Painting with Acrylics

TLDR: I’m not good at painting, but it’s a nice form of relaxation. And it’s fun. I would highly recommend it. It’s a cheap hobby.

I’m in front of my laptop at least 50 hours a week. My partial escape is yard work, because it’s tangible and I think it helps my hands and mind reset. (And after a couple hours of being in the yard I’m usually itching and ready to get back to my digital explorations.) That’s the balance.

Painting has been a different ‘tangible’ extracurricular activity. I gave it a go for 2022.

As I said above, I’m definitely not good, but it’s fun starting a journey with the “where can this go” outlook and attitude. I am one of those kinds of people who can recognize creativity in a particular lawn mowing pattern. But painting just blows that creativity door wide open. As I approach 40 I think this is helping my mind stay pliable and young.

Below I’ll provide a little of my experience, some insights that I’ve accumulated, and will share some of my production from the last year.


Do it for you, and not someone else (like the Gram). Really, just let the act of painting be the ends, not the means to a social media post. Throw away your first ‘n’ paintings to relieve any pressure!

Don’t be afraid to copy techniques and processes (e.g. how to add elements and what is the layering order), there are so many YouTube videos to follow. Defer the creativity aspect just a little. My goal is to eventually compose my own paintings, but I realized I (still) am missing a lot of skill+technique and I decided not to sweat that deficit.

If you’re mildly proficient in Photoshop/GIMP, continue to think in layers.

And make the time for it! 25 minutes on a Friday night is all you need. Manage your expectations and keep it simple.


  • Buy the larger tubes of acrylic paint, they seem to be better quality. Not those ~30 pack of assorted colors, they feel watered down and cheap. Less is more.
  • I started with only 4 tubes of color, to get practice in mixing and finding in-between colors or shades of colors.
  • Don’t buy a crazy number of brushes, just a core 3.
  • Buy a bunch of canvases together, and commit to using them. A 10-pack for $12.99!
    • I’m using mostly 5″x7″ or when motivated 8″x10″.
  • Paper plates are easy for mixing and cleanup.
  • Always have a paper towel handy.


A quick sampling from the past year. I threw away about a dozen canvases. I wish I had taken pictures for the purposes of this blog post, but I did not. Anyways…

One of my earliest. White and black only!

  • Layering and order
    • Sky
    • Foreground plains
    • (allow to dry)
    • Horizon trees
    • Two big trees and branches

Experimenting with more elements:

  • Mountain reflection: adding just a little brown (roughly the inverted shape of the mountains) when blending the water.
  • Glaciers and water ripples: I used a scrap piece of 1″ cardboard to ‘pull’ the features onto the canvas.

I stumbled upon a photo I had taken 12+ years ago, and tried to capture it on canvas. I like how the sea is two different colors, and demarcated by the rock.

The Newport/Pell Bridge (Rhode Island), I found this angle and composition on a postcard. This was a smaller canvas (5″x7″). The canvas surface comes through a lot more, and the bridge cabling gained a nice rough texture.

The iconic angle of the Quechee Gorge. TBH I don’t’ like the quality or execution of any of the elements on their own. But the order of layers was a fun execution.

Only three colors: white, brown, black. And my ‘go to’ elements: sky, glaciated mountains, and tree. But with this one I let go just a little, and used longer strokes anytime I touched the canvas.

My ‘tree’ element readily converted into a boat. The layering order made the reflection possible: gradient water, rough inverted shape of the boat, some blurring of the inverted shape, then scrap piece of cardboard to left-right slide ripples.

I happened upon an abstract technique: loosely crunch a ball of aluminum foil, then directly drip the paint onto the canvas before ‘dabbing’ for sky and ground. Then my trusty scrap of 1″ cardboard to stamp the rain.

2 thoughts on “Painting with Acrylics

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