Chicken Wrangler
Watercolor Painting Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial

When I was sketching azaleas in my backyard this spring, my son Owen came up to me with the proudest smile on his face and a chicken in his hands. Naturally, I had to take a photo.

Since something like this is a very brief moment, I always paint from photos of children, even if I can grab a quick sketch at the moment.

This shows you every step of painting a watercolor portrait. I've made the video a bit shorter than the actual painting, which took about an hour. As cute as he is, I don't want you to paint my son's portrait, I want you to paint someone you love!

This should give you some guidance in painting a child's portrait.

Chicken Wrangler Watercolor Painting tutorial

Painting Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Art Supplies

10" x 14"
Arches Cold Press

Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.14
Isabey Mop, no.6
Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.8


M. Graham watercolors

Cadmium Red
Pyrrol Red
Nickel Azo Yellow
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Violet
Quinacridone Rust

Painting Demonstration 1

Chicken Wrangler Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

I paint the background very quickly and loosely, with my squirrel mop brush. I don't want any detail at all to distract from the portrait subject. I pull the background into the shadows on the figure and the chicken so they are integrated.

Painting Demonstration 2

Chicken Wrangler Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

I'm using the same colors for the background as in the figure. There's the wonderful pyrrol red in the azaleas that's echoed in the skin and later in the chicken's comb.

There's really no separation in the shadow areas between the subject and background. However, I leave the highlight areas completely white paper.

Painting Demonstration 3

Chicken Wrangler Painting Tutorial 3

The azaleas' color is in the chicken's comb. A nice bright red.

I'm just modeling the shapes of the face in this stage. I round the cheeks, deepen the eye sockets and push back the hairline. The first detail is really the bright red of the ear.

Artist's Tips

Leave your paper white in the highlight areas. This gives you more options later!
Chicken Wrangler watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

Painting Demonstration 4

Chicken Wrangler Painting Tutorial 4

This is mostly about the chicken! It's a white chicken, so there are a lot of great reflections on the white feathers. I'm keeping the feathers pretty soft, so they don't distract too much from the portrait and the hand.

I start painting the hand using the same colors I used in the face. There's a bit more pink in the hand since I see a lot of the palm. I try to keep it fairly loose, but still leave some highlights.

Painting Demonstration 5

Chicken Wrangler Painting Tutorial 5

I begin the second wash on the face with an eye, since I want eyes to have more detail than the rest of the face. I don't start with the eye color, I begin with the shadows behind the eye, in the eye socket. Then, I gradually build up the detail around that.

Painting Demonstration 6

Chicken Wrangler Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

When I paint the pupil, I blur it a bit with the surrounding iris. Since I've painted the entire iris already, the colors are integrated well. Sometimes I leave paper white for the reflection, sometimes I go back and add it. It really doesn't matter for this.

Painting Demonstration 7

Chicken Wrangler Watercolor Painting Tutorial 7

I paint the second eye the same way, starting with the socket and then adding the details. After this, I make sure the details of eyelashes and iris are blurred in most places. Lots of lost and found edges!

Chicken Wrangler Watercolor Painting Tutorial

Chicken Wrangler Final Watercolor Painting!

I love how this one turned out and it's now hanging on my wall.

It means so much to take the time to paint someone you love. I hope this inspires you to paint a loved one's portrait soon.

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