Featured Artists from the Community: May 2020


For this month’s roundup of artists from our community, we meet Helen Leigh-Phippard, Ken Hill, and Truc-Ha Duong. From an extraordinary streak of amazing portraits, to fitting in daily sketchbook pages between busy work and family lives, these artists bring so much diversity and vibrancy to our community.

Helen Leigh-Phippard, Brighton, UK

Helen Leigh Phippard

Helen Leigh-Phippard has come a long way in her creative practice since starting at Sketchbook Skool back in 2014! She is a mental health consultant and teacher and also volunteers at the National Trust Farm in her spare time, which means she’s gotten really good at drawing sheep, among other things! Helen’s portrait practice has grown since she took a course with instructor Vin Ganapathy in a Sketchbook Skool course about drawing people. In the past few years, she has created over 1200 portraits, filling countless sketchbooks from cover to cover.

Advice for artists just starting out

Keep going even when it’s hard because you will improve. I still improve every day, even when it feels like I’m going backwards.  And I know that the battle I’m going through when my portraits are getting worse is all part of the process and that it will improve and I just have to stay with it because that’s part of it.  I would also say to keep experimenting and ditch your comfort zone because it’s only by experimenting that you will find a style that really suits you. Try not to worry about results too much, I know its hard but I would never have found my portrait style if I’d have worried about results.

Ken Hill, Portland, Oregon

Ken Hill

On the opposite end of the globe in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Ken Hill is an IT specialist by day, and an artist and standup comedian by night. Ken finds time to pursue his creative interests alongside his wife and fellow artist, Kat Hill, outside of his 9-5 day job.

Fitting art into your life

We asked Ken about making time for art and he credits trying different creative activities to keep him motivated and inspired to keep learning.

This is a challenge for me, as I try to squeeze in time for my creative pursuits around my 9-5 job. It’s just a matter of prioritizing time for “me”, but sometimes I don’t do a good job of it. I’ve recently started to explore a new creative activity – standup comedy. I took a class last summer at a local comedy club. I’ve discovered the creative process is similar for drawing a picture in a sketchbook and performing a set of jokes in front of an audience. Both take courage, commitment, and grit. Like each drawing you put in your sketchbook, each comedy performance is not the same; just like one can’t draw or paint the exact same picture twice.

Truc-Ha Duong, San Diego, California

Truc-Ha Duong

When it comes to making a creative practice a priority, Truc-Ha Duong is a busy mom and doctor living in Southern California who applies the same sense of discipline to her creative life as she does her professional and family life. Truc-Ha was always interested in drawing, but left her creative practice behind when she pursued a career in medicine, and started a family. She eventually rekindled her interest in art through meeting artists at comic conventions, bullet journaling, and taking online courses and now makes art often and encourages her kids to do the same.

Working through creative blocks

We asked Truc-Ha how she manages creative blocks and continues to grow as an artist:

I think that my biggest blocks are fear and apathy.  Now that I’m getting bigger and stronger in art (I kind of think of myself as a 3-year-old who can now run, but not well and falls down a lot), I find the fear is a really useful guide for what I need to study up on next.

Apathy is a bit harder: it feels like a grey, leaden blanket that just makes it more difficult to do anything. I manage it by taking care of myself. I work at carving enough room for sleep in my night. Exercise is a must. It helps that art is self-care: the more I create, the more energy I have to keep creating!

These featured artists from the Sketchbook Skool community each bring a unique perspective to making art, and sticking with a creative habit. Whether you’re just getting started, or want to dive back into your art practice, check out our courses and join our community!

4 mins

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