This Designer Is Making Adorable Tiny Paintings of Essential Quarantine Products

Kelly O'Halloran on her art project for Feeding America

Certain consumer products have taken on instantly legendary status during the coronavirus pandemic. Clorox wipes. Purell hand sanitizer. Wine. Bottled water. Any and all kinds of toilet paper.

Kelly O'Halloran, a senior designer at 10 Thousand Design in Minneapolis, found the suddenly elevated status of cleaning and non-perishable goods to be pretty fascinating. So she embarked on a side project to honor these unlikely CPG heroes—through a series of 4-by-4-inch gouache paintings, which she's been posting to Instagram.

Friends, family and her Instagram followers have been buying them as keepsakes during these uncertain times. They're going for $30 each, with half of the proceeds going to Feeding America.  

See some of them here:

We chatted with O'Halloran about the project.

Muse: Where did you get the idea to do these? 

Kelly O'Halloran: When quarantine/isolation began, I was fascinated how everyday brands and objects gained celebrity status overnight and found further irony/humor in translating these objects into fine art pieces. I also wanted to help out in some way, so I tied in the concept with donating to Feeding America.

How hard is it to paint pictures this small, and how long does it take?

It depends on the detail of the product, but each painting generally takes me around two hours. I am also fairly new to the gouache medium, so it's been a bit of a learning process for me!

How do you choose the products?

I started choosing products by what I was noticing was selling out at my local grocery store, as well as what I had been reading about in the media—for example, toilet paper selling out, being used as currency, etc. Once I began the project, people began sending me their ideas of what products/brands had become important to them during this time, and I used that as inspiration as well.

How many have you done so far, and do you have any favorites?

I've done between 20-25 paintings so far. I did a series of cocktails for someone, which was a lot of fun. I've also really enjoyed painting miniature toilet paper packages.

Have you had luck selling them all?

Yes! There's been quite a bit of interest, mostly through word of mouth, which has been really fun to see. I've just been posting paintings here and there to my Instagram, but had been hoping to get the word out in a bigger way.

It feels like there's been a surge of creativity in isolation. Do you feel this way?

Absolutely! It's been really interesting what opportunities people have been finding in isolation. I definitely feel this way, and have appreciated some extra time to focus on personal work. One unexpected benefit of this particular project—and painting in general—is that it's encouraged me to stay present and in the moment.

How long will your series continue? 

I hope to continue this project for as long as there is interest.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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