Chicken Pig Cow Fish (CPCF) – From Digital Concept to Acrylic Painting Collection


Camera UploadsWhen I started the Chicken Pig Cow Fish project (CPCF), I started with a sketch of each animal on 13 x 13″ framed canvases. After taking a picture of the canvas’s with the lightly sketched characters on them, I imported the photos of the pieces into Photoshop to play around with the design and colors. That project resulted in a digital concept of CPCF (click here for project details) that I started over a month before deciding to paint it on canvases using acrylic. Since this was meant to be a collection, I knew I had to paint them all around the same time to ensure that the style and colors were similar. Finally I had a weekend block of time where I could devote time to painting all four.

Bullets for Success

  • All four pieces are a part of the same collection and therefore should have the same Look and Feel in terms of the style, colors, theme 
  • All pieces should use the same colors (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, White, Dark Blue)
  • The collection as a whole should be balanced when displayed together but the pieces should also be interesting as stand a long pieces

What I would like to learn from this project

  • Paint is incredibly forgiving. Each layer just needs time to dry before the next layer can be added on cleanly.
  • Paint color mixology has always been a mystery to me. Fortunately I have a book on this matter that was an amazing help to me with figuring what colors to mix to get the right color
  • How to control the brushes, what each brush is designed to go
  • Identify what my “natural style” for painting is
  • Find out what style of painting I enjoy the most
  • Found the workspace and setup that was most comfortable to me

Challenges to overcome with this project

  • Not settling for a collection that does not share the same look and feel
  • Improving brush control / wrist control
  • Looking away long enough to see where I need to make improvements

 Monday 05/27/2013 – A great day for Paint!


My setup is simple and basic. I cleared off room in the home office/art room/workroom where I could spread out. I used the plastic floor mat to protect the floor where I would be painting, and an old damaged bed sheet as a smock for other areas that might get paint on them. There was plenty of room to spread out the paint! With the color mixing guide by my side, I was ready to work on all four at the same time. It was actually a really fun day for me :) I really needed this!

I took my time and it took me about two days to really finish all four panels. I had to get used to the paint feel again. The outlining is a bit of a pain as it is hard to get clean lines with paint and there is no luxury of an UNDO button as with digital painting.

Achieving the same look and feel sounded easier said than done. Each panel was really cool but together, they lacked a cohesive style that I think is important for a collection.


By Monday evening, I had four beautiful pieces that I let sit and dry. Since the canvases came in a pack of 7, I had three that were blank. Since I had some left over paint I went ahead and covered the last three with the Red, Blue, and Green and put them aside until I could find a good use for them. On Tuesday I couldn’t help but feel that the Fish and the Pig were not in the same style as the Chicken and Cow which were more animated. After a few attempts to fix the fish, I decided to start over on the fish using a spare canvas. I had to rethink the fish for over an hour. I stared at the Chicken and Cow and describe the style, and the compared that description of the fish.

Tuesday 05/28/2013 – Something’s fishy…

Giving your eyes time to look away from your work is a good thing.  After letting the paint set overnight, I took a fresh look at the collection together. Something didn’t feel right. I had determined that the Chicken and Cow were more in the style of animations/line drawings with solid color fills and heavy dark blue and white borders that gave them their animated feel. The fish however, had more fluidity and color gradients. Although the colors were similar, the “style” was different.   So I grabbed some scrap paper and redesigned the fish to fit the description of the Chicken and Cow. I was concerned at how much border inking I would have to do.

Fish reimagined

I sketched out the fish again to have an animated/line drawing look and feel similar to the cow and fish.

Version 2 - CPCF
The fish still needs to have flat white elements to really have it match the style of the Chicken and Cow, I am really glad I decided to redo this piece and actually, I was surprised at how much quicker I was at completing fish II. This is a good exercise for learning brush control. I really had to steady myself to get all those dark outlines in and making every curve look neat. Now it is time to let the paint set. Will look at this again in the morning.


 May 28, 2013 – Oh Piggy!

