Acrylics – A Taste class

My first interpretation of the 'mountains and a tree' painting

My first interpretation of the ‘mountains and a tree’ painting

In early November I took Acrylics – A Taste, a 6-hour class through Chinook College with my mum. I thought I’d give the class a little review here in case anyone is thinking of taking the class as well.

The class description is: “Looking for a beginning painting class? Acrylics are easy to paint with, easy to learn to use, and are a great medium for beginners. Acrylics are rich, vibrant and expressive, more forgiving than watercolours, fast-drying, and unlike oil paints, they don’t fill up the room with toxic fumes. In this introductory class, aimed at absolute beginners, learn how to mix and blend colours, use brushes, play with colour, paint forms that have depth and dimension, and paint some familiar objects. All supplies included.”


The class started with the 11 class members describing their experience with art – some had no experience at all other than finger-painting with her children, while others had many years (over a decade) of experience in other mediums. Of course, we were all there for the very beginning of working with acrylics.

The space was set up in the art room of the new Willow Park school (temporarily located in the Viscount Bennet Centre) art room. It was a TINY room, and really poorly set up because of it. Just trying to get to the table to get more paint, grab some paper towel, rinse the brushes and get more water/paper/etc was difficult – constantly asking people to ‘excuse me’ and wiggling through tight spaces caused by easels. It would have been an ok room with 6 students, but with 11, it was just too tight.

Meeting the description

The description promised that we would learn to mix and blend colours, use brushes, play with colour, paint forms with depth & dimension and paint some familiar objects.

my 'playing' paper - where we first had the chance to mix colours and play around with the brushes.

my ‘playing’ paper – where we first had the chance to mix colours and play around with the brushes.

We did learn to mix and blend colours, and the instructor went over primary and secondary colours and how to use them. He also showed us how to set up our palates using Kroma colours from Vancouver, BC. He had two different shades of yellow, a blue, a red, a burnt umber, and two different whites (zinc and titanium) however it wasn’t until the end of the class that he noted the different colours, and mentioned briefly how they were different.  From an introduction perspective, I would have appreciated learning some of these differences before hand. (For instance, which shades were more transparent than others, etc…) He also showed us two different ways of blending colours – one with a palate knife and one dipping into the paint on our palate paper, and how to use a mister to keep our palate paint useable.

We were told to select a #6 and a #10 flat paintbrush, and that most of what we’d need to do could be accomplished with these brushes. Unfortunately, we were also told that the brushes were in ‘bad shape’ – and it was really hard to get fine lines with these brushes for me – however I did appreciate being able to really play with the brushes – rather than feeling like I needed to accumulate a dozen brushes. He also said that we probably wouldn’t need to invest in sable brushes – although they’re good for avoiding brush strokes, he said they were probably more expensive than we really needed.. good to know!

When it came to painting forms with depth & dimension, and painting familiar objects – we didn’t really get into this. Instead our instructor had us use a few of print-outs of other paintings to “copy”.  He showed us how to paint a rough sketch with watery paint,and then sort of ‘fill in’ the sketches.


Ok… so of course I want to show off what I did during the class!

Mountains & a tree

The first inspiration image was of some mountains in the background, hills in the far ground, a yellow field in the midground and then a tree and some bushes in the foreground. The instructor didn’t provide us with information about the artists, so I went to Google advanced image search (if you haven’t used this before it’s awesome!) but didn’t have any luck there either. I can only guess that after all of the copying, that the photo I tried to image-search was just too degraded for Google to help me out.

I ended up doing this one twice – simply because I got so totally frustrated with the second inspirational image (in that… I didn’t like the inspiration, nor my interpretation at all, and didn’t want to spend any more time with it.. LOL) I purposely approached the second one very different from the first one. The second one is much bolder, much more relaxed, and it feels much less “finished” to me.. but I wanted to experiment with being more loose with the painting.

Desert landscape

This original I looked to source as well with no luck. I really didn’t like this one at all – I didn’t like the inspiration, and I didn’t like my interpretation. It was only when I stood back from it during our very brief ‘critique’ that I started to see it in a bit more positive light.

Right off the bat I thought my sky wasn’t as successful as my previous attempt, and I thought I made the background hill/mountain too dark and heavy -it has too much visual weight for my liking – but when I stood back, I actually really liked the light in the foreground.

Trees & a pathway

This original I looked to source as well with no luck through Google advanced image search… though the trees remind me vaguely of arbutus trees, which make me feel a little Emily-Carr-ish.

Final painting

For the last painting of the class we could pick from his portfolio of inspirational paintings, or do something on our own… of course I had planned the entire time to do something of my own, and brought (on my iPhone, which subsequently got paint on it because of this…) a Lawren Harris painting Bylot Island Sketch c.1930 as inspiration. It was funny, because as soon as the instructor saw it, he said something along the lines of “that looks like a Lawren Harris!” so I consider that a success!

My interpretation of the Lawren Harris artwork

My interpretation of the Lawren Harris artwork

Mind you… there wasn’t enough time at the end of the class for the acrylic paint to dry sufficiently… and when mum was carrying this one out for me, it got smudged on the left hand side by the wind… 😦

(As an aside, I think that if I decide to keep trying this out… that my next inspiration piece might be Lawren Harris’ Emerald Lake c.1924, Mountain Sketch c.1924, Mountain Sketch XCI (Mountain on the Athabasca River) (which I already did with ArtRage for the iPad LOL), Mountains and Lake 1929, Goodsir Peaks, Icebergs c.1930 (I love the moodiness of this one!), the completed Bylot Island c.1930, or Lake Superior, Sketch XLVII. 1923. Speaking of ArtRage, I also tried a version of Pic Island, Lake Superior 1924 on the iPad which was kind of cool. Compare the completed piece to the sketch though – neat! What can I say.. I just really love Lawren Harris!

Although I picked my own inspiration – mum went with one of the selections from the instructor.

What do you think? Be kind!

More classes

If you’re interested in taking this class, it’s a pretty short time investment, and $169* with supplies included.

  • Alternately, the Calgary School of Art offers a 10 week class (3 hours/week, during the day) for $360* and supplies are not included.
  • Swinton’s offers a ‘sampler’ with all of the supplies included in one short 3-hour class for $40*.  I was actually thinking that a little introduction to oils might be fun, so I might consider signing up for this one!
  • If you have a little more time, Swinton’s also offers a workshop with acrylics over 2 days.  The 10 hour class is $150* and supplies are not included (and there’s a pretty long list of them…)
  • Art in the Box offers classes for adults, though they don’t share how many hours, over how many days the classes are offered. The class is $285*
  • The Alberta College of Art & Design has an extended studies which offers a Fasttrack Acrylic class which has 18 hours of instruction for $239* plus you have to purchase an $85* supply kit.  For a $30 introduction class, the cost is $349*, and you bring your own supplies to the first class.
  • The University of Calgary offers a Creative Acrylic Painting class for $345* which has 30 hours over 10 sessions. The listing doesn’t indicate if students need to bring their own supplies or not.
  • For other art classes, I also found Aliki’s Art House, however when I looked they didn’t have any acrylic classes. Likewise, the City of Calgary’s Wildflower Arts Centre offers classes – but none were listed when I looked. Liba Art Studio also didn’t have introduction acrylic classes listed when I looked. Lillian Tkach-Matisons also offers classes, including introducing acrylics, however her site has limited information. Leading Edge art workshops appear to largely appeal to intermediate or experienced artists.

*Prices are when I looked up the information, and are of course, subject to change!


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