PeachTree Cosmetics – Design Case Study

Recently, I’ve been delving into the realm of graphic design and branding. Now I’m obsessed, and I think I’ve found the perfect way to work my passion for design and illustration into a wider avenue instead of just making pretty pictures and portraits (though I still love making them!). Whilst exploring these other creative avenues, I’ve decided to steer my portfolio in a different direction. In order to create a cohesive body of work (since I’ve had no clients of this kind), I decided to make my own projects for imaginary companies.

I’ve been brainstorming and bouncing ideas back and forth about company names that sound like they could be real, and what kinds of things they would offer. I think about what the demographic would be, and then start designing a cohesive brand image from there. The first project I came up with is PeachTree Cosmetics.

In order to narrow down the parameters for this self-made design brief, I had to step into the imaginary client’s shoes. PeachTree would be a beauty brand geared toward young women in their teens through thirties, and focused on having a line of sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients for their products. Sticking with the icon and colors of a peach as a staple and jumping off point for the visual design, I got to work.

I began with designing a landing page for the website, which would tell what the company is all about and highlight their most popular products in a visually appealing way. Given the demographic and the established company values, the colors, fonts, and elements should convey a youthful, vibrant, and upbeat vibe. I choose fairly clean and simple visuals to keep in line with their environmentally friendly/clean formula goals.

Once the webdesign was complete, I created a quick design cheat sheet I could refer back to in order to keep the colors and fonts consistent through any piece I made for this company.

Along with colors and fonts, I also included some little visual elements and icons to get a feel for the shape language and overall flavor of the design.

With a solid design established, and an easy sheet to reference for the technical aspects, I set to work making a couple labels that would be used on bottles for their products.

I really enjoyed working on this project, and I learned a ton about design, branding, and the programs I was using to create the designs for this. I feel it was a solid start and I can’t wait to get started on another project and keep learning and improving!

Designing Cute Hand-Made Clay Pins

Lately I’ve been into adorable clay pins, and I can definitely see myself sticking them all over my purse. I decided to try my hand at making some colorful polymer clay pins of my own, and really liked the results.

I designed some cute and quirky little opossums, crows and mushrooms in a style that matches my paintings. I sculpt them from white clay, and then hand paint and glaze each one. It’s a long process, but they turned out exactly how I wanted. Whilst sculpting, I decided to make a couple extra of each pin and add them to my shop in case other people might like a similar style. Turns out the opossum pins have already sold out and the mini mushroom ones are pretty popular, too.

Currently in the midst of restocking the opossum pins and thinking of other cute ones to make in the future. I think some sort of skull or Venus fly trap pin would really match my aesthetic. Also thinking that a cute little bear face pin would work perfectly with the forest theme I already have going for them.

Designing and creating these pins is a nice change of pace, and a good break for my wrists from my regular painting.

Endangered Animal Calendar for 2020

This year, the only real goal I’m setting for myself in terms of work is to learn to follow through with self-initiated projects and actually adhere to deadlines I set for myself.

I work much better under a little pressure and some constraints, but I have a hard time sticking to those I set for myself. I’ve had so many projects go unfinished and so many ideas I never ended up starting.

This year I’d really like to tackle one project every month and actually finish it in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, If I get really busy with commissions and client work, I will allow myself to set my own projects aside as I still have bills to pay. But instead of starting something and then getting bored and doodling random stuff, I want to actually have more substantial and practical work to add to my portfolio.

And what better way to start on this new goal, than to make a calendar for myself to keep track of said projects and deadlines?? I thought of this idea rather late, so of course it wouldn’t be finished before the new year, but I could at least get the first page done before January.

My specs for this project were fairly simple:

-Basic, clean calendar layout made for standard 8.5×11” paper

-Not too ink-intensive to print, but still some nice artwork to look at

-Animals with the aqua, pink and yellow combo I’ve been really into lately worked in (I settled on a list of Endangered animals to narrow down my choices)

I’ve successfully finished my first project for the new year! Now I can use this calendar for scheduling out all of my client work, commissions, and self-initiated projects~

I’ve gone ahead and made a printable version to add to my Etsy shop if you’d like your own! I’ve also included a blank version where you can fill in the months and days yourself, so it can be used whenever without wasting half a calendar (I’m totally guilty of waiting until March or April to finally replace my old calendars).

Now, on to the next project. Thanks for reading!

Huge Rush Order and Hard Lessons Learned

As the Christmas season rolls in, I get flooded with commissions. I love it, painting lovely families and their pets is such a joy! This year I got to tackle the largest commission I’ve ever done in terms of size and with the tightest deadline I’ve had yet.

I was commissioned to paint 4 individual pet portraits, each on 16×20” canvas. And I had to finish and ship them all within 10 days. It was insane. I love how they turned out, but it was definitely a struggle to get them done. I had to have approval on the sketches before I could paint, feedback on the final paintings and make sure they were completely dry before packaging them to ship. This means the total time I actually had to paint them was just 7 days, on top of other smaller commissions and a day job. There was no time to re-think artistic decisions and precious little time for any corrections to be made so I had to do better than my best to get them all done right the first time. It was such a huge relief once I was finally able to send them out, and an even bigger relief to hear they arrived safely and on time.

