22 - Human Anatomy with Rey Bustos - Part 2

General / 28 February 2022

After my previous post about studying the lower parts of the body, here comes the rest of it, unless Mr. Rey will come up with something else to finish off this 8-week Live class. What an intense month with all these strange new anatomical terms and painting work to do!

The Back

I used to learn a bit about the muscles of the back a while ago, but until now, it has finally made sense to me thanks to Mr. Rey.

The Torso

After learning the back, the front muscles start to make sense even more. Everything is connected beautifully in the human body.

Arms and Hands

This is the most mysterious part of the human body after the thigh muscles (in my opinion). It's really mind-twisting to learn all the necessary muscles in the upper arm, and especially, the forearm.

The Head

This was tricky as I was asked to do four portraits of myself. Keeping the likeness and proportions across these portraits is quite a challenging yet interesting experience though.

This is Week 6 when I'm writing this blog. So, only two more weeks of Live class with Mr. Rey on New Masters Academy. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • After what I've been through this class, I can say that learning anatomy can surely help me make better sense of the lumps and bumps on a model and on my own body.
  • However, knowing names of muscles and how they're connected will not make me a masterful artist necessarily. Learning how to control shapes (big/medium/small), colors (warms/cools), edges (hard/firm/soft/lost) and how to compose a painting can vastly affect the artistic quality of my artwork. Anatomy, then, is like the final piece of the puzzle to help finish off my artwork in the most believable or realistic way.

That's it for this month, my dear readers. Thanks for coming back and reading my thoughts each month. Writing a blog may not be as attractive as an Instagram post, for example, but I like its quietness. It gives me time to reflect upon what I've gathered along my artistic journey and to see what to explore next.

Until next time, have fun with your own journey, my dear readers!

21 - Human Anatomy with Rey Bustos - Part 1

General / 31 January 2022

I've decided to get better at Figure Drawing and Human Anatomy at the beginning of this year, 2022. Thus, since January 17, I've joined an online Live class with Rey Bustos at New Masters Academy to kickstart, and hopefully, achieve my goal.

To my surprise, besides nicely labeling muscles, tendons and bones, Mr. Rey even asked his students to re-draw old masters or modern Russian or French academic drawings to better understand how other master artists have applied anatomical knowledge to their own artworks.

I'm also studying anatomy drawing with Iliya Mirochnik via his Russian Academic Drawing Approach to understand this tough subject better. I've found out that Steve Huston constructive drawing methods are working nicely with Mr. Rey's course too. As an artist, remembering strange names of muscles and bones is not enough. I need to be able to draw those stuff too. Thus, drawing lessons from Iliya and Steve are helping me out a lot here.

Since this anatomical knowledge is brand new to me and this Live class is just 8 weeks long, I must study like crazy from both three above teachers and even skimming through my "Anatomy for 3D Artist" book from 3DTotal Publishing too.

So far, I've been through two weeks of this anatomy Live class. I can't wait to see Week 2 critics from Mr. Rey on my submitted work. It's so thrilling to see what is going to unfold till Week 8 of this intensive anatomy class.

Tomorrow, February 01, 2022, will be Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) in Vietnam. This will be the first time I have ever celebrated this special holiday with drawing assignments. I will somehow try to work on his assignments and enjoy a bit of Tet holiday too.

I will try to keep posting new blogs at the end of each month from now on. Until next time, take care and have fun with your journey, my dear readers!

20 - Having fun with HeavyPaint

General / 24 December 2021

Here comes another blog post even though I thought I would need two months to have something interesting to share!

Portrait of Iliya Mirochnik - My NMA Instructor

Iliya, my beloved art instructor at New Masters Academy (NMA) for the past six months, has introduced a cool new way to play with digital painting once again. Welcome to "HeavyPaint".

The remarkable thing about this little app is that it allows me to paint truly with shapes in an abstract interesting way. At this time, I've learned how to mix colors and do oil painting digitally with traditional artists for a year. Therefore, this is a perfect time for me to test out the "Hardcore Mode" which does not allow me to Undo, Redo and Color-Picking in HeavyPaint trial version on my Windows PC.

