The Making of "Milkduck"


The above link how Milkduck was painted via a 2 1/2-minute time-lapse video.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, a milk duct is “a duct leading from the mammary gland to the tip of a nipple, which carries milk to the nipple in breastfeeding women.” The idea for the painting Milk Duck obviously came from replacing the word “duct” with its very similar sounding cousin “duck.” The resulting pun is extremely lame and worthy of inclusion in the Lame Ducks series.

The initial idea was to place a rubber duck with a baby bottle nipple on its head into a bowl of milk. Why the baby bottle nipple “hat?” Because it’s hilarious!

A rubber duck with a baby bottle nipple on its head.

I chose the speckled mug because I like the organic pattern. The neutral blue-gray color enhances the intensity of the colors in the duck. The only baby bottle nipples that I could find in local stores were clear. When I put one on the head of the duck it looked like a condom, so that did not work. Instead, I ordered traditional orange baby bottle nipples from an online vendor.

As I waited for the new baby bottle nipples to arrive, I experimented with various backgrounds and found wallpaper patterns with cows, which tied in beautifully with the theme, so I printed out one of the patterns and placed it behind the bowl. The colors in the pattern went well with the bowl and did a nice job of intensifying the colors in the duck and the orange baby bottle nipple.

I still needed something to balance the design on the right. I tried another duck, but that did not look right. I decided to try chocolate chip cookies because milk and cookies go so well together. They fit perfectly and added much-needed variety in color and texture to the image.

The painting began with a line drawing completed in yellow ochre and burnt sienna to block in the subjects and deal with proportions and perspective.

The sketch of "Milkduck" and the still life from which it is painted.

The full color range was introduced first into the duck’s head. Then I developed the right side of the background and worked my way to the left. The block-in was careful so that adjustments would be minimal in the later stages of painting.

Even though I pre-mixed two different colors of blue for the background – one a little darker than the other – it took several separate layers to get the gradations to work, especially in the bottom portions of the wallpaper design.

The flat patterns were difficult to paint because I decided to soften their edges so that they looked further away than the duck and so they looked like they are firmly attached to the wall. With acrylic paint, this took several layers and a lot of determination, a.k.a. stubbornness.

Painting the cup went surprisingly well, despite its complexity. It involved developing the light speckled pattern simultaneously with the blue areas between the spots. That allowed me to be able to soften some of the edges of the spots to create depth in the cup.

Colors in the rubber duck and baby bottle nipple were created using a combination of direct wet-into-wet painting techniques, scumbling, and glazing. Both subjects took many layers because the color mixtures were extremely transparent.

Early stage of the rough-in of "Milkduck."The chocolate chip cookies were relatively easy to paint in comparison to some of the larger areas. Gradations and edges are easier to develop in small, complex areas when using acrylic paint, while larger areas are more difficult due to the short drying time. The neutral colors in the cookies were more opaque than the colors in the rubber duck and the baby bottle nipple, which certainly made a big difference.

close up of the painted chocolate chip cookies

The last part that I addressed was the milk. I didn’t add it until the end so that I could finish painting it in one sitting. There’s nothing quite like the smell of soured milk.

The result is a humorous, cute image with soft colors that will work well in a nursery. Plus, it’s really funny. And lame.

finished, framed "Milkduck" painting by Kevin Grass