Valentine Expressions

February 11, 2017

You know…we designers design for our clients and ourselves around themes, we design around events, we design around seasons and of course we design around the trends…it all keeps the commerce of products and materials in motion.  And at this time of year, we see focus on wine clubs, pajama grams, stuffed teddy bears in enormous sizes, hearts, hearts, hearts…and roses natural red or gilded, it’s Valentine’s Day!!!

But it’s fair to note that all seasons have valid design consideration. Setting the scene, enhancing the moment – either for you, your family or a romantic encounter, the holidays and especially this one, evoke a desire to create a scene that conveys love and romance.

To that end , my blog is brief. Enjoy that which brings you joy. Revel in the happiness that presents itself. Create beauty where you can. And as we are wont to say….art and good design can almost always bring a better scene to anyone’s place on this precious planet.

So be it a candy heart with a common message of joy, a product acquired to create a scene, a piece of jewelry to promise, a token to send love, a greeting of friendship, a message to offer support, it is all about connecting.

I decided to paint a bowl for my sweetheart. Yes, I had passed this guy’s booth, encouraged others to partake, had appreciated his talent, but never ventured forth. This year, I enjoyed sitting alongside Victor in the shade, with the waves lapping the beach, and soft music wafting through the  air…allowing a moment of focus on an artistic expression, a blank canvas (my bowl) to say Happy Valentine’s Day to MY Valentine.

Here is the finished result.

Connecting. We at PATRICIAN DESIGN support local artists and hope that the next time that you need a gift, want to send a message, or desire a creative addition to your personal space, that you will consider local talent to fulfill that need. OR do it yourself DIY!!!

Wear ART – Shop Local – Support LOCAL artists –  Need we say more?

Ok…we provide the greatest FREE gift wrap to get you on your way!!!

XXX000 Happy Valentine’s Day – (it’s Tuesday – better get prepared!!!)



Su mundo es corazones. Artist Paola Alonso Rangel is at the heart of Vallarta and literally that is the name of her shop, Corazon Vallarta, where she thrives amidst the bustling activity in the old town, on a busy street corner, with much traffic flowing by both in vehicles and on foot.


A man carrying a frighteningly large pane of glass about 6 feet long by 3 feet wide effortlessly and without intimidation marches down the street with taxis and buses bouncing by him. I cringe at the site and the young shop attendant, Nidia, shrugs with a smile and says “It’s Mexico.”

With Valentine’s Day nearing, this exciting little shop offers a wealth of opportunities to find just the right gift to say “be mine!”

Paola’s little Chihuahua, Pecas (Freckles), suns on the front step seemingly oblivious to all the activity swirling by. She is front and center of all that is happening in Corazon Vallarta.

A designer and hands-on artist of nearly everything she sells in her shop, Alonso Rangel is a model of organization and time utilization. She has her machine fine-tuned and knows just what it takes to create, prepare, produce and market her work.


In the well-lit back room of her little tienda, she has all of her art supplies neatly organized on sturdy shelving sparing not one square inch of available space. Her computer plays soft Spanish songs that, with the fan blowing gently, creates a pleasing atmosphere where she designs and paints with a couple of assistants to assemble and package her work to sell.

As is true of most urban storefronts, the fine grit that is continuously accumulating from the dusty streets and vehicles in passing contributes to the concerns of successful retail presentation. Hers and others in this type of scene perhaps suffer more due to the cobblestones which collect and distribute ongoing layers of the sooty, dusty, fines.  So everything is kept painstakingly clean and wrapped in cellophane  – just another stage of the process that makes her conscientious practices so impressive.

From colorful wooden puzzles, picture frames, key hangers, boxes and magnets, the expansive home decor and gift collection, on which she collaborates with her brother in Guadalajara, is a treasure of her designs and creativity. All manner of colorful animals with whimsical expressions are the subjects of her puzzles with a bit of flowers and fruit in the mix for a generous variety of choices. Alonso Rangel designs all of the pieces while her brother and his crew with a manufacturing studio in Guadalajara do all the mill-work, brilliantly colorful painting and glossy lacquer finish.