Here all my learning effort paid off nicely. After playing around with the new app and testing out how each of the features works, I then painted this female portrait via mostly Fill, Line, Rect tools and choosing colors via HSV sliders only. What a strange powerful feeling as for the first time ever, digital painting felt so risky as I had to be decisive with each color choice and stroke placement.

Portrait of Mather in Heavy Paint

Thus, after the painting in 2 hours 18 minutes, I felt like I was on another planet and decided to purchase HeavyPaint Pro to continue to enjoy all the newly weird ways to create more fun and powerful illusions. It's that magical! Here is the timelapse of the above painting to celebrate this fantastic moment!

I'm looking forward to seeing how this lovely simple-looking app is growing and having more amazing abilities to create and play with even crazier shapes.

Today, at my place, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, it's December 24, 2021. So, Merry Christmas to you all, my dear readers! Thank you for coming back and reading what I'm sharing each month.

Keep learning, stay motivated, have fun, take it slow and enjoy your journey!

19 - Welcome to my Playground

General / 27 November 2021

I've been practicing digital fine art for more than a year at New Masters Academy (NMA), but I've been playing video games and watching anime/animation series much longer.

I think it's time to have fun with the skills I'm gradually building! If I keep waiting until I've mastered everything that I can think of, like color theories, human anatomy, figure drawing, gesture drawing, composition ..., then I would never allow myself to have fun at all.

Thus, I've set up a Play Time section on my Website to explore the art of Arcane with my growing fine art knowledge. Because to be fair, it's the animation or game arts that triggered my inner child and have been leading me to pursue a professional art career. So, with that in mind, welcome to my playground!

[Young Ekko fan art - Netflix's animation series "Arcane"]

Fine art, nevertheless, is surely gonna take me a long time to learn, yet it's extremely rewarding. Studying from the old masters or sculptures from NMA online learning library has enabled me to create fan art in my spare time much faster, about 1-2 hours each painting. My old self a year ago would need a week and still not be able to make a decent-looking fan art. Let's face it my dear readers, the fact that the so-called "boring" fine art is building a rock-solid foundation for my art career.

[My portrait painting of Jonathan - a model from New Masters Academy]

The ability to turn a model from a reference photo into a classical look-and-feel artwork is totally a mind-blowing experience for me. I never thought that there could be a day when I was able to create such artwork by myself. Fine art training has helped me see colors and shapes so much better. This, in turn, is helping my fun-time fan art a lot.

If you're hesitating from learning fine art knowledge to create better artwork, I hope that my story here can convince you to give it a go.

I will try to post a blog once every two months from now, as I certainly need more time to learn, grow, explore, and experiment with new things.

Thanks for reading and have a fabulous day, everyone!

18 - Third Year Anniversary

General / 30 September 2021

Hi, I'm Khang, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This September 30, 2021, marks exactly three years of my self-directed artistic journey! I want to take this opportunity to share some major lessons I've learned so far.

1) Life is full of surprises

I first discovered Jake Parker via just a random Twitter post, but strangely enough, his interesting inking art style had awakened my inner child. Thus, my artistic journey began even though I got a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering.

I still feel thankful to his drawing instructions at this very initial stage of my new journey. I would have given up drawing entirely without his easy and clear instruction. I was very fragile at this beginning stage as I had not drawn any fan arts or even thought about a career in art at all.

I'm glad I chose him and his How to Draw Everything course on September 20, 2018. The inverted Skull Chaser drawing successfully tricked my mind to make my first sketchbook drawing. After two months, I could draw the dinosaur holding a sword and a shield from his How to Ink 2.0 course in the same sketchbook. This was such a special memory that after this cheap first sketchbook broke apart due to its weak binding glue, I turned it into a spiral-bound one. I even customed made its cover with an imaginative self-motivated message: "Khang, keep drawing because I'm here!".

My first sketchbook a special customed cover to honor its service.

After learning the How to Draw Everything course, his Skull Chaser character has become an iconic symbol throughout my artistic journey. I even attached a Skull Chaser sticker to my Cintiq drawing board so that I can always remember how I started my art career.

I got this cute sticker as a Kickstarter for Drawings 5 Artbook of Jake Parker in 2020.