The commissioner of these portraits contacted me through Etsy, asking about larger paintings done on canvas so I was excited to start from the very beginning. They were super lovely to work with as well. They knew what they wanted but left plenty of room for me to be creative, they weren’t afraid to mention if I had made a mistake and they also super quick to respond whenever I contacted them with a question or a progress shot.

It was incredibly stressful but also super enjoyable to work on these portraits. I finally got some experience painting on large canvas, which had been a goal of mine for this year that I hadn’t gotten a chance to try. I have also never shipped anything this large, so the expensive shipping cost was a crappy surprise, but live and learn. I also realize how much more paint a large canvas consumes versus small paper. I barely broke even with this commission and came very close to losing money. Something important I learned during the process was to more carefully consider materials, shipping and including a fee for rush orders. While these were financially difficult lessons to learn, I still had a very positive experience, and I think the knowledge I gained from it was worth the loss.

Inktober 2019 Conclusion

Oops, pretty late on this one! Another year of #Inkotber has come and gone.

This is my 5th year participating, but only my 3rd year actually managing to make a new painting for nearly the whole month. I usually burn out somewhere in the last week or am too busy with the influx of holiday portrait commissions to be able to finish, but I’m always glad to have participated.

This year, as anticipated, I crashed and burned near the end with the incoming commissions. But I did make a few pieces I’m really proud of, and really solidified a style I enjoy working in.

The fox painting below has already sold, and I was honestly a little heartbroken to part with it. It’s one of those pieces I keep looking at and I can’t believe I made it. Real proud of it for now, so I’m probably going to make a print to hang on my wall.

I also got pretty obsessed with the purple/orange/black palette I ended up using. Still on a roll with it, and trying to incorporate some more colors into it.

The main four colors I used for it are Dioxazine purple, Mauve, Cadmium Orange Hue, and Payne’s Grey. Then obviously black ink along with them.

A little tip I discovered (which is honestly probably common sense to you if you use ink frequently), is that you can clean a plastic ink palette really well with rubbing alcohol!

My palette has been stained and building up ink for like 5 years now and I didn’t want to throw it out, but I couldn’t see what colors. Was actually mixing in it. Then I realized if I clean my dip-pen nibs with rubbing alcohol, why the hell would I not try that on my palette?!

Works like a charm. Except for the areas that had the least diluted ink. Those are pretty caked on, but at least now I can actually see what I’m mixing. I hope that tip can help someone!

That’s all I’ve got for now. Most of my original Inktober paintings can be found in my Etsy shop, and I’m working on making prints of the few that people requested on Instagram. Now, onward to the holiday shop rush!

Thanks for reading, and stay warm! ❤

It’s that time of year again…

Inktober time! I’ll be trying again to complete a new ink painting everyday for the month of October. I’ll be posting them daily to Instagram (find me @cait_gadd on there in case you wanna follow along!).

As per usual, I’ll be loosely following a weekly prompt. So far, I’m starting of warming up my inking skills with a week of painting antiques. I bought some new inks, so these will also serve as tests of sorts.

For the rest of the prompts, I’m thinking a week of insects and flowers (Fall always reminds of spook Halloween things, which always makes me think of bugs), different animals with their respective skulls, and not sure about the last week yet. I may just go rando and toss themes out the window by that point.

My whole goal this year though, is to get better at using colored inks and incorporating more ink into my work in general. I have a ton of colored, and even some iridescent, inks but I have a hard time making them work in a piece. I also pretty much only use inks during October for the Inktober challenge and for the occasional black and white commission so I’d really just like to get some more use out of them as I enjoy painting with them and really love how they look.

New inks I’m looking forward to trying out:
-Speedball Acrylic Ink in Indigo (cobalt or primary blue would be more accurate, though)
-Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink in Violet and Teal
-Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Inks in Sepia and Process Magenta
I’ll post an update on how it goes at the end of the month!

Completing the Largest Commission I’ve Done Yet

Recently, I have completed the largest commission I’ve taken on in my career so far. I don’t mean in the physical sense, but rather, in terms of scope and deadline. It was challenging but I learned a lot from the experience.

I was contacted through Instagram by a woman who was looking to have 5 portraits painted as Christmas gifts. She briefly outlined what she was looking for and once the final details were worked out I was able to give her a quote. She commissioned to paint her lovely and talented dance instructors.

This meant 5 full-figure, 8×10″ portraits complete with fairly detailed backgrounds. I was a little nervous about some of the backgrounds as they aren’t exactly my strong point. I mentioned this to her and she said she’d like me to try anyhow, and we’re both pleased with the results. I’m glad I decided to take on the challenging backgrounds and I feel I definitely improved from working on them.