Other of her work is comprised of original one-of-a-kind creations on canvas and wood, heart-themed all in keeping with her heart-felt passion for  corazones.

She efficiently sets-up her own assembly line of stages of production, with Pecas supervising closely, so that each of her made-by-hand (hecho a mano) originals are always filling the walls and shelves from where they are being lovingly selected by customers to take home.

Steel heart sculptures, wooden cut-outs, carvings, and more are the multi-media of her continually, seemingly endless creative concepts and body of work!


Thank you Paola for all of your inspiration – by design!


So when you least expect it…nature speaks. On a silent coastline on a great lake in the wilds of Wisconsin the stones on the beach offered a hidden alphabet of opportunity. Upon making this discovery, I searched for and collected just the right pieces and sent a love note to my sweetheart. Wishing he were there to share in the wonderful adventure that was hiking through the enchanted woods to this lakeside hideaway, I did the next best thing and found an expression of LOVE , took a photo and messaged off to him…technology and instant gratification – well, across the miles…


The lovely white stones were amazing…I don’t know the geology…could probably Google it, but suffice it to say they were white and soft, angular but smooth, bleached and clean – massed in a thick bed for miles along the shoreline. I wish I could have taken buckets of them to do something…fill a large snifter, layer in the sink for the water to spill over and remind me of this scene, touch and fondle – they were so special, so uniform in size – such a natural phenomenon of raw beauty.

Paired with the rough, elegant, weathered, driftwood that was scattered along the rubble and upon which I carefully placed the stones, the composition was truly a work of art – inspired by  nature and assembled by my eager fascination with the media.


Take away…love is all around – OH! has that been said before? Well…love IS all around us and to find an actual, natural formation of alphabet letters that allowed the simplest expression of literal words, to be transported across the miles,  was magic.

Art…design…nature…find it!!! Happy almost Valentine’s Day!!!!

After having seen Federico Leon de la Vega’s presentation at TEDX Talks in September and after having seen some of the work in progress over the past couple of years, it was a treat last week to be in his studio to see the collection exhibited up close and in person!

Presented on fabulously enormous canvases and a few smaller studies, these bold graphic statements compile a contemporary collection that is quite astounding. The premise is quite provocative.

The idea that handwriting is a basic human means of communication having evolved into the very personal flowing script of cursive that each individual can call their own – in their own style – it’s almost as personal as a fingerprint. It is an extraordinary human function that should be protected, revered and certainly not lost to the fast-paced technology of the digital age!

Making one’s mark on a surface…a piece of paper…to convey a thought, idea, instruction, story, a doodle on a paper towel – a love letter.


With Valentine’s Day approaching, it brings to mind the idea of love letters. We read them throughout literature and listen to them in songs. We hear of them being saved over time by recipients in treasured boxes tied with ribbon to be read over and over or merely saved for others to find long after…

These magnificent oil paintings convey the art of handwriting. They celebrate the simplest marks of hand to canvas with brush and paint looping in circles and jutting in spikes – the primary strokes of handwriting. These primary strokes are the foundation of mastering the control needed to make the continuous flow of letters that become each person’s personal interpretation of the alphabet in cursive style and an exclusive means of communication.

Style – handwriting conveys personal style. Look at yours. Is it always the same or do you mix it up? Do you stay consistent or do you express different styles of your own handwriting for different purposes?  Look at your friend’s handwriting – would you recognize it anywhere?


It is thrilling to walk among these great canvases with their color and  bold strokes. It is arresting to realize that they are so simple yet so complex in what they are saying. We must recognize the value of handwriting. We must not let it be dropped from our schools’ curriculum. We must continue to see the importance of the pure, mind to hand, raw emotion.

Powerful spikes require starting and stopping – control.

Loose loops also require control to maintain uniformity.