2) Everything was so confused at first

In February 2019, I started to mess around with watercolor for the first time with Gonzalo Carcamo. However, I could not comprehend the concept of muted colors back then. So, I decided to stop at monochromatic studies only.

This is me holding my first watercolor artwork using only two brushes and Burnt Sienna student-grade pigments.

Later in August 2019, I could somewhat combine inking and watercolor in a Drawing Cartoon Animals course taught by Tim Hodge. I was not aware of color temperature, saturation, and value at all. Everything looked so flat due to that lack of understanding. Furthermore, I didn't know that I should have used more pigments to get to the saturation level I wanted with student grade watercolors. Regardless, it was fun to finally have colors in my sketchbook!

I did this ink and watercolor washes in a Hahnemuhle watercolor sketchbook in 2019.
It was super nervous though as I didn't want to waste such a nice sketchbook.

3) Digital Painting works for me

My 13-inch Cintiq and digital painting software have removed any limitations I have with traditional painting materials. I can paint freely without worrying about wasting my precious Arches watercolor papers and Daniel Smith watercolor pigments. Better yet, I can even learn to do oil painting the digital way without using any harmful substances to thin out my paints and clean my brushes. Nevertheless, I still love the feeling of holding different physical brushes though.

My master copy of the Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth using digital watercolors in Rebelle 4.

Thank to digital painting, I've realized that I can learn much faster by painting than drawing. Painting positive and negative shapes work for me nicely. I've used digital oils and watercolors to learn from traditional artists like Mark Westermoe and Joseph Todorovitch. It works magically, and I can paint the above lady on my own. It's my master copy of a watercolor artwork from the Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth.

4) Fine Art Fundamentals are powerful

Portraits, human figures and still life were frightening subjects for me, but not after classes I'm taking at New Masters Academy (NMA). I only discovered NMA in November 2020 but my painting and drawing skills have improved clearly. I've realized that boring fundamentals that learners like me who often want to ignore at first sight are super helpful and crucial for artistic development in later stages. It's possible to learn these hard-to-swallow stuff, it's just that I have not learned much about them yet. Getting out of my comfort zone steadily with proper artistic instructions feels so rewarding!

I'm still impressed at the look-and-feel of this digital oil painting artwork done in Rebelle 4 in this early September 2021.

5) Keep exploring

First two years were such an exploration for me. From pencils, inks, brushes, papers, sketchbooks to navigating around the mess of Photoshop (I can clearly see that the whole app interface is not artist-oriented when it was created), As my drawing and painting fundamentals have been getting better, I can bravely explore other choices from the beginning of this year (2021). I can follow instructions from traditional painters while using digital oils and watercolors in new software like Adobe Fresco and Rebelle 4. I've also tried Lasso Fill in Clip Studio Paint to create a whole painting this way. It's so satisfying for me, it's freedom I would say because I can finally learn new things my own way. Hurray!

Master copy of a portrait of Joseph Pulitzer by John Singer Sargent.
Painted in Adobe Fresco using Live Oils.

Still Life Painting in Rebelle 4 using Oils.

I can block in major shapes in Clip Studio Paint using Lasso Fill ...

... and then finish the Lasso Fill painting above in Photoshop.

Thanks for reading till here guys! It has been a journey full of self-doubts, frustrations at first, but as soon as I could control my hands to do what I think in my head and got some key fundamentals down, it has gradually become so satisfying and magical. Conquering a blank digital canvas to create a decent or an artistic looking artwork is such a thrill whenever I start a new painting session.

Have fun learning and enjoy every small win along your great journey ahead!

17 - Exploring New Stuff

General / 01 September 2021

I'm learning Live classes Term 2 on NMA now and super excited to explore the Digital Figure Painting Techniques (taught by Iliya Mirochnik) and Introduction to Still Life Painting (taught by Catherine Bobkoski).

It's thrilling to come back to do figure painting. I did only one figure painting in April 2021 and that was it, nothing more after that. I have been focusing heavily on portrait drawing and painting for about seven months as I've been thinking that it was not the right time to do figure painting, it's too hard! Luckily, the Digital Figure Painting Live class from Iliya has appeared, and I now think that it's about time.

