Paul Klee and McKee

In the same day, I came across some lessons on art from the famous Paul Klee – at the same time and place as a glorious coloured painting from Paul McKee, “Headland”:



Paul McKee is an art teacher as well as freelance artist – and his blog pointed out some free lessons on becoming an artist by Paul Klee, posted by Sarah Gottesman as an editorial on Artsy (


Lesson #1: Take a Line for a Walk

Many of Klee’s lessons center around this type of categorization, demonstrating the multiple ways in which a point can become a line, a line can become a plane, and so on. 


Lesson #2: Observe a Fishtank

  • Paul Klee

    Sans Titre (Deux poissons, un hameçon, un ver), 1901

    “Paul Klee: L’ironie à l’oeuvre” at Centre Pompidou, Paris

  • Paul Klee

    Schlamm-Assel-Fisch (Mud-Woodlouse-Fish), 1940

    Fondation Beyel

    Klee was deeply concerned with creating movement in his compositions. And he asserted that all artworks—even the most abstract—should be inspired by nature. “Follow the ways of natural creation, the becoming, the functioning of forms,” he taught his students. “Then perhaps starting from nature you will achieve formations of your own, and one day you may even become like nature yourself and start creating.”

    Lesson #3: Draw the Circulatory System

    Klee studied nature obsessively, and took a particular interest in the branching forms of plants, organ systems, and waterways. In his lectures, he described these patterns with scientific specificity, mapping mathematical equations and arrow-filled diagrams on the board. He explored how seeds sprout, how leaves develop ribs, and how lakes break off into streams, almost always ending with an awe-inspiring assertion about the magic contained in nature’s growth and development.

    In one of these lessons, Klee explored the circulatory system, sketching on the chalkboard the movement of blood through the body. He claimed that this bodily process reflected the manner in which art is created. Afterwards, Klee asked his students to draw the circulatory system themselves. Their renderings, he insisted, should portray the transition of blood from stage to stage, shifting from red to blue, using line and density to represent shifts in weight, nutrients, and force.

Lesson #4: Weigh the Colours

  • Left: Paul Klee’s colour chart, from his notes. Image via Zentrum Paul Klee; Right: Goethe’s color wheel, published in Theory of Colours. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Only after students grasped the intricacies of lines and planes—and could find these forms in nature—did Klee introduce colour. His theories primarily drew upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s color wheel, put forth a century earlier, in 1809, which proposed the idea that red opposed green, orange opposed blue, and yellow opposed violet.

Klee added a new dimension to this diagram, turning it into a sphere, with white at the top and black at the base. This framework, he taught, should encompass all aspects of color, including hue, saturation, and value. Klee required his students to create colour diagrams of their own, including one assignment in which they visually weighed one colour against another—the color red, as it turns out, is heavier than the color blue.

While grounded in science, Klee was also a romantic when it came to colour. He often made connections between colour and music, explaining that combinations of colours (much like musical notes) can be harmonious or dissonant depending on the pairing. He would sometimes even play the violin for his students.

Lesson #5: Study the Greats


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