Two young chicken portraits

Cockerel and Pullet, each 9×12 in. on panel, acrylic, © 2017 Cindy Schnackel

Finished two chicken portraits this week! They’re on my Current Inventory Page

Did a few finishing touches to some other pieces. Sorted through a stack of little drawings to see which I might put in tiny frames and which might go in the collage drawer. Next, will tackle cleaning and organizing because things are creeping outwards again and it gets hard to work. Once my space is all neat again, I’ll get back to a large political themed piece, at least for a few minutes a day. It is hard to find that sweet spot where the ‘joy’ of painting overlaps with the feelings of horror about our current administration. Then, (or maybe instead of!), some more thrift store makeovers. Also wanting to draw more again and eyeing a birch panel we got at a lumber yard, to maybe gesso and do some large scale drawing or mixed media on. I dunno. So many ideas, there is a log jam. Usually, cleaning the studio helps un-jam things.

Studio table overflowing with doodles and works near completion earlier in April 2017. © Cindy Schnackel

Inktense colored pencil (sepia?) and wet brush. © Cindy Schnackel 2017

It’s getting to be in the 90s every day now, a bit hot IMO to paint outdoors, but I’ll watch for occasional breaks and do some more plein air so I don’t get out of practice before fall. Maybe just go sketch the nearby canal as water can be a challenging subject. Even though the canal isn’t very pretty, I’ll be happy to represent it fairly accurately, or put some weird spin on it, either one.

For April I’m seeing quite a few of other people’s shows. I hit several galleries on First Friday and will see a few more yet before the end of the month. Other than the miniatures in the gift shop at {9} The Gallery I have plans to show with a women’s painting group at The Artery (Studio 6) again this summer and then in November. Details TBA when I know more! Things are a bit slower here in summer, and I try not to commit to too much that would require riding the city bus in the heat. Summer is a good time to stay in the air conditioning and work on new miniatures!

Mrs. Ferguson


Recent sketch of Fergie from one of my old photos.

Last year I committed to commissioning Jenny at The Pet Chicken Ranch to make an art doll of Ferguson, my most favorite chicken of all time. Jenny’s work is meticulously hand done, takes a lot of time, and is very popular, so I have been on a waiting list and my number’s coming up!

So that Jenny could know as much as possible about her, I rounded up all the old photos of her. Most were so faded they were not of much use.  I set out to sketch her from my photos, and fill in the blanks with memory. The above sketch is mostly ink, (both fine tipped black pen and wide brush tipped markers), and some colored pencil. I was working on getting just the right colors. Also, I want the sketches I send Jenny to capture the hen’s perky, confident stance and character. While I’m not expecting an exact replica by any means, I want to provide all the data I can, as Fergie has long ago passed into the great pasture in the sky, so I can’t provide any new photos. It’s fun when some of Jenny’s customers show their pet chicken alongside the doll portrait! Jenny always captures the persona and look of the birds!

Back in the 70s and 80s, I had a tiny flock of fowl, all beloved and special, but as always there are favorites. I called her Fergie for short, but her whole name was Mrs. Ferguson, because when I first got her as an itty bitty newborn chick, she had a topknot and face that made her look just like an elementary school teacher I had by the same name.

Someone gave me Fergie. I hadn’t gone out to buy a chick. I was at a home where a girl my age was teaching me to ride horses, and this tiny chick ran by, alone. A man grabbed the chick and just gave it to me, saying it would likely not survive there anyway. I gleefully, accepted! Chickens from Heaven!

