Q + A: My Art Journey and Advice for Beginner Artists

Advice, Update

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to take Tina Park Studio, and what it means to me these days.

As you may have heard me whingeing in my last few Instagram posts, I’ve been really struggling with the ‘artist’s block‘. I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what’s paralysing me from drawing more regularly. I think it’s a mixture of lack of time + energy from my full-time day job (I work as a product leader for a software company) and seeing so many other talented artists out there that often gives me the imposter syndrome.

Nevertheless, art + drawing has given me so much joy and self-therapy. So, I’ve decided it’s time for me to actively address this ‘artist’s block’. Here are what I’m going to do:

  1. Blog here at least once a week. And when I say “blog”, I mean that I’ll properly write about my art journey. This might include any cool art lessons I took, new drawing techniques I’ve tried, upcoming goals for Tina Park Studio, and other art-related reflections I’ve had. I’m hoping that this will keep me accountable to tackle at least one project/illustration each week.
  2. Schedule a roster to do some illustrations each week. For now, I’m going to try an hour each weeknight (except Friday so that I can have a night off), and a few hours every Saturday and Sunday.
  3. Kick-off my new weekly blog posts by answering Jade Berge’s interview questions which is much overdue (like 2-3 months overdue).

I really want to get more structured with allocating set times to work on my illustrations and Tina Park Studio branding.


So… let’s get to Jade’s questions!

Jade, who is a designer/illustrator and a Media Design School student, got in touch with me back in February this year. He wanted to interview me and learn more about my art practices.

I chose to share my answers here more publicly as a blog post because a) I hope that other budding artists who come across this post can learn something new, and b) I wanted to give a shout-out to Jade for being so proactive in his creative career!

Jade, thank you for your questions and I’m so sorry for the super late responses. I hope they’re better now than never!


Q: What exactly is your practice? Please briefly tell me about what you do and what it means to you, some work or events you have done/are doing. What does your work consist of?

A: I sum myself up as a digital illustrator. My exact practice varies slightly depending on what kind of projects I’m working on.

When I started Tina Park Studio (a brand identity for my illustrations work) back in October 2018, I mainly worked on pet portrait commissions, using Adobe Illustrator. I felt so lucky and honoured every time a client approached me to draw their pet(s). For many people, including me, their pets are a huge part of their family or considered their ‘furry babies’. To be asked to illustrate someone’s loved ones and receiving their positive reaction to the artwork had given me so much purpose to my artwork.

However, I’ve moved away from pet portrait commissions since for various reasons, and have been experimenting with different illustration styles and subjects instead. I’ve been experimenting with styles like kawaii-style animals, fashion illustrations, and sci-fi/fantasy characters. These have been an attempt to discover what really engages me and what I feel truly passionate about drawing. I feel like there’ll be no end to this journey and I’ll be forever figuring out what my ‘art passion’ is.

Regarding tools, I’ve been spending much more time on my iPad and the Procreate app. I find it’s quicker to draw using these tools, and have reserved Adobe Illustrator more for paid commission work.

Q: How did you get to where you are now? Why are you doing this? What decisions lead you here? How have you developed over time?

A: Other artists that I follow on Instagram have had a huge influence on my art journey, and are my main source of inspiration. They motivate me to push myself to try something different, learn a new technique, or participate in different art challenges that trend on social media. At the moment, I love participating in other artists’ #drawthisinyourstyle challenges – they’re so much fun!

I’m not sure if it’s the ‘competitiveness’ side of me, but whenever I see an artwork/illustration that I love, it always makes me think, ‘I can do that! I want to try that too!’.

Another source of my artistic inspiration is Disney. I LOVE anything to do with Disney. I grew up as a kid with all the classic Disney animated films like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. I often receive comments that some of my characters look Disney-ish – this is no accident! I’ve been intentionally studying and practising to draw in Disney style. Maybe my obsession might seem a bit weird haha – but hey, we all need to be obsessed and passionate about something, right?

Q: How did it all start? Where/what have you studied, any specific thing that made you want to pursue this?

A: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawing. As a 90s kid, my childhood was before the times of iPad games or Xboxes – I only had my pen and paper to fill up my spare time. I was always drawing, drawing and drawing! I used to love drawing princess characters and designing their dresses, or creating my own little comic strips with made-up characters based on people around me.

It’s a shame that I lost that passion for drawing as I grew older. My partner often encouraged me to draw more actively since we’ve been together 7 years ago. But I always ignored the encouragement because I never thought I was talented enough to call myself an ‘artist’. My focus was always on growing my day-job career as a product leader in tech companies.

This all changed at the end of 2018. This starts getting personal, but I’m pretty open about it.

I always knew I suffered from depression since I was very young. But I only officially got diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorder 1-2 years ago in my early 30s. I started taking anti-depressants for the very first time in my life. Due to nasty reactions from the drugs and increasing work stress, I wasn’t feeling physically or mentally well and was having to take a lot of time off work.

During one of my days of resting at home, I was watching a YouTube video of a digital illustrator that I admired and followed. She was sharing her draw process, and it made me think, ‘That looks like fun! I could do that too (and maybe do it better)!’ (again, thanks to the competitive side of me). I went out and bought myself the cheapest Wacom drawing pad I could find, signed up to a free trial of Adobe Illustrator, and the rest is history!

Q: What are your plans for the future? Any future plans or opportunities? What’s next?

A: Great question – because I have no idea! Probably not what you want to hear, haha.

