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Artistic Endeavors: Art School Confidential with Pepperminte

Mar 6, 2009

by pepperminte handmade and vintage goods

Meet Caitlin Shearer, aka pepperminte, a nineteen-year-old fine artist and student from Australia with a passion for painting fancy girls and effeminate boys. She is obsessed with dollhouses, Marilyn Monroe, and aliens, and dreams of illustrating her own storybooks one day. Caitlin’s delicate works in gouache, watercolor, and ink have captured the hearts of many across the blogosphere and beyond. Today she shares with us her own personal account of what it’s like juggling a successful Etsy shop with the task of being a full time art school student.

2008 was the biggest year I’ve encountered so far. At eighteen, I’d just graduated from high school and faced the daunting prospect of being a grown up: university, employment, and the real world! I’d spent all my free time painting during high school, and pretty much used my classes as an opportunity to sit and draw. After graduating high school with top marks in art and having my major art project accepted into a statewide traveling exhibition called Art Express, I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator for real.

I enrolled in a fine arts degree at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. The school is a two and a half hour commute on public transport, so I needed to scrounge together some pennies to pay for my train fares. I had seen Etsy through a few art blogs and decided to open a shop of my own. Never did I realize that it would be such a hit. It really is so humbling to think that there are people in other countries who have my paintings on their bedroom walls.

Blue Blood The Siren

Juggling university with socializing, Etsy, homework, and the commute, I barely have enough time to draw for myself during the semester. We have such long holidays, but by then, I’ve kinda fallen out of sync (It’s terrible, my hands get all creaky and forget what to do!). Luckily, the people on Etsy are very kind to me, even when their envelopes are a little late. Remembering to go to the post office at regular intervals is a challenge, though I practically know all of the post office employees in four different suburbs now! Keeping things constant and reliable is the goal, but sometimes it is hard to manage everything at the same time. It’s a real job! I rely on the internet wholeheartedly now, which can be a nuisance, but it all just appears within my inbox like magic, so really, I can’t complain.

Art school can be amazing though. I took life drawing classes last year with some absolutely wonderful teachers, like Anwen Keeling. That experience really improved my drawing skills, and therefore benefited the personal art that I was making and selling on Etsy. I also studied textiles, which helped me to think in a non-paper-and-pencil way. Experimenting in a more 3-D process really opened up my brain.

I love Etsy, I really do. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to work out of my bedroom and simultaneously have a global platform to showcase my art. Twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, people didn’t have this kind of opportunity (so thank you, Internet!). I also love browsing Etsy. It’s great to see that these young artists can band together and help each other out in such a friendly atmosphere. We are all in the same situation, trying to make artwork as a career, and I haven’t encountered any animosity so far. It’s a constant stream of advice, opinion, and constructive criticism, which I think is a very valuable thing.

Speaking of friends, Caitlin has gathered art school insight from some of her Etsy inspirations…

Renee, aka art4friends: “Since I started selling on Etsy and got involved in this wonderful creative world, I have been giving all or nothing in terms of commitment and dedication. Uni holidays are great; they give me a chance to get back on track, create lots of things, participate in the community and promise myself to keep it up once classes start back up (I haven’t quite managed to perfect this yet!).

I think I have learned so much more than I ever could at college by being part of this wonderful community. There is so much more you need to know than how to paint a pretty picture (unless you have the luxury of employing someone! Ha!). By interacting with people from all over the world and learning from my own mistakes, I feel much more prepared and informed.”

Sarah, aka funiscool: “I started selling on Etsy when I was just finishing up my last year of art school. At school, they actually had a class where they told us, ‘You will not be able to leave art school and support yourself with your artwork,’ which was a bit depressing. I suppose it was a lot harder for all my teachers to get their work ‘out there’ because they didn’t have the Internet back when they finished school. At first, it was kind of hard to get my orders out to people, make new things, and go to all my classes and exams, but I made it out the other side and was happy to have the transition time that I did, between school and the real world.

As far as tips go, I would suggest doing whatever you want as long as you are putting forth the effort it takes to be successful. Everything works itself out eventually, and if you are happy during the process, it usually works out all the better.”

Matthew Senkowycz, aka Matay (on the drawings he sells in his Etsy shop): “I have just finished my Bachelor of Design in Architecture, majoring in Urban Planning and Allied Arts, so there has always been an aspect of creativity in what I have done post-high school.