When I brought her by my parents urban house to show them, an aunt was visiting and proclaimed, “It’s gonna DIE!” Newborn Fergie was so tiny, and seemingly frail, but I’d had a penchant for bringing home runts as a kid, and they always seemed to grow into perfectly healthy animals. So I had faith in Fergie, and she did indeed live and grow into a beautiful and cocky little bantam silkie hen. I suspect she was only part silkie, but she mostly had silkie features. Black comb and skin, fur-like feathers, dark eyes and beek, feathered feet, and a crest like a little angora pom pom. She was a soft warm shade of off white plus quite a bit of fluffy charcoal gray. A few of her feathers weren’t quite all silkie, but they weren’t ‘hard’ like normal breeds, either. I figured somewhere in her lineage was some tiny bantam breed, maybe a spangled something or other by the markings some of her soft feathers bore. But mostly she was silkie.

Fergie was smart, and affectionate. Even if I’d had no previous experience with poultry to tell me they could be that way, she would’ve melted my heart. She loved attention, didn’t care a lot for other chickens, and would run to me to be scooped up, held and petted. She would sit in my lap and stretch out her neck to be petted, closing her eyes and trilling in contentment. She did make friends with my turkey, Dodo, possibly for the protection Dodo gave her from other chickens. Dodo seemed to enjoy Fergie’s company, too. Dodo and all of the birds were quite tame and affectionate. Fergie just seemed more so.

Though she wasn’t a layer breed she did lay eggs pretty often. They were tiny off white eggs. She was protective of them for a little while but never really got broody. I’m not sure Fergie really wanted more chickens, or even thought of herself as a chicken. In any case, the eggs weren’t fertile as I had no rooster. She once attacked a garden hose when I moved it near her nest box. She must have thought it was a snake. As tiny as she was, she could be fierce. She also liked to beat up my shoes, it was a favorite game.

Fergie lived about 10 years if I recall right. I think she might have lived longer had I known she had picked up a parasite. By the time the vet found out what it was, she was too old to survive being dewormed. He said if we didn’t put her to sleep she’d die a lingering and horrid death. Now, there are safer wormers for birds, but this was back in the early 80s and no doubt the vet wasn’t an avian specialist, something that’s more common nowadays. So, with much regret and sadness, I had to have Fergie put to sleep. As with other favorite pets, I don’t think I ever really get over their deaths. I’ve had and loved many animals in my more than half a century of living, but a few stick out and their memory never fades, and I still think “what if.” What if they were still with us?

When the doll is done, I’ll post a pic of it, and will probably post more about it on my Found a Chicken blog. I’ve been wanting to do a feature on Jenny, so that will be the perfect time to do so.


Jenny’s Pet Chicken Ranch:



My other blog:

Found A Chicken:


And I have not forgotten my other art! Today I was pasting pages of an old cookbook to a panel, to get it ready to be background for an anti-factory farming piece. I’ve been researching possums for a commission, and sketching them in unnatural and imaginary situations. I’m taking a break from ceramics for the summer, so we can spend more evenings in the pool instead of in a classroom until it starts to cool down. But, I have a package of air dry clay, and a number of found objects and saved cardboard tubes, etc, in case I get the urge to sculpt. I even still have a few thrift store pieces that never got altered in time for my show in March, that I might still get to. My main goal for the summer though is to do the commission and get a start on the factory farm series. I hope that the series will be ready to show as a group somewhere in about a year.

Staying Centered, New Work, & Sale on Hoodies and Sweatshirts


3 new bowls, and one from last week

Ceramic wheel throwing is going well. My husband is relaxing and enjoying it now, and we’re both getting the hang of keeping clay centered.  I went in one afternoon this week to throw some more bowls, and trim feet on last time’s bowls.  Above shows one old bowl, upper left, that I think is Brian’s, but often we can’t tell so we just scratch our last nams on the bottoms before they get fired, which is enough lettering to fit on a small space.  The very wet new bowls are moved from the wheel to a plywood board and labeled, because, well, pretty much all the beginning bowls probably look similar.  If we were going to make plates, the teacher showed us how to throw on a bat, so we could leave the piece on it, as it’d be really hard if not impossible to detach something with such a wide base from the wheel, and move it, without totally distorting it. The softer (wetter) the clay, the more it can distort.  To remove the piece, you put water behind it on the wheel and drag your wire cutting tool thru the base, as close to the wheel as possible. You do this until the piece loosens and slides toward you. Then you carefully move it by grasping it at the base and transferring it to a board, where it is left to get leather hard for the next step, turning it over and trimming a nice foot on the bottom, below.


