Creative Process: Punchdrunk Panda


I recently had the pleasure of working with a local brand, Punchdrunk Panda, to create an illustrative work for a series of merch. You may have come across it in my last post where I shared my creative essentials featuring the product I designed.

While I consider myself an illustrator, I'm a watercolor artist through and through and more so, used to doing personal work and commissions. I've had little experience with commercial illustrative work despite previously having collaborated with a few brands and companies. It's something that I'm still easing into, but all the same, thrilled to take on such tasks. Even though I'm still learning the ropes, I decided to take you along the journey of my creative process for this particular collaboration.

Kicking Off The Process

The moment I say yes to a project, I immediately start brainstorming and sketching down ideas. For some reason, I work better when the notion and thrill of a new task is still fresh in my mind because the moment it wears off is the moment my inspiration becomes stale. It's like fueling a spark, and once I have the fire going, all I need to do is tend the flame to keep going.


It's in those moments that I realized how much I love the challenge of being given a specific task and shaping it according to my style of work.


What fascinates me whenever I think about those moments is that every single human being has their own unique perspective. If given the same task to draw, paint, or creatively work on a similar thing, each one would have a completely different scenario, face varying challenges and have a unique way of finding solutions. Knowing that fuels my inspiration to put every ounce of myself into what I do.


Illustrating The Design & Its Elements

At the early stages of the project, I've gotten interested in pattern work and immediately thought of it as my initial idea for the design. During that time, I was also exploring intricate details and silhouettes that eventually gave way to building the concept for the animals I wanted to illustrate. I ended up going for an edgy yet flexible flora that I will have no problem making a pattern with, and narrowed down my fauna to six specific ones, as illustrated below. I balanced the subject in terms of color, shape, and size. All of that was taken into account when I was choosing which ones I would work with.

Similarly, I opted for a palette that strongly reminded me of the tropics: blues, oranges, and greens. I went for a minimal color scheme to steer clear of a visually overwhelming design, since the elements are already subjected to intricate linework.

After I finished the traditional leg of my illustrative work, otherwise known as the lengthiest part of the process, I brought it to Photoshop for the digital counterpart and final stages of my design. Even though I had all my elements down to a notch, it was combining everything together to create a visual balance that was personally more challenging than the ideology process.

Despite having a few specific sketches to go on for the whole concept, I didn't exactly follow it to the letter. Since I'm still new to design and its principles, I got a bit thrown off midway into the work — and inevitably got into a rut. Achieving balance in terms of space, texture and color is something that I'm still getting the hang of.


When I do commercial illustration, I sometimes play around with a lot of ideas and let my work lead me, often making a lot of changes along the way according to how everything will fall into place.


Contrary to when I work with private commissions, I usually have an exact image in my mind of what my painting will look like. As long as I'm given an outline or scope of the work, I could easily navigate from start to finish; thus the reason I find it even more daring compared to working on personal commissions because the approach is entirely different for both.


Dealing With Creative Roadblocks

I have to say, this is one of those projects that I had an epic rut fest going on when I was midway into the work. We all know how much that sucks and how much time-consuming it is to get back on your groove especially ticking clocks and deadlines. Not to mention, I worked on it over the holidays so you can definitely see how that was going. I blame the festive fever. (Yes, I know. The lamest excuses of excuse in history, but it happens to the rest of us.)


A project is like a ticking time bomb when you find yourself in a creative rut.


I believe the best way to deal with this is to have an open and honest relationship with your client. If you're experiencing a block, simply tell them and explain that your creative juices drying up and you may need extra time to hydrate and get back on track. You're the artist, they are the one hiring you for your creative genius which means you have the ball in your hands and it's up to you how to deliver and work around it. If you really can't do it, then give yourself a small break. Otherwise, you won't be living up to both the client's and your expectations if you heave yourself dry. After all, who settles for mediocrity? Certainly not me, and hopefully not you.

So when you're on a tight deadline and find yourself not producing anything of worth, just take a step back. Whenever you're ready, put your hat back on and immerse yourself in the work, pouring all your heart and guts out. Just remember to explain it in kind so that they would understand and let you work in your own pace.


Creative Freedom

With my keen focus on illustrating flora and fauna, Gail naturally settled on a theme that suited my style of work. 


She values creative freedom and working in my natural space which is something that I strongly believe in when collaborating with commercial brands.


It helps you settle in a comfortable position and work efficiently. That goes to say that both parties have to find common ground and build trust — trust that the artist will deliver work according to one's unique style and at the same time meet the client's expectations and take their ideas into account.


Final Design for Punchdrunk Panda

After conversing back and forth via e-mail and deciding on the variety of design patterns I sent off to Gail, we finally agreed on which pattern was pleasing to the eye and created a visual harmony. She sent me pegs and color schemes for the organizer and we settled on blue and orange to complement the palette for my illustration.

In the end, the production went well and the project ran smoothly (difficulties on my part set aside). It was a dream working with Gail on this collaboration and on the off chance, I would gladly do it all over again. In truth, you uncover a lot about yourself when you take risks and accept challenges. This was definitely a learning experience for me.

CreateJamie CattComment