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″.