I will paint a white chicken if it kills me!

My first ever white hen
My first ever white hen

I have been prevented from painting many animals that are white – why? Because I can’t do it!
I find it very hard to paint white fur and feathers convincingly. Painting white on white watercolour paper is of course very tricky.

To quote a famous artist “With the tools of darkness he labours after light”.
But some artists manage it beautifully – so there must be a way.
I have been looking at such artists a lot lately as I am desperate to be able to paint fluffy white hens, swans, white horses and more.
So here is a head of a white chicken done today as a follow on from my post about painting fowl – here – https://eastwitching.com/2013/02/12/feeling-fowl-paint-a-chicken/

C1 copy
I limited myself to the head to see how I could do.

I used Arches hot pressed 90lbs paper, Cadmium Scarlet, Alizarin Crimson, Sap Green, Cobalt Blue, Winsor Violet a bit of Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna for beak and eyes and for the black of the eye and nostrils I used a mix of French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber.
Brushes are size 3 and 6 rounds.
I am happy with the end result and see that I just have to leave some white space bordered by other colours. In this case the blue reflecting light of the sky and the green underside suggesting grass reflection. I am very excited about painting her whole body…watch this space.

Anyone with painting white animal tips feel free to comment!

My first ever white hen
My first ever white hen
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12 thoughts on “I will paint a white chicken if it kills me!

  1. I am trying to paint a white chicken. I just started painting and know very little about art. I would like to hear about the art work you do.

  2. The chicken looks great! I know the challenge you are facing. I was painting a white flower this week. Same thing. Using colour to define something without colour. 🙂

  3. It looks very good so far! White is also a challenge in photography because you have to play with the light and shadows, as well as a contrasting background to make the subject stand out. There are also so many shades of “white” that I guess you have to find the right ones for your chicken. Good luck!

    1. Many thanks Milka! I know only a bit of her neck and head are white but it has given me confidence to go for it! I bet photographing white is tricky – competing with all the other colours but you see to have it sorted:)

  4. He’s beautiful, Alison! You could sell him as-is. But, I know for your own accord, you’d like to master his whole body – that’s a sign of a talented artist who loves what she does. I’m not a painter but I have watched a LOT of painting shows (truly too many). One watercolorist who aired on a local (US) PBS station (government and viewer-donation funded) painted several “white” subjects. I remember him painting a pair of zebras and the white stripes were actually a diluted purple blend. But if you google search “Terry Madden White Herons” you’ll see white watercolor birds he’s painted. Of course he uses negative painting techniques to form the outline and shadows of the birds. I also remember him using a lot of masking to keep his highlighted areas the brightest hue. You probably have all of this in your arsenal already, but I thought I’d put my cheap 2-cents in.

    I’m a true fan of this majestic fowl. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Amber – thanks very much ! I looked at Terry Madden and yes – I can see he uses a background but it was useful to see his versions. Obviously I am just going to have to use a colour of some kind to define the animal and as you say – its hitting the right one! Up the lane from where I live is a group of stables where there are chickens so I have more photos as of yesterday and can’t wait to try the whole thing!

    1. Thanks honey. Well I love doing eyes and really take my time over them. Used a warm toffee for the iris then a black speck for the pupil and a teeny speckette of opaque white for the spirit of life in her eye. I made sure I studies the skin around the eye too to give it depth…….Glad you like it. I too like the purple scratches….

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