No, this post isn’t about recycling, unless you’re talking about recycling some old knowledge and putting it to good use. See, many, many, MANY years ago when I started high school I was placed in an introductory art class (hard to avoid with a last name like “Painter”). I then continued with my arty education and by junior year was in Advanced Art (which is just a fancy way of saying, “You’re willing to pay for your own supplies.”).

In Advanced Art we learned how to work with acrylic paints. I loved working with them, but when I stopped doing much in the way of art, I locked my paints away. Fast forward to more recent years and for some reason, my acrylic paints just didn’t call to me. I tried pastels, watercolors, and then found my niche in colored pencils.

I don’t know what art bug started gnawing at my brain a couple weekends ago, but something nagged at me to get out the acrylics and try them again. And I’m so glad I didn’t ignore that naggy little bug!

First Up – An Abandoned Project

Taken at the same time as the image I used for Gazing Ball, I had this photo of some ferns and coleus I really wanted to draw, but the colors were just not working with colored pencil.

The photo from Seattle's Volunteer Park Conservatory.
The photo from Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory.

The coleus looked nice, but just didn’t have the intensity I wanted, so I put the piece aside.

The abandoned colored pencil attempt.
The abandoned project.

Okay, this may have been a rather complex image to try a “new” medium/technique with, but nothing like jumping right in. I pulled out my giant box of acrylics and a piece of Claybord I had laying around and got to work. Mr. Husband had to hear repeatedly, “This is so FAST!” as I filled in a background in less than an hour (work that would have taken days with colored pencils)

No hand cramps! No eye strain!
No hand cramps! No eye strain!

I had a little trouble getting a sense of depth (which I tried to resolve with a few washes of blues for the background and yellow for the foreground), but overall it didn’t come out for a renewed attempt at an old skill.

acrylic paint, painting, art, coleus, botanical art
Ooh, so bright!!

Let’s Go Shopping

Although I did have another piece of Claybord, I wanted to try my hand at some work on canvas (easier for hanging). I didn’t have any stretched canvases laying around and (rather conveniently) the art store nearby had a huge sale going on. I bought a small canvas for practice and a square one that I hoped wouldn’t end up being shoved to the back of the closet.

Claybord is super smooth, so the texture of the canvas was a bit odd to work with, but I quickly got used to it and whipped out a couple fish (apologies for the weird lighting/glare on this one).


Practice Time is Over

With two projects done, it was time to attempt something a bit harder. My mom has been going on and on that I should do a pelican because she likes watching them from her house at the Oregon Coast. Okay, well, I don’t really know how to do birds and I barely remember how to paint with acrylics, so the challenge was on!

I found a handsome picture of a brown pelican by Sandy Scott and thought it would fit perfectly on the square canvas:

Since I love black backgrounds, I didn’t attempt the subtle shadings in Sandy’s photo. Instead, I grabbed the tube of black and got going. The beak was a true challenge and I didn’t get quite as detailed with it as I would have with colored pencil, but I like how it turned out.


The pouch and face details turned out to be a bit tricky, but after working the feathers on the face, I had the technique mostly sorted out to work the neck and head feathers. Still, for a while Mr. Pelican was looking a little shabby with his exposed shading and odd colors.

Don’t look at me, I’m hideous.

As I got closer to completion, I thought he looked a little flat, so I used some gel medium stuff I had in my magic box and gave him a bit of texture along his head and a bit along the lighter area of his neck. I loved how this turned out and think it really adds something to the painting when you see it in person.

Ooh, texture!
Ooh, texture!

After a few more touch ups, Mr. Pelican was as done as he was going to get with my limited skills (and patience).

And done!

And no, I haven’t given up my colored pencil work, but it’s nice to have another medium to play with that will allow me to produce more art. Thanks everyone, sorry for the super lengthy post! See you again on Saturday with the continuation of my time in Orvieto, Italy!


Any old skills you’ve been trying out lately (or wanting to try out)? Share anything old that’s new again to you in a comment!


Interested in making a gift of my art? Head over to my storefront at Fine Art America for prints, greeting cards, throw pillows, and many more items featuring my work.


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13 thoughts on “Old Skills, New Art

  1. Hi Tammie. Loved seeing your journey in acrylics. I recently finished a watercolor course. A very new experience to me and full of trepidation, but it got me doing creative stuff again other than poetry/photography. A real learning curve. Haven’t done much art in years and years, except for a few drawings. The passion is back! 🙂

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    1. Yay! Classes can be quite helpful. I took a drawing class a couple years ago and that’s what really jump started my renewed interest in doing art. It’s amazing what a little inspiration can wake up in yourself.

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  2. Oh, how cool! And finding you can put old knowledge to use again is one of the most satisfying feelings ever! Your pelican is really super. I think you’re being too hard on your coloured pencil version of the ferns and coleus though – sure, the colours don’t match the photo, but it really captures the texture of the leaves!

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  3. I find I often have to revert back to acrylics every now and then as well! I love Colored pencil but sometimes you just want the satisfaction of being able to complete something quickly. 😊 Great story!

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      1. Painting is so much more forgiving that’s for sure! Although I find that because of that I sometimes am too willing to make mistakes compared to colored pencil where I need to make an active effort at all times not to mess up!

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