Mrs. Ryan's Class

A Digital Learning Hub for students and parents

A Journey into Acrylic Paint- Post # 6

I was finally able to connect with an artist this week! After falling in love with the helpful articles, blog posts, and videos on I reached out to the webmaster of the site for some advice and feedback. Ralph got back to me within the week! He gave me some suggestions for a beginning painter and even offered to review some of my work to give me specific feedback! I was very excited, to say the least.

initial emailinitial response from ralph


Ralph Feedback

I am so happy to have finally begun to develop this part of my Personal Learning Network where I can personally connect with people who can help me learn. Upon Ralph’s suggestion, I decided to investigate I signed up for two free art videos; “Landscape” and “Still Life” and have already received one in my email! I can’t wait to try these new lessons.

In his reply, Ralph also shared how he plans for painting. He shared that he does a sketch on paper and scans it into Photoshop to add color. Then he prints out his drawing and uses it as a guide to sketch his painting on the canvas. I am not ready to tackle Photoshop just yet, but I decided to modify Ralph’s technique and draw my plan on a paper with similar dimensions to the canvas I wanted to work on.

I have been inspired by a huge Pine Tree that grows in the back of my neighbor’s yard, so this week I decided to attempt to capture its beauty.


I relied on my previous learning from this NLP to create a cross-hatched sky and grass, and used blending techniques that I learned from Glen Farquhar to create the fence. I used my plan to draw the shape of a tree and shed directly onto the canvas.

tree shetch house

Then, I recalled what I learned about using the chisel tip of a flat brush to create the straight lines of the fence, and the curved branches of the tree. I used my learning about the Filbert Brush to create the illusion of leaves, and layered lighter colors over darker ones to create depth and dimension in the leaves of the tree.


My next steps in my NLP will be to follow the lessons from to learn more about light and shadows in my painting.


A Journey into Acrylic Painting- Post #5

This week I set out to accomplish one of my Network Learning Project Goals: learn how to blend and layer colors, add texture, and fix mistakes. I found an incredible resource called as I worked to develop my Personal Learning Network on painting. I found a blog post that shared this video of Glenn Farquhar teaching viewers to blend acrylic paint by layering wet paint (I shared his video last week in A Journey into Acrylic Painting- Post #4.)

I followed Glenn Farquhar through the entire process and ended up with a piece of artwork that was really fun to create and helped me to understand more about how water can be added to paint to create layers of color, add texture, and blend colors. Please view my TimeLapse video on how I created my abstract work of art!

Here is the finished painting:

learning how to blend and layer color

learning how to blend and layer color

I love how the final product is full of texture, and the layered colors appear so deep. I learned that you need to use paint with varying amounts of water to create a layered, blended look. Each new addition of color to this piece was a different paint to water ratio- each color had a different consistency. When I pulled the colors together using my scraper (cut-up paper plate) the thicker paint spread over the thinner paint and exposed the blended colors beneath. This technique worked incredibly well with an abstract piece, but I think it could be modified when painting a more realistic/natural scene.

After I completed this first piece, I experimented with my new knowledge on another canvas. I used a different base color (blue) and used more water mixed into each additonal color than I had in my first painting. I ended up with a painting that looks more like tie-dye, which further helped me to understand that one of the keys to blending and layering colors to add texture is using paint that has a variety of texture and consistency.

Whoops! Too much water!

Whoops! Too much water!

By the time I post again I hope to have communicated and shared ideas with at least one other artist from my Personal Learning Network.

Stay tuned!


A Journey into Acrylic Painting- Post #4

This week I set out to further establish my Personal Learning Network (PLN). At first, I hit a bit of a wall when I discovered that many blogs did not fit my needs. I was excited when I found the website – because of the title I assumed that I could add this site to my own network of resources! After some exploration I discovered that much of this website was too advanced for my understanding – the content did feel accessible at this point in my learning. Additionally, some of the blogs that I found linked to this site displayed photographs of beautiful paintings, but did not explain or teach about the technique and process. It seems that the purpose of many art blogs is to share work and network with other established artists, not to teach.

Instead of googling “Acrylic Painting Blogs” I decided to use my Professional Learning Network and explore boards I follow on Pinterest. This opened the doors to a welcomed rabbit hole as I started to find more interesting and relevant boards to follow on Pinterest.

