What a difference a medium makes

acrylic painting
I need more practice. More practice drawing. More practice painting. And much more practice unlocking the secrets of the color wheel. (My experience with black and white photography isn't much help.)

To that end, I invented an exercise for myself. I reproduced the same simple design using 6 mediums -- acrylic paints, watercolor, colored pencil, water-soluble crayons, felt-tip pens, and paper. I aimed for the same color combinations, but as you'll see, they turned out very different.

Acrylic -- colors mixed on the palette

acrylic painting

Acrylic -- colors layered on the canvas

acrylic painting

Colored pencil

colored pencil drawing

Water-soluble crayon

water-soluble crayon

Felt-tip pen

felt-tip pen drawing


watercolor painting

Paper mosaic

paper mosaic
What did I learn? 
  • I need much more practice mixing colors (that lifeless acrylic magenta is so sad). 
  • I enjoyed the variety of movement -- big swooping brush strokes (acrylic and watercolor), karate chops (pencil and pen), and nervous bursts of ripping (paper mosaic).
  • Each medium has its own attitude -- the felt-tip pen seems comic and the mosaic a bit self-righteous, for example. 
  • Each medium requires a different effort. The watercolor took minutes, the paper mosaic hours.
If you dabble in multiple mediums, give this exercise a try. Let me know what you discover!


  1. Color is always a challenge and then everything I learned in a color class in college was thrown out the window when I got to weaving and dyeing - the interlacing of the warp & weft affect color and mixing dyes for fiber is so different than paint. The learning is never ending.

    Here's a color challenge for you out of that class - take a photograph and then paint a copy of it (we used acrylics) trying to use colors in all the same value so when a black & white picture is taken at the end it looks all the same color. I don't think anyone in the class reached perfection but it was a good exercise.

  2. Wow, I thought the color wheel was an absolute thing! How interesting.

    I may try that exercise, once I get a bit more experience with acrylics under my belt.


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