Barn Acrylic Painting Tutorial

Chicken acrylic painting

In this lesson plan, we paint a portrait of a chicken in an old barn using our Acrylic Paints. This premium quality acrylic paint comes complete with mixing palette and 12 vibrant colors perfect for beginners.


Picture of a barn with chicken

Be Curious 

My story begins one morning last summer at Liberty Farm in Maine. As I walked around the beautiful farmland looking for painting inspiration with my camera, I came upon this dark and mysterious open barn door. While this shot itself might make a good painting, my curiosity got the better of me; what could be inside? I entered.

Picture of a chicken

What I discovered inside was a wonderland of possibilities for a very interesting piece of art; interesting shapes and objects, a color scheme that is fun and easy to paint with and best of all, this big fat hen who hopped right up onto a piece of old wood and seemed to strike a pose– begging me for her portrait to be taken! I instantly saw a mood to capture and a story to tell in my next painting.

Well there was no time to waste in getting my one and only best shot of this girl, because all of a sudden, a big old goose shot out of nowhere furiously charging towards me from across the barn– big wings flapping, all while honking madly! Surprised and scared to death, I quickly took my picture and dashed for the exit, narrowly escaping this old grey ganders wrath.

So what I’m saying here, is when looking for some good art inspiration, explore, and be curious! You never know what you might find, and besides, its fun and can make a good story!

Recommended Materials

Acrylic Paints Set of 12

Colors: white, black, Van-Dyke-brown, Dark cadmium orange, Pale geranium lake, Yellow ochre, and Cadmium yellow. 

Paint palette (included in Faber-Castell Acrylic Paint set)


Filberts #4,6,8,12

Flat #6, #8

Rigger 3/0

Acrylic retarder (slow dry medium)

11x14 white stretched cotton canvas 

Container of water for rinsing brushes

Spritzing bottle with water

Cotton rag


Outline sketch


My camera photos automatically get transferred to my laptop photo collection as I take them, so I can later refer to my image on a larger screen as I paint. It is then that I can really see some of the details, sometimes for the first time like the second chicken peeking out of the basket on the right. My first step was to crop my photo. I made sure that the hen was a good size and a bit off center and that I was getting just enough of the background to tell the story.

I tone the canvas with a light watery Yellow ochre and let it dry for 5 or so minutes. I then loosely sketch in the basic composition with the Yellow ochre.


I mix a few combinations of a watery Van-Dyck-brown, Black a little Yellow ochre and White, and roughly paint in the darkest parts of the painting. I will refine this background later.

Tip: After squeezing out my colors an inch or so apart on my palette, I gently mix in a small drop of the acrylic retarder medium to each color. This medium is very effective in slowing down the drying time of acrylic paint. It allows the paint to stay more wet and workable for several days, so I can achieve a more oil painted look.

Acrylic chicken painting

Here I use a variety of mixes of the Yellow ochre, Cadmium yellow, Dark cadmium orange, Van-Dyke-brown, White and a bit of Pale geranium lake to loosely paint the hen, fence, post, basket with the second chicken and piece of wood in the foreground. The piece of wood is tricky and does not look good yet; I will have to figure out how to paint it.

Painted canvas with acrylic chicken

At this point, I turn to the background. I want to keep it mostly loose and painterly, suggesting wood and shapes with simple brush strokes and lost edges; not a lot of definition. I paint the window very loosely to indicate the bright glare of the mid day sun through the dirty window; this is what is backlighting the chicken. The window is also shedding a bit of light onto the wood rack on the wall so I paint it.

Here I decide to simplify the background by editing out some of the small detail/clutter seen in the photo, including some sort of metal farm equipment to the left of the hen. Whatever that is would need to be carefully painted yet would still not be recognizable to most, and I think would distract from the hen. I decide to define the shovel and a few other tool handles in the shadow, and I paint more detail on the the wood rack on the wall.

I also try to improve the look of the wood that the hen is perched on by simply painting over it; that is the beauty of acrylic paint. It is so very easy to change things. Even thought the wood in the photo is white and does not show a wood grain, I take a little artistic license here and try painting a wood grain effect with long horizontal strokes in 3 or 4 tones of brown. White wood would stand out too much being so large and in the foreground. I think that this now reads more as wood and works better.

Acrylic painted chicken in a barn

In this almost final stage I work on small yet very effective details. I paint a delicate shadow on the wood unit on the wall, work more on the hen and her feet, paint the barbed wire on the fence and add a little more detail to the big piece of wood.

Finished acrylic painting of chicken in barn

Finally, I step back and look at the overall painting. Some of the areas of the loose brush strokes especially around and below the window are a little distracting, so I adjust them by simply darkening it up.

I also wash a thin glaze of a light warm tan over parts of the hen and the wood to tone it down just a bit.

I hope you enjoyed this story and tutorial as much as I did making it. Sharing an experience by translating it into to a memorable piece of art is really so rewarding.

All the best to you!

Artist biography - Janis Doukakis

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