The lesson is this: ALWAYS invest in quality materials! Student-grade art supplies are not worth the money, and you will be much happier with the results you get if you spend a bit more and get artist/professional grade supplies.
I've been working in watercolor almost exclusively for many years, and certainly do spend the money on good quality materials -- usually Winsor-Newton paints and Fabriano or Arches 140lb cold-press paper, and good brushes. Very much worth it. But today I wanted to try a picture using acrylics, and the only ones I had on had were either student grade or worse, craft paint. Goodness, it was a struggle to use them! The craft paint was too thin, and the other paints were old and often too thick or gummy. I didn't have good brushes, either. I persevered, and am happy with the results thus far, though am dreading trying to finish the piece with such horrible paints.
I'm sure it took me about three times as long to get as far as I did as it would have if I'd used new, artist-grade paints. I don't use acrylics often enough to justify the expense -- at least, that's always been my excuse for not making the investment. I'm pondering whether I want to pursue more acrylic work. We shall wait and see!
Common Merganser, early stages:
I took this photo at Cannon Beach in Ecola Creek last summer. The bird was fairly far off, and I lost some detail with the long zoom. The light was fairly good though parts of the bird, especially the head, are a bit too dark/shadowed. So I tried to lighten that up a bit. I hope to take a stab at the body tomorrow -- I do have some slightly better quality acrylics in the grays/blue-grays there, so maybe it won't be as frustrating.
Here's a close-up: