Deanna Williamson, Shinar, 8" x 11", ballpoint pen and watercolor, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Shinar, 8″ x 11″, ballpoint pen and watercolor, 2016

This is another sketch-book prompt that can yield endless ideas. The process is similar to the add-on drawing except that you work from photos instead of taking subject matter from your surroundings. Just collect a bunch of interesting pictures out of old magazines and put them in a folder to take along with your sketch book. Here’s the process for creating a composite:

  1. Choose a photo from the folder and draw something from it anywhere on the sketchbook page. (Feel free to leave out details you don’t want.)
  2. Choose another photo and add that into your drawing.
  3. Keep adding things until you fill your space.
  4. Let some things touch or overlap.
  5. Finish with color, pattern or shading. Or leave it as it is.

The objects you compile into a drawing may or may not be related subject matter. In my composite above, I was using mostly landscape elements when I got the idea to turn the drawing into a Tower of Babel scene.  To do that, I needed to get rid of some Grand Canyon rock formations I’d drawn in the background. Since I was working in pen, I couldn’t erase them, so I used a craft knife to cut them out and wound up cutting out the whole sky as well.  (It was really hard cutting around all those tiny branches!) I replaced the sky by gluing the drawing onto a colorful watercolor wash. (It was very difficult to glue down all those tiny branches!) Then I colored the river to reflect the sky and create a unified effect. Finally, I added the kitty in the lower left corner as a nod to my cat loving friends.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Babel, here’s a good article about it.



D.Williamson, Super Hero Ethos, 27" x 17", latchhooked rug made of recyled t-shirts
D.Williamson, Super Hero Ethos, 27″ x 17″, latch-hooked rug made of recycled t-shirts

I designed this rug for my grandson whose room is decorated with super hero comic figures. It’s made of t-shirts cut into strips and latch-hooked onto regular rug canvas.  If you like recycling, this is a perfect way to use up some old shirts.


D.Williamson, Out & About, 11" x 8.5", ballpoint pen drawing, 2016
D.Williamson, Out & About, 11″ x 8.5″, ballpoint pen drawing, 2016

Drawing is like playing a musical instrument.  You can’t get good at it if you don’t practice.  However, it’s sometimes difficult to get a regular drawing habit started because of time constraints or even procrastination. So here is a sketch book prompt that can help with on-the-spot drawing practice: the add-on drawing.  Here are the steps:

  1. Wherever you are just pick out one small thing that interests you and draw it. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Use any medium you want.
  2. If you have time draw something else. It can be something located near the first object or something completely random.
  3. Keep adding things until you run out of time.
  4. The next time you have an opportunity, go back to that same page and add something else.
  5. Keep adding until you run out of space.
  6. Unify the work by extending lines so that objects touch or overlap. Add shading, pattern, texture and/or color. There’s plenty of room for creativity in the process.

My add-on drawing Out and About was started on an errand running day when I was the one doing most of the waiting in the car.  The first thing I drew was the logo in the center of my steering wheel. As the day wore on, I added more car parts, other people’s hubcaps, store signs, parts and cords from electrical and mechanical gadgets, profiles of the people around me, and so on.  Sometimes when I couldn’t see anything I wanted to draw I just worked on the shading.  Once I worked on it while waiting for a train to pass.  See the rail road crossing sign and part of a box car?

The time it takes to finish one of these varies depending on how big it is, how complex and how often you work on it. I once saw one that an artist had done over a long period of time on a paper that covered his taboret (small art table). It started out as doodling while he talked on the phone. One day he noticed that it looked pretty good and started seriously working on it. He turned coffee spills into animals and added in some extra designs to fill the space.  There were a few images I thought he should have inked over but … oh well, then he took a picture of it and published it in a book on creativity. I decided Out and About was finished after a couple of weeks. It still had problems I couldn’t fix, but that is a risk you take when working with a ball point pen.



Deanna Williamson, Symbolic Duck 1, 5" x 7", acrylic on burlap, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Symbolic Duck 1, 5″ x 7″, acrylic on burlap, 2016

The duck painting in the previous ART BYTE, was based on the work of early twentieth century abstract artist Paul Klee. He was such a great experimenter that I decided to do at least one more duck in his honor. This one explores one of his later techniques in which he blended colors together in blocks or free form shapes and then drew black lines on top. These lines were often symbolic in nature reflecting his fascination with mysticism and the subconscious mind.

Deanna Williamson, Symbolic Duck 2, 5" x 7", acrylic on burlap, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Symbolic Duck 2, 5″ x 7″, acrylic on burlap, 2016

Klee also liked to experiment with different materials.  In some of these particular paintings he used burlap as a ground.  He glued a layer of paper over his burlap but I just coated mine with gesso and painted directly onto it. Unfortunately, this left a lot of tiny little pin pricks of white in the spaces between the woven fibers.  I had to go back and paint these individually with a tiny little brush.  To solve this problem I tried beginning Symbolic Duck 2 with a brown wash, but even this left some of the white board underneath the burlap showing through.  Lesson learned: when painting on burlap be prepared to do some extra preparation.

