A trio of chicken portraits

Chicken portrait trio • 8" x 10" each

Chicken portrait trio • 8″ x 10″ each

I enjoy painting portraits of pets, and my latest commission was especially fun: pet chickens! I had a good baseline about how chickens look and act from having an occasional pet chicken (or chickens) while growing up.

Even though I may only end up working with one reference image, it helps to see a few different ones to get a sense of their personalities. That also give me more options to find which ones will look best as portraits. Additional references always help too. I ended up shifted them around a little bit – adjusting their heads and necks – to get a consistent size and approach for all three. I mocked up a few different approaches for colors and name labels, and what you see here is the winner.

I use my traditional color layering technique here: starting with the warms tones and then layering in the real colors. Since each chicken had distinctly different colors, I put each on a vignette-style background tinted with a color similar to them. The highlights are often the most satisfying parts to paint, and I enjoyed the eyes and combs especially.

Side note: working with oval canvases is surprisingly tricky for alignment. Canvas has its own tooth and angles, and I got led astray by it a few times while sketching these out. It’s oddly challenging to set an oval upright, especially when there’s a pattern pulling in another direction. They look lovely, though – worth it!

Initial pencil sketches

Initial pencil sketches

Yellow ochre

Yellow ochre

Burnt sienna

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

Layers of color

Layers of color

Ginny

Ginny

Hermione

Hermione

Luna

Luna

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