GUEST ARTIST: “How Art Helped Me to Survive!” by Kratika Agarwal

Watercolor floral painting by Kratika Agarwal

Hello, my name is Kratika Agarwal and I am an artist, designer and illustrator. I am originally from India and currently based in the Netherlands. As far as I can remember, I have always enjoyed painting since childhood. My mom sent me to art classes when I was a kid and she would absolutely love my paintings. She would keep gazing at them and praise me. Guess, she was the very first true fan I ever had.

But I think, all mothers are like that.  I got busier with school and, soon after, my mom fell ill of cancer and she passed away. I completely lost all my touch with art. I had other daily responsibilities and barely had time to think about anything else. Time flew, I got busier, and I was in college. I completely forgot about anything which was called as art. Until it was just a few months back that I was suffering from chronic depression and major anxiety disorder that I picked up that paper and pen again.

watercolor red flowers painting by Kratika AgarwalLast year in October, I met with an accident which completely restricted me to the bed and I was on complete bed rest. Having no friends and family around, in a new country, it was really, really hard for me to actually survive!! I was glad enough that my hands were working. I had too much time to overthink about unnecessary things and I wanted the overthinking to stop. I thought of doing something to change my situation.  I thought of making digital illustrations.

Though they sounded beyond my imagination, I never thought I would make something digitally. But, I didn’t give up. I picked up the iPad, and started making iPad illustrations while lying on the bed. The first thing I made on my iPad was a mandala. The mandalas I made were mostly on apps like Procreate and Amaziograph. I would think about basic patterns and draw. They helped me calm down a lot.  I would pick up a centre point on the app and just randomly doodle around it until I found a pattern around them. Then I would fill it with colors. Vibrant colors would make me happy and I would keep smiling like a little kid and would look at my work and feel proud.

Soon after I started posting those mandalas on Instagram. Only late enough to realise, that people started loving them and they started appreciating the mandalas I would make. It gave me hope and courage! As I was still recovering, I kept making them more and more. It has been around 9 months to my injury, I am still struggling with my daily chores and my mental illness is still not cured, but if it wouldn’t have been the zeal to create something every day, I don’t think I would have been here talking about my art journey.

iPad Illustration of Owl In A Tree

iPad Digital Illustration

As I could barely sit for even a few minutes, I would scroll and look for people who would teach on Skillshares. I would look for people who would use a digital medium and to my amazement, I found this amazing artist called Liz Kohler Brown who I absolutely credit for everything that I learnt about digital illustrations and for keeping me sane! Her classes, her resources, she herself have been so so kind to me. I would invest hours and hours to learn the techniques she taught and I was able to create digital illustrations in a snap! I felt overwhelmed and, soon after, I felt I wasn’t alone. I knew there were people out there! I can’t thank Liz enough! I started making Digital journals, wallpapers, surface designs and so much more.

The only thing which I did not like about the digital illustrations was, that I wasn’t very happy with watercolour illustrations. You can barely imitate water and colors digitally, but when you put it on paper, with watercolours, the work is absolutely something else. You have that control on the brush, you know what you’re creating and sometimes, you have no control because it is such a versatile medium that the pigments and water do their own magic! When you put it on paper, the water and pigments react in an amazing way and the results are incredible. I desperately wanted to get back to water colors! I was waiting to be able to sit on a table and chair.

Seascape Watercolor Painting by Kratika Agarwal

Just until 2 months back, when I was able to sit (yay), I started painting again, I started making florals and landscape. I learnt about artists who would teach on Skillshare and on YouTube. I would watch them and try to recreate with what I knew and what I learnt. I started enjoying the process! I fell in love with watercolours. I make my illustrations with watercolours, gouache and water based markers now! I mostly do landscapes, florals and mandalas presently.  I try to absorb every material that I get my hands into!

Staying in Holland I learnt about Royal Talens, those were easily available here as they are made here and I bought myself some Van Gogh watercolors. Those were the first colours that I ordered and I completely adore their pigmentation. I love that I started my watercolour journey with them!  I gradually also learnt about brands like Prima, Ecoline, Winsor & Newton, Arteza and so many more. Choosing brushes and paper has been tough for me! When I started I didn’t know, papers are available in such abundance and each has their own speciality.

I learnt a lot about the quality of the papers, mixed media papers, 100gsm to 600 gsm papers! Oh my goodness, there is soo much available! I was always eager to learn more, and happy news came when Canson sent me their papers to try! I was thrilled! According to me, paper makes a huge difference. I mostly work on wet on wet, wet on dry, dry on wet techniques. A good quality paper holds my washes really well! I keep experimenting with colors and brands and presently my colour palette is a mixture of different brands and colors. When I choose my brushes, I am very particular about them, one of my most used brushes are Silver Brush, Da Vinci, Rosemary and Princeton.

I mostly look at pictures from Unsplash, Pinterest and Pixabay for inspirations. I spend a few hours on them looking for the picture I can recreate! There have been some pictures, which friends on Instagram send or pictures which were clicked by me while I would travel. Then the very first thing I do is swatch! I swatch the colors, I play with colors I have in hand. I put them on paper and look at how I can combine those colors.

Watercolor color swatches by Kratika Agarwal

Sometimes, I come up with such random colors, that they amaze me!  I know I have a long long journey to go, but if it hadn’t been art that pushed me, I don’t think I would have ever felt better and recovered so quickly.

