Painting the hen

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She is almost finished and by the time this blog is published she will be done. So, here’s how I did it.

To begin with, the hen was created by someone else to a design produced in collaboration with the Haslemere charity organisers. They are made of fibreglass and arrive all boxed up and covered with what appears to be a coat of white paint.

Not taking any chances, the first thing I did was to cover her with several layers of gesso (which is basically acrylic paint, glue, and chalk) which you can buy ready made from art suppliers, though you can make it yourself. This gives a kind of undercoat which protects the form and provides something for the acrylic paint to stick to. It really is worth doing this on your canvases and wooden panels too, to help safeguard the paint. Canvases normally come with gesso on them, but you still need to add a layer or two yourself for good measure. If your art is worth making, you want it to last and you want people to buy it, you really should get the beginning bit right.

When I agreed to take on this project, I was asked if I could find a sponsor as one hadn’t been found for my piece. I did try but sadly had no luck. The only person I could find wanted to buy the piece and not go to auction with it and the price would likely be out of reach, although we will have to wait and see what happens on auction day.

Anyway, I decided that it would be fun to think of my hen in terms of a ‘chick flick’! The most memorable chick flick to my mind is ‘Legally Blonde’. The main character, played by Reese Witherspoon, dresses pretty much head to toe in pink and from memory (it has been a few years since I saw the film), she also wears lots of bling.

I started with the comb (that’s the crown bit on her head) and spray painted it gold. I did the same to the wattles (the hanging bits under her throat) but, to ensure they looked really gold, painted her feet yellow first then used the spray paint again, but applied with a paint brush, on top.

Initially, I painted the top part of the hen light pink and her body a darker pink. It was a bit too much, so I painted her wings blue. I really didn’t like either so had some fun dry brushing pinks and purples over the wings and added a few strokes of gold in them just to lift it a little and link the gold from head to toe.

I then painted her legs, first in the same light pink as the top but again I felt it wasn’t working, so opted for a light purple instead. From the knees down I went bold and painted them bright red. I had this idea about giving her striped socks, but the red was too much so I simply dry brushed light pink over them which I am happy with.

The plinth I initially painted pink on top, but I had this idea to make it look a bit like the Hollywood Walk of Fame where names of famous actors, musicians etc. are set in stars on the pavement/sidewalk. I thought the stars were gold but, my editor tells me, they are pink granite with gold letters and borders. Anyway, I painted the plinth dark grey/black and then sprinkled gold dust over it. I wasn’t entirely happy with that so put a layer of iridescent gel over the top and was satisfied with the overall effect.

Drying time between each coat is essential and before applying the decorative bit I needed to apply a few isolation coats. These protect the paint and hold it in place so if the varnish needs to be removed and reapplied this can be done without damaging the paint. This is essential practice when making art for sale; you need to be sending out your work in the best possible condition so that you don’t have clients coming back years later because of problems with the paint or worse spreading bad feeling about your work to other potential clients.

When applying an isolation coat, it is advised that you ensure the paint has had a minimum of 24 hours to dry first. This is sound advice. Recently, I asked Mr. S to add an isolation coat to a painting which had only had 12 hours to dry. He didn’t know what to expect and happily went about adding the mixture without realising that some of the paint was moving around the canvas, producing an effect I really didn’t want.

Thankfully, I can paint over the top of the isolation coat, make the changes and then, when it is properly dry, put multiple layers on top. It is also advised that you leave four hours between isolation coats, but I always leave at least six and apply at least three coats to all my acrylic works.

Anyway, as this chick is really going to be a blingy, pink chick I ordered stick-on crystals to embellish her. My fried Deborah works with crystals on her paintings so I pumped her for advice on the best way to attach them as they are so small and fiddly that I didn’t think fingers alone would be a good idea. Deborah confirmed this and agreed that using Blu Tack to lift and position the crystals would probably work. It did.

Once all the crystals were on the final bit was the varnish. For this piece I decided that spray varnish was probably the best option as the crystals wouldn’t get disturbed by my brushing acrylic varnish over them and it will help to keep them in place, too. However, I found that it was necessary to paint a few coats of outdoor all weather clear varnish over her to stop the crystals from being knocked off.

The varnish needs to be applied in a well-ventilated space, preferably outdoors when it isn’t raining, and the wind isn’t blowing a gale. The weather in Surrey has been both wet and windy during March so finishing this stage has taken a while.

Four coats of spray varnish and two coats of painted on outdoor clear varnish have been applied to keep it all safe. Now I just need to return it to Brian Howard, the organiser of the charity event, so that he can get it photographed ready for the auction. I am sure Brian has told me when the auction is, but currently we are without internet, Wi-Fi, or phone line, so I am not able to check. When I do know, I will let you know through my newsletter, and I will of course let you know how the auction goes and how much it raises.

For those who are interested I used Golden Acrylics Heavy body paints, Atelier Interactive paints, car spray paint for the gold, a clear spray varnish purchased on the internet (can’t remember the brand), and Ronseal Outdoor Clear Varnish for the final coats. The crystals came from various different online suppliers plus some I had in stock, and I used Loctite Super Glue to attach some of the crystals.

NB Just for the record, I do not get paid to endorse any of the people or brands I have mentioned above. These are all products that I use and genuinely believe in and people I truly admire.

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