Ep 17 General Tips for Artist

Ep 17 General Art Tips for Artists

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In today’s episode, we share lots of ‘general tips’ for artists. It follows on quite nicely from Episode 15 about making the best of your creative space.

We cover a lot in this episode. Just in case you’re not aware, Sandra is an experienced oil painter who paints highly detailed still lifes. Prior to discovering her love of oils, she used to paint in watercolours. So Sandra has a wealth of tips to share, plus I throw in a few tips of my own that I’ve learned over the years too.

One of the biggest things you’ll learn is to take your bathroom cabinet out of the bathroom and transfer it to your art space. It appears that Sandra has miraculously found a use for everything in hers for painting. Even I found some of the suggestions a little eye-opening!

Some of the tips we share include:

  • How to stop your paint from drying out so quickly
  • How to clean and preserve your brushes, including the magic of Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • How Gamblin oil paints are better for your health (also check out Sandra’s blog post about oil painting safety)
  • How to stop dipping your brush in your coffee and drinking your painting water/medium
  • How to stretch watercolour paper, including modern watercolour stretchers and watercolour boards.
  • Some great apps for artists – including one that can replace that ridiculous wooden mannequin that would never stay in place
  • A very ‘unusual’ way of removing dust from a painting!

We also include art tips shared by members of our Facebook Group, Page and our followers on Instagram.

Here’s the list of apps mentioned in the podcast

  • ArtPose is an app that is a much better alternative to one of those wooden artist mannequins. With Artpose you can choose a figure, pose it in virtually any position, look at it from different angles and light it too.
  • ProCreate is a fantastic app on the ipad that allows you to paint digitally, Some artists do the most amazing things with it. One of the really clever things about the app is it also automatically makes a video of you creating your art.
  • Jackson’s ArtGrid lets you create an instant grid over a photograph which you can then translate onto your canvas so you can create an accurate drawing
  • The ipad app Graphic – creates vector graphics very much like you would on a computer with Adobe Illustrator. Vector graphics are good as you can blow them up to any size without the quality deteriorating.
  • Autodesk Sketchbook – this is another comprehensive drawing app available on desktop and tablet.
  • Paper app by Fifty three – is an app for digital sketchbooks. It’s also beautifully designed.
  • Adobe has a suite of apps for digital art on a tablet or phone which you can use for free.

This week’s question

What do you listen to while you create?

What do you listen to while you create

The best answers will be read out on the next podcast.

You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.

join the Kick in the Creatives Facebook Group

If you have any suggestions for the podcast or our challenges please feel free to get in touch.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you use the link to make a purchase we will receive a very small commission, without any extra cost to you. This will help to support our website and podcast. Thank you so much.

We Finally Meet…

Selfie Tara Sandra


Last Saturday Sandra Busby (the creators or Kick in the Creatives) and I finally met, the funny thing was, that for Sandra it was a total Surprise.

We’ve known each other online now for over a year after first connecting in Youngman Brown’s – Your Creative Push Group. This led to me interviewing Sandra on my old podcast, we hit it off and started doing some joint episodes. Then we started Kick in the Creative’s, our joint project. Our Website, podcast and Facebook Group was born in January this year.

Even though all that time we had Skyped, podcasted, texted, phoned a lot, we had never actually met in person as we live a few hours away from each other in England.

First received a message from Sandra’s daughter

Back in May I was on holiday with Kevin my partner and received a Facebook message from Adele, Sandra’s Daughter. She said that her Dad, Paul wanted to arrange a surprise meeting and would like to bring Sandra somewhere our way to a B&B where we could all meet up in the evening.

After a bit of to and fro-ing for a few months, Paul arranged the secret weekend away for Sandra. She was completely unaware of where she was going. Paul even threw in some sneaky things like telling her she would need wellington boots to throw her off the scent. I cannot tell you how nervous I was. My poor partner Kevin had an earache from me going “but what if we don’t like each other” “what if we’ve got nothing to say”.