Occasionally, I have been able to let areas of study and interest overlap, exploring similar concepts in various mediums simultaneously. For example, the form of a building will relate to the clothes of the figures I’m drawing and perhaps also to an installation art piece or a photograph. At other times, a single subject (usually architectural design practice) will require so much time that I’ll barely have time to eat, let alone indulge in freeing some of the characters in my mind.  This isn’t always a bad thing though, because once it’s all out of the way (usually a week or two) pent up ideas just seem to ooze out onto the paper.

Drawing has also provided me with a source of escape. There’s nothing like creeping into your mind with your own soundtrack for an hour or two after a day of ‘constructive criticism’ for design tutors and students alike. I often find the works that I like the most appear when I am experiencing extremes of emotions…or after I’ve seen the latest Jil Sander collection.”

Andrea Shear, aka andreashear: “In England I was doing mostly experimental video installations, and in New York I specialized in computer art and animation, so the majority of my art-making was short films and animations. Even during this time I was really interested in incorporating a handmade look into what is traditionally a very polished medium. I think this period influenced my love for the handmade aesthetic, as well as an appreciation for juggling two areas of interest.

My advice to students and other artists trying to balance school or work and Etsy is to avoid telling yourself that there isn’t not enough time, and just make an effort to put your work out there.”

Juliana Swaney, aka ohmycavalier: “Even though Etsy was only started the year I graduated, I found my art school experience to be very helpful for what I’m doing now. I was a printmaking major and was lucky enough to have some professors that were into ‘non-traditional’ ways of selling and distributing art, especially prints and multiples, so they really encouraged us to get our work out there in ways besides just the gallery.

Since Etsy wasn’t around while I was in school, my experience was a little different. I started out participating in art and craft sales where I sold cards and prints. That turned out to be really positive, and I feel like doing it sort of validated what I was doing and showed I could make money after I left school. I think that can be one of the hard parts of art school: you don’t necessarily get a lot of help with the practical aspects of selling your work, and a career after school can seem pretty vague. That’s why I’m happy I got some of that experience by selling in small, low-stress situations. I made some mistakes and muddled though things early on, but that helped me get my act together and gain confidence so I could continue to sell my work and make a living after I graduated.”

Tabitha Emma, aka tabidesigns: “Juggling school and business can be hard at times, but it’s really a matter of good time management, like keeping on top of when assignments are due and when you need to get wholesale or custom orders done. I try to write a list of what I want to complete by the end of the week, in terms of both my business and schoolwork. Of course, if I have a lot of homework, I will have to scale back on how much I can do with my shop. I’m always doodling ideas for new products in my book while in class, so even if I don’t have time to work on it, I’m still thinking about it.

[Selling on Etsy] is a great experience because you get work experience while studying, and you learn to deal with customers and clients. It’s also a good way to get your name out there, become part of the creative community, and make contacts with some awesome, talented fellow creatives. It helps to put what you’re learning into the real world.”

Enchanted by Caitlin? We are too! Find her on deviantart and flickr.

Art CategoryArtistic Endeavors series
Artwork for Every Room Showcase
| Art Gift Guides

I heart cupcakes ACEO
I heart cupcakes ACEO
Husky Print
Husky Print
1 Paper Doll-Vintage 1940s, 1950s, 1960s
1 Paper Doll-Vintage 1940s, 1950s, 1960s
Little Boxes 13
Little Boxes 13
Threads original drawing
Threads original drawing
Pine Burr 1973 Weiser High School yearbook
Pine Burr 1973 Weiser High School yearbook
The Coming Spring - print
The Coming Spring - print
Girl with the perfect lips Peggy Ryan 1945...Hollywood publicity glamour photo
Girl with the perfect lips Peggy Ryan 1945...Hollywood publicity glamour photo
Reserved for hirokoy Vintage 1960s Illustrated Childrens Spelling Text Book or Workbook
Reserved for hirokoy Vintage 1960s Illustrated Childrens Spelling Text Book or Workbook
pink vintage  dress 1960
pink vintage dress 1960
Vintage 1930s  Letterpress Printers Block Gal in a homely plaid dress
Vintage 1930s Letterpress Printers Block Gal in a homely plaid dress
1967 CAMPUS QUEEN Thermos
1967 CAMPUS QUEEN Thermos
Bright Butterflies Color Illustration from 1937 Biology Science Book
Bright Butterflies Color Illustration from 1937 Biology Science Book
vintage floral bird purse
vintage floral bird purse
Original Drawing... Haircuts
Original Drawing... Haircuts


  • dogties

    dogties said 8 years ago

    Great art! Wonderful article. Thanks for sharing.