After control is learned, expression can take over resulting in that personal style that becomes each individual’s identifying handwriting.


Federico reminds us in his talk, about how we might have attempted to write a love letter for the first time and how many times it was crumpled because it wasn’t quite right. The failed attempts of recording our feelings as we strive to say the right thing, to express our deepest emotions. Yet once accomplished, those words hand-written mean so much more than the same words conveyed by type or digital communications.

“From my heart to my mind, from my mind to my hand, from my hand to the paper I place in your hand,  so you may fold it and keep it near to your heart. No delete!”

The digital world is all around us. We cannot escape it, nor should we. However, the human evolution and the brain’s development that mastered the art of handwriting is a place that could be diminished and lost if we do not continue the art and practice of personal expression through this extraordinary medium.

All we need is love – sent via a personalized handwritten letter from the heart. Here’s to a Happy Valentine’s Day !!!

A little bug selectively bred on a cactus in Mexico way back in the 1500s, for its use as a magnificently unique red dye, soon became recognized, by European traders who discovered it while bartering  in the Aztecan markets, as the most dazzling rich red on the planet. The result was the realization that this red bug juice was a rare trading commodity that rivaled even gold!  Yes, a squished bug that oozed a red color that was so extraordinary that it was nearly valued above all. This indigenous American discovery spread worldwide and altered the course of history for art (obviously), cultural  influences, certainly its trading value and even science.

Before I continue with this brief summary of this extraordinary discovery and my personal  comments on the subject, try this little experiment.  Think of all the things that you associate with red. Think of all the things that are special and standout because they are red. Do this yourself – make a list or maybe make it a game of it at a party – have everyone make their own list and then share the lists – see how many make the same observations and how many identify different items.  More on this later…

This story behind  today’s blog is derived from a book by Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire which influenced a collective of international experts, in a variety of fields of expertise, to produce an incomparable exhibit  at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe that astonished the world.  The book that compiles photographs of worldly treasures and narrative describing the making of and content of this extraordinary exhibit is A Red Like No Other – How Cochineal Colored the World. It was my Valentine’s gift and it truly is a treasure – a gift of love. A red likeno other - book

Cocheneal, this little bug and its unexpected authority and influence, is the center of this universal love affair. A love affair with a color so seductive and so powerful that it evokes passion and emotion with everything that bears its true hue. The forward of this book by co-editor Carmella Padilla states that “everyone has a visceral knowledge of red. Therein lies its power. ” Red is imperative. And if you didn’t realize the depth of this statement, you will be amused, challenged,  amazed and intrigued beyond belief to read about the history and processes behind this exhibit .

Carmine  – this regal bug juice, so purely red, the prized pigment – is something all artists revere. They know the importance of this hue as they strive to create their projects. The quest for the perfect colors and the balance of colors in painting and in other art forms is an ongoing progressive journey. I feel remiss to not have known about this earlier. How can you take art history for semesters on end and not be introduced to this? It’s been an exciting discovery for me to learn of this viscose bug extract, carmine, and this recent journey I have taken to read of its history has been truly thrilling.

As I write this, by stark contrast to the wonderfully cerebral documentation and observations in this book, I find myself watching the endearingly inane movie Nacho Libre out of the corner of my eye.  And  what surprises me all of a sudden is that the color red is so effectively inserted into the scenes. nacholibre

The director, Jared Hess,  knowingly or not recognized the value of the color pop and punctuated many artful scenes that would have lacked depth and interest had he not had the eye to do so. My heightened awareness amuses me – especially in the context of this crazy, silly movie. The creatively artful incorporation and placement of red is so apparent in this nutty, fun film.  Ana de la Reguera lips Nacho  LibreHer lips, his costume, the children’s masks, a sunspot on a bus, the fighting ring ropes, structural elements in the arena are all so subliminal yet so vivid. Consistent and repeated use of the contrast with the bold red color in combination with turquoise is also a key element in this film.Nacho Libre masks

So back to the party where everyone is listing things they associate with red. If you can get a copy of this book and whip it out after everyone has read the lists, I promise everyone will find it captivating on so many levels and subjects – great lively conversation, fun, fascination and amazement will ensue!!





