DIY, Art, Create DIY Abstract Acrylic Painting – Lessons Learned

By Angie Ocampo

Now that I’ve been spending more time at home, I’ve realized that I should finally stop putting off the things that I claim I never have time to do. One of these is to finish decorating the apartment that my partner and I moved into nine months ago. We wanted to figure out a way to have nice paintings that were not very expensive, but with Home Goods/Marshall’s/TJ Maxx closed due to the pandemic, we had to get creative about our options. 

I started looking up YouTube videos about how to do abstract paintings and it didn’t look that hard. This was my first shot at making my own painting (aside from going to paint night). I figured it would be a fun quarantine activity, so why not try it? Out of the YouTube videos I watched, I really liked the design of this video. It had no instructions, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard to follow along.

I purchased the materials from Michael’s. I decided to just get a few shades of blue, white, and gray, since I wanted the painting to go into my bedroom. They also sell multi-color packs which might come in handy if you don’t have a specific color scheme in mind.

Materials used for painting: paint, canvas, palette knives, foam brushes, paintbrushes, old sheet, disposable plate

Materials I purchased:

Other materials:

  • Paper towels
  • Old sheet to not dirty floor/carpet
  • Disposable plate to use as a palette
  • Cup & water (for brushes and sponges)


Documenting My Process

I started with white paint, as the video showed. Even though I was using a palette knife like the artist was, I could not get the white paint to have the same texture as the one she was using. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept going. I used a foam brush to start playing around with some of the blue to see what would happen. (Now that I’m writing this post, I realized that the artist in the video used modeling paste… oops!)

Start of painting. Some blue, gray, and white scattered cloud-like features.


At this point, I started to get worried that it was not going to look anything like the video. I was definitely having trouble replicating that white painting texture. My partner watched the video again and took a stab at it, this time with a paper towel.

More blue, grey, and white cloud features added.


The smearing with the paper towel also looked nothing like the video. According to my partner, “her hands are gifted!” So maybe it was a little naïve to think that we could replicate a YouTube artist, given that we had very little experience. Regardless, we kept having fun with it, and we were pleased with the outcome!

Final Product

I learned to accept that my art might not come out exactly like the video tutorial. That’s the beauty of art – paintings are unique and aren’t exact replicas. Trust and enjoy the process of creating something from scratch. All artists have to start somewhere! Plus, you learn so much from actually *doing* it, that a tutorial can’t quite teach you. The sky is the limit for your creativity!

Abstract painting with a mixture of blue, grey, and white fluffy features.


Tips and tricks:

  1. If you’re looking to do a series of paintings or to experiment more at the beginning, consider purchasing the canvases in bulk. After having ordered three canvases, I realized that I could have gotten five of them for a cheaper price.
  2. Use an old sheet over your table or floor to make sure that you don’t get your surface dirty with paint.
  3. Wear an old t-shirt because it’s hard to get acrylic paint off of clothes.
  4. Acrylic paint washes easily off skin with soap and water, so don’t worry about the paint that will inevitably end up on your hands.
  5. Acrylic paint dries relatively fast, so keep this in mind if you’re hoping to mix colors on the canvas itself.
  6. If you’re unhappy with the way things are looking, you can always paint over it. If you’re looking to avoid smearing and blending colors, make sure that the paint dries completely before doing so.
  7. When you’re ready to clean your brushes, you can wash them in the sink with soap and water. I found it helpful to use a paper towel to get extra paint off of them before rinsing.

I’ve already started on my next painting, which (I hope) will have more of a mosaic look. What are you planning to create? Share your quarantine creations with us by posting on social media and tagging us!

Angie OcampoAngie N. Ocampo is a PhD candidate in Sociology studying immigration, race, and ethnicity. At Penn, she has been involved in various student activities, including serving as the chair of the Latin American Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (LAGAPSA), the student-faculty liaison for the Graduate Sociology Society, and a member of the Fontaine Coordinating Committee for Fontaine Fellows. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking new recipes, dancing, and singing. As the Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Fellow at the Grad Center, Angie supports special initiatives and organizes professional and academic events focusing on diversity and inclusion. 

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