To celebrate the launch of Nathan Brown's highly anticipated Ultimate Canvas Creator, we had the immense pleasure of asking him about his journey from illustrator to product creator. As one of the most meticulous and detailed designers in the industry, we were excited to pick his brain and have him walk us through everything related to his creative process and inspiration.
Q: For those who may not know, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
N: Absolutely… I’ve been a freelance designer and illustrator for just over 20 years now. I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects in that time, including book covers, album covers, t-shirt graphics, film posters, children’s books, and more. I have a background in traditional art (paint on paper or canvas) and have sold many paintings and illustrations at art shows and online. I have also been a digital product creator for about 10 years. I was captivated with the discovery of custom Photoshop brushes back in 2004, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since. I live in a rural part of Texas with my wife, Jamie, our 3 kids… Taylor, Grayson, and Lindy… and our 4 cats!
Q: What’s the inspiration behind your brand name, Trailhead Design Co.?
N: Back in 2015, I was creating a lot of nature art that was inspired by the hiking and fly fishing that I was doing at the time. For me, the start of a trail was a point where you were about to begin a new adventure, and it was simultaneously the point that you strived for towards the end of that journey. As a result, it was the beginning and end, a full circle of sorts. That type of journey is mirrored perfectly in just about all types of artistic endeavors.
Q: How did you start off as an illustrator and designer and what made you get into product creation?
N: I have loved art from a very young age. I was always drawing and making things. I went to art school but afterward found myself in various tech-type jobs that were easy to get at the time. I found that type of work unfulfilling and realized I wasn’t really content unless I was making something. I started freelancing for more creative projects and in 2010 posted my first product for sale. I wasn’t really thinking about making an income from it, I just wanted to experience the creation of a product and see how it was received. I think it made $17 dollars the first day it was released and that piqued my interest.
Q: What was your goal in creating this canvas pack?
N: In traditional art, the surface, whether it be paper or canvas, plays a big factor in the outcome of the piece. So much so that artists will prepare their surface for a certain effect before a single paint stroke is made. Last year I released the Ultimate Brush Toolbox, and The Ultimate Canvas Creator seemed like the perfect next step to complete the full traditional art experience in a digital environment.
Q: What was your process for creating this product?
N: The process was incredibly fun for me; I love working with traditional paints and materials! I used different media and various surfaces to see what types of effects I could make. Some of the canvases have a specific technique they mimic, like salt or alcohol on watercolor paper, while others are completely experimental.
I think the realism comes from the fact that everything is either scanned or made from photographs of real media. every aspect of the surface texture file that you’re working with has been created by hand from real materials.
Q: What challenges did you have to overcome in its creation?
N: The biggest challenge was the size of the pack. It’s big! 40 layered textures, 34 edge masks, and 76 finishing brushes make for a large product. I had to keep it in the realm of adding enough to make it as versatile as I wanted, but not so much that it would be overwhelming to the user. It was a matter of striking the right balance.
Q: Who would this product be useful for?
N: I think this pack is a must for anyone who draws or paints digitally. Having surface textures like these creates so much impact in your work. What continues to amaze me is how much work the textures actually do for you. Brushes can add texture by themselves, but you typically have to work a bit for it. These canvases add beautiful texture from the very first stroke.
Q: What tips would you give to product creators looking to start?
N: Creating products that excite you is the key in my opinion. If you build something that you are passionate about and that you would use in your own work, then chances are so would others. If you love what you are making and the process behind making it, you will also go that extra mile to make it extra special. That type of love for the product shows through to the end-user.
Q: Now this product is launched, what do you plan on doing next?
Oh man… Something big that I am incredibly excited about, but it's a secret for now...
And the adventure continues…