Kratika Agarwal
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34 Comments
  1. Linda M. Gigliotti 1 month ago

    Kratika Agarwal you have such courage and persistence. And your work is beautiful absolutely. Blessings on your continued journey to health and through creativity. Your poor mom was right, your work is gorgeous.
    Linda M. Gigliotti , Canada

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hi Linda,
      I think I have learned to much more patient than I was. Thank you for your lovely comments. I know all moms are true first fans right ! I wish she was here ! Would have been so proud to see me grow 🙂 thanks a lot for your comments !

  2. Laura Hale 1 month ago

    Kratika, your art is so vibrant and beautiful. It reflects your courageous spirit! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hi Laura! Thank you so much love ! Thank your u for the uplifting comments ❤️

  3. Sandya 1 month ago

    Kratika !Wish you good health and may you paint to your heart’s content.My favourite medium is also watercolour . It’s a delight to work with watercolours.I’m from India.My name is Sandya.

  4. Sandra Strait 1 month ago

    Kratika, your art is so beautiful and your story is inspiring! Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us!

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hi Sandra! Thanks for taking a read and believing in me 🙏❤️

  5. Zertab Quaderi 1 month ago

    Great art and an even greater approach to life! Wishing you all the very best on your journey!

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hi Zertab!
      Thank you for reading through ! thank you so much for your wishes 🙂

  6. Mary Roff 1 month ago

    Wonderful art and story! Thank you for sharing your journey!

  7. Kelly Miller 1 month ago

    Beautiful work! You go girl!

  8. Karen Fortier 1 month ago

    Beautiful artwork and thanks for sharing your inspiring story. Best wishes to you.

  9. Fatima Chamkha 1 month ago

    Hi Kratika,
    I read you story and the strenght to carry on with you life and the courage after the lost of you motherYou make colorful illustrations and working digital is fantastic to explore you creativity as Mr.David Hockney with his I Pad .Thanks for sharing you journey or in dutch “Het gaat je goed!”

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hi Fatima,

      Thank you for your kind words and for your support. Really means a lot. Haha! yes! definitely digital illustrations are fun! Ja, Alles goed !

  10. naca A 1 month ago

    Keep up the good work – your art is healing to the viewer, too. That is to say, it makes me feel calm and warm inside to look at it.

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hi Naca,

      That is so wonderful to hear ! thank you so much dear !

  11. Sharon Gullikson 1 month ago

    I wish that I were a talented artist like you are. I make crafts, and really enjoy it. It allows me to think about problems, or NOT think about problems. I get to choose. My husband and I went to The Netherlands 2 years ago, and enjoyed the beauty of the country. Amsterdam had a lot to do and see, but walking around is CRAZY with all of the bicycles!!! We were only able to really relax when we left there 🙂 I hope that you are enjoying your new home. It must be hard to get used to another country long term, but also exciting and interesting! Especially since everyone speaks English 🙂 Your work is wonderful, interesting and inventive. Enjoy your talent.

    • Kratika Agarwal 1 month ago

      Hey Sharon !
      You are talented too! I can barely make crafts. Yes indeed Netherlands is beautiful ! i enjoyed my first few years before the injury. I would travel with my little dog over the weekends. It was fun to explore specially the villages! Haha! Amsterdam is crazy with bikes! But i loved going around with my own bike, it gives you freedom to go to places you never thought you would. Also, i learnt how to bike here! the best part is those fixed lanes only and only for cyclists.

  12. Sharon Nolfi 1 month ago

    Inspiring story and beautiful work!

  13. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 1 month ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. it is very inspiring and motivating. Your art is breathtaking. I wish you all the best 🙂

  14. Suchitra Narayan 1 month ago

    Love your work and your spirit..your positive attitude.. keep it up..you inspire others.
    Where in the Netherlands are you?

    • Kratika Agarwal 4 weeks ago

      Hi Suchitra,
      Thanks for reading! Really appreciate ! Thanks for the lovely comments! I’m based in the east of the country.

  15. Lin Powell 4 weeks ago

    Lovely work. I always find it inspirational when anyone finds their way out of depression through their art process. I know that doing daily art has helped me so much as well giving me something creative to keep life interesting. With all the blogs and videos there is so much to keep me inspired that I will never run out ideas I want to try…sometimes a failure, sometimes a success, but always a challenge and a wonderful learning experience. Enjoy your journey. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kratika Agarwal 4 weeks ago

      Hi lin, yes ! Ofcourse there is soo much to learn and grasp from all around us! Its hard to pull up a day all by yourself! But as long as one doesn’t give up, its worth the fight! Success and failure are all part of the journey !

  16. Barbara Verser 4 weeks ago

    Kratika, thank you for sharing your story with us, and for showing us what courage, vulnerability, perseverance, and inspiration looks like. And not all mothers are like your mother. How blessed you were to have had the love and encouragement of your mom at a young age. No doubt responsible for at least a little of your tenacity now. 💕

    • Kratika Agarwal 4 weeks ago

      Hi Barbara,
      Thank you for reading through ! Its sometimes takes a lot of courage to pull up your day with so much going in your head! And Sometimes its easy! What keeps me going is the love to create art, however! However possible. Definetly, I feel everyone who has atleast one person who supports them is blessed!

  17. ebaucheart 4 weeks ago

    Great work!

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