Its been a long day at work and I couldn’t wait to get home and take a look at the painting with fresh eyes to evaluate. The day seemed to melt away instantly when I changed into my painting jeans and sat at my painting station. Hobbies are so important. During the sit down. I really felt like the fish needed some white so I started by adding the first coat in some thought out spots. I am going to let it dry and add another coat and then a clean outline. As I put Fish back into the rest of the collection, “Oh now…” Dare I say it…. Pig doesn’t seem to fit in with the others! Should I seriously considered redoing Pig?

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May 29, 2013 – Rethinking Piggy

Rethinking Piggy.  From pen sketch to photocopy to color by number


I couldn’t stop thinking about piggy all day at work.  Then, 15 minutes on hold with an outside vendor helpdesk/tech support line made me antsy. I quickly grabbed my notepad and dooodled a quick pencil drawing of how I would redo Piggy to make him fit in better with the other animals in the collection … which I think will call “The Farm” since is seemed more suitable for this lot of four animals. The sketch was easy, and took all of 10 minutes. I was still on hold on the phone trying to maintain sanity with their horrible hold music. So I thought about how I would color in Piggy now that the sketch was down. I had seen a color by number on the back of a box of Trix cereal that I bought over the weekend. It gave me the idea to do the same to this Piggy Doodle. I just wrote in little letters to represent where the colors would go. “R” for Red “O” for Orange, “Y” for Yellow, DB for Dark Blue, “G” for green. I had to think about the colors while looking at a white piece of paper. Since the background on the Piggy canvas must be red, I started with a big R. The snout was going to remain Orange so I out an “O” there. And the just used my imagination for the rest. I tried not to put the same color in two touching sections and made sure that each color was evenly distributed as possible considering that Red was the most dominant since it took up the entire background.  When the help desk support finally came on the line another 15 minutes later, I tore off the sketch from the notepad and put it in my take home file.

When I finally got home from work that evening, I immediately photocopied the notepad sketch and used my good markers to fill in the colors as I had lettered them out on the sketch. I photocopied the piece just in case I didn’t like the first pass of colors. But that was not the case, but I am still glad I photocopied the original.

When I took a good look at the new mock up of Piggy next to the other, I loved it! It felt right. This Piggy belonged to this farm! I already had a red canvas ready and waiting. I sketched in the Piggy onto the canvas to match my photocopied, Color by Letter version and away I went. 2 hours later I had a completed piggy. I LOVE IT!  But I will let my eyes rest for tonight and take a fresh look again in the morning.

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May 31, 2013 – The final finishing touches

Today begins my four day vacation where I plan to spend time cleaning up loose ends and finishing projects. I was spending time with my wonderful friends, “The Browns” and told them about the Farm project. I am determined more than ever to get this done today and mounted on the kitchen wall before the end of the weekend, and so I am going to clean up the final details of the collection.

Chicken needs clean outlines and a few fills here and there. Fish needs another coat of white an some more outlining as well. I am rethinking the level of detail and have decided to go simpler. I think all this can get done today, but in two sessions to allow for drying time.

June 1, 2013 – 2:20 AM  – Yes! 

It’s my birthday! All is quiet in the house as it has been. I discovered detail brushes and spent the entire evening of May 31st detailing and cleaning up edges. I put the final finishing touches on Piggy and bravely removed the beautiful details on Fish. Again, another beautiful detailed work that I had to “undetail” for the benefit of the entire collection. There were several coats of paint required to mute it down. As as the night went on, I spent time with each frame, while waiting for the paint on another frame dry. I Chicken feathers felt great with the detail brush. It was easier to achieve the curves then it was when I began. Only practice teaches how to make a clean brush stroke.  Pig got a little more blue in the cheek/snout. I gave more depth to cow with a brighter blue in some spots. This felt right, and so I added that same blue to all the pictures. I especially like the way Chicken has two variations in blue. I made sure to have that blue in every canvas.

June 3, 2013 – Mounted on the Wall in the Kitchen


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Welcome to my world!