I thought she had guessed the surprise

The day arrived. I had arranged with Paul that we would turn up at the hotel bar at 7 pm. However, at 5 pm we were just walking the dog when I got a text from Sandra –

texting meeting

SANDRA: “Tara by some coincidence I have a feeling I might be somewhere near you! Paul has taken me away for a weekend and I find myself in Kettering which I have never heard of, but I do know it’s in Northamptonshire! If I am anywhere near you, then at least now I know that the drive is not too bad at all!”

ME: How weird! If we had known we could have organised something. What are you doing in Northamptonshire anyway?

I was convinced she knew and was winding me up, but she didn’t.

My sunglasses disguise didn’t work

We got to the hotel at about 7 pm and I could see Paul, luckily Sandra was facing away from us and then went to look at a painting on the hotel wall (ever the artist), but on the way back she spotted me instantly. That’s even though I had my secret disguise sunglasses on. I also had a yellow paper dog with me, just in case she didn’t recognise me (like my Facebook and Instagram icon).

Sandra Tara meeting

Remember me saying how worried I was that we might not get on? Well, I needn’t have worried, I don’t think we stopped talking from the moment we met until 1.30 when we left. I can’t remember much of what we talked about, but no doubt it was deeply intellectual stuff with a bit of art thrown in.

The next meetup is already being planned, and this one is going to have a creative theme to it. That’s something I’m looking forward to (and a little scared – gawd knows what Sandra’s got planned for that day).


Tara is right… I had absolutely NO idea of what had been plotted!

Ever oblivious to anything going on around me, I just thought it was a bit weird that Paul had driven me 2.5 hours away, to stay in a place we’d never even heard of for a ‘spa weekend’, when we have plenty of Spa hotels much closer by! But no… I was clueless!

And actually, I reckon it was the best possible way for it to happen because I didn’t have a chance to get nervous like poor Tara! I would most likely have been fretting a bit too, because meeting someone in person could be quite different! But I suppose the fact that we speak regularly over the phone just for a chat and outside of the Podcast, that was clue enough that it was always going to be fine.

I was gobsmacked

I was so gobsmacked when I saw her that still, even at that point I thought it was some massive coincidence! I mean, I knew she lived in the same county that we were in, but that could still have been a couple of hours away!

As if my voice isn’t already high pitched enough, I’m pretty sure that only dogs could’ve heard me at that point! Tara and I did not stop talking from the moment we met until the early hours of the morning and poor Paul and Kevin (who also found plenty to talk about) must have had such an earache by then!

Planning the next meetup

Like Tara said, we are already planning the next meet up and no doubt there’s going to be a lot of creative silliness! Finally, I have met someone as juvenile as I am!

Ep 16 Creative Chat with Koosje Koene from Sketchbook Skool

Koosje Koene podcast Sketchbook Skool

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We are delighted to have the incredibly talented artist and co-founder of Sketchbook Skool, Koosje Koene on the podcast today.

Koosje was born in the Netherlands and lives in Amsterdam. She studied Graphic Design but later went on to become an award-winning photographer.

After 10 years as a photographer, Koosje got itchy feet and her pencils began calling her. She quickly re-discovered her love for drawing and started her blog.

Koosje then began developing online classes and not only is she now a highly talented illustrator, but also an online teacher. She also hosts ‘Draw Tip Tuesday’ where she offers weekly drawing tips, encouraging people to draw every single day. She shares how she gets inspiration for both Draw Tip Tuesday and her own personal art.

In the podcast, you will hear more about Koosje’s creative journey on the way to co-founding Sketchbook Skool with Danny Gregory in 2014. She also shares her hopes for the future of Sketchbook Skool and her own creative work.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast and our newsletter so you get notified of all our challenges.

Why the World Needs Your Art

In this digital age, the world needs Artists, Writers and Photographers now more than it ever has before.

