The Best Pieces of Art Advice

We asked artists “What’s the best piece of art-related advice you’ve been given?” and received an incredible amount of valuable feedback that’s worth reading through. You may just find the inspiration or breakthrough tidbit you’ve been looking for.

There were many themes that repeated themselves, so first we pulled out a few of the main highlights.



  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: Draw something every day, even if it’s just a doodle. Keep all your artwork even if you don’t like it so you can see the improvement over time.
  • DON’T COMPARE: Looking at other artists for inspiration is great, but don’t compare your work to others and let it get you down. Everyone has their own unique, individual style. Everyone is also at a different stage in their artistic journey.
  • USE QUALITY MATERIALS: Practicing and developing art skills is important, but to take artwork to the next level, make sure you’re using quality materials and the right mediums on the right surfaces. It will make a difference in the outcome of your work. See our helpful Paper Media Guide that tells you which mediums work best on which papers.
  • EXPERIMENT: Try different styles, mediums, surfaces and subjects until you find what works best for you. Once you find your groove, you’ll enjoy the process of making art more which will be reflected in your work.
  • BE PERSISTENT & DON’T GIVE UP: This can be tied to the first piece of advice about practicing, but the more you keep at it, the better you’ll get. Not every piece you make will be a masterpiece, but keep trying and you’ll see improvement over time. Also don’t give up on a piece. You may think it’s not working, but often it’s just not finished yet. Don’t be discouraged by the early stages!
  • DRAW FOR YOU: Draw what makes you happy and what you’re interested in, not what you think others want to see. Sticking to subjects, themes and mediums that are appealing to you will result in a more enjoyable experience.
  • HAVE FUN: Art is fun! Enjoy the process!

Last but not least:

Don’t drink your paint water.

What Paper Should I use for my Art?

Walk into any art store in search of paper and you could get lost in a sea of paper types, brands, textures weights, and the list goes on.  Why are there so many types of paper?  How should you choose paper for your project?  Many factors come in play when choosing the correct paper for your work.  Let us help demystify the paper choosing process for you.

First, let us give you some terms that you should always consider when choosing paper for each project. You certainly want your artwork to last many, many years without deteriorating. Make sure you pick a paper that is acid free, as this is a very important factor. Paper that is not acid free can deteriorate, or turn yellow, which would affect the image over time. Paper that is acid free is buffered with calcium carbonate which neutralizes acid that is absorbed from the air, or through natural aging processes. All of our fine art papers with the exception of Newsprint is acid free. Newsprint is a very low cost paper intended only for practicing.

Depending on the project at hand and the medium you will be using, you need to think of several other factors.

Surface texture would come into play, especially if you plan to work in many layers.  Once the surface tooth of the paper is filled, it is hard to layer any other colors on the surface.  Picking a paper with the correct tooth or texture would help with that process.

Another factor to consider is the weight of the paper.  A heavier weight paper can handle more layers, water, and techniques than a lighter weight paper.  The weight of the paper is not determined by the individual sheet but is determined by a ream of 500 sheets weighed together at the factory.

You should also check that the paper is correctly sized for the medium that you are working in, and find out if it is internally, externally, or internally and externally sized. Paper is sized, canvas and board are prepared with gesso.  Though people do sometimes gesso paper to work in heavier mediums, we generally recommend that the artist works with a paper that is correctly sized for their project.  This means you do not need to gesso it if you use the correct paper labeled for the medium you choose.

To go into further detail about mediums, lets consider the type of paper you would use with each medium.  This is one of the most important factors you should consider when choosing paper.  Manufacturers produce paper to work successfully with different mediums to ensure the longevity of your work.  Choosing paper by their recommendations is always best.  Below you will find a list of paper types that we manufacture, and the mediums we recommend that you can use with them.  We included some artists that you might want to research that used the paper, or mediums with similar paper.

Watercolor Illustration – Draw a Story

Draw a Story is a Singapore-based creative studio that specializes in fashion and lifestyle illustrations. From Founder Mandy Lau:

“Just like most of you, I love a good story.

A great one has the power to move us, shape us or even change us forever. And the best ones are those that can also engage us visually, just like the narrative illustrations in our favourite picture books. They capture our imagination, have us totally immersed in the plot and let us identify with the characters.

This is what inspired me to start Draw A Story, a fashion and lifestyle illustration studio to help brands and people capture a moment and create memorable visual stories. That and the fact that I simply love to draw stylish people and beautiful things.”

Landscape - House

Mandy created this beautiful illustration, Moon Lady, on Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor paper. Mandy chose this paper, which is a 140lb. (300gsm) cold press sheet, for the traditional watercolor paper texture. She played with a wet on wet technique for the moon and a wet on dry technique for the blooms.

It’s both soothing and informative to watch her process of making this beautiful piece come to life.

3 DIY Holiday Cards by Jess Park

Jess Park used Strathmore Greeting Cards to make 3 different Holiday Cards. Watch her process and follow along to make your own.



→ Strathmore Watercolor Cards: 140lb (300gsm), cold press surface, 5″x6.875″

→ Watercolor Paint (various shades of green, red, and metallic gold)

→ Princeton Heritage Round Brushes, 2 & 6


1. Select your watercolor. Jess uses a light and dark blue/green and a warm green for the leaves and stems. She uses red for the berries and gold metallic paint for the lettering and shimmering details.

2. Practice some leaves and berries on a scratch piece of watercolor paper before starting your card piece.

3. With the light blue/green color, space out a ring of leaves. LET IT DRY BETWEEN LAYERS OR COLORS WILL RUN TOGETHER.

4. Create some darker values with the dark blue/green over the initial light leaves you painted. LET IT DRY.

5. Add some clusters of red berries throughout the wreath. Vary the values of the berries to keep the painting from looking flat. LET IT DRY.

6. Add final leaf shapes in the warm green color. You guessed it… LET IT DRY.

7. Add some darker details to your leaves and berries.

8. Use the metallic gold paint to hand letter a phrase in the middle of your leaf. For the modern calligraphy look, add a little pressure to your downstrokes and release pressure on your upstrokes.

9. Finish the card with some small gold details to add a little twinkle.




→ Strathmore Watercolor Cards: 140lb (300gsm), cold press surface, 5″x6.875″

→ Watercolor Paint

→ Princeton Heritage Round Brushes, 2 & 6

→ Black Marker or Black Permanent Ink Pen


1. Choose your favorite colors and start by painting a row of bulbs. If you’re having trouble with the shape, think of painting upside-down eggs. Continue painting a couple more rows of bulbs and allow the colors to touch and bleed into one another.


3. Use a permanent black pen or marker to letter a message over the top of the bulbs.

4. Add in some black details to the bulbs themselves.



→ Strathmore Mixed Media Postcards: 184lb (300gsm), vellum surface, 4″x6″, printed with postcard markings on the back

→ Gouache paint

→ Princeton Heritage Round Brushes, 2, 6

→ Princeton Velvetouch 1/2″ Wash Brush

→ Optional: Low Tack Tape


1. Tape your paper to a board to hold it in place and create a thin white border

2. Start by painting a background with the wash brush. Leave some white at the bottom to depict fresh snow on the ground.

LET IT DRY (it will be important to let each layer dry before continuing to add paint to your piece).

3. Paint the house base of the house. Add a chimney and allow the paint to dry.

4. Add a door and windows.

5. Now you’re ready to decorate the house with candy and frosting! Add a gumdrop path leading to the front door.

6. When you’ve completed decorating and the paint is dry, use a thin brush to add details in white to make the piece pop.

7. Gently peel the tape off.


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