  • katiearms

    katiearms said 8 years ago

    I've known Caitlin for a long time, she's a sweetheart and is full of so much talent!

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 8 years ago

    I love these pieces and art school students bring such a fresh perspective!

  • SeaFindDesigns

    SeaFindDesigns said 8 years ago

    Love this article!

  • VintageinBohemia

    VintageinBohemia said 8 years ago

    wonderful! those drawings are at once haunting and happy.

  • YouAreYou

    YouAreYou said 8 years ago

    Awesome article!

  • myzoetrope

    myzoetrope said 8 years ago

    Yaay, Caitlin! Great article. I was her first sale on Etsy! :)

  • jensingh

    jensingh said 8 years ago

    Ah, the art school days, brings back great memories. The internet was barely around when I graduated-promotion is so much easier now-but the competition is fierce. Keep plugging away!

  • MouseTrapVintage

    MouseTrapVintage said 8 years ago

    This is such a great article! Having gone to art school and also working for art school (Moore College of Art & Design in Admissions) I have often found myself recommending Etsy to established and emerging artists alike as a way to network with other artists and sell their work.

  • PipocaHandmade

    PipocaHandmade said 8 years ago

    Thanks for this article. It's really inspiring to read about dedication and love for one's calling in life! Wishing continued success....

  • curvednoodles

    curvednoodles said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the article.. I really enjoy it. curvednoodles Kerri Savina

  • nat1489

    nat1489 said 8 years ago

    I am a full time art student juggling an etsy too! Here's my labor of love:

  • 4TheSparrowsNest

    4TheSparrowsNest said 8 years ago

    Best wishes to all these art students juggling education, social lives, and creativity to boot! I REALLY wish I would have discovered Etsy when I too was in art school, but better late than never!! I'm making up for lost time now, haha.

  • moonstr

    moonstr said 8 years ago

    very nice!

  • PeppermintDaydreams

    PeppermintDaydreams said 8 years ago

    wow, major *high five* to those balancing school and a fine art career at the same time! it was 2 1/2 yrs after i got my fine arts degree that i opened my etsy shop.

  • EmmaGordonLondon

    EmmaGordonLondon said 8 years ago

    Such an original style - I love it!

  • uncharted

    uncharted said 8 years ago

    I love Caitlin's work... reminds me a bit of Klimt and Schiele...

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 8 years ago

    i luv this article, great advice and lets us all know 2 keep workin hard at what we luv...go ETSY artists

  • ChocolateBeachFlower

    ChocolateBeachFlower said 8 years ago

    i love all the art by pepperminte!!!

  • FlanneryCrane

    FlanneryCrane said 8 years ago

    I love Caitlin's Creations! Thanks for sharing...

  • Radness

    Radness said 8 years ago

    Beautiful work! So much attention to detail, even down to the dot stitching :)

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 8 years ago

    Great article! I love pepperminte!!! Sooooo beautiful!!

  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake said 8 years ago

    Great artwork!

  • kunklebaby

    kunklebaby said 8 years ago

    Love this article!! Etsy is changing people's lives :D

  • matouenpeluche

    matouenpeluche said 8 years ago


  • filo

    filo said 8 years ago

    Great to see the intersection of talent, youth and 'indietrepreneurship' ship rolled into these individuals.

  • LeLapinTriste

    LeLapinTriste said 8 years ago

    This was so lovely and inspiring! I am also juggling art school and an etsy shop/being a professional artist so I was quite excited about this article!

  • LoucheLab

    LoucheLab said 8 years ago

    Caitlin, you rock! I like the article and the art shown it in. Good luck!

  • BetaBoutique

    BetaBoutique said 8 years ago

    oh my, so much talent around here! this is really inspiring article, thanks a lot Pepperminte

  • BlueTerracotta

    BlueTerracotta said 8 years ago

    Such lovely work and hard-working artists! I sure wish etsy had been around when I was in art school. I adore tabidesigns!

