Bottles Bananas and Beyond!

Self-Study Class Includes Lifetime Access, Online Community & More!

6 Lessons – $72.25 $85

Celebrate the magic of imagery with acrylics. Instructor Alison O’Donoghue shows you how to amass everyday images and draw out meaning from their arrangement on the canvas. You’ll build a rich world of images in white-on-black and bring in color washes, highlights and varnish to make your world come alive.

Now available as a self-study class.

TEACHER: Alison ODonoghue

Class Description

Bottles. Bugs. Bananas. Dogs.
Cats. Fruits. Teapots. Logs.
Books. Cows. Horses. Flowers.
Couches. Pennies. Clocks & Showers!

If you are a “more is more” kind of person, this is truly the class for you!

I’ll share my unique acrylic painting techniques for creating a stacked, interactive, and harmonious world within the bounds of a 14″x14″ canvas. I love painting on super smooth surfaces, so the class will begin early with a “bonus” lesson on how to smooth a canvas using leveling gel.

The first exercises are designed to help you find your “go-to” imagery and begin the process of creating patterns with simple shapes: people, animals and objects.

Next you will build layers of acrylic paint (a black layer, the white imagery, then color washes and light highlights), and finish with my method of varnishing my paintings for a beautiful finish.

In this class you will:

  • Make a canvas smooth
  • Create a visual vocabulary
  • Explore interlocking simple shapes to create pattern
  • Limit your main palette to black and white
  • Negative space awareness
  • Apply washes of transparent color
  • Create dimension with highlights

Class Itinerary

Bonus Lesson – Smoothing a Canvas

Have you ever wanted to paint on canvas but have it be completely smooth? I’ll demonstrate my method of leveling a surface. This step is optional… if you don’t want to use canvas, you can paint on a gessoed board (panel box) with two coats of gesso, sanding between coats.

Lesson 1 – Drawing Exercise

Here we are creating a simple visual vocabulary and loosening up. Don’t think about the rules of gravity, perspective, or actual size relationships (small house, large shoe). No need to think of content or meaning, just allow the images to free associate and become neighbors in the drawing.

Lesson 2 – Prepare the Canvas; Draw it Out

Paint canvas or panel box with black acrylic. Then you’ll draw your all-over pattern. Keeping shapes simple, think of the spaces between, the negative space, as shapes also. Explore size relationships and lack of gravity.

Lesson 3 – Paint the Pattern in White

Follow your drawing lines, painting not the lines but the shapes themselves, keeping the shapes simple. Allow for changes and new imagery. Explore creating and repeating shapes to allow your collection of images to become a bold and almost abstract pattern.

Lesson 4 – Apply the Washes

Apply three transparent color washes to add subtle color.

Lesson 5 – Highlights

Paint into the imagery, creating a sense of light, dimension and pattern. Think about dappled light, even in its randomness it creates a sense of light.

Lesson 6 – Finishing Touches & Varnish

Adding final details and varnishing the painting using oil-based varnish.







  • Drawing paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Canvas, about 14″ x 14” (you can also work on a wood panel)
  • Black gesso (or white, if black is not available)
  • Foam brush (or soft brush)
  • Black acrylic paint (Mars if possible)
  • White acrylic paint (Titanium if possible)
  • White watercolor pencil
  • Watercolor brush
  • 3 colors transparent liquid acrylic paint: Earth tones are great as they add warmth. Examples of transparent liquid color choices:
    • Yellow iron oxide
    • Jenkins green
    • Sap green
    • Quinacridone red, red light, burnt orange, or gold.
    • Transparent red iron oxide
    • Transparent brown iron oxide
    • Permanent maroon
    • Naphthol red medium
  • Bigger soft brush
  • Soft rags for dabbing
  • Golden MSA varnish (you can use gloss polymer varnish is an alternative option)
  • Golden brand MSA varnish solvent (or paint thinner is fine if unavailable)
  • Soft Gel Gloss Medium for isolation coat if MSA varnish is used
  • Wide flat bristle brush, or soft flat brush if polymer varnish is used
  • Paint thinner
  • Optional supplies:
    • Golden Brand self leveling gel
    • Wide flat bristle brush
    • Hairdryer

    Alison O’Donoghue

    The artwork of Alison O’Donoghue can be described as contemporary folk art.

    Partly naïve, sometimes illustrative, at times cartoony, with some of her pieces being heavily patterned. Her paintings are mostly playful with creatures and people that are quite often glowing with life… awash in dimensional color and shade in a mostly two dimensional world. In many of her paintings, she combines everyday objects such as; cups of coffee, fruit, plants, humans, birds and odd, made up animals, into a fluid motion of interaction of intertwined shapes. The playful next to the sinister, give the paintings a sense of humor and the complexity of an unfolding story.

    In her larger work, Alison seems to have no intention of leaving a space unfilled or unpopulated as the figures become more of an overall pattern. It gives the viewer the feeling of looking at vines overtaking the world inside the painting in a kind of beautiful invasive force of nature.

    Alison O’Donoghue’s contemporary folk art and patterned worlds invite us to explore visually the simple beauty, complexity, interactions and sometimes the humorously sinister aspects of everyday life.

    Alison lives in Portland, Oregon. See more of her work at

    Nuts & Bolts

    • This class is now available as a self-study class.
    • Immediately upon class signup, you will receive access to the class videos and corresponding materials.
    • A private Facebook group will be available for you to (optionally) share your artwork and enjoy and learn from the artwork of others. You may also email your teacher directly with questions or feedback.
    • You will have indefinite access to this class.
    “Thank you Alison for such a wonderful class where you shared so many secrets!” — Christine T.
    “A joy to be a part of this.” — Claire C.
    “I didn't know what to expect when I signed up, but the video quality, your demeanor, instruction, and encouragement--truly top notch” — Lola V.