Working to Master A New Media - Acrylic

Sometimes I feel I have things burning inside of me, and I have to write them down. 

However, lately, I seem to be consuming more information than giving it out. 

I’ve been reading good books, and also listening to some excellent Alistair Begg sermon series as I paint.

So, this blog is going to be very short, just an update on one artistic experience I’ve had over the last two months.

Bully for You, 8x10 Acrylic on Canvas by Elise, 2019

Taking Time to Paint Outside 

At the end of August, I walked a mile down the dirt road to get fresh eggs at the Farm nearby.They are $3 a dozen, and the yolks are a wonderful dark orange. I feel so blessed to have local eggs!

While in the Cow Barn waiting for the Farmer, I suddenly noticed a beautiful subject for a painting – the lighting was soft and very subtle, with the window shining on a large Holstein Bull. I liked the black and white pattern on his body, and I wrote it down when I got home, to return and “paint the Cows”.

I didn't know at the time that this Cow was really the only Bull in the Barn. 

Lists Help Me a LOT

I’m a woman of lists. I find that when I write down what I plan to do the next day, I do them. When I don’t write things down, I generally accomplish nothing!

I continued to read “Paint the Cow” in my little daily notebook, and so, a couple weeks later, I did indeed find a free day to put my acrylic supplies into my backpack, get on my bike, and then take off for the Farm.

Acrylics Can Be Painted MUCH Faster than Watercolors!

A kind artist friend of mine, Jim McGee, likes to say I have “mastered” watercolor techniques. Well, I’m grateful for his encouragement! But I’m still working and learning how to paint in Acrylic. I find it much, much faster to paint in this media, because when you want to paint a color, such as black, you can get it IMMEDIATELY. Not so with watercolor! 

Watercolor must be layered and slowly built to the value you desire.

Those who espouse the idea that watercolors are “just so quick and easy” are probably not painting great amounts of detail or depth.

Yet, I find acrylic on canvas challenging, despite the speed, because I have less control over values, and I also struggle to gain details. My brush gets clogged up and then I think of how easy watercolors are!

Challenges to Painting Animals from Life

Anyway, so I brought a small three-legged stool, and sat down in the middle isle of the Cow Barn to paint the large Bull, who I called “Bully” (not in the bad sense of the word, just like you would call someone named "Bill", "Billy").

The four-wheeler was next to me, and the flies were buzzing all around me. A few times they landed and bit me. The sounds of the cows chewing hay, and dropping manure or urinating was all around me.

My main subject, Bully, was initially lying on his left side, in the same position I’d first seen him, with the same gentle lighting coming in the window over his body, creating many shades of white and gray and brown.

I painted as fast as I could for an hour, and then Bully got tired of lying down and he stood up!! I hadn’t thought about this aspect beforehand. I know very well animals tend to move around a lot, so painting them en plein air isn’t easy. I just figured cows lie down a lot inside of barns…

I begged him to lie back down for me. After a while, he did lie down, but now he was on his right side, which entirely changed the scene.

So, I painted the background as best I could, then went home with my very abstract scene:

“I don’t like your plein airs, or whatever you call them” said the elderly lady who is my current Art Patron….she was not impressed favorably with my little abstract scene - the best I could do in a very short amount of time. 

This comment motivated me to try to finish the painting using a photograph I’d taken, happily, before the Bull stood up.

Another 2.5 hours later, and “Bully for You” appeared as a much more detailed scene:

I’m grateful because just a few weeks after painting him, my Bull was sold, in real life, to a new home, where he’ll be breeding new cows. I got over to paint him just in time!

While sitting there in the Cow Barn, the Farmer mentioned his cows would be outside in the field next to my house, and I could paint them there, soon. But the lighting was what so attracted me to this scene. I’ve painted cows on green grass before now…and somehow the lighting inside the barn was what motivated me to create a new small 8x10 acrylic.

My Bull seemed a little sad, or tired of being chained inside a barn. I heard him sigh once, and I saw he had real personality. I’ve never raised cows and it was a good experience to spend a little time with them.

I’m sure Bully is much happier now, outside with a herd of new Cows.

And the Hen in the scene is named "Henrietta", so said the Farmer. She came by to see what I was doing, so I added her into the painting.

Bully for You will soon be on display at the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, Vermont, for their GEM and GIANTS Christmas show.

I am sure my penchant for talking verbosely on paper will return. Until then, I hope you are all enjoying your Autumnal days and nights!

Warmly, your painting-friend,


The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. ~ Psalm 24:1

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