  • art4friends

    art4friends said 8 years ago

    Wonderful Caitlin. It is actually rather hard to believe it all started before you were even 18 really. Thank you so much for including me in the list little piece. I feel very special indeed!!! xx

  • StudioSeventySeven

    StudioSeventySeven said 8 years ago

    Pure talent!

  • ourfrontyard

    ourfrontyard said 8 years ago

    Keep up the Great work. Beautiful Work.

  • fatcrowpress

    fatcrowpress said 8 years ago

    Very inspiring! ohmycavalier is one of my favorites.

  • MissAvocado

    MissAvocado said 8 years ago

    Wow; I had no idea so many of these sellers were either in school or recent grads. Amazing work!

  • maclancy

    maclancy said 8 years ago

    I can't wait to show this to my 17 year old daughter who has a store on etsy herself... keep up the beautiful art and artwork all you youngsters.. follow your dreams!

  • ManoCelebrates

    ManoCelebrates said 8 years ago

    I'm so happy to see so many visual art artist on etsy, as its known for mostly jewelry, that I feel like going back to my first love, which is drawing and painting.

  • COTL

    COTL said 8 years ago

    love this

  • MyJunkyTrunk

    MyJunkyTrunk said 8 years ago

    Absolutely love it all!

  • CositasSeriasVintage

    CositasSeriasVintage said 8 years ago

    wonderful article!

  • rawvolta

    rawvolta said 8 years ago

    Love all of you! Great sensitive art!

  • jessgrahamstudio

    jessgrahamstudio said 8 years ago

    Sweet & inspiring.

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist said 8 years ago

    have wished many times that etsy was around 15 years ago! great article, thanks!

  • CMEdesign

    CMEdesign said 8 years ago

    I am so happy for you, Caitlin. I still proudly display your "Secrets" print in my art room that you sent me. Wishing all good things for you & your lovely art. <3

  • ooty

    ooty said 8 years ago

    wonderful art! great article =0)

  • VedaArts

    VedaArts said 8 years ago


  • Linotte

    Linotte said 8 years ago

    oh well done, Caitlin! How amazing.

  • ChelleT

    ChelleT said 8 years ago

    Thank you Etsy this is a very inspiring article and congratulations to all these amazing illustrators who have followed their dream and succeeded! It gives hope to those trying! :)

  • elizabethwrenvintage

    elizabethwrenvintage said 8 years ago

    the thing i wanted most for this last christmas was a pile of prints from pepperminte's shop. my sister got them for me and i was SO excited. her work is so charming. i'm waiting for the arrival of more right now! thanks for introducing me to all of these other spectacular artists as well :-D great article.

  • pepperminte

    pepperminte said 8 years ago

    thanks everyone! and a big thankyou to katie armstrong for helping me out with publishing this article. x

  • lauradeponte

    lauradeponte said 8 years ago

    thank you for posting this article. its tough being an art student and having a job, and also trying to get your work out into the Etsy world. Everyone on here is so talented, great work my fellow art students :)

  • smf2024

    smf2024 said 8 years ago

    It seems that art colleges and programs should seriously consider teaching classes on "alternative" routes of self-promotion and employment such as etsy.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 8 years ago

    beautiful arts

  • SaraLacquer

    SaraLacquer said 8 years ago

    Great art! Seems, like someone use these pictures

  • Rhiannon228

    Rhiannon228 said 8 years ago

    Nice art. I like how unique and "off the beaten path" you are. Rock on.

  • laurebelle

    laurebelle said 8 years ago

    Paperdolls bring back so many memories - Love all the art!

  • HopelesslyDevoted

    HopelesslyDevoted said 8 years ago

    GOOOOO CAITLIN!!!!!!! Now I can put a face to the name!! Gaby xoxoxoox

  • LittleVisions

    LittleVisions said 8 years ago

    pepperminte/caitlin, my only favorite for a long time. such a poet. lyrical and personal and still just beginning. old soul with fresh new bows.

  • cardboardcities

    cardboardcities said 8 years ago

    im so proud of you! you are a very talented young woman and you deserve all the best things in the world. xxx

  • pepperminte

    pepperminte said 8 years ago


  • bettysangria

    bettysangria said 7 years ago


  • shop360global

    shop360global said 6 years ago

    Fine Art is a gallery studio to display photos of your artwork Market Street Gallery is located in the heartland florida Come and enjoy the magic of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL "Disney Character Prints wanted" Friends, Community

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