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Art Tools of Holly Exley

For today's Art Tools and Gears, we have guest artist Holly Exley from the UK with us.

Currently based in London, Holly has been pursuing her passion in watercolor art full-time ever since she graduated from Middlesex University in 2010.

We have the honor of inviting Holly today to share with us her art materials and paintings which we have featured below, as well as her experiences.

Qn: Will you be able to introduce yourself to our readers?

I'm a freelance illustrator based in the UK, working with watercolour as my medium. I discovered watercolour at the age of five when I was given a lesson by a family friend who was an artist. Since then I have always painted, in many mediums but returned to watercolour exclusively during my university years. Upon leaving education I pursued a career in illustration and have been painting freelance now for three years.

Qn: What are your art-tools & materials you use to draw and paint?

I use watercolour paper that are NOT pressed, Winsor & Newton watercolour tubes and Pro Arte brushes. I have a video (below) which explains my art materials in more detail!

Qn: What are some of your most challenging and/or rewarding experiences as an illustration artist?

Lately my challenge has been to boost my creativity and passion for painting, whilst simultaneously working to client briefs. It can be hard to limit your creativity to fit someone else's brief and whilst I am extremely appreciative of all the work that comes my way, I can see that my enthusiasm is waining slightly! I have plans this year to work on a personal project which should help elevate this feeling, and it's always rewarding being able to share personal projects online.

Qn: I imagine you must have a lot of perseverance and passion to get to where you are today, where clients seek you out instead - Can you share with us how your journey has been like?

When I finished University I really struggled with finding work, and it took nearly three years to quit the many day jobs I had to support myself. I had some devastating setbacks along the way including losing a commission with a large client that I had hoped would be my "breakthrough" moment into the industry. I had a lot to learn about dealing with clients and how to present myself as a professional artist and run my own business - something I didn't learn in education. I can put my success down to one thing: persistence. I knew I wouldn't be truly happy in any other job role so I kept on picking myself up after every disappointment, painted at every opportunity I got (at the sacrifice of my social life!) and eventually it paid off.

Qn: Do you have any favorite or most memorable piece/s of illustration artwork that you can share with us?

One of my favourite projects to date was a series of portraits for a music app created by Classical FM and Universal Music. I am excited by the crossover of technology and a traditional medium like watercolour - I think it's a contrast that works really well. The app is beautifully designed and I feel very privileged to have been involved with it.

Qn: Do you have any words of advice for budding artists out there who are thinking of carving out an art career?

Work hard, push yourself but remember to be kind to yourself. Learn what behaviour is helpful to you and your art, and what behaviour is a hindrance. For example, comparing yourself to others mostly creates toxic, debilitating thoughts. Whereas being inspired by other artists can help to push your own work forward. The way to tell the difference is to actively decide to be kind to yourself in the process of building your career

Qn: Have you read any art-book/s or instructional mediums related to art that you can share with us?

Becoming a Successful Illustrator by Jo Davies and Derek Brazell – This book has information on everything an aspiring or practising illustrator will need to know.

Qn: Lastly, which other artist/s do you think we should interview next?

Jessica Roux

We thank Holly Exley for sharing with us her experiences in this interview.

For more about Holly and her artworks, you may visit her website or her blog.

Holly also has a Youtube channel where she shares extensively on her life and art experiences, and you may also follow her on her Twitter page.

Check out other artist interviewees at