In my attic, there is a box, which is covered in dust. It’s a box full of old letters. And I don’t mean the kind that you type out and print. I mean the handwritten kind. And for some reason, I kept every single letter I ever received. Now I realise just how precious those letters actually are, since the handwritten letter is now almost a thing of the past! And did I ever keep an email? Nope! As soon as I have read an email and responded, they are deleted.

So what is it about a handwritten letter that compels me to keep it and yet I find it so easy to press the delete button on an email without a second thought? The fact is, some effort has gone in to it. It seems almost like an art in itself to me. And for some reason, it holds a kind of connection that an email never could.

Preserving our History

I have another box in my attic, also covered in dust. It’s a box full of old photos; photos which once in a blue moon I get out and look through. They document my life and those around me. From bad perms to poor fashion… from milestones to madness… Every photo documents a moment in time to be looked back on in years to come.

But I also know that my parents have similar boxes in their own attic, only they have three. One, full of old letters written back in the 40’s, another, full of black and white photos of their own young lives and those of their parents…. And a third box, this time of drawings that I did as a child and better still, even some that my Mum drew too. How precious is that? One day I will be looking through them, thankful that they wrote with a pen, drew on paper and printed their photos.

What’s the big deal?

What’s the big deal? You might ask. After all, we now have digital photos, right? Well, yes we do. But what do you do with them? Put them on Facebook? At best put them on a stick? Well, it’s a lot harder to lose a photo album than a USB stick and who really knows where our photos will end up when Facebook/Instagram has run its course?

And now, of course, there is ‘Digital Art.’ And there is nothing wrong with that. But let’s not let it take over the sketchbook… the kind you can open and touch. The one where you can feel the marks and smell the pages. The one where you can see the grubby charcoal fingerprints and see the mistakes.

And can you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter? The excitement of trying to work out who’s handwriting it was on the envelope? Studying the stamp for a clue as to where it had come from?

If we let the handwritten letter, the printed photo and the sketchbook become a thing of the past, what will our own children have to find in our attics when we’re gone? A bunch of USB sticks (if they are lucky)? An old iPad which no longer works? Some printed emails???

The world really does need your art now more than ever. So whether you draw it, write it or print it out, you are doing your bit to preserve our own little bit of history for our future generations.

Sandra x

Ep 15 How to Make the Best of your Creative Space

Ep15 organising your creative art space podcast episode

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Today’s episode is all about making the best of your creative space. Now that includes keeping your stuff organised and tidy. Anyone that knows me well, will know that tidiness is definitely not my forte. In fact, my partner (who never stops hoovering) would be rolling around laughing at the thought of me giving anyone else advice on this stuff. Hands up who else has an “I don’t know where to put it” drawer?

Now if you were panicking and thinking why on earth would I listen to someone so untidy, fear not. Fortunately, Sandra, who says herself that she is a little OCD in the clean and tidy department, can help balance out my messiness.

So just like you, I will have to listen back to this episode to see what Mrs Tidypants (as Sandra will be known from this day forward ) has to say about creative space organisation.

We discuss:

  • What our dream art spaces would be like
  • Tips for working in small areas
  • Storage ideas, Sandra has a great way or organising paint
  • Easels
  • Home art studios
  • Lighting
  • Working in less than ideal conditions – ie a shed with limited light.
  • Anything else that pops in our heads (sorry)

We also include tips for making the best of your creative space shared by members of our Facebook Group, Page and our followers on Instagram.

This week’s question

What is your Favourite art or creative book and why?

What is your favourite art or creative book?

The best answers will be read out on the next podcast.

You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.

join the Kick in the Creatives Facebook Group

If you have any suggestions for the podcast or our challenges please feel free to get in touch.

Are You ‘Good Enough’ to Draw?

Why is it that some of us feel free to draw whatever, whenever and however we like and yet others feel that they need some kind of a license to be creative?

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who are confident in who they are, what they do and don’t waste time worrying about the result, or what other people might think of it. Or perhaps you are forever questioning yourself; Can I do it? What will other people think? Am I good enough?

Am I Good Enough?

