The Making of "Air Ducks"

Above, you will find the time-lapse video that shows you how I painted Air Ducks in about 2 2/1 minutes. But read on to find out more about the process itself. . . 

An air duct, according to, is “a duct or pipe for conveying air, as to the rooms of a house.” The word “duck” has replaced “duct” in this humorous interpretation of the term. 

I knew that I wanted to suspend a yellow rubber duck from a hot air balloon, so my wife and I went to the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Lakeland, Florida to photograph the inflated balloons before they were released. Unfortunately, it was too windy to launch the balloons, so that was a bust. Instead, I found royalty-free hot air balloon images online. 

The harness for the yellow rubber duck was constructed using wire, kite string, and rubber bands. I thought that a tealight would be a great source of fuel for the balloon, so I drilled four small holes into the base of the metal bowl that contains the candle, pushed kite string through the holes, and tied knots under the tealight to hold it in place.

The rubber duck I wanted to use looked like it needed accessories. I added an aviator’s cap and goggles to make it look like Snoopy when he is dressed as a fighter pilot in the Peanuts cartoons. I thought it would be a good idea to include more aviator ducks facing in the same direction, as though they are a squadron on a mission.

I knew that I wanted the ducks high in the sky, but I was not wedded to a particular time of day or set of colors. As I was looking through my reference photos of skies, I came across a photograph that my wife took of a beautiful sky when we were on a Caribbean cruise. The warm colors worked well with the subjects and the clouds almost seemed to be painted in the image. This sky was the perfect choice because it looks like a sunset, which makes it seem like the ducks are migrating south for the winter.

Painting the sky took more layers that I had anticipated. The translucence of the subject and soft edges took many layers to develop. It was similar to painting skin, but with a brighter, more extensive color range.

When the painting was finished, our son pointed out that ducks should not need balloons to fly. That, of course, is what makes the painting so silly.

Air Ducks, acrylic on aluminum panel painting by Kevin Grass, 20" x 16," 2020.