Through my Pinterest exploration, I finally stumbled on a blog called “Art Instruction Blog” filled with tons of links to other blogs. Much to my relief, these blogs are intended to teach people at various levels of proficiency. One of my personal learning goals that I set for this week was to learn more about mixing and blending paint colors. I found a blog post called “How to Easily Create your own Beautiful Abstract Painting Step by Step” that shares a video of another artist, Glenn Farquhar, demonstrating how to blend and layer colors while creating a beautiful piece of abstract art.

Another learning goal that I established for myself this week was to comment on/reach out to artists that I would like to add to my Personal Learning Network. I am proud to say that I have reached out to two artists (including the administrator of Art Instruction Blog and the artist, Glenn Farquhar) and have now started exploring each of their blogs further. Between these blogs and my expanding Pinterest network, I have found countless beginner acrylic tutorials and free lessons online.

For next week, I hope to continue to establish my Professional Learning Network and begin a conversation with artists about their work. I will also combine my new learning about blending and layering color to create a piece of art that is more fluid and polished.


A Journey into Acrylic Painting- Post #3

The blue and green Comma Strokes that I made with my Filbert Brush earlier in the week really inspired me. These little practice strokes reminded me of tiny peacock feathers, so for the remainder of the week I decided to use my new learning about brushes and brush strokes to paint a peacock feather. I took the lead from some artists I watched on Youtube and chose a photograph to base my work off of. I found this beautiful photo online, and decided to use it to guide me.

peacock-feather-81459_640First, I worked on holding my brush appropriately and only moving my shoulder as I painted. This new learning really helped me! I realized that prior to this week, I consistently used my wrist to create small brush strokes because I thought it would give me more control. Now that I learned to steady my hand with my pinky and move my entire arm, my lines are more controlled.

I started this painting by creating a yellow and white cross-hatch background. I love the depth that this technique creates. Then I switched to a smaller flat brush and started to form the stem by using the dry brush technique that I learned earlier in the week. I used a dry brush to press and drag across the canvas, allowing the color to fade as the paint ran out. I thought this would give my painting the feathery look I was going for.  I also used the chisel part of the bristle to create the thin lines.

I gradually added more color to the top part of the feather with my Filbert Brush. This helped me create a smooth rounded center. I waited before layering color on the blue center. The last thing I added to the painting was the bright outlines on the rounded top of the feather. I tried to fade the colors into each other, but the colors still look pretty defined.

Here is the progression of my painting.

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The next thing I want to learn is how to blend and fade colors to achieve a more natural look. I hope I can touch up this painting to make it look more realistic. I am proud of my first start after my new learning, but I know that I have a long way to go before I can call myself a painter.

I started a Pinterest Board for Acrylic Painting Ideas and realized that quite a few frequently pinned paintings belong to the same artist who has a blog of her own.  Another goal in my Network Learning Project is to find blogs/websites of accomplished painters. I would like to reach out to at least one artist and inquire about how he/she got started in painting and ask for advice for a beginning painter. Like Wagner in his article, Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips, I think authenticity is critical to learning and collaboration.  I hope that making these connections will other people will broaden my Professional Learning Network and help me to become a better painter.


Whisk Veggie Slicer- Cooking with TPACK

I haven’t used a whisk for much other than whisking, but in my Cooking with TPACK exercise I had to use it as a veggie slicing knife! This experience taught me that a task can be accomplished even if the desired tools are not available, but the task might not be accomplished well or efficiently.

My husband selected a serving platter, ceramic cereal bowl, and a small whisk from our kitchen. Then he randomly selected Choice 5- “Slice veggies for a veggie tray.” As you can see from the video, I repurposed the serving platter into a cutting board and used the metal prongs on the whisk to cut a cucumber and celery. It wasn’t ideal, but I got the job done!

I think this experiment serves as a metaphor for TPACK- how we can use technology to improve teaching and enhance content learning. When appropriate tools are selected, teaching and learning can be made better. When the tools are not appropriate for the task at hand, teaching and learning can be mediocre, or even suffer.

IMG_4729My whisk can be thought of as an element of technology and my task of cutting veggies as the objective of a lesson in a classroom. Although I was able to reach the objective, the whisk was not the best way to do it. I butchered that poor cucumber, pressed the prongs into my fingers leaving red indents, and needed to use my fingers to tear pieces of the celery. I did ultimately cut the veggies into pieces that could have been part of a veggie tray, but the whisk didn’t help me to do my best work.

The use of technology as an extra or substitution could be successful because people are resilient and easily adapt; however, it may not be the best tool to accomplish the goal. This is an illustration how how essential TPACK is; technology needs to be used to support teaching and learning in the classroom.