Old movies provide an extraordinary view into periods of history, social norms, and the interior design of the times. Watching old movies exposes lifestyles and context like a text book. Whether capturing modest environments or posh extravagances, they depict with accuracy – if not exaggeration – exciting opportunities to transport the viewer into another world.

From my perspective, I drink in all of this creativity as I scan the sets, peek around the actors and study the minutia of the many varied interiors. I marvel at the sensitivity and attention to detail and decorative arts required to create effective set designs.

When movies are in color they illustrate such interesting decisions for artistic contrast and combinations; but in black and white, the imagination must fill in the blanks. The emphasis on the chiaroscuro adds a very  different focus. Scenes in color are often exaggerated realism stretching the art. While black and white scenes are rich with tonal values, shading and bathed with the art and drama of lighting.

Perfect for this season the 1942 classic film Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds shown here by the fireside, allows the viewer to feel the cozy setting,  the warmth and take in the details of the room all without benefit of color. It’s fun to wonder what is the color of the walls, fabrics, accessories and other accents could be. The possibilities are endless – but probably not really  – if one is to design with accuracy for the time period.  movie Holiday Inn Bing Crosby Marjorie Reynolds   Try it with this still shot from the movie…imagine the colors…it’s fun!

Tis the season to light fireplaces and enjoy the flickering light, golden white colors sparked with jewel-toned color bursts, the visual and physical warmth that come in many forms. Step into the scene and feel the temperature, textures…see the colors and combinations.

I recently said – as sexist as it might sound – that I would never have a gas-log fireplace as long as there was a physically capable, self-respecting man around to fetch the wood and haul it home and stack it up, go outside in the frigid air to lug in the logs and of course clean it out from all the wonderful timber turned ashes.  Spoiled? Yes. I love a REAL fire in a fireplace – you bet…the crackle and smoky aroma of distinctly different species, real fire dancing and real wood “combusting” – natural elements that create a concert of sensory experiences and evoke so many memories. Is it working? Can you imagine it?

Fantasy mirroring reality, with the creativity of set design replicating accurate portrayals of life, provides another tool for historical markers and study outside of a museum setting. Perhaps you will find yourself scanning the sets and peering around the actors to see what you can discover surrounding and beyond the action.

And as this movie has so emblazoned in our holiday  traditions…I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Thank you Bing.

It’s funny how a theme gets into your head and you seem to see it everywhere. This is what’s happening to me as Valentine’s Day approaches and I think about it from many different angles. Because of my shop, I focus on the merchandising standpoint as I see opportunities to spread the joy of marking the day with wonderful mementos in the form of art pieces and unique decorative accessories. But then again other things just happen spontaneously and through the window of a bus the other day while toodling about in Mexico I spotted this very animated VW bug adorned with curling graphics ala the 60s with the universal peace symbol and its bilingual version of love and amor.
Like Austin Powers’ spoof on psychedelia, what goes around comes around and if you wait… you’ll see the design trends repeated in the reactionary realm of art and fashion. With our world today getting smaller ,with the increased access of high-speed transportation and cyber communications, instant gratification and homogenizing of cultures, people tend to want to slow down, relax, return to an earlier time – it’s all relative. For some that might mean surrounding themselves with organic materials, and/or slow food, to others it might mean listening to music from a past era or immersing themselves in historical research. Some jump off the grid and really get back to basics. But regardless of the manner in which one reverts to the past or reminisces about the bygone days – one common denominator is true – comfort, wherever one finds it, is a human need. What’s funny is how different those definitions of comfort can be.
As simple as something that makes you smile like this whimsically artistic little love bug did for me the other day, I hope this coming Valentine’s Day brings a smile to your face and that you can, in turn, bring a smile to someone too!