It's not easy at all as I've already imagined, but I can see improvements in my color choices and painting techniques. Interestingly, portrait painting practice in previous months have made me a better painter somehow. I need to learn more about human anatomy and it's going to take a long time. I'll do whatever I can, otherwise, figure painting will be unreachable forever! After receiving feedbacks from Iliya, my instructor, my artwork has looked better as you can see from the April vs the August figure painting above.

(This figure was done entirely in Clip Studio Paint using Lasso Fill)

One of my assignments suggested to use Clip Studio Paint. Luckily, I bought Clip Studio Paint for like a year ago when it was on sale, but I had rarely used it until Iliya showed me how he did a whole painting by using only the Lasso Fill in this software. Lasso painting is much faster in Clip Studio Paint than Photoshop as I don't have to press Alt + Backspace repeatedly to fill each selection with foreground color. In Clip Studio Paint, after select the Lasso Fill, I can simply focus on drawing selection areas and the software will automatically fill in the foreground color. This makes the whole lasso painting process twice as fast in my opinion. Furthermore, Clip Studio Paint can run very smoothly with the current 8GB DDR3 RAM of my five-year-old PC computer.

(I painted all these three practice artworks using Rebelle's digital oils)

Meanwhile. I'm doing the Still Life Painting Live class digitally in Rebelle 4 after observing how Catherine did her painting demo with traditional oils. This is quite fun and challenging just as the time I decided to do portrait painting in digital oils in previous months. It stills feel helpful to revisit art fundamentals like value scale, how to turn a form and edge control with each still life painting assignment.

 I think that's it for now. I'll keep having fun exploring new drawing and painting skills.

Thanks for reading my monthly blog and have fun exploring, everyone!

16 - Finished My First Live Class at NMA

General / 04 August 2021

For the past two months of this summer 2021, I've had a wonderful time doing digital oils and watercolors painting with a Live Portrait Painting class instructed by Iliya Mirochnik at New Masters Academy (NMA).

The cool thing about this Live class was that it was totally included with my membership subscriptions, which I paid for at a special discounted price of 299 USD/year (which is like 25 USD/month x 12). I really want to improve my drawing and painting knowledge, but I don't have a massive budget to spare. That's why I'm very grateful for sales from such a quality online learning platform like NMA.

At first, I thought that learning from fine art people would be extremely boring, and I had to learn from cool artists from entertainment industries to be able to create eye-catching artworks. Guess what, it didn't work out for an absolute beginner like me. The first two years of training for a self-taught artist like me was mostly like learning how to use the super popular software like Photoshop for doing concept arts or digital painting technique in general. However, what I did not know was that art fundamentals that everybody was talking about have been coming from fine art!

I only realized that socking fact when I saw a YouTube video showing how to draw a head from Steve Huston in November 2020. That was how I discovered NMA online learning library for the first time ever. Believe it or not, about 9 months have passed since then, I can now really know to draw and mix paints properly from the ground up. There are, of course, a lot more to learn but I'm happy more than ever in my nearly 3-year online learning journey. I can now confidently tell that fine art fundamentals are making an enormous difference in my painting and drawing skills.

There is also a funny twist in my online fine art training at NMA: I've learned how to emulate traditional mediums like watercolors and oils in digital software like Photoshop, Adobe Fresco, and recently, Rebelle 4. After listening to each traditional drawing/painting session, I've tried to find the digital brushes that will recreate the look-and-feel of that stroke of oil paint or wash of watercolor.

For having such a particular taste, I found that Live brushes in Adobe Fresco, and now oils and watercolors in Rebelle 4, can really satisfy my desire to make something digital look more traditionally done on paper or canvas. I've patiently done it strokes by strokes, washes after washes to build up a digital oil or watercolor painting artwork just like how it would be done traditionally.

Of course, even though technology is getting better at recreating the look-and-feel, but they cannot totally replace traditional art materials. As I used to paint with real watercolors, I've been missing the sound of water whenever I wash my brushes. However, I'm glad that science and art have come this far to create even better and more realistic 'happy accidents' for digital artists.

I'm surely writing a lot today, so now, please enjoy artworks that I've created throughout the 8-week Live class with Iliya Mirochnik on NMA:

Oils in Adobe Fresco

This was Week 1 assignment. I did this painting in Adobe Fresco as I've used Live Oils for about five months. I felt more comfortable to do this assignment in this software instead of using Mixer brushes in Photoshop.

