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!