Monday 31 May 2021


When I first set up my little instagram art account (@julietpaint), it was mainly because I didn't want to spam my personal account with drawings, but I still wanted to have a little space to show them off! What I hadn't anticipated was how nice (and inspiring!) the insta art community is - I still have a tiny following, but I've connected with really cool artists, and it's so encouraging to get nice comments or messages about what I've been making.

Prompt: Watchful eye/stars

I've also discovered the wide world of instagram art challenges and it's been great! Even though I'm painting and drawing pretty prolifically, I sometimes worry I'm not a particularly imaginative person - I can't really picture anything in my mind (I mean, I literally can't - I discovered aphantasia last year and it blew my mind), so I tend to scour pinterest for interesting reference photos before I can feel inspired to draw something.

Insta art challenges have really helped me focus and think creatively. Sometimes it's a set theme or idea, other times it's artists asking you to recreate one of their artworks in your own style (which is also super interesting, as you can see how lots of people, of all different abilities, approach the same subject). This month I took part in Mystical May - a weekly prompt of spooky subjects! 

Prompts: Keys, mirrors, witch

The weekly prompts had several suggestions each week, giving you flexibility to focus on one subject or mix and match. I'm still obsessively drawing women (one day I might draw a man, but that is not this day), but I think I ended up with a cool group of portraits.

Week 1 was phoenix/keys/wings and I pictured someone keeping their heart locked up tight.

Week 2 was forest/mirror/twilight and I loved the mirror concept so much I ended up doing two drawings, a reflected woman (which was HARD, I had to draw each face separately!), and a hand holding a mirror (also hard - hands are hard!).

Week 3 was witch/phases of the moon and I was a little unsure how to do this, so I just painted a cute pastel witch. I thought this was a bit basic, but it's gone on to be one of my most-liked posts on instagram?! 

Week 4 was stars/crystals/watchful eye, and I wanted to do a cute take on a third eye. I definitely gravitate to bright colours, and I think I'm finally starting to find my style with digital drawing. It's been a fun month!

Monday 24 May 2021


I've been painting again for about a year and during this time I've slowly been weaning myself off beginner art supplies,and investing in artist-grade materials, and I cannot believe what a difference it makes! I got some fancy watercolour paper from an art shop last Autumn, was a bit skeptical at first, but it blew my mind and I've not looked back. Having proper paper that lets the paint pool and blend and layer without buckling is a game-changer.

Painted using Paul Rubens watercolour and Opera paints
So I had nice paper, I got a nice new mechanical pencil, and lately I've been on the lookout for new paint! Up until now I've been using a Winsor and Newton student set, which I've had for years. It's been a great set to learn with and it was super affordable, but I hadn't even thought about the difference between beginner and professional paint until now. I learned that student/beginner sets tend to be cheaper as the paints contain less pigment and more filler, which means they can be trickier to blend, can get muddy, and it can be difficult to make vibrant colours. Artist grade paints are more pigmented, meaning they dilute and mix easily.

The problem was that professional paint sets can cost over £100, and the more I looked online, the more confused I got! I saw a lot of love for Schminke, Sennelier and Rembrandt paints, but as I tried to delve into the differences of these paints, I saw a lot of art reviewers/bloggers/youtubers highlight Paul Rubens watercolours, and remark on how Paul Rubens paints were much cheaper than the big European brands, but really held their own.

That was enough to convince me! It felt significantly less scary paying £60 for a new watercolour palette, than paying £120 (I also had a weird imposter feeling that I didn't 'deserve' the very pricey paint as I wasn't a real artist, but that is a weird insecurity for another day). 

Paul Rubens are a Hong-Kong based brand (which is possibly why I could only really find them on Amazon?), who boast that their watercolour paints are produced with high-purity and finely ground pigments, using natural gum arabic as the mixer. This means the colours are vibrant, easy to use, and easy to mix!

I ended up buying the 48 colour watercolour pan and LOOK how beautiful it is! It came packaged beautifully, and is a perfect pastel pink metal tin, with loads of space for mixing colours. All of the paints can be removed individually, so you can swap around the colours to suit yourself and add new colours in. The packaging is in Chinese, but that didn't bother me, and it includes all of the pigment numbers in English if you want to refer to them.

I also bought (because I'm a sucker) their bright neon Opera paints which were £20. I've been painting a lot of portraits lately, and I've really wanted to be able to capture bright make up in my paintings, and I thought this might do the trick!

I was quite nervous using them for the first time - what if they didn't live up to the hype and it was just a pretty tin? Pleased to say, they were a dream! The colours were rich and flowed beautifully - up until now I've thought my paintings often looked a bit pale or muddy, and I really noticed a difference with these. A little bit of colour went a long way too and they mixed really well together. I use a lot of yellows, reds and pinks, so it was nice to have a much bigger range to work with, and I'm excited to make my way through the palette and discover all the many colour possibilities it offers!

