How to paint with a jittery duck


When I left him, my son was gleefully painting with a duck. The duck had, in the early stages, seemed a bit jittery, but once it had its feathers smoothed, the results were quite amusing.

Now, lest we invite less-than- civil comment from the Animal Rights lobby, I should perhaps explain. No ducks were harmed in the making of this painting. Not even made vaguely uncomfortable, in spite of the fact that he was using a live mallard as a paintbrush and it was, at one point, rather jittery. .

On second thoughts, that probably doesn’t help much.

You see, the thing is, my son is tired and it is very cold outside. Even more so when you are confined to an electric wheelchair in which you sit completely still and let the motor get warm while you freeze. So he’s hibernating for a bit and casting around for something to do, he came up with the idea of painting with a duck. As you do.

Well, my sons would… I have written before of the talent for random acts of lunacy shared by both my sons.

The fact that the duck was my idea is neither here nor there.

All he wanted was an unusual paintbrush.

The duck seemed a perfect choice.

It is an easier concept than it sounds. First select and capture your duck. The mallard has superb markings, so it works well. Then cut it down a bit, turn it into a paintbrush and start painting.

Before you rush out in search of mallards, though, I should probably mention that you need to have a decent camera and good painting software, otherwise the animal rights people will definitely be at your door.

It was, Nick explained, a matter of curiosity. He is learning to paint with a digital painting programme as his coordination will not allow him to do so with a brush. He even let  me have a go, though that was before he had started teaching himself how to really use the software.

digital painting of hills

My attempt – not with a duck

Knowing he has a lot to learn, he began going through all the training material step by step. Having learned that he could create his own digital brushes to suit his needs, he decided to see just how far that could go by choosing one element of a photograph, converting it to an accessible image and using that image as a brush stroke.

We settled on the duck. He duly fiddled with a number of arcane settings and magically transformed the mallard into a paintbrush that left duck-shaped strokes on the virtual page. The jitter setting altered the outline, making it un-duck shaped, so he smoothed it down again and went with a straight mallard, creating a background with the programme and writing his name in ducks. Because he could.

kaleidoscope picture

One of Nick’s first attempts – also duckless

There was much laughter and the inevitable “ I feel a blog post coming on” crept into the conversation.

“Yes,” said my son. “There’s a serious point to make.” He explained. Technology, he said, was blamed for a great deal these days. Especially video games and social media. Yet he and many others face challenges… physical, mental and emotional… that mean leaving the house to go out into the world is difficult or even impossible. Technology is a lifeline. Not only for the obvious things like staying in contact or building online friendships and dealing with daily tasks, but also for helping improve reduced dexterity, hand-eye coordination and, most importantly perhaps, fostering and enabling creativity.

For those unable to read or write through visual impairment, technology has opened access to a world of books that they can read or, indeed, write. For those physically unable to manipulate pen or brush, art has become possible. The benefits of engaging in a creative pursuit…and reading counts amongst them as you create images in the mind as you read… are enormous in terms of mental and emotional wellbeing. But there are other benefits too, including encouraging the plasticity of the brain itself…its ability to form new neural connections. While this is of value to everyone, as plasticity diminishes with age…though it doesn’t have to be that way and the process of learning or engaging in a creative activity increases plasticity at any age… it is of particular importance to people, such as my son, whose challenges stem from brain injuries of any kind.

Nick's watercolour, painted with his semi-paralysed right hand

Nick’s watercolour, painted with his semi-paralysed right hand

When Nick had been discharged from hospital and come home we got the paints out and he painted a picture with his recently-paralysed hand. It took all day, was so frustrating that it had him near tears, but the sense of achievement at the end was worth it. He has since learned to use his left hand for many things, but the control of brush or pen is still what he refers to as ‘a mission’.

Technology enables… though it is, for many, an expensive or unaffordable luxury … or they are simply unaware of the possibilities it now offers. It is an age-old problem…you do not ask if you don’t know there is anything to ask about. Many simply don’t know what is available.

Try asking your search engine for the impossible…and sometimes there is a solution, such as sophisticated painting programmes. There may even charitable grants to help access technology.

And then, when you have your sophisticated painting programme, you can create wonderful things…or even write your name in ducks.