(Master copy of a portrait of Joseph Pulitzer by John Singer Sargent, 1905)

Oils in Rebelle 4

I, then, purchased Rebelle 4 for a 40% discounted price as a bonus of being an NMA subscriber. So, I played with the software and submitted three digital oil paintings below for week 2, 3 and 4 assignments.

(The middle artwork is my master copy of "Smoking Man" (1961) by Oleg Lomankin.
Other two artworks were based on reference images provided by NMA)

Watercolors in Rebelle 4

I was super nervous when I had to paint the old man below using digital watercolors. As I had spent five months learning to control digital oils by observing traditional oil painting techniques of Joseph Todorovitch on NMA, I was more comfortable with digital oils than digital watercolors. Nevertheless, I took the risk and relearned watercolor lessons from Mark Westerrmoe on NMA. I used to learn from Mark when I was using Adobe Fresco. However, in Rebelle 4, it was brand new to me and I had to learn digital watercolors again, the Rebelle 4 way! Guess what guys, it worked so beautifully. I managed to understand watercolors in Rebelle 4, and painted these artworks for week 5, 6 and 7 assignments below.

(The top artwork is my master copy of "Sea Wolf" (1894) by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida,
Female watercolor portrait was based on a reference image provided by NMA,
The right artwork is my master copy of Watercolor Trees by Andrew Wyeth)

Round and textured brushes in Photoshop

For final week (Week 8), the assignment was to paint four 45-minute paintings using round and textured brushes in Photoshop. So, here I am, using Photoshop again after not using it for digital painting for about eight months. It was like reverse culture shock, and I had to get used to this software that I did use daily just one year ago for painting practice. Anyways, I got this assignment done. Now I'm waiting for Iliya's new Live Figure Drawing class which will start on Saturdays 9:30 am-12:30 pm PT Starting August 7th 2021.

(Top left: Bronze Woman with Child (1977) by Francisco Zuniga (1912 - 1998),
Top right: A sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle (1861 - 1929),
Bottom left: A sculpture by Arturo Martini (1889 - 1947),
Bottom right: Self Portrait (1935) by Arturo Martini (1889 - 1947))

I and other students who submitted assignments have received critics from the instructor, Iliya. There was one day, Iliya gave feedbacks to about 20 students. What a wonderful day before digital watercolor assignments made a few students ran away! Nevertheless, Iliya has been doing great at giving critics. He's even planning to record and then upload a critic video on NMA website for submitted assignments of this final week of Live class (Week 8). Can you believe that all these class activities cost nothing extras? A massive learning library, 3D models, reference images of nude and non-nude art models, and now Live classes with critics. There were 4 Live classes in Term 1 and if I wanted to, I could even do all four of them to receive critics. This is unbelievably good news for a self-taught artist like me!

This post is getting long now, so I should wrap it up here.

Thank you for reading this monthly blog of mine! In this wonderful time of social media, I still somehow love to have a good old website and do blogging like this. I hope you will bookmark my https://khangta.art/blog on your web browser so that you can come back and read the new and old posts from me whenever you like. Thank you again for coming back and reading updates on my artistic journey!

Have fun with your own journeys too, everyone!

15 - New Painting Journey This Summer

General / 09 July 2021

After creating many oil painting artworks in Adobe Fresco for the past five months, I'm trying new painting experience with Rebelle 4.

As an active subscriber at New Masters Academy, I got a wonderful 40% discount bonus for purchasing Rebelle 4. That's how I started to learn how to use this cool new painting software. I painted this female portrait based on an online course taught by Amy Florence to figure out how oils work in Rebelle.

So far, I'm doing digital oil painting assignments from Digital Portraits After the Masters, an 8-week live class taught by Iliya Mirochnik. This class is motivating me to try mixer brushes in Photoshop, oils in Rebelle and even digital watercolor to do portrait painting. How cool is that! I did a master copy of "Smoking Man" (1961) by Oleg Lomankin with digital oils in Rebelle 4 as part of the painting assignments from Iliya's live class.