In the short-term, I have decided not to take on any paid commissions. I want to focus more on improving my creative skills, instead of stressing myself out with completing illustrations on time for clients. There are so many things that I want to learn and practice – and not enough time! Some of the items on my backlog are:

  • Learn basic 2D animation
  • Practice creating original characters
  • Practice cute kawaii pixel art, especially in context of video/mobile games
  • Start my own comic series
  • Launch a new collection of printed products, e.g., clothing, lifestyle items
  • Host more live ‘draw with me’ sessions online
  • The list goes on…

My backlog can get quite overwhelming for me. So, for now, I’m just focusing on participating in #mermay (an annual challenge for artists to draw something that’s mermaid-related throughout May)! I know I won’t have the energy or time to draw something daily, so I’m aiming to finish an artwork every weekend during May for #mermay.

Q: Any advice? What advice would you give to someone just starting out? Or what advice would you give to your past self?

A: My only advice is: draw, draw, draw. Create, create, create.

That is the only sure way you’ll become a better illustrator and artist.

You can admire all the artwork in the world by other artists, take all the art lessons/courses, and read all the ‘right’ textbooks. But if you’re not drawing and practising, then you’re not improving or growing or going anywhere. There are no shortcuts.

Also, never do any creative work for free! Unless it’s for charity or for someone you genuinely want to do something for. I get so triggered with strangers who take my creative, artistic skills for granted and expect free artwork for themselves. You wouldn’t ask a stranger to mow your lawn or do your dishes for free, so why would you expect them to illustrate for free as well? Yes, I love to create art – but my time spent on illustrating for someone else is time lost to create something for myself.

My point is, never compromise your self-worth and surround yourself with people who genuinely appreciate the awesome work that you do!


I’m still learning lots too as an artist, but I hope this post was helpful for Jade and any other artists who are just starting out!

My Favourite Tools for Digital Illustrations

Advice

People often ask me about the apps and tools that I use for digital artwork.

If you’re new to digital illustration and interested in giving it a go, let me share my favourite tools for creating digital artwork.

1. Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a must-have tool for any digital illustrator who wants to create vector illustrations.

Vector illustrations never get pixelated and can be blown up to any large size you want (as long as your computer can handle the size that you’re after!).

I always create vector artwork when I’m working on commissions for clients. This is because I want to provide high-quality images and to have the flexibility to format into whatever sizes (or types like PNG, PDF, etc.) my client needs.

I began my own digital illustration journey through Adobe Illustrator. To learn how to use the app, I found their beginner’s tutorials really helpful.

Adobe Illustrator is available through monthly or yearly paid plans. But if you’re new to Adobe Illustrator, you can try out the app on a free trial for 7 days!

2. Wacom Intuous Small

During my free trial of Adobe Illustrator, I just used my old iMac and my Apple mouse to draw.

By the time I finished Adobe’s free trial, I decided that I wanted to continue drawing, but using the mouse wasn’t a sustainable way to do it. Drawing with a mouse was both painful for my hand due to repetitive strain injury (RSI) and it took too long to draw.

I knew I wanted a drawing tablet, but I didn’t want to blow my budget either. After some research, I found that Wacom offered a great range of quality drawing tablets/accessories, and their Intuous S model was perfect for me.

Wacom Intuous S is not too big, not too small, the price is affordable (in 2018, its retail price was $140 NZD but I got mine on sale for $90!), and it does the job well.

If you’re wanting to dip your toe into digital illustrations, but don’t want to spend a fortune on tools, I highly recommend starting with the free trial of Adobe Illustrator + your computer mouse.

Then if you’re ready to take the next step, get the monthly paid subscription of Adobe Illustrator + Wacom Intuous S.

3. iPad Pro 11-inch (2018)

Sometimes I feel like drawing on the go or while lying on my bed or bumming on the couch. At times like this, my big old iMac isn’t very practical for that.

When I first started drawing digitally, I already had an iPad Mini 4 and a cheap $2 tablet pen. While this fulfilled my need to draw in any location I wanted to, it was frustrating to draw on the tiny screen, nor using the cheap tablet pen.

That’s when I decided to take the next step and invest in an iPad Pro (11-inch) and Apple Pencil. And I’m so glad I did!

Nowadays, I do all of my personal illustrations on my iPad Pro. I’ll only jump on the computer if I need to use Adobe Illustrator for client work.

Read on to find out the two drawing apps that I like to use on my iPad Pro.

4. Procreate

Hands down, Procreate is the best digital art app for iPad Pros.

I’m not sure how well Procreate runs with any other types of tablets. But Procreate and iPad Pro are like a match made in heaven.

As I mentioned, I like to create all my personal digital illustrations on the iPad, and Procreate is the app that I use every time.

Procreate has an easy and intuitive user interface (UI). And considering that you pay only once for the app (no annoying monthly subscriptions, yay!), Procreate is always offering updates and new features to all their users.

The only downside to Procreate for me is that they only support raster illustrations. Raster is the opposite to vector (as I’ve mentioned when discussing Adobe Illustrator). This means that the illustrations lose their quality and become pixelated as the file gets enlarged (or zoomed in).

Although I much prefer drawing vector illustrations, I absolutely love the UI of Procreate. This is why I use it only for personal illustrations and sketches.

5. Adobe Draw

Before I realised the magic of Procreate, and I was too cheap to pay for it, I used Adobe Draw to draw on my iPad.

Long story short, the advantage of Adobe Draw over Procreate is that it lets you create vector illustrations. And you can send your artwork straight to your Adobe Illustrator through Adobe Creative Cloud. This process is so smooth and convenient!

Another advantage of Adobe Draw is that it’s free! Yasss.

The only disadvantage of Adobe Draw is that while their UI isn’t horrible, it’s nowhere near as easy or smooth to use as Procreate.

I used to use Adobe Draw a lot when I first started digital illustrations. But since I started using Procreate, I’ve found it difficult to go back to this app.


And there you have it – my top 5 tools for drawing digitally!

Please let me know if this was helpful by leaving a comment below. Or share with me (and others) if you love to use any other digital art tools that I haven’t mentioned.