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A Journey into Acrylic Painting- Post #2

Today I decided to learn more about types of brushes and brush strokes. I started by watching a Youtube video that I found last week, Four Brush Strokes. This was a good jumping off point for me. I watched this video a few times, and practiced each technique that the artist introduced. I learned cross hatching, dry brush, how to create thin lines using a Liner Brush, and how to create an abstract flower using a Filbert Brush.

I really like the Filbert Brush, so I decided to look up more videos to learn other uses for it. I found the video “How to use Filbert Brushes for Decorative Painting.” I learned how to use the Filbert Brush to create more rounded Comma Strokes and how to fill in circular objects. I found that I love the way the Comma Strokes look using the rounder, Filbert Brush as opposed to a flat brush. The Filbert Brush makes the strokes look a bit like peacock feathers…maybe I’ll try a peacock next?

Comma Stroke with Filbert Brush

Comma Stroke with Filbert Brush

Comma Stroke with Flat Brush

Comma Stroke with Flat Brush

After practicing these strokes for a few minutes I felt like I needed more information, and another perspective so I browsed Youtube for a few minutes and stumbled on a video of an art teacher, Melinda Gahn, beginning a class on Acrylic Painting Techniques. I found this video to be helpful because she explains in simple terms the difference between a flat brush and round brush, the three parts of a paint brush (handle, bristle, and ferrule), the two parts of a bristle (flat and chisel) and how to hold your brush. I watched this video several times and paused it A LOT to learn how to paint straight lines with both the flat and chisel parts of the bristle, the Comma Stroke, the C-Stroke, the U-Stroke, and the S-Stroke.

I also learned some tips about how much paint to add to your brush, how to balance your hand with your pinky on the page, and how the art of brush strokes really comes from your shoulder, not your hand or wrist. I realized that I was definitely using my wrists more than my shoulder so that will hopefully help me have more control! I am discovering that using the internet for researching and learning about a topic allows you to broaden your scope of learning. I’m not sure that I would have ventured into learning more about the Filbert Brush had new material not been so accessible.

Here is some of my practice with the new strokes I learned:

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Check back later to see my first go at painting with these new techniques!


A Journey into Acrylic Painting- Post #1

I have always wanted to paint. I was inspired to try acrylic painting in college when I took a class called “Creativity.” I bought loads of canvases, acrylic paints, and an easel to inspire me to learn this art form. The inspiration definitely kicked in, but my desire to actually learn technique did not. As a result, I have several canvases covered with “abstract art” (I’m being generous when I use that term). In my early attempts, it is not uncommon to see outlines drawn with Sharpie, bristles from my cheap paintbrushes stuck in my work (to give it “texture”), and simple blocks of color.

volvo bristles

After spending/wasting time and money on supplies, I think it is finally time to learn the technique of painting with acrylics. My husband bought me an instructional book as a gift, but I found it difficult to learn from the narrative structure and photos.

For my network learning project, I will attempt to learn the technique of acrylic painting using multimodal tools. First, I would love to learn about the different paint brushes and their uses. I also need to learn proper brush technique and how to blend colors. Then I will learn how to plan for a painting and learn about size and form. I also need to gain knowledge about layering colors, adding texture, and fixing mistakes.

To get me started on my Network Learning Project I plan to join the Google+ Community Painting Art Acrylics. This resource has over 1,700 members and looks like a great place to see artists’ work and learn about their process. I also plan to watch and study some Youtube videos to help me see artists actually painting. I think viewing the process will be helpful as I learn technique. The videos “Four Brush Stroke Techniques“, “How to Paint with Acrylics : Brush Techniques for Acrylic Painting: Pt. 1“, and “Acrylic Brush Techniques” will help me learn the basics of how to use the brush strokes. The videos Blending and Scumbling – Acrylic Painting Lesson and How To Blend with Acrylics: Refined Blending: Acrylic Painting Technique will help me learn how to blend paint to create new shades of colors.

Hopefully these resources will get me started on my journey into acrylic painting! Check back here for updates on my progress!


Educational Philosophy: a work in progress

My philosophy of education can be likened to the well-known African Proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.” I believe that teaching is a team effort; every teacher is responsible for each student in the school, not simply their own class of students. I highly value and appreciate school wide accountability plans, common planning times, and Professional Learning Communities, all of which facilitate this type of unified teaching and encourage a healthy school community. The digital tools available to teachers today make this type of collaborative and reflective work possible. This holistic approach to teaching provides students with a stable and reliable understanding of school guidelines and expectations, and creates a comforting, welcoming, and safe place for students and teachers to excel in.