The neon Opera paints were amazing too - just look at them (first photo!). The photo barely captures how bright they are, it's like using highlighters on the paper. I found they blended well with the normal watercolours too, so I think they'll be quite useful when I want to add a bright pop to a painting, and it's just quite fun to have them in my art supplies!

Overall, I'm really pleased. I think I'll get loads of use out of them, and I'm happy to have found a product that's affordable, great to use, and looks super cute! Exactly my kind of thing.

Monday 17 May 2021


Okay, I know this isn't the usual topic I'd write about, but I've always tried to blog about the kind of things that I want to read online, and I cannot tell you how many hours of my life have been spent trying to find the perfect couch co-op video game! 

I've been playing video games my whole life - I grew up attempting to play The Lion King on my friend's Nintendo before I got a Playstation of my own, and most of my life's been spent navigating one RPG or another. Luckily my boyfriend is a massive video game nerd too, so we love playing co-op games together.

Remember events? Photo from the National Museum of Scotland's super cool video game party

The problem is that I have a pretty narrow set of parameters that games have to meet, before I can get into them. I cannot COPE with games where we don't have equal control (it is torturous if Player 2 has no control or agency), I have limited interest in platformers, I can't be bothered with twin-stick shooters, I want a story, not just a party game, and I want a game with good artwork - nothing that feels too kiddy, or feels like ridiculous animation pitched at teenage boys! 

So, on the off chance you ALSO want these things, here's my favourite couch co-op video games. We played these games on Nintendo Switch or Playstation, but I'm sure a few are on Xbox too.

Eternal Sonata

I'm going to start with my favourite - WHAT A GAME. Eternal Sonata is a fantasy RPG centered on the life of composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin. The story is set in a fictional world that Chopin is dreaming of in his dying hours, influenced by his life and music, where you can play as Frederic (with appropriately music-themed attacks and moves) through a tale of magic, corruption, political espionage, rebellion and escapism. Throughout the game there's Chopin's music, and cutscenes featuring real paintings and photographs, so you travel through Chopin's life as you play and learn about the real man and his life.

I mean... that's bonkers, right? But AMAZING The gameplay is great, the characters are fun and cute, it takes you to all sorts of fantastical lands and interesting levels, and the co-op battles are challenging and fun as you can link your attacks and take part in fast-paced strategic battles! When you are navigating the world you can only have one character moving, so we took turns to be the person walking about, but otherwise the co-op is fairly balanced. We loved it so much, we ended up doing a little pilgrimage to visit the town Chopin lived in and felt emotional, because honestly it was like we knew him. Wild.

Dragon's Crown 

It's fair to say that some of the character's outfits/attributes are questionable due to the stylised illustration, but we had a lot of fun with this game! It's a beat 'em up action RPG, where you can pick your character and head off on some dungeon adventures, getting treasure, fighting dragons, chasing thieves and going on quests. It's a lot of fun to play as a co-op as you get to blast through dungeons together, the fighting is satisfying, it feels like a really nostalgic old-school RPG game, so it's a good Sunday afternoon choice. You can also team up with random online players, and we had a happy couple of months playing with some random French person who often was online the same time as us. 

But the thing that makes it stand out for me? The surprisingly brilliant cooking minigame! Some dungeons trigger a little campfire scene where you can cook little meals that increase your character's statistics and it is SO weirdly satisfying and fun to play, we used to cheer when the sizzle of the campfire started. Worth it just for that.

Divinity Original Sin 2

You'll notice a theme with these games, I like an RPG! This game is hyped up, but it deserves it - it's a beautiful, complex, challenging game with a great story, interesting characters, a massive world to explore, and satisfying turn-based battles. Each character has a unique story, meaning you'll experience a different journey than your co-op partner, and throughout the game you are faced with choices which all have consequences and lead to different endings, so you have to think hard about who you want to be in this world! The whole world feels alive - you can pretty much go anywhere and interact with anyone (even animals), there's so much thought and detail put into it. 

Kingdom: Two Crowns

We played through Kingdom: Two Crowns in 2019 on the Switch, and we loved it so much we've started again on the Playstation. This is a side-scrolling strategy game where you build your kingdom, recruit subjects, and protect your town from the monsters that attack each night! It's a super cute game with pixel artwork, which is nicely atmospheric - and pretty scary if you get caught in the woods after nightfall! 

For us, this works so well as a co-op game as we both will pick a side of the town to look after - so I'll have one side to explore, build farms, build defensives and look after people, and my boyfriend will have the other. We'll team up to take on baddies and share resources and building costs, but it totally fulfills my need for independent gameplay in a co-op! It's hugely addictive, and even though it's pretty brutal if it all goes wrong (and it can! This game can throw pretty tricky things at you), we keep coming back to it. 