Greenware bowls with feet trimmed

Above, the two darker looking bowls are dark because they’re still wetter,  leather hard and just got trimmed. The four lighter ones are dry, trimmed a few days ago.  I rather like trimming feet. Not being there daily, sometimes you have to trim things that are a little drier than you’d like, or if they’re too wet, put them outside by a fan, where they become leather hard pretty quickly.  This is where the imperfections can often just be trimmed off, not unlike turning wood on a lathe. When I was in college, I was so bad at centering, that most of my wheel pieces were more lathe carved than wheel thrown, LOL!  But surprisingly, I’m getting it this time, and most of my bowls are very centered. After the foot is trimmed on the wheel, we carve our names in the bottom. Otherwise we’d never know what was what after it was fired.  Even though we think we’d recognize our work, most of the time we don’t.  I think that will change once we start adding things to pieces!

Next class I think we’re going to to cups, according to what the teacher had planned. We will need to attach handles to them at the leather hard stage, which is a bit more fussy I think, than trimming feet, so I will need to go in as often as possible to ensure they get dealt with at the correct wetness to dryness.  Or, cover them with plastic, and use the fan, when we ARE able to be there outside of class.


All clean

Cleaning up can take awhile! We don’t start anything new if there’s 30 minutes or less left. It gets turned off, unplugged, and sponged down, then the sink and tools also get cleaned, clay sealed up and put away. The plastic pan under the wheel comes apart and I’ve learned to sop the worst of the slurry and clay lumps out before disassembling it.  I also put the clay chunks and trimmings into a bag, and use them later to roll coils to hold bowls in place for trimming feet. Eventually the wetter stuff will be saved for slip, the ‘glue’ that holds handles onto cups and so on.  After the parts of the trays are cleaned, the whole wheel and everything gets a sponge bath.  Then the foot pedal and cord are put up, because mop fairies come in the night and clean the floors.  The Microsoft bag back there is how I carried my apron and tools to the studio on the bus.

One of the reasons I started at the beginning was of course I needed to learn wheel throwing for what I want to do. Another reason is there are things I’ve forgotten about handbuilding that are important, like scoring and slip, to attach parts. I am not sure I remember it all. A mistake could result in a ruined piece, or worse…having it blow up in the kiln and ruin other people’s work, too.





“Baby,” acrylic on canvas panel, 4 x 6 in., Cindy Schnackel 2014

My table is full of more than a dozen small pieces, mostly bottle cap birds, but also a few miniature paintings on cut out wooden shapes, that are only awaiting edge finishing, before I photograph them.  Above, this small acrylic painting on canvas panel, titled “Baby,” is done.  Baby represents baby broiler chicks, (which regardless if they are so-called ‘free range’ or whatever), lead short and horrific lives.  It bothered me that I was eating chickens when I clearly thought of them as pets, so I stopped a couple of years ago. Then gradually, other meat, dairy, eggs, went too. Many animal rescues have a few rescued chickens, and the baby broiler chicks had blue eyes which surprised me, as none of my chicks ever had blue eyes. But then I never had a white chicken, and the broiler breed they showed was white. Baby looks a bit devious, and I have a feeling she’ll become a recurring character.

I’ll probably be doing a post on my Found A Chicken blog before long, on one or more of the animal rescues who have provided exposure of this industry, and who have a few of the lucky ones that were rescued.  Found A Chicken:

Besides the many small bird paintings I’ve been working on, I’m working on material for a show in 2015, work that will be held back from public display until the gallery starts promoting the event. It is keeping me busy, even though I’m not posting a lot of new pieces.




