘Colour Machines’.

An old school acquaintance on Facebook had an accident and hurt their foot… the doctor said they would have to be bedridden for two weeks. They left a post on my social media saying it would be great if my abstracts were jigsaws as they’d be so difficult it would keep him busy while he was laid up and keep his brain active. I looked on Redbubble and the jigsaws required a huge jpeg (9075 x 6201 px). My usual jpegs are a half that size. Luckily, I had just given a professional photographer friend a painting and he was happy to photograph it professionally for me… but the file was still too small.

However, he said he could upscale it in Adobe. Adobe had AI that enlarged a jpeg and intelligently filled in the gaps. He upscaled it and then examined the finished jpeg closely saying that, by eye, he could see no difference and it would be fine for a jigsaw.

I duly uploaded my ‘jigsaw’ jpeg to Redbubble. However, magically, all the other products loaded up too… previous only about half the products had loaded. I messaged my friend who bought the jigsaw and then looked through the other products. An A-Line dress caught my eye… I know nothing about fashion but I liked the dress, so I posted it on social media and asked for feedback…

Jazz, A-Line Dress on Redbubble

Much to my surprises I had a huge response from people saying they’d wear it… and it was like a Zara dress. Of course, I am taking all this with a huge pinch of salt and nobody bought it, but the response was very unusual and (at the very least) indicated a connection to my ‘design’. On average I sell one item per 50 views on Redbubble so I would need at least 50 people actively looking to buy a dress to make a sale and I had 20 people who (almost certainly) weren’t shopping for a dress when they caught my post.

Learning to Upscale a jpeg

I thought I would make all my abstracts into jigsaws and asked my photographer friend if he’d upscale some more jpegs… he would but it felt like it was more a special occasion favour than something he’d just do. So, knowing that it worked, and was an option, I decided to see if I could do it myself. I couldn’t afford Adobe but researched online and found that Gimp was an open-source alternative with a good reputation. I downloaded it and went online to learn how to upscale. I found there was a ‘Scaling’ tool, I had to set it to ‘No Halo’, set the pixel size, press ‘Upscale’ and then export it under ‘Export As’ as a png. It took a few attempts, but I worked it out, and exported the png to my desktop.

I then upscaled all my recent abstracts to Redbubble.

Coda – jigsaw mounted on the wall

My friend bought the jigsaw, enjoyed making it and said it really helped him…

… it was all about the colours and kept him mentally stimulated. This gave me a great deal of pleasure… to think of him spending two weeks with my painting putting it together piece by piece and beginning to understand the dynamics of shape and colour. It’s probably the most attention any of my paintings will ever get. In a gallery setting unknown paintings often only get a two second glance, and even if people stop and look it’s rarely more than a couple of minutes. 

His wife then mounted it and hung it on their wall…

This was another dopamine hit. 


If you’re moving forward and engaged things happen… so it’s always worth giving something a go as you never know where it’s going to end up.

My paintings connect to people as designs and are saleable on merchandise. Practically I need to raise my visits on Redbubble from less than 50 a month to 5000 to realise any meaningful sales but the principle (and possibility) is there.

I have added a link to my Redbubble shop on my website as I think that long term the people who are most likely to buy merchandise ‘wearing’ my paintings are people who like my work. One of my aims going forward is to generate more website visits.

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Posted by author: Paul Butterworth
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15 thoughts on “From Accidents to A-Line Dresses

  • Wow, that’s triple caffeine serendipity, and I love how you’ve grabbed it and run with it! I’ll be looking closely at your tips about converting art to product because you’re absolutely right about the pragmatics. I’ve made cards, laptrays, and even snow globes in the past, but I never thought about fashion. That said, I suspect your work lends itself to wearables rather more than mine does, at least at present. Congratulations and more power to your painterly elbow!

    • Thanks… well done with all your merchandise… the snow globes sound intriguing?! My latest project is theprintspace (they make and ship quality Glicée prints)… and you can integrate them with your website or shop on Etsy/Shopify. Their mission statement is enabling artists to have the financial freedom to make the art they want. They have regular podcasts. I’m taking their free ‘masterclass’ marketing set of three Zooms. I’m sure it’s very basic but it’s all new for me. It’s more for after I graduate (but I want to get the basics in before then) as I have my degree show in August so am a tad busy!!! It’s all about marketing skills (so not everybody’s cup of tea) which is a mountain to learn but if I can apply 10 or 20% of it and earn a couple of £1000 a year that would make a huge difference. And I’d much rather be spending a couple of non art days marketing/building my practice than working at Tesco.

      • I wish I could generate even a tiny bit of interest in selling but it really is totally alien to me, at least when it comes to my own work. I might look at printspace though, see if they can make a profesisonal out of me! These are really helpful pointers, Paul, thank you.

        • Hi Suzanne… thanks. Here’s a link to theprintspace: https://www.theprintspace.co.uk I’ve met artists who use them and they all say the service and quality is great. Yes… marketing is not like painting!!!! And selling is no reflection of the quality of work – it’s a reflection of the quality of marketing. Selling is totally alien to to me too but my motivation is that it enables me to carry on painting while I build my reputation as an artist.

    • Thanks Therese… I will post again later and let you know how I’m getting on. My instagram is handle is ‘paulbutterworthart’ so if you follow me you can see what I’m up to and send me a message/ask me a question. Are you on the painting course? It would be good to hear what you are doing… and I’m always open to making contacts with any discipline… print… textile… music… so feel free to get in touch. Good luck with your course!!!!

  • An uplifting post to read. It’s great to learn how creative processes can lead you to something new. Gorgeous colours too Paul.

  • Hi Catherine, Thanks for your lovely comment. I enjoy trying out new things as you never know what’s going to happen. Are you a painter? Or a textile artist? If you have an instagram it would be great to see your work. My instagram handle is ‘paulbutterworthart’. I always think we’re a bit spread out as a student body and it would be great to join up some of the dots!

  • Great story and thanks for sharing. I saw your posts on Instagram and commented about getting it printed onto fabric. Thanks Paul

    • Hi Bev, Thanks… Yes I remember… That’s one of the ideas I might use for my degree show… as if the painting has been peeled from the canvas and draped over (a hatstand????/manakin???) so it became surreal. But also it puts the idea of colour in the viewers head… rather than rectangular painting on a wall.

    • Thanks… As I head for the exit… and my degree show… I want to be able to carry on painting after I graduate, so am having fun having a go at everything!!!! Where are you on your course? Are you a painter?

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