I believe that the best teaching is rooted in mutual respect, kindness, and fairness. I am an advocate for the practice of differentiation in the classroom to ensure these qualities of good teaching. The phrase, “fair does not mean the same” is a mantra in my classroom. I believe that every student deserves the opportunity to be challenged and to succeed through hard work and interesting learning. Differentiated teaching also helps to achieve the balance in the classroom that I strive for. Teachers need to allow students to discover their own knowledge with guidance and careful scaffolding; teachers are the “facilitators” of knowledge, not “providers” of knowledge. I agree with Jennifer Vadeboncoeur’s statement in her entry in the Encyclopedia of Education that “the teacher’s role is to develop methods for engaging the students in experiences that provide them with access to knowledge and practice in particular skills and dispositions.”

I also believe that in order to create a classroom rooted in respect, kindness, and fairness every student needs to be affirmed as a valuable member of the classroom and school community. I routinely use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior and highlight excellent models. I also practice a multi-cultural approach to education to affirm each student’s identity including racial, socio-economic, and gender identities. I welcome differences in my classroom, thus resulting in a richer learning environment.

I believe that all students are capable of achieving greatness academically, emotionally, morally, and socially when provided with specific support and unconditional kindness and respect from teachers and other members of the school community. I disagree with Carol Gilligan’s criticism on Kohlberg’s theory of moral development in her book In a Different Voice (1982). Gilligan asserts that males and females are inherently different in the way they develop morally. Gilligan writes, “The moral imperative that emerges repeatedly in interviews with women is an injunction to care, a responsibility to discern and alleviate the “real and recognizable trouble” of this world. For men, the moral imperative appears rather as an injunction to respect the rights of others and thus to protect from the interference the right to lie and self-fulfillment.” (Gilligan, 1982, p. 100). I believe that this gender generalization can lead us to a path that does not value the individual development of children, despite their sex or gender. In order to establish a safe community where children can develop into confident and well-educated individuals, teachers must abandon pre-conceived notions about sex, gender, race, and socio-economic status to develop a true understanding of the individual. Then, we can provide each student with the support they need to succeed.

In my classroom, all students and their voices are represented in the organization of the room, the work displayed, and the rules and expectations that guide our classroom and school. I use class expectations/charters that are student created, and I solicit student input and preference when rewards for excellent behavior are provided. This holds all students accountable and allows them to have control over their own actions. Allowing students to have an influence on the classroom’s management system is an extension of the type of collaborative, friendly, fair, and respectful environment that I believe is essential to great education. As educators, we all need to be on the same team, working towards the same goal – to facilitate learning and educate students as individuals.

As education continues through the 21st and 22nd Centuries, I believe that there will only be an increase in student centered and directed learning. I predict that within 25 years, school will look much different. Learning will be more individualized and student directed, and differentiation will become even more engrained in classroom teaching. I predict that whole-class instruction will decrease, resulting in personalized education plans for all students. My belief in the shared accountability for all students’ learning will help to facilitate this more independent and global education. Due in part to a continued development and accessibility of digital resources, students will have the ability to learn from educators and resources beyond the walls of the school building and will have a more global sense of education. I do, however, wonder how this will change the dynamic of a classroom community in which all members do not have the same learning experiences and exposure. This will present new challenges to teachers in creating welcoming communities where students feel safe to take risks and explore their own learning.


Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tuckman, B., & Monetti, D. (2013). Educational psychology with virtual psychology labs (Instructor’s ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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My name is Nicole Ryan and I am a third grade teacher in Connecticut. I am the oldest sister in a large family and began my path to teaching at a young age, “teaching” my siblings and pets. I have worked in schools for as long as I can remember, first in my aunt’s and father’s classrooms as a volunteer, then as an intern and para-professional, and finally for the past several years as a classroom teacher.

I attended the University of Connecticut in the Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s program and was blessed to find a job right away! I wholeheartedly love my students and my job. I am grateful every day to do this work.

When I am not teaching, or finding new teaching ideas on Pinterest, I enjoy spending quality time with my family, playing flute, singing, and I am dabbling in painting…more to come on this! I also love reading, going for long walks with my husband, and playing with my kitty, Flâneuse.

As I embark on this journey to earn my 6th Year Degree, I feel nervous and excited! I cannot wait to share what I learn with my colleagues, and most importantly, my students. I can’t wait to start this new journey!