Rediscovering the artist in me

The past Me

When I was much younger, I really enjoyed art. I don’t know exactly when I stopped doing it regularly (probably university), but in the last few years I’ve tried to pick it up again. I’ve since dabbled in sketching, watercolour, acrylic … but the number one hardest thing for me is just starting! I NEVER knew what to draw, and so I would sit and umm and ahh about what to draw. Then I would put the pencil down having only done a few (shit) sketches which I couldn’t commit to or wasn’t interested in carrying on.

My watercolour phase finished almost as soon as I started about 4 years ago because I found it so hard! It looks so easy on all those YouTube videos where people are drawing the most beautiful flowers using gorgeous loose, flowing movements. I thought ‘yeah, I can totally do that’ – then I tried and it looked pants so I basically gave it up.

I tend to have unrealistic expectations that I’ll be dead good at something immediately and then when I’m not, I’ll give up and feel bad about myself. Art is one of those things, I know I CAN draw but I forget that I haven’t practised in forever, so I’m rusty. I’m working hard at trying to change my mindset so I don’t think ‘that’s shit’. I want to see an opportunity to improve Instead. I know I need to make art a habit to get better at it.

Lockdown art

Like a lot of people during lockdown, I decided to get back in touch with my artistic side. I’ve been doing a lot of crafts (cross-stitch and crochet) in the last few years, but art has really fallen by the wayside.

I started by picking up watercolour again. I follow Emma Block on Instagram and really love her style so I bought her book ‘The Joy of Watercolour’. It was great to be able to look through the book, choose which tutorial to follow and see the process of building up the painting.

I decided to be much more relaxed about what I made and to try not to worry about it being perfect. I also waited until each layer of paint was pretty dry before moving onto the next layer – in the past, Ive been impatient which always leads to colour bleeding and murkiness. Similarly I hardly did any wet-on-wet painting which I find much harder to control. My favourite picture was this tropical pineapple!

I really enjoyed doing these pictures so I’m working my way through the book. I’ve also been interested in trying gouache paint as it’s like watercolour with the opaqueness of acrylic. I recently treated myself to a new painting book “Get Started with Gouache” also by Emma Block, and found some gouache paints in TK Maxx for a bargain £4.99! I don’t know if they’re any good but it’ll be fun to try them out!

Digital drawing

Last year, as a wedding present to ourselves (but mostly for me!), we bought an iPad Pro. I had seen people use the Apple Pencil and the Procreate app to create artwork by drawing directly onto the iPad screen and I thought it looked amazing! Years before, I had bought myself a Wacom drawing pad but I never got on with the separation between the pad and the screen, so I thought the Apple Pencil would solve that issue.

Despite having the iPad for a year, I’ve only really started using it properly for art in the last few months – putting that extra time at home to good use!! I am trying so hard to learn Procreate; there are so many features that as a beginner, it blew my mind for a while and I kept forgetting what things meant. I couldn’t get my head around the order of layers or how the different types of masks worked! But I have stuck at it, watched a load of YouTube tutorials and in the last month it’s finally started to click. Yay.


I still get artist block and wonder what to draw, but on Procreate it’s easy to start again and to go back a step if you’ve made a mistake. To stop me overthinking what to draw I started a series of drawings on food packaging. I was really inspired by a Chinese artist, Stephanie Shih who I discovered on Instagram. She makes hyper realistic ceramic sculptures of iconic Asian food and their packaging, like the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, the Carnation milk tin and the sriracha sauce bottle amongst others. Her sculptures are amazing and really spoke to me; I really identify with the feelings that she’s trying to evoke in creating those sculptures as they are my memories too.

The first proper piece of art that I created on Procreate was a picture of White Rabbit Candy which totally reminds me of my childhood. I spent a whole afternoon making this picture. It was the first time that I used proper layers, different effects, copy and paste!

The tutorials by Bardot Brush on YouTube really helped me understand some basics on Procreate so I invested in a set of her Procreate brushes called the ‘Artist’s Bundle’. It comes with three sets of brushes – gouache, COPICat markers and dry brush so you can achieve all sorts of effects. I used these on my White Rabbit Candy painting to get a rough, texturised look. It’s the first time I’ve experimented with anything other than flat colour so I’m really happy with how it turned out!

The next couple of paintings I did were also of food packaging – I did the Coca Cola can and the Cup Noodle pot because I quite like the challenge of doing the lettering.

My next painting was the classic sesame flavour Demae Ramen packet because I love these noodles! I’ve grown up having them and still have them as a not-so-guilty pleasure now! The packaging is super iconic too. The worst part to draw was the little noodle boy – my god, it is hard to draw bodies! And I couldn’t get his skin colouring quite right so he has a bit of a weird greyish pallor… I could have tweaked this one forever so I forced myself to stop trying to perfect it, and I’m happy with how it’s turned out 🙂

Pencil style

I get lots of inspiration from other artists on Instagram and YouTube. There is an amazing artist called anneliesdraws who works with coloured pencils, oil pastels and gouache and makes super cute illustrations. So, I decided to try using the Procreate pencil brush to draw the Vita Lemon Tea carton. I regretted this about half an hour into the drawing because I didn’t like the effect as much as I thought I would! But because I’d committed to the pencil effect, I decided to power through and finish it. Maybe I’m too used to working with flat colour and adding the effects afterwards. I added the Yakult bottle afterwards and really struggled with the shadows… But from far away I think the overall effect is ok, and the pencil look is growing on me.

Latest work

The last two digital paintings I’ve done are quite different. The first one is a Chinese style urn with traditional blue Chinese peonies. I went back to using the gouache brushes for this one. It was hard doing all the little leaves and flowers and trying to make them look natural and not too forced.

I learnt more techniques for this drawing! The symmetry tool in the Drawing Guide was super useful for when I drew the urn; it meant that I could make it even on both sides. I also used it on the pattern on the neck of the urn so that I didn’t have to redraw both sides. Such a great tool!

I also tried to work a bit on light and shadow on this piece. I tried to make the light come from the top left hand side so there is a lighter spot on the top left flower on the urn (maybe it’s too subtle?) and a shadow down the right hand side. Not perfect but gives the effect I wanted.

Then I decided to try my hand at drawing a monstera plant. I love the colour and shape of the leaves! It took me a while to get the right greens for the leaves and the stem. I tried to give the picture a ‘mid-century modern’ vibe with the mustard pot and plant stand. What do you think?

Next steps

I’m really enjoying using Procreate. It’s fun to use and I’m definitely making progress on experimenting with all of the features it has. I feel like I’m getting quicker at doing the things that I used to struggle with, like I finally understand the clipping mask and select / move tools 🙂 Now I’m starting to use the blend tool and more shading effects to try and put more depth into my pictures.

I’m still trying to cut my pre-drawing thinking time right down – maybe 20 mins max (which is probably still too long). After that I will commit to a theme or a object, then I’ll just start drawing because I know if I can just get started I will get really into it.

I haven’t figured out what my drawing style is yet. I guess I just need to carry on drawing and experimenting before I find what suits me best!

Hope you enjoyed this post! Will be doing more posts on my progress in the future so please subscribe if you’re interested!

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