Oils are brand new in Rebelle version 4, and they feel even better than Live Oils in Adobe Fresco. Since I don't seem to get along well with soft round, hard round, and lasso painting in Photoshop, I've been looking for better and closer simulations of real watercolors and oils for a long time. Therefore, I was super thankful to Adobe Fresco for helping me get used to how digital oils work for the past five months. That's why I can now understand how oils work in Rebelle 4 faster.

There are five painting modes to switch back and forth when I do oil paintings in Rebelle 4:

  1. Paint - Press or hold "1"
  2. Paint & Mix - Press or hold "2"
  3. Paint & Blend - Press or hold "3"
  4. Blend - Press or hold "4"
  5. Erase - Press or hold "5"

This is fun, like pressing QWER keys to use different hero's abilities in MOBA games!

These modes really help make my oil painting look better since they provide more ways to manipulate paints than ever. If I press & hold "4" I will be using "blend mode" temporarily. After lifting my finger off the "4" key, it will go back the previously selected mode, like the "Paint & Mix mode", for example. What an addictive and helpful feature here, guys!

There is new way to mix paint as well. Besides the good old friend "Alt" key for Color Picking in most software, Rebelle 4 gives us a new button "x" to Mix paints. This makes mixing digital colors more convenient as I don't really have to paint two colors on top of each other, and then, pick the overlapped color like I would normally do. This is strangely exciting! The whole color palette below was created by "Alt" click the first color (Blue, for instance) then "x" click the second color (Red, Yellow, or White) to mix paints. Super neat, you guys should try this out someday in Rebelle 4!

I guess that's all for this month. Thanks for reading, my dear readers! If you want to see me on social media, I'm mostly active on Instagram (khang_ta_art), but you can find me on Twitter and ArtStation too.

I'll keep learning new painting skills and playing more with this software. See you guys around the start of the next month!

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

14 - Five Months of Oil Painting Experience with Adobe Fresco on Windows

General / 07 June 2021

It has been about five months since I first attempted oil painting in Adobe Fresco using Live Oils. It has been a fun ride to learn digital painting from traditional oil painters. What have I discovered so far?

Mixing paint with Live Oils and Mixer Brushes

Live Oils are the best for mixing color because they stay wet forever unlike real oils. I can even control how thick or thin (Flow), how well the paint will mix (Mix), and only paint with dry brush (Secondary brush mode).

The color wheel on the top right corner was mixed by Live Oils. Mixers Brushes, on the other hand, help add more natural and textured looks to my brush strokes.

Notes: You can buy paper or canvas textures as png or jpeg files online to use as a background for your painting. This is way less boring than looking at a bright white computer screen.

Essential Shortcut Keys for my Fresco + Photoshop workflow

The cool thing about using Fresco on Windows is that I can use an external Wacom Remote control for shortcut keys to speed up my workflow.

My current Shortcuts for Wacom ExpressKey Remote Control have been updated so that I can go back and forth between Adobe Fresco and Photoshop. That's why I even changed the shortcuts in Photoshop to match ones in Fresco. These shortcuts have worked well for me. You may want to change them to suit your own workflow.

Fresco is saved in the Adobe Creative Cloud as a PSDC file. You cannot see it on your Windows files, but it appears in Cloud Documents in Photoshop. That is why I can paint in Fresco, then go to Photoshop to paint or adjust something, and then go back to Fresco to continue painting there again.


  • Fresco doesn't allow to change shortcut keys at the time I wrote this blog post (June 07, 2021).
  • These Fresco shortcuts for Flip V, Flip H and Quick Export does not work in Photoshop. Since I work in Fresco 90% of the time, this works for me.
  • Fresco doesn't have a shortcut for Smudge. Luckily, I can assign (N) as the key for Smudge Tool in Photoshop.
  • Live Brushes (H) in Fresco is also the key I assigned for Mixer Brush in Photoshop.
  • Brush Tool in Photoshop is replaced with the key for Pixel Brushes (P) in Fresco. Now, I just press (P) to use Pixel Brushes in both apps.
  • The tilde key (`) is very handy in Fresco. Pressing and hold it to go to secondary brush mode which allows you to Paint with Dry brush in Live Oils, or Add water in Live Watercolors, or Erase with brush in Pixel Brushes. In Photoshop, pressing and hold this tilde button while using a Brush Tool will allow you to erase with that very brush! This is super cool feature that you guys should get used to.