This way of thinking can be crippling… and it’s something I personally battled with for years. I’m not sure if this is something we are born with or if it comes from life experiences, but I have finally worked out the best way of dealing with it… and that is to just be brave and reveal yourself, flaws and all… because people seem to like that! Who knew?

I spent a lot of time avoiding doing the very thing I most wanted to do, because I was worried I would never be good enough. Then one day I decided to be brave and pick up my pencil… and guess what? Nothing bad happened! I realised that I didn’t have to show anyone if I didn’t want to, so I drew again… and again and again until I got better.

And You Will Get Better…

Many years later I draw with confidence and I’m happy to show (most of) the results… And this is because I’ve learned that we are all different. And whilst as kids, all we want is to be the same as everybody else, when we grow up, we realise that being different makes us interesting. It’s a positive thing!

So stop staring at that blank page, be brave and pick up your pen. I promise you it won’t bite!

The very worst that could happen is that you will hate your drawing… but then you can just screw it up and try again… and again… and again… Until one day you will find yourself saying, ‘Wow… Did I draw that?’


Sandra x

Ep 14 Creative Chat with Danny Gregory from Sketchbook Skool

Danny Gregory podcast interview

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This week we are delighted to have Danny Gregory from Sketchbook Skool on the podcast. In fact, delighted is pretty much an understatement, especially for Sandra who had to decide what outfit she would wear for our voice-only podcast.

I’m sure if you love art and drawing you’ll know all about Danny Gregory, but just in case you’ve had your head buried under a sketchbook for the last few years, let me tell you a little more. Danny spent three decades working as one of New York’s leading advertising directors. When his wife had a tragic accident which left her paralyzed, Danny started drawing and keeping a journal as a sort of therapy to help him come to terms with what happened. He has been drawing ever since. He also used drawing to help him cope with the death of his wife through another accident years later.

Danny has written several books, some of which show his beautiful journal sketches alongside his words, we talk about some of them in the podcast including A Kiss Before You Go and Shut Your Monkey.

A few years ago Danny got together with Koosje Koene to form Sketchbook Skool. Danny never dreamed he would end up teaching people to draw, but now he is inspiring people all over the world to pick up a pen or pencil and start drawing again.

You can find out more about Danny Gregory on his blog or at https://sketchbookskool.com


Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you use the link to make a purchase we will receive a very small commission, without any extra cost to you. This will help to support our website and podcast. Thank you so much.


Stationery Island Watercolour Brush Pens Review Plus Alternatives

You’ve probably tried watercolour pencils, but have you ever tried watercolour brush pens? I’ve been experimenting with Stationery Island Brush pens for the last couple of months and thought I’d share a bit about them with you.

What do they look like?

Stationery Island Brush Pens Review

They look like marker pens, but as their name suggests they have a brush style tip. It’s not just shaped like that, the end actually has some give to it like a brush too. The 12 pack of pens has a basic set of colours including grey and black and also a water brush (a brush with built-in water container)

Stationery island Brush pen and water brush

How do you use them?

You can use them in the exact same way as you would a marker pen. I like to start with the midtones, then lay the darker colours over the top and add in the lights. Having only a limited set of colours (I have the 12 pack) means that you have to layer the colours over or next to each other ready to blend. The magic happens when you add water. To apply the water, you can either use a water pot and brush, or the supplied water brush. The colours are bright and punchy, much more vibrant than most watercolour pencils.

I would suggest using a smooth watercolour or mixed media paper to work on. The smooth surface helps the colour lay down easily and the heavy weight of the paper stops it buckling too much. A brand I like is Canson Mixed Media paper. not only is it a decent weight it’s also relatively inexpensive.

Canson Mixed Media Paper Imagine

What do they work well for

I’ve been using them for drawing faces and animals, but I think they are really adaptable. I would imagine landscapes and florals could look stunning drawn with them. They would also be ideal for sketching on location, as an alternative to watercolour pencils

Alternative brands

So far I have only used the Stationery Island brand of brush pens. I have also heard good things about Kuretake watercolour brush pens, I have a set ready to try, so will let you know how I get in with those.

