Guarding His Girls

The rooster at the petting zoo was extremely protective of his two hens. He looked pretty good in his crisp white suit. And he knew it.

Art Thought of the Day from Patricia Harrington, in the October 2004 issue of Artist’s Sketchbook:
“A beginning painter can learn about tools and techniques from books and workshops, but if she would just start painting she’d eventually stumble over, back into or just learn most of what she needs to know.”

Me: I’m sure hoping that will start to stumble over what I need to know this year. I read everything I can get my hands on, but at some point you just have to sit down and give it a go. That’s my resolution for the year, so I might as well get started.

Things I’d do differently and things I learned:
More lost and found edges. He looks like a cutout
Think about creating a cast shadow to ground him
Paint on a tilted surface for better control of the wet in wet washes.


  1. Terri
    January 11, 2006

    Lovely painting Karen. He looks like a White Leghorn rooster, however their combs are usually taller than this – even the girls have large combs which often flop over as they are almost too tall. Thanks for the chook-fix. :o)

  2. Diahn
    January 11, 2006

    Karen – I love chicken paintings – don’t know why but I always have! This fella looks fantastic and fierce.
    I love the soft and loose background – perfect oranges for the shadows on the rooster. Makes him shimmer!

  3. Toni
    January 11, 2006

    Karen you are off to a great start. I love rooster paintings and I love the loose background. having part of the background shine on the body is good. Looking forward to seeing more. Can you post what type of paper you are working on?

  4. Lin
    January 11, 2006

    Oh is this winsome! Love the watercoloring!!! Could bedeck someone’s country kitchen along with the chicken!!

  5. Nita
    January 11, 2006

    I saw many chickens on my grandfather’s farm, and for me, yours is standing in the hot bright Kansas sun against a blurred swim of other birds. Wonderful work!

  6. Karen
    January 11, 2006

    I don’t think he was a Leghorn either. He had very fluffy feet which were quite difficult to capture, so I opted to not fuss with that and to concentrate on the bird structure. My guess is that he’s some sort of “fancy” chicken breed. I saw one like him at the fair a few years ago.

    Toni, it is a 140 lb. watercolor paper. I’m going to say Fabriano Artistico but it could be another brand. It was not Arches, I don’t believe. It’s definitely a medium-roughness (CP) 140 lb. paper of some manufacturer.

    The background is invented, of course, which I am trying to get used to doing instead of being literal about everything. He was actually standing in pile of sawdust in a parking lot, which was primarily asphalt. It was a mild day and there was plenty of sawdust so it didn’t seem to affect his little feet, thankfully.

    Susan, Nita, Lin and Diahn, thanks for your kind comments as well.

    One thing I had a problem with was controlling the wet in wet washes. I was working flat rather than at a 15 degree angle or so. I don’t mind the backruns, though, in this case. It sort of adds to the texture.

  7. Kira
    January 11, 2006

    I love this chicken, but especially the background. What a great effect you’ve created!

  8. Roberto Bobrow
    January 11, 2006

    Beautiful! I think the orange background enhance the light on the rooster´s left side (right on the picture) by contrast. You really nailed it!

  9. Karen
    January 11, 2006

    Kira and Roberto,
    Thanks for the remarks on the background … trying to overcome my usual tendencies to be simple in the background. By choosing a white bird I had to do something to make him pop … and what you see here is me trying to put into practice some of what I’ve been studying for the past few weeks, namely …

    thinking about shapes
    thinking about color and contrast, not just replicating the color as it is, and overcoming the need to be symmetrical
    thinking about reflected light
    thinking about complements (this is mostly vermillion and Payne’s gray

    I’m going to be doing more like these, I’m sure …

  10. Linda
    January 11, 2006

    Karen — this is marvelous!

  11. lindsay
    January 11, 2006

    I love the warm cool, push pull between the subject and the backround. The shading on the bird is really lovely!! I agree with you about the lost and found
    edges. I’m working on this too. The quote could not be more timely for me. I’m setting aside the books and just jumping in with paint.

  12. deb
    January 11, 2006

    This is lovely!

  13. Puhiava
    January 12, 2006

    Beautiful painting Karen- the bright orange on the right side really sets of the chickens feathers. Great glazing as well.

  14. Terri
    January 13, 2006

    Ah well, the fluffy feet say it all. Definitely not a leghorn. If he was tiny he could have been some sort of fancy bantam. Whatever he was hhis painting is just beautiful.

  15. Laurie
    January 14, 2006

    I love the lost/found edges too. This is wonderful, I love the background/colors too!

  16. Marie-Dom
    January 15, 2006

    I love hens and this one is gorgeous! Beautiful translucent colours.

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