Oil Painting Practice

Let's have a look at some of my recent Oil Painting Practice so far! It felt great when I combined all the power of Live Oils, Mixer Brushes, Smudge in Fresco with Mixer Brushes and Editing Tools in Photoshop to improve the quality of my painting.

I hope that if you want to try oil painting digitally someday, then Live Oils and Mixer Brushes in Adobe Fresco may be a great start for you too. If you need help, Kyle T. Webster has a clear instruction about Live Oils and how it works in the YouTube video below.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day, everyone!

13 - Dealing with Back Pain

General / 10 May 2021

After studying how to draw for more than 2 years from online courses at home, I've figured out some practical setups to ease my back and shoulder pains. It has worked nicely for me, so I hope it will help you to put an end to your suffering too. Let's go!


I used to think that a simple wooden chair like this one below was more than enough to start my artist life in 2018, but I was wrong.

'Thanked' to this wooden chair, my back pain appeared one year after I started my drawing journey. Besides, I got shoulder pain as a bonus as well. The pain was so unbearable that I didn't want to sit down to draw for a few weeks.

Then, I thought that "what if I can lower all the stresses my poor back is carrying, will the pain go away?". That was when I started hunting for comfortable chairs by visiting online and local stores. Through sitting on many and many chairs to test their comfortable level, adjustable armrest, and headrest, I had found a wonderful candidate. It is this one in the picture below that I've been using till now.

As I thought, my body weight is now supported by the headrest, two armrests, backrest, and chair cushion. It felt like heaven the moment I first sat on this chair to draw, really, because I was in great pain back then. So, the chair was just like a miracle to me!

Therefore, a comfortable chair with adjustable heights, armrest, and headrest is super important for my daily drawing sessions. 

Keyboard tray

I tried to take advantage of the adjustable armrest of my chair, so I asked a local furniture store to build a keyboard tray that is wide enough for my armrest, keyboard, and mouse. Now, it's at the right height for me to start writing blogs and pressing Photoshop shortcut keys for days.

Inclined Drawing Surface

I learned to draw on paper one year before drawing on a 13-inch Cintiq. Thus, a wooden drawing board, to create an inclined surface to put my sketchbook, drawing paper or Cintiq on, has been super important too. This works great with the comfortable chair I bought too. The drawing surface is now inclined, so that I can just sit back and rest peacefully on the chair to draw. This combination is helping me sitting longer with way less suffering.

Remote Control + Wireless keyboard + Easel

The Wacom Express Key Remote control (an extra add-on that I bought this January 2021) works beautifully with my 13-inch Cintiq resting on the wooden drawing board. I put it on the left of my Cintiq in the image below. It has given me the closest feeling to traditional drawing experience whenever I'm drawing in Adobe Fresco (a rather new drawing app from Adobe) using my Cintiq and Wacom Remote Control. I only need to hold the Wacom pen and press customized shortcuts assigned on the remote to create artworks. I love this minimalist experience! The wireless keyboard, resting on an easel on my left-hand side, is for typing file names and pressing some less commonly used shortcuts.


After reading online advice and being suffered from neck pain even I was sitting on such a comfortable chair, I have realized that my eyes need to be higher than the center of my monitor a bit. If I put it even higher or lower than that I will suffer! It's like a sweet spot that I must, through many trials and errors, find out. A monitor with adjustable height is, therefore, a really nice feature to have. Otherwise, I must use a stack of books or A4 office papers to make the screen higher, but still, I can't make it lower. 

LED Desk Lamp + Screen Brightness

When the sky gets dark or at night, I turn this lamp on. If it is higher than 5W, it hurts my eyes. Therefore, 5W LED lamp is working nicely with 3% brightness and 50% contrast of my DELL U2417H monitor. I love having warm light at night, it just feels great to me.


I've been using an app called Sworkit (it works for both Android and iOS) for more than three years. It's super convenient for my artist life, and especially, during COVID period like these days. I can work out with my own bodyweight, from home, for a very affordable yearly subscription, to strengthen my body to keep drawing and painting for many years to come.

Have fun drawing and keep finding better ways to get rid of the pain, everyone!