Comparison size of brush – Stationery Island vs Kuretake

Kuretake vs Stationery Island Brush pens


Winsor and Newton Watercolour MarkersI can’t find any reference to the lightfastness of Stationery Island pens. If you are just using them for sketching this should not be an issue. If you are looking for a similar product that definitely is lightfast Winsor and Newton produce Watercolour markers which are worth investigating.

Let me know how you get on.


Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you use the link to make a purchase we will receive a very small commission, without any extra cost to you. This will help to support our website and podcast. Thank you so much.

Ep13 Creative Chat with Callum Stephen from The BBC Big Painting Challenge

Ep 13 Callum Stephen BBC Big Painting Challenge

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Our guest for this creative podcast episode is realist artist Callum Stephen, who you may remember from the BBC Big Painting Challenge. Sandra takes the reins today as she interviews Callum while I’m off on holiday in France, which funnily enough is where Callum is now living.

Starting to paint

Callum only started painting a couple of years ago. He has an absolutely fascinating story about how a book, a chance encounter and someone whispering in his ear while travelling in Australia kicked off his artistic passion.

Back home he started experimenting with a cheap set of oil paints bought from a local shop. He chose oils as it was what the old masters had used to create highly realistic pieces that he admires.

Callum taught himself to paint by reading countless books to learn the old techniques. He also watched Youtube videos and now looks at contemporary realist artists on Instagram. From the behind the scenes pictures they post, he notices the types of materials and methods they use.

Artists Callum loves

A realist artist that Callum admires is Tjalf Sparnaay, a self-taught artist. He also likes the work of Bernardi and Spence

BBC Big Painting Challenge

You may have thought like we did, that Callum applied to be on the Big Painting Challenge, but in fact, they phoned him to ask him to audition. The only problem was, he thought it was his friends playing a joke and hung up on them. You’ll find out more in the podcast about how he did finally end up on the show and how he felt about painting in ways far outside his comfort zone. It’s something that Sandra herself knows only too well from her experience of art college.

Art college versus a mentor

Although Callum doesn’t like the ideas of going to Art School he would love a mentor that he could get tips from. He likes learning in his own time and own way, but sometimes wishes there was someone he could call on to learn techniques that he is not quite sure about.

Becoming a full-time artist

It’s Callum’s dream to eventually become a full-time realist artist. At the time the podcast was recorded Callum had full-time day job as a stonemason/bricklayer (although I saw on Social media he may have just given that up). You can tell his determination to learn his craft from the hours he was putting into it, getting up at 4 am to paint before work and painting into the night after work too.

Connect with Callum

You can find out more about Callum on Facebook and Instagram @callum_stephen_

PS. Sandra also talks about our latest creative challenges coming up for July

Find more info on all the July challenges here

Don’t forget to join our Facebook Group too.

Kick in the Creatives Facebook Group

Does Your Art Tell A Story?

When I have the time, I love to wander around local art galleries. They are a great place to find inspiration and often send me running for my brushes!

Of course there are always lots of paintings to see but some stand out for me more than others; sometimes I might be delighted by a quirky title or maybe a painting finds me asking questions… Better still, both!

But sometimes paintings, however skillfully done can seem a little, well… ‘blah’? Let’s say for example, a painting of three shiny apples in a row… and the artist has stopped at such a dull title as ‘Still Life with Apples’. I mean… what’s so interesting about that?

Why Not Tell a Story with Your Art?

So, what if one of the apples was not green and shiny… what if instead, one of them had a little hole in the skin where an insect had been tucking in? Or what if one of the apples has a bite taken out of it? Perhaps one of them is rolling away…  And what if the title were something a little more fun, like, ‘Not so Still Life’...

There are so many ways to make your art more interesting and most importantly more fun for the viewer. So the next time you run for your brushes, why not slow down just a bit and take some time to think a little outside of the box?

It’ll be fun!

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