It’s hard not to get lost in the vibrant landscapes of Brad Woodard’s work. His colorful illustrations beckon a response of thought and feeling and invite us to view the world in a more gentle and naive way. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he migrated south to Austin (via Boston) where along with his wife, he set up shop as Brave the Woods – a small but dynamic creative studio. With a burgeoning product line and an impressive client list that includes Target and Old Navy, the gifted duo have established themselves as an emerging force in design. In today’s interview we chat with Brad about the software that drives his workflow, his passions outside of design and more. Enjoy!
Lets start off with a little bit about your background. Where are you from originally? When and how did you become interested in illustration and design?
Originally I was born in West Virginia, but moved to Seattle when I was still very young. Though, even after the move to Washington, I would still spend many of my summers back in WV at my grandparent’s farmhouse. They owned acres of land, including the forested hills that their home nestled against. My love for outdoor adventuring started there, and only grew more intense as I continued to grow up in the Great Northwest.
I was raised by an artist mom. And she was the type of mom who sat me on porch, handed me a giant sketchpad and pencil, and said, “Draw that tree over there.”. I guess my getting into the arts in some ways was inevitable. So growing up I was really into anything fine art related, but mostly drawing and painting. My youth consisted of outdoor adventures, ham radios, sports, and art. I always knew I would be an artist, I just never knew what kind. When I got to college I quickly realized that my dreams to be a painter would stay that way. I was out of my league and I didn’t see how I personally could make a living out of it. Enter, graphic design. Initially I had ruled out graphic design because I took a mislabeled class in high school that was supposed to be graphic design, but ended up being an AutoCad class where we made engine gaskets. Luckily, I forced myself to try it out again in college and I was hooked.
When did “Brave the Woods” come into being and what is the story behind the name?
Before Brave the Woods it was just Brad Woodard Design. In 2012 my wife and I decided we wanted to merge our talents into one studio. With her background as a writer/editor, and skills in social media marketing, it was a great fit.
The name comes from the etymology of our surname, Woodard. It means “guardian of the woods”. So we chose Brave the Woods because it fit with our name, and we loved that it was a call to action. And for our studio, it is a call to be be adventurous and curious.
Could you describe your creative process? Please include the tools you frequently work with.
Whether I am designing or illustrating, my process remains pretty much the same. First, I gather information and references so I have a good grasp on what what problem I am solving. Then I make word lists of everything associated with the subject I am working on. It helps me make more unconventional connections, or just gain a better understanding of the subject. From there I start most all of my projects by choosing the color palette I am going to be working in. The colors actually play a huge role in setting the feel for the work I do, so it helps to be working in those colors from the beginning. Not to mention it makes anything I am working on much more exciting when I have a fun color palette to work with
The times I create physical sketches, or go straight to the computer, is probably split right down the middle. It just depends on the project. When I am illustrating I use my Cintiq 22HD Pen Display. But regardless of the medium, I like to first work with the main shapes and where they live in the composition. The details of adding a texture, patterns or line work, all comes last.
I am a big advocate of experimenting with making your own textures and brushes. Though a lot of the time I don’t get the opportunity because I have a myriad of looming deadlines from clients. When this happens, I find myself purchasing the textures I need, but I am very picky. I want to make sure the quality meets the standards I would put on my work. And for that reason I love using products from companies like RetroSupply.
We would love to highlight one of your projects. Could you walk us through the creation of the Brave the Woods Tees?
Recently we have been trying to strengthen our brand by starting a lot more self-initiated projects like our children’s book, prints, toys, and now some apparel. For these Brave the Woods Tees I wanted to make something relevant to the brand without just slapping our logo on it. Since our name is a call to action, we wanted to showcase that while surrounding it with bold and playful forest-themed shapes. It is a prime example of the way we mix both design and illustration into each project.
What RetroSupply filters did you use for this project and why?
For some finishing touches I used the RetroSauce texture actions. Even easier than masking your own textures, is having an action that does it for you. The texture was subtle and easy to apply so I could really play around with a lot of options without taking up a lot of time.
In what ways did the initial concepts differ from the finished work?
Initially the idea was to have the trees overlap a bit and go into a bit more detail. But the further I got along in the project, the more I wanted to pull back and keep it simple. That happens a lot in my creative process. I start off with these detailed, busy concepts that I inevitably end up simplifying in the end. It is easier for me to go too far then pull back, then the other way around.
What are your passions outside of design?
When I am not drawing or designing, I like to do a lot of things outdoors like backpacking, kayaking, paddle boarding, camping, tennis, etc. But one my wife and I’s favorite thing to do is take our little boy and puppy out on a road trip. We couldn’t have asked for two better traveling buddies, and we love to experience new places. Now if we ever get some real money, we will extend these trips outside the US more often
We would like to thank Brad Woodard for taking time to share with us. You can see more of his work at bravethewoods.com. Prints and letterpressed goodies are available in his shop. He also has a snazzy newsletter if you would like to be notified of upcoming products and the soon-to-be released Brave the Woods shirts
This interview is brought to you by RetroSupply Co. Working with authentic materials (including real paint, ink, paper and screen textures from screen printing shops) they have crafted a vast library of vintage inspired design resources for Photoshop and Illustrator.
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