About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in Art, Nick Verron, painting, Surviving brain injury and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to How to paint with a jittery duck

  1. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Read and marvel at the human spirit and its ingenuity 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bernadette says:

    Sue, creativity is so important to the brain. I am so happy that Nick has found ways to express his creativity. My son, Andrew, who has a massive brain injury, is visited by an art therapist. He always seems so much more relaxed and happy after a session with her.


  3. Ritu says:

    An inspiration as always… your Nick 😙


  4. Bernadette says:

    Reblogged this on Haddon Musings and commented:
    A look at technology and creativity and how it adds value to our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As you know, the ability to create digitally has been a godsend. I’m loving Nick’s efforts. Hurrah!


  6. Pingback: How to paint with a jittery duck | Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo | First Night Design

  7. willowdot21 says:

    This is just wonderful, keep at Nick but if your move on use Ani before you use the cat or there will be jealous tears at bedtime!😣💖💗🙃

    Liked by 1 person

  8. quiall says:

    An Artist’s heart will never be stilled. The paintings are wonderful! I too have adapted from an electric wheelchair. I makes for some interesting paintings.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      There is a whole new perspective from the different viewpoint isnt there? I noticed it first in Nick’s photography, that he hakes mainly from the ‘child’s eye view’ imposed by being seated.


  9. Mary Smith says:

    Great post, Sue. You are so right about not knowing what to ask for when you don’t know what’s there. It’s so good Nick has found a way to enable him to be creative.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      That is such a big problem, especially where healthcare and funding is concerned. The number of times we have found out way too late that there was help or options we would have been grateful for…
      hese days, Google is my best friend where such things are concerned.


  10. olganm says:

    So inspiring. I remember going to watch an exhibition of David Hockney’s painting, many with his i-Pad and being mesmerised. I remember this woman next to me, also having a similar moment who asked me ‘how does he do that?’. How indeed. Yes, it is not technology that’s at fault, it’s the use we make of it. And it can do some wonderful things indeed. Thanks so much and best wishes and inspiration to Nic.


  11. He is gifted, in so many ways !


  12. Lyn Horner says:

    Reblogged this on Lyn Horner's Corner and commented:
    The benefits of technology for creativity by disabled individuals.


  13. Lyn Horner says:

    Good for Nick and you, Sue, for showing how technology can open up the world for disabled individuals like Nick — and me. My life is limited by a neuro-muscular disorder, not to the same extent as Nick, but enough to make many physical activities impossible. Yet, thanks to my beloved, (sometimes cranky) laptop, I can reach out and connect with fascinating people around the world. It also allows me to create fictional adventures for the characters in my books, allowing me to ride across the Old West with them in my western romances or roam the modern world in my contemporary novels. A miracle that keeps me sane!


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Technology has proved a marvellous gateway for so many people, both out into the world and into the realms of imagination. It is always a double-edged sword and can be abused, but on the whole, I am so glad to be aound when so many exciting things have come into our lives.


  14. noelleg44 says:

    Smiled all the way through this! Nick is like his mother – endlessly creative – and I’m so glad he’s found an outlet for all that talent, especially using ducks. The results are gorgeous! When is he off on another adventure?


  15. Helen Jones says:

    I just love this! The duck made me smile, the watercolour made me sigh and the reminder that technology is so much more than our smartphones made me pause. Thanks for the reminder, Sue 🙂


  16. Eliza Waters says:

    So many possibilities with the tech revolution. I’m glad Nick is taking advantage of them. 🙂 I love his watercolor painting, too.


  17. What beautiful artwork from both of you. Amazing. Technology that helps us create is at the top of my list. Peace, beauty, health, art – there is an important place in our lives for gadgets 🙂


  18. Fascinating. Amazing how much freedom technology has given to so many people who would otherwise have little of none. i know that for me, technology has given me the world. Otherwise, I would be a shut, isolated. I am going to see if I can replicate this. Just to see if I can 😉


  19. To say I am bowled over would be an understatement. This is gorgeous work and since it is fulfilling too, a big wow. Good for your son. ❤ ❤ ❤


  20. we certainly do have a lot to be grateful to modern technology for. I am sure will enjoy expressing his creativity in all manner of new ways 🙂


  21. Widdershins says:

    Nick ducks!!! … had to pay attention typing that! 😀


  22. Every time I read one of Nick’s milestones it gives me such determination. I, by no means, have the struggles that Nick does, but I am partially handicapped and know what losing mobility is all about. I adore these posts, for they give me light, on what could be, a dark day. Thank you both for sharing ❤


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