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!

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!

How to Paint with a Limited Color Palette

A questions I’m often asked is; “How do you choose colors/make stuff so colorful??”

how to use limited color palette watercolor painting

I figured I’d finally address this where I can write a lengthy explanation that I can direct people towards. So if you really want to know specifically, keep reading. TLDR? Very carefully.

(Also, I made a video explaining it too! I do drop some f-bombs, though, so be warned!)

I have always loved bright and colorful things and art or objects with a pleasing color scheme. Especially analogous color schemes with the one offbeat color that stands out real nice. I was also mystified for the better part of 10 years on how to use colors in such a way. I want all the colors, but am then immediately overwhelmed by them. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m far from mastery on this and will likely never achieve it, but I’ve finally found a good starting point to work from.

Pick 3 colors and stick to them.

I mean it. No others until you’re confident with those 3 together.

Pick three colors you really like and force them to play nice. Easy route? Primary colors. Easy route with a slight twist and totally different aesthetic? Pink, yellow and blue. I find these the easiest to start out with (like how they teach you primary colors in kindergarten). But don’t mix them and make extra colors just yet. Try using these colors alone in different ratios on a painting. Pick one thing to paint and replace all the dark colors with blue, for example. The mid-tone values can be replaced with pink, and the lighter tones with yellow.

Once you get a sense of how the colors are working, you can start darkening/lightening or saturating/de-saturating each shade. Then slowly incorporate more colors as you go. For this piece, I ended up mixing the pink and blue to make a purple color for the rocks and shadows. I also added Payne’s grey to get a much darker, but still harmonious, blue tone for the darkest parts of the fox (eyes and nose). Don’t be afraid to try again a few more times if it didn’t turn out well the first time.

There are sooooo many different looks you can achieve based on different proportions of just those three colors alone. Maybe try dialing one color back a bit and adding more of another. Choosing colors becomes more and more intuitive with each piece you make. Trial and error is the name of the game here. Once you become super comfortable (like, uncomfortably comfortable) with this trio, start adding different colors or swapping one out for something totally different.

I filmed the painting process of this piece and narrated it. Once I’ve finished editing & uploading the video, I’ll link it here. Just in case you want to hear my rambling instead of reading it.

Video Process

I’ll be making a follow up video and blog post in the future about how to choose weird colors and force those to be friends later (featuring acrylics). Hopefully I’ll get better at explaining things, too. If there’s something I missed or I can improve on, or if you just have more questions let me know!

Materials used in this painting:

  • Winsor & Newton Watercolors (Cotman series) in Permanent Rose, Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue and Payne’s Grey.

  • Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper

  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Brushes (the blue ones) and Princeton Elite (?) brushes (the black ones)

I hope this was helpful to you, and thank you much for reading! 🙂

Now go forth and make shit colorful!

Back to Digital Painting

Initially, I began as a digital artist, It’s been nearly a year and a half since I’ve actually painted something in Photoshop. Just got back into it recently, and boy did I miss it. I’m pleased to find that my traditional painting style now translates pretty well back into digital illustrations, too! 🙂

Old tablet rant…

The whole reason I initially stopped painting digitally was (I think properly explained in a previous post), in short, because my computer didn’t work with my fancy drawing tablet. So, I decided to work on traditional art instead, and loved it more.

I’ve since gotten rid of my fancy Cintiq because I felt guilty for letting it sit there collecting dust. Of course 3 months after that happens, my old Intuos tablet I’ve had for a good 7 years, decides to hate me. I spend almost 2 hours every time I hook it up, messing with the drivers. Plus the cord has been chewed up a bit and falls out of the tablet in the middle of working.

I think those days of shoving it in my bag and running around campus during college did the thing no favors whatsoever.

…end rant

I’ve got a new drawing tablet now, though, so I’m really looking forward to adding digital paintings and commissions to my portfolio. It’s the Wacom Intuos medium with Bluetooth, and I love it! (It’s even minty green) I would definitely recommend this tablet to anyone looking to start out with digital art.

Programs I Use for Digital Painting:

I am often asked what programs I use to paint with, so here are a few favorites:

  • Adobe Photoshop: I learned to use this in college and while it can have a pretty steep learning curve, it has so many great features. Personally, this is my go-to.
  • Paint Tool SAI: I’m not sure if this program is still available, but I love it and I have been using it for about 10 years now. It’s very simple, inexpensive and worth every penny. The blending brushes it has are amazing, and you can make such crisp line work with it. (Not available for Mac unfortunately)
  • Fire Alpaca: Similar to SAI, but I personally get a little confused with the layout. It does offer crisp lines and still has a simple enough layout that makes getting started pretty easy. It’s free and is also available for Mac, which makes it a good replacement for SAI.
  • Krita: An awesome Photoshop replacement. A lot of cool features and brush settings, though definitely has a learning curve to get used to. Also, I found it super difficult to set my eyedropper tool to a different hotkey which is, oddly, a deal-breaker for me. This program is amazing and is also free.

Here are a few of the pieces I’ve tried recently with the new tablet, all in Photoshop: