Art Tools of Francis Chong

We have invited guest artist Francis Chong from Singapore today to share with us his art-tools and sketches.

A physics teacher by profession, Francis pursues his passion in digital and traditional art as a hobby, and he has been sketching/painting since his childhood days.

Qn: How did you get started on art? What sort of art (traditional, digital) have you been engaged in? Also, how did you learn & hone your artistic skills?

When I was young, I was totally awed by one of my mother’s drawings. It was a pencil drawing of fishes swimming in a tank. At that time, it was the most realistic drawing that I have ever seen and it left me a very deep impression of how well my mother can draw. I secretly wished that someday, I could draw as well as her.

The next thing that inspired me to draw was my mother’s wall painting of a dragon. She later painted it in color and was featured in newspaper. With no drawing background, my mother invented her own style of painting. She is very creative and loved to draw. Sadly, she stopped drawing when she had my brother and me.

I started with doodles using pencils and pens. My early drawing style was largely influenced by the Japanese comics (Dragon ball) that I read as well as the shows (Ultraman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) that I watched on TV. When I reached Primary 5, I started drawing comics using modified characters from Dragon ball. I was pretty much on my own. I got obsessed with drawing and would secretly draw during lessons and at home when I was supposed to be doing homework. My studies were inevitably affected and I started to draw lesser and lesser during my secondary school days.

When I was in JC, my elder brother, David Chong, who was then in army started drawing human portraits. And gosh, they were realistic! The exact feeling and thought that I had when I first saw my mother’s fish drawing came back to me – can I ever draw that well? The fear of not being able to do so prevented me from even trying. It was until a year later that I started sketching human portraits. They turned out quite ok and I gave most of my drawings away.

During my army days, I did several design works for various people. I began to feel that just knowing how to draw traditionally was not complete. I had to learn to draw digitally as well. It was a big hurdle for me because as a left handed person and being accustomed to using my right hand to control the mouse, I could not draw anything decent on the computer. At that time, my brother who had already moved on to digital art, shared with me his artworks. As usual, they were awesome beyond words. Feeling discouraged, I stopped drawing totally for quite a while.

The breakthrough came when I was issued a penabled Wacom Fujitsu tablet at my workplace. With its stylus, I was able to draw directly on the screen. It was not perfect as there were lags in every stroke and the pen contact points were not precise. I got used to it and was amazed at the end results of my first digital art piece.

Eventually I moved on to iPad finger painting. Again, it was my brother who introduced this medium to me. I grew to love drawing on iPad as using finger to draw was fast and intuitive.

I started to draw more frequently after I started joining art groups on Facebook. The artworks shared by people all over the world in the groups inspired me to draw better and more. I used to believe that drawing is a very lonely hobby. It makes me introverted. But with today’s social media, I felt liberated being able to share my artwork freely to my friends as well as people all over the world.

Qn: What did you use to draw these lovely images of Robo-cop and Wonder-Woman above? (How long did it take you to draw?)

I drew Robocop using 2B and 3B pencils. It took me about 3 hours. Wonder woman was drawn using a ballpoint pen. It also took me about 3 hours.

Qn: Can you share with us how you drew these colored images of Robo-cop, Thor and Wolverine above? (What did you use to draw them? And your drawing experiences?)

All three artworks were finger painted using iPad Procreate app. I drew Robocop because it was my childhood favourite movie character. Back then in 1990, I drew several incomplete versions of Robocop using pencil. I told myself that one day, I have to draw at least one complete version of Robocop. And I did it 14 years later, one in pencil, one in digital. Although it is an app, the choice of brushes inside the app was important to create the metal feel. I used mainly two brushes – soft airbrush and round brush. The end result was gratifying… oh have I mentioned that I love drawing robots?? Iron man is my number one favourite. Lol.

The Thor and Wolverine artworks were done with the intention to document my drawings. It came to a point where people started questioning whether my digital artworks were ‘photoshopped’ from original images. At that time, Procreate did not have the time lapsed recording function. So I made screenshots of my whole drawing processes and shared them on my art page and Youtube. The style of painting, in terms of art strokes used, was more random and less detailed than Robocop. The brushes I used were round brush, shading graphite and grunge. I grew to love using these 3 brushes and this style of painting which takes a lot lesser time to draw compared to other styles.

Qn: What are your experiences using the Apple Pencil and LifeBook Pencil above?

Lifebook pencil was equipped with this Penabled Wacom function. Honestly I do not know what this means. Lol. I just know that I can draw directly on the tablet screen. The stylus is not equipped with pressure sensitive tip so every stroke is registered the same way. There is a consistent lag between strokes so I must draw slowly on the screen. The lines also do not appear exactly beneath the stylus contact point. Although it is not perfect, I love the stylus (and tablet) and I am still using it for work.

Apple Pencil is a revolutionary stylus to me. I have used another wonderful stylus before but this Apple Pencil is the best (for me) to date. Its response time is instant and its pressure sensitive tip simulates exactly how a pencil works. However, the pencil works quite differently on the Procreate app compared to using my finger due to its pressure sensitive tip. With the same amount of weight for each stroke, Apple Pencil gives a lighter effect.

One flip side of Apple Pencil unlike any other styluses is that it needs to be charged. Every 15 seconds of charging would give me about 30 minutes of usage. To me, it seems flimsy to charge the pencil by directly inserting it into the iPad lightning port. Any slight movement might bend the pencil charging tip. To charge via the plug, it needs a small charging adaptor which can be easily misplaced. Also unlike the LifeBook stylus that can be easily inserted into the tablet for storage, the Apple Pencil has to be carried separately from the iPad. Most iPad covers do not cater for Apple Pencil storage as well. The Apple Pencil can only work on iPad Pro. Previously I intended to use it both on my iPhone and iPad air.

Qn: Care to share with us more about the set of brushes you use above? (What do you use them to paint with? How is your painting experience with them? Compared to ones you use previously?)

I bought these set of KCK Craft brushes last year with the intention to try out acrylic art. I had a student who draws very well on canvas and seeing her paintings got me really interested in acrylic art. The funny thing is that I went to an art shop five times before deciding to buy the brushes and the canvas boards. It took me another 2 to 3 weeks before I bought the acrylic paint and another month before I painted my first ever acrylic artwork. The fear of trying out a new medium was very real!

The painting experience turned out to be very fun. I originally wanted to surprise my wife by finishing a painting of her when she came home from work. But in the end I took about 12 hours (4 days) to complete it! I repainted her face 5 times as I either could not find the right brush or the right mix of colours. I was very tempted to watch painting tutorials on Youtube but decided that the best way to learn is to learn through mistakes and exploration. I personally find that mixing the correct or consistent colour tones was more challenging than using the brushes. I have still so much to explore and learn in acrylic painting.

This was also my first time drawing on such a big canvas. I made the most rookie mistake of not painting it on easel. My canvas was on the table throughout my painting. The painting turned out to be only proportionate when looked from an oblique angle!

Qn: How did you draw (and also what did you use to draw) these images of Einstein and Lee Kuan Yew above?

Similar to Thor and Wolverine sketches, I used iPad Procreate (round brush, shading graphite and grunge brushes) to draw Einstein and Lee Kuan Yew. I wanted to speed paint Einstein and document it using the Procreate new time lapsed recording function. It took me approximately 2.6 hours.

Qn: What are some of the pros and cons (if any) of using these Caran d'Ache Colored Pencils above?

These colour pencils were gifted to me and I treasure these pencils. I love them because unlike most colour pencils that I have previously used, the lead on these pencils do not break easily. They are wax based and gives a smooth feel when I apply the colours. I can also easily apply another layer of colour on the existing layer.

Qn: Do you have any tips on art to share with us?

Drawing can be very lonely and discouraging if you are doing it alone. I find it extremely helpful to find supportive friends who appreciate your art. Learn to share your art as I believe every art piece deserves to be looked at. Document your journey and do not give up when you think that your drawings are not up to standard. Keep trying your best! When you look back, you will be surprised at how much you have improved! Drawing should be a happy and/or therapeutic affair!

Qn: Are there any art book/s you have read that you can share with us?

Is Dragon ball comic counted? Lol. I do not actively look out for art books. Contrary to what I have been drawing (portraits, cartoon style characters and robots), I like concept art a lot. My most recent purchase was the Avengers : Age of Ultron art book.

I also like illustration story books. It is my dream to produce some illustration books myself one day. I like books illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. You would probably have read his ‘Gift of Nothing’. I also own quite a number of books by Taiwanese Jimmy Liao. His style is very different from Patrick McDonnell’s. I love both styles.

I do have some personal illustrations which are uploaded onto Youtube. My 2 favorite ones are:

We thank Francis Chong for sharing with us his art tools and experiences. To view more of Francis's artworks, you may visit his facebook page at or his deviant-art page at

Check out other artist interviewees at


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