Time Management:

I needed to have them finished and ready to ship by the end of September, so I had roughly 30 days to complete them all. I do currently work a full-time day job, so it was a bit of a challenge as I’d have to let layers dry for a while before I could continue on each one. Each day after work, I would set aside 2 hours to focus on these commissions. I ended up working on two-three different portraits at a time whilst layers on other ones were drying. This method worked out pretty well and I was able to get them shipped a few days early.

Client Communication:

For large projects like this, I realized it’s super important to keep the client updated on your progress rather than simply accepting the commission, getting paid, and then disappearing for weeks until finished. I sent the sketches in groups of two and three until they were all accepted and I could begin painting. From there on, I messaged the client once a week with the progress I’ve made on each portrait to make sure they were looking alright. This was a good balance as there were no surprises on either end, and I was able to correct any mistakes before it was too late.

Painting Scenery:

I have very little experience painting scenery. My style relies heavily on brushstrokes and the textures and colors that come from layering those various shapes. I was worried that having all the extra texture of the background would take away from the instructors as the main subjects. Before starting the backgrounds, I did some mini thumbnail tests in my sketchbook to figure out the best way to approach them. I’m glad I did that, because I was able to find a nice balance between all the detail and texture without distracting from the rest of the portrait. I definitely still have some work to do in terms of improvement here, but I made a good start with this project, and more importantly, the client and her dance instructors are very happy with their portraits!

I thought it was the ugliest palette ever…

I picked up a reddish-orange colored pencil to sketch with the other day and decided, “I should base today’s color scheme off this pencil.”

As my hand automatically reached out for the paints, my brain short-circuited. I don’t normally use a bright, bold red in my limited palettes. What do I do? Pastels don’t match this color, do I even have matching colors?? In the midst if the internal struggle on what the hell color even is, I looked down to find my hand and eyes subconsciously coordinated what I thought was the absolute ugliest color palette in the world.

This grody palette consists of vermillion, a weird/obnoxious limey-yellow-green color, a sort-of-pastel yellow, lilac, and a dark periwinkle I like to call “burple”. Burple can’t decide if it wants to be blue or purple. How am I supposed to make that work?? Just imagine those colors for a hot second. Laying those out on a palette looked like fresh spring barf…gross.

The paint was already on the palette by this point, so I’m basically committed now. I decided to start painting. To my surprise, the owl that I painted looked kind of alright in the colors. I mean it is an obnoxious owl so it gets a pass on the weird color combo, right? I decided to give the palette another shot and went for something I thought surely could never work; a portrait.

As it turns out, I really liked the effect on that too! It looked kind of vintage, and…I don’t know. Something about it just works. Suddenly my brain explodes with 2.3 billion other ideas on what I think this palette would be suitable for. It has certainly grown on me, so expect to see this pretty-ugly combo for a while 😉

Illustrating with Alcohol Markers

In need of a fresh update on my portfolio, I’ve been trying out new materials and techniques while illustrating. I’ve fallen pretty deep into a comfort zone that consists of mainly animals, people and the occasional flowers/food. I want to branch out a bit more and get comfortable applying my style to other subjects. I also want to unify my style a bit more so it can still look cohesive and recognizable across various materials/subjects.

This week I’ve been trying out Copic markers. My style heavily relies on the texture and shapes of brushstrokes, so alcohol markers are quite a challenge for me. I’m finding that I’m going to need to develop a slightly more distinguished shape language for the sketching of subjects to make a non-paint piece still look like my style.

Here are a few of the better illustrations I’ve done with markers. They still look far-removed from the rest of my work.

On the note of expanding subjects…I’m still a bit overwhelmed. There are so many things I’d like to try that I don’t know where to start. For the time being I’ve just taken to illustrating objects around me, but I would like to organize a bit more structure around them. If you have any advice about choosing a subject for a self-initiated project and sticking with it, please let me know! I’d really appreciate it!

Painting a Bat Skull with Gouache

Recently completed this painting of a vampire bat’s skull with gouache. I managed to film the process and condense the footage into a neat little time lapse. My video editing skills are still pretty rusty, but I’m getting a little bit faster at it.

Original gouache painting of a bat skull with flowers

Toned paper shows off gouache so well!

The paper I used is the Canson Mi-Teintes toned drawing paper. I have to say, this is my absolute favorite paper for gouache. The colors are gorgeous (which is great because I personally don’t like using gouache on white paper) and it hold up surprisingly well, considering how thin the paper is. Of course it still warps a bit, as any thin paper with a ton of water on it does, but never as much as I expect. It definitely helps to tape it down while painting, and to press it for a while after it’s dry.

I did not add any other materials to this illustration, but I have found in the past that even after layering gouache, the texture still shows up nicely and can handle a fair amount of colored pencil on top. I highly recommend this paper if you’d like to try a toned paper.

Here’s the time lapse I made if you’d like to check it out!

I had sketched the skull a bit too small and, naturally, didn’t realize until I started painting. I considered trimming the paper down to 9×9″, but then I thought I’d try adding a pattern down the side instead. I kind of like the effect it has, but I made sure to leave enough space to trim the painting to a neat square if desired.

The original as well as square prints are now available in my Etsy shop!