For the King

This is a super fun tabletop adventure game where you have to navigate around a map to battle enemies, go on quests, find cool new weapons and armour, and save the kingdom! It's a turn-based game which works great for co-op, we pick complementing character types and we can team up to take on challenging enemies, or go off and explore on our own. The game is cute, but it is hard, and you constantly have the clock ticking towards something bad happening so you have to be super strategic about how you spend your time. It's got a good sense of humour, and is a lot of fun to play.


If you're looking for a very gentle co-op, this is it. Based on classical Greek mythology, this is a game about dying, but it's sweet, poignant and surprisingly soothing. You play as Stella, a ferrymaster who has to guide spirits across the seas to release them into the afterlife, but as you journey you can build a boat, go fishing, cook and care for your new spirit friends, explore islands to collect resources and even hunt jellyfish. There are a couple of things that annoy me - as Player 2 I play as the cat (which is great), but the cat can't talk to spirits (which is annoying), meaning I have to wait while my partner does some of the important parts. But it's beautifully animated, with lovely music and good vibes.

Monday 10 May 2021


I've been painting a lot of people lately, so I think I'd mix it up and go back to my first love - ponies! 

I was a horse-obsessed teenager, and so lucky to have a horse of my own (the wonderful Max!). I spent my teenage years pretty much exclusively drawing horses, and even had a wee business, doing £10 commissions at my local riding school, and selling pastel ponies at school art fairs. I think I got pretty good at it (I wish I still had some of my old drawings), but over the years I got out of the habit of painting, and then, when I picked up my brush again, I was pretty horrified to realise that I'd forgotten how to do it.

Painting horses is such a fun challenge. They are such beautiful animals, so full of personality and movement - a lot can be captured in the shape of their muzzle or position of their ears! But they also have all sorts of weird muscle shapes, bones and veins, which can be intimidating at first, but I find so fun to paint! I'm still learning how to do this, but the best thing I've learned is not to over-paint, but instead use lots of light transparent layers to gradually build colour, and to take advantage of blank space - which all combines to give a lovely sense of light and depth (well, I hope it does, anyway!).

This painting ended up being the biggest thing I've ever painted - I got some amazing massive watercolour paper at Christmas, and it was a lot of fun to use it, although it did take two days! I also massively felt the pressure after completing one horse head and then having to start the next from scratch - was very aware if I did something wrong, I would ruin the whole painting. Luckily, I'm really happy with the final painting - phew!

Monday 3 May 2021


We made it to May, and we're actually allowed to do things again! Anyone else feel a big ol' mix of emotions about it all? Anyone?

Best girl Beanie!

I've spent the last year, like everyone, going through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, stress, worry, anxiety and anger about what's going on, and what it's doing to our lives. I've been incredibly lucky - I am safe, my family are safe, I've kept my job, I've been working throughout so I've been kept busy (although the furlough jealousy was real), I live in a nice wee flat so my living situation has been under my control and comfortable, and we got Beanie (our beautiful sphynx cat) so the last year has been filled with a lot of love and joy too. 

But it's been tough! (obviously). My pay got cut, work was intense and stressful, I love my partner, but living and working and only socialising with each other 24/7 is pretty intense. I missed my family, my friends, getting to go places, getting to travel, getting to live my life how I wanted. I was worried about my health, about their health, about what might happen and how long it would take, how much worst things might be. Last March I'd got into a great routine of going to the gym and trying to be healthy, and then I spent my summer attempting to find the motivation to do online exercise videos, feeling frustrated and annoyed at myself. 

So I should be over the moon that everything's opening up again and we can go back to normal, right? And I am! But also, at the pit of my stomach, there's a little voice that feels weird about things. I am excited to get to see people, I've already had my first vaccine (wahoo) so I feel a bit safer to be around, and I am ready to spend time in a place that isn't just this flat. I want to go to the cinema, to wander around a gallery, to eat food that I've not made, to bump into acquaintances in the street again! I went to the gym last week and it was so lovely to just get out of the house (my standards are so low these days), and find a bit of my old routine. I didn't feel stressed, everything felt clean and safe, it was good.

But somehow, things already feel a bit too busy, a bit too much. Maybe there's just too many options after a year of having none? I'm not used to having plans! I feel like I want to baby step my way back into socialising, because I'm nervous that if I just charge back in, all the stuff I don't want to return will be inescapable. I don't want to go back to being crammed on a bus every morning,  I don't want to feel like it's a novelty to have a night in, I don't want to lose the time I've found for painting (and I definitely don't want to lose my days spent with Beanie!). But also, I don't want to be scared of normality! 

I guess I just want the best of both worlds, and after a year of reflecting and thinking about what matters to me, it's about prioritising quality time and quality experiences. What that means to me in 2021 feels different to what it meant to me way back at the start of 2020. So I guess it's just about taking things a day at a time and being okay with the fact that some people will be buzzing about life post lockdown, some will be nervous, and some, like me, will be sitting in the middle, wondering if they are being losers by fretting at all.