Below are two of Paul Klee’s more colorful symbolic paintings.  Some of his later works are very dark reflecting his personal suffering.  He had lost his peers, August Mack and Franz Marc in WWI. By 1935 his health was failing due to a degenerative disease. The Nazis singled him out as a Jew, the Gestapo searched his house, got him fired from his teaching job at Düsseldorf Academy, and confiscated some of his later work.

Heroic Roses - Klee Paul

Paul Klee, Heroic Roses, 1938

Flora on rocks Sun - Klee Paul

Paul Klee, Flora on Rocks Sun, 1940

At his death in 1940 he had completed 9000 works of art.You can see about 200 of them You can also find a number of boards dedicated to his work, including some lesson plans for kids, on Pinterest.


Deanna Williamson, Polyphonic Duck, 5" x 7"acrylic and watercolor on paper, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Polyphonic Duck, 5″ x 7″acrylic and watercolor on paper, 2016

The second painting in my duck series was inspired by Paul Klee whose artistic experimentation had a great deal influence on early abstract art. He was also a gifted musician, and in the 1930’s he borrowed the musical term polyphonic to describe his compositions of layered forms and colors. Polyphonic Duck is modeled after this approach, which superimposed mosaic-like grids of squares or dots over a painting.

I was inspired to do this painting by a prompt in a book called Paint Lab by Deborah Forman. The picture space in the author’s example was broken up with curved lines similar to the ones in Polyphonic Duck. I did a similar thing but also included Walter the duck, which created a focal point and added an additional layer to the composition.

This was actually the painting that  inspired me to do a series of duck paintings in the styles of some different artists.

Many of Paul Klee’s works can be seen on sites like and Pinterest.  Ad Parnassum, one of my personal favorites, is considered by some to be his masterpiece.



Artists get inspiration from different sources , including the work of other artists. The subject of my next series of paintings will be a Pekin duck painted in the styles of some famous artists. Walter (pictured below) was adopted from a university lab, lived a cushy life in my back yard and will now be immortalized in paint.

Photo of Walter Duck
Photo of Walter Duck

My first portrayal of Walter Duck is in the style of Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein. He became famous in the 1960’s for his DC Comics inspired paintings.  His process was to crop the part of the comic he wanted, render it in Ben-Day Dots and add  speech and thought bubbles containing tongue-in-cheek humor.  His most iconic work is Drowning Girl which you can see at the Museum of Modern in New York (or you can just click on the title and take a look at it.)

Deanna Williamson, Lichtenstein Duck, 5"x 7", acrylic on canvas, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Lichtenstein Duck, 5″x 7″, acrylic on canvas, 2016

It was fairly easy to put Walter into a comic book design but impossible to paint the little round dots perfectly. Lichtenstein used stencils.  I traced my dots through the perforated surface of a rolling cart, and then painted them one by one.  Good thing for me this was only 5″ x 7″.


Deanna Williamson, Tall House, 7.2" x 10.8, ball point pen, 2015
Deanna Williamson, Tall House, 7.2″ x 10.8, ball point pen, 2015

The Tall House drawing is about a mood created by the height of the building, the strong contrast in value, and the exaggerated angles. Unfortunately the perspective is off,  which highlights one of the cardinal rules in drawing with ballpoint pen:  since you can’t erase, be sure you get the overall drawing blocked in correctly before you start making dark marks or shading.

Deanna Williamson, Wyatt in Gallup, NM, Sep. 2015, 8.5" x 1", ball-point pen
Deanna Williamson, Wyatt in Gallup, NM, Sep. 2015, 8.5″ x 11″, ball-point pen

Whereas Tall House was done from a photo,  this drawing of Wyatt was done on site. I prefer working from a live model but it can be difficult to get a finished drawing from someone who isn’t actually posing for you. It helps if they are doing some kind of quiet activity like reading from a computer screen. In this drawing, I was primarily interested in the shadows created by light from desk lamp.



Deanna Williamson, Mushrooms 1, 6" x 6", watercolor, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Mushrooms 1, 6″ x 6″, watercolor, 2016

Here are the last two mushroom paintings I did while on vacation with the kiddies. The big red cap in Mushrooms 1 was a challenge because of the little white dots on the top.  These had to be left unpainted. Some masking fluid would have come in handy here but I didn’t have any with me. (Confession: I’ve actually never tried masking fluid.)

Deanna Williamson, Mushrooms 2, 6" x 6", watercolor, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Mushrooms 2, 6″ x 6″, watercolor, 2016

Mushrooms 2 is the final in this series and, in my opinion, the best.

Like the first 4 mushroom paintings, these were done from copyright free photos I found on Pixabay.