Deanna Williamson, Pepper 2, 5 x 7, acrylic on canvas, 2016,
Deanna Williamson, Pepper 2, 5 x 7, acrylic on canvas, 2016

Sgraffito is an art technique that involves scratching through a layer of paint or other media to reveal a contrasting color beneath. Historical applications include painting, pottery, and glass, but the definition also applies to drawing media like scratch board, crayon and oil pastel etchings.

In this acrylic portrait of my conure I’ve used sgraffito to liven up the background. The process was simple: I put down a layer of paint, let it dry, then put on a thicker coat and used a pointed stick to scratch designs into it while it was still wet.



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.