Let's Just Try It

a compilation of inspiration and creative endeavors of a mom and daughter duo

Category Archives: Painting

Art By Putty Knife

This was definitely a classic “Let’s Just Try It” project!  A photo posted on Pinterest got my mind going, and a verse that I have always wanted illustrated were what got me going.  All it took was a big canvas with the right dimensions, a putty knife, Acrylic Gel Medium and my tray of acrylic paints.  One afternoon of joyous painting – it felt like the days when my mom would sit me at the table with fingerpaint – colour mixing and mashing…. so much fun!

This is how simple it is: Mix acrylic gel medium to give acrylic paints texture (or I suppose, use oils!). Use a paper plate as the palette – start with the lightest colour and load the putty knife-edge with the colour – stroke down for one, stroke to the side for the second. PIck up a bit of the next colour and stroke on the palatte to blend the colour slightly – continue working through the canvas, laying down the background. Work in the focal point (in this case, the tree).  Let dry.  Add leaves when dry.  (NB: the leaves consisted of a significant amount of gel as I wanted them to stand up on the canvas – I wasn’t entirely happy with the result – and definitely shouldn’t have worked on it at 10 pm!


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In true “Lets Just Try It” style – let me share what I learned….

  • A rough sketch of the elements of the painting can give direction for colour change as you go. It wasn’t entire a “fly by the seat of your pants” project.
  • Mix enough paint with the gel medium to get you through the entire painting. Matching mixed colours and gel is a difficult task – luckily this particular technique does not require exact match!
  • Edges are tough to tackle with a stiff putty knife – a softer, more flexible one would have been better
  • Blue tends to dry more transparent my end result was not exactly what I had hoped for as the overlapping of the colours were not disguised with the blue – of course I had to wait until it was dry to discover this!
  • Paint in the detail while the background is wet for a fun way to add tone to your detail. My tree trunk was painted with the same base colour, but when dragged through the wet background, picked up the light and dark elements.
  • Decide BEFORE you start whether you imagine a frame or not.  Sadly, I painted this on a stretched canvas, and have decided it definitely needs a frame…. I will have to seek professional advise about how to make that happen.
  • Finally, take your time on the final details!  I was so determined to finish in one day, that I got a bit sloppy on the leaves. It resulted in a slightly cartoonish looking tree.  Next time I will save the leaves for a fresh day, and spend time on some detail.

Watercolour Play

Beautiful Setting + Loads of Time + Creative Itch + a new set of Watercolour paints and paper = two weeks of fun

I am in no ways an artist – but I do have a ton of fun playing like one. And when you have a view like this one – it is impossible to not be inspired.

Elizabeth and I both had a go at it, and it was fun to see our different styles. Elizabeth is much more free-flowing and captures the beautiful translucency of the paint, while I tended to work it very similar to the acrylic paints I am more accustomed to. The results of the same images were drastically different.

My compositions were from actual settings, but in the last one, I composed the scene from my “drive by (photo) shoot”.

Painting No. 1:  The scene from sitting on my bed in the loft of our holiday cottage.  I literally just sketched (did I say I am not an artist?) and tried to duplicate what I saw with the paint.  My big lesson on this painting – aside from the fact that watercolours need more water – was that using other tools than brushes can work well for some effects. I used the end of a piece of card dipped in the paint to make the lines in the grass and reed walls.  It was a good practice – however I am disappointed in the feel of it as it ended up looking like a nice colouring in job.  More water, looser brush strokes – and some basic perspective adjustments as well.


Painting No 2: This was part of a photo I took at Inhambane Bay. I started this as a practice piece for a larger painting I want to do one day.  Because I had decided it was just for practice, I was a little more relaxed. I still tended to overwork the focal point, however I did work on the composition and colour value a bit. I tried to reserve white without masking fluid, but it was a bit of a challenge.  The end result was much more satisfactory and I might even put this little guy in a frame.

Painting No 3:  This one is a completely composed scene from 4 different photos I took. It isn’t yet finished, but because I am now back home and no longer indulging in the luxury of relaxed afternoons, I might never get it done, so I’ll post it anyway.  I worked specifically on the composition and detail on the focal point. My biggest challenge was that I cannot paint faces (yet) and in my photos, because of the darkness of the interior of the shops and the darkness of the complexions, the figures appeared to not have heads. This just did not look right in paint. Also, the man pushing the wagon will soon get a hat, because he required more detail on his face and I just can’t yet work it out.

All in all, I think I have found some definite bonus points for watercolours that I haven’t seen in acrylics. The paint is much more sensitive and willing to be moved and worked. I enjoyed playing with it, and whether or not I treated it properly, it was still a great learning experience.  I also love the ethereal feeling it can give when not overworked, and as I get better, this will be something I may strive for.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience with watercolour and what tips and techniques you find useful ! 🙂


Canvas Cutlery

Who doesn’t love to just play at something? Other than a tole painting class I took years ago I have never had actual instruction – but it is so fun to play around with colour and shade and see what comes out. After trying my hand at a small canvas, I got a bit braver and pulled out some large meter high canvases that I had bought on sale. My dining room was woefully bare and I thought a giant set of cutlery would be fun.

Embracing my “rustic” (translate: imperfect) style, I found some great images online, printed them in an                 enlarged format (thank you Microsoft Publisher and your tile printing option!). I then transferred the designs       on the canvases with graphite paper – basic shape and outline, but not too much detail.

Initially, I had hoped to keep the high contrast of light and dark, so I started with a light fill in, building up the dark – but the effect wasn’t want I wanted, so I opted to do a darker background and highlight with lighter – it worked better on the spoon and kept the lines softer, which is what I liked

After completing the basic shapes and shading, I added a bit of detail with shading to show a bit of a simple pattern, then finished off the look of the canvas with the phrase “we eat” in languages familiar to many who have dined at my table – Hindi, Zulu, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Afrikaans and a few others just for fun. The text was once again printed by my computer, enlarged and transferred. I then used a simple round brush and a beautiful green colour to get a nice even script.

Acrylic Painting on Canvas-Coffee Love

For years I have painted with acrylics – but never on canvas. This was my first official leap into acrylic painting on canvas, and is my usual method I just jumped in head first. Freehand drawing the coffee cup and grabbing my favorite colours, the result was acceptable and I had a lot of fun working the background. It hangs happily in my kitchen now – right above my favorite spot to have a cup of coffee with a friend.

12″x12″ Acrylic on Stretched Canvas

3 things learned:

  • If painting in light translucent colours – don’t use a dark line to draw your design (duh!)
  • Add extender to your paint if you want to work in multiple shades into an area-it keeps the quick drying acrylic paint wetter longer for blending
  • Finish off an outline easily with a paint marker for a fun relaxed finish