The initial step

Barks' wife Garé told a story of when he first wanted to start painting the ducks: He got out a Ping-Pong ball, attached a string to it, and studied it under different lighting conditions to figure out how shadows looked on a sphere. It was from studying that Ping-Pong ball that he finally learned how to shade the heads of the ducks. That's the way he approached everything.


The ducks' overall looks

I figured: 'I'm going to do away with the outline on the ducks. They won't look like colored cartoons; I'm going to see if I can't make them look like real, round ducks. I wouldn't draw outlines if I was painting a bunch of sailors - I would draw them with colors. And I did that with the ducks.
I was experimenting with ways to take those white ducks and make them look round. I gave them a shadowed side and a lighted side, and still I had the same problem: They are little devils to paint. It was hard to put personality into their shape, which was basically that of a round ball.


New wine


Things fell into place for me easier than for others, because I often had a whole panorama in my mind of what the story would be before I even put anything on paper. I believe that as time goes by people will realize those paintings I've done are all based on stories. If I don't paint something I can take a little pride in, I don't want to paint it in the first place. I like to outdo my own expectations and outdo whatever the guy expected when he ordered the painting.



Planning the composition

Behind every situation is a good idea. In general, I use key situations from my old comic stories. I start by producing many, many sketches in different perspectives. Usually I have to make four or five layouts before I have one that I like. I then transfer the ducks to transparent paper and push them around on the layout until they are at the right spot. In that manner the layout develops piece by piece.



Although Barks did not have a say when it came to the colouring of his comics, he was always very fond of bright and strong colours. He actually felt that the special colouring in the Disney cartoons greatly contributed to their success, and he tried very hard to incorporate the same type of colouring in his paintings. But, according to himself, he was never entirely satisfied with his results.




Of all my paintings (Barks is talking of the paintings that were made for lithographs between 1981 and 1997 - Editor's remark) I got the most satisfaction out of An Embarrassment of Riches (#125 from 1983 - Editor's remark). The pleasure came mostly in the refinement of the color. I certainly didn't paint the coins any better than I had in other paintings, nor did I paint the ducks any better. The composition was touch and go; I felt that the first version I did was better than the final one (see also THIS page, bottom part - Editor's remark).
I had to make the composition as I finally produced it in order to fit so many different elements into the picture. It was like a painting that was set up and approved by a committee.
I like details in my paintings. I use the smallest brush to emphasize the smallest details. That's why I don't use canvas as much as masonite which has a very smooth surface.


Making coins look like coins

Money doesn't just stack up like grains of wheat. They have these flat surfaces. It's like having a whole pile of cookies, and they kind of slide around on top of each other.



Painting becomes quite tiresome. But it is something that I know I can do if I just have the time. I can just sit and paint those coins by the thousands, year after year.



I prefer to paint in oil. Acrylics dry too fast. - With oil you can go back after three to four hours. - With acrylics you get color variations. - I use small brushes for coins, bills, and buttons. - Oil makes the coins look lush.



Working time

It takes me between 10 days and three weeks to complete a painting, depending on size, of course. I can't paint very fast. There are too many details to be carried out. Just think of the Money bin with all those coins - a lot of work.
It took a total of 5 months for Barks to produce his largest painting Rich Finds at Inventory Time. It immediately sold for 200,000 dollars.



Practical difficulties

In his last years Barks made some Gearloosean inventions aimed to help him in his paintwork; he had his easel fastened to the floor and roof so that it became both easily adjustable and able to swivel and he made a special stick with a soft end (technically referred to as a mahl stick). The end could rest upon the canvas while he was holding it with one hand and then he could rest his working hand with the brush against the stick in order to steady it.
It is becoming hard for me to paint because my hand is shaky




PAINTINGS   Date 2006-03-06