Giant Coffee Drinking Chicken adapted for Redbubble’s Products (Cindy Schnackel © 2011)

In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a sweatshirt or hoodie, the POD site I’m on, redbubble, is having a 15% off sale on those until Monday, if you use the coupon code HOODIE15 at checkout. I don’t offer a lot of that product but do have some. Take a look at this one and also look in my portfolio there for more, in the “Products” Collection.


Not that I’ll ever stop painting chickens…


Work table with paintings and works in progress, Aug 2014, Cindy Schnackel

Decided to do three more miniature cartoony chicken paintings.  Also on the table in various stages of progress are bottle caps with tiny birds painted on them! Right now, the table is taken up by frames that need cleaning in anticipation of another group of affordable miniatures being offered next year, or sooner.  They are always available. I have penciled in plans with a gallery to show again in April next year, a two person show.  I won’t say what it’s about, and you won’t see me post much if anything that’s going to be in it! I want it to be seen for the first time AT the show, and I probably won’t announce the show until the gallery does.

In the meantime I’ll still be painting birds, big and small probably. It’s almost fall here, which means outdoors might be nice enough soon to take big canvases out and paint with palette knives again.  I’ve got quite a few things going. Before I can really proceed I need to do a thorough cleaning and organizing of my studio again. Amazing how fast that can get out of order if I neglect that “place for everything” principle.  I have no idea how I managed at our old house where I didn’t even have a studio.  Besides collage material, frames, work in progress, there is now the material to work with for the 2015 show.  Some of it defies categorization.  Will there be birds? Almost certainly, but not entirely birds.

One of my new projects this summer was to create a new blog , titled “Found A Chicken.”  You can read an interview I did with Sarah Hudock and her chicken art here:

I plan to blog there about a variety of chickeny topics, from chicken sightings to artist interviews to maybe even a review of ‘fake chicken’ brands, because since we don’t eat chickens, we have tried many. Some are very convincing and tasty!

Chicken Sketch

ChickenSketchSM_CA 7 x 5 inch sketch in ink, water, and a tiny bit of colored pencil.  He–or she–looks like a mixed breed of Silkie and something else, maybe Polish.  Yes, I have chickens on the brain pretty much 24-7.  Really liking this sketchbook’s cream colored paper, too. Handles washes very well.  I went back to the store where I got it and they were all out, so apparently a lot of other artists liked it, too. It was a Daler-Rowney product, got it at Barnes and Noble.  Most of the ink is the Pentel pens they demoed at AZ Art Supply a few weeks ago.  Loving those, too, especially the Aquash brush that just has water in it; very handy!

In a Cartoony Mood; making a Tee Shirt on Redbubble


Chicken Scratch
Digital drawing on Tee Shirt
Cindy Schnackel

Last night I was in the mood to draw very simply, bold black lines and solid color fill, which I enjoy doing with the mouse, in Photoshop. The results often make for good tee shirt art. I drew this directly into the tee shirt template provided by the site I sell my tees on,

Bold graphic designs work best on Tees, but even paintings and photos can work better than you would think. The main thing is to test it out and see if you need to lighten it or make other adjustments, as the appearance on fabric is different, and the site does a pretty good job of approximating that difference in it’s product view.  To deal with the issue of there being a lot of ink on the shirt with a full painting, I have often carved out the character with one of the erasing tools, or faded the edges etc.

With bold graphic images like this, if I want more air going thru the design, I punch a few holes with the eraser tool, and this creates the effect of colored spots that match the shirt. You can see it here on the chicken’s neck.  Though I don’t think RB’s tees are printed any more heavily than graphic tees in stores, I do like lots of air flow!  It’s hot here in Phoenix, especially this time of year.  BTW I think the heather gray is the coolest color but maybe it’s all in my head.

Learning to use the template was a bit of a learning curve for me, because at the time I made my first tees there, I had an older version of Photoshop Elements that didn’t do what was required.  On a newer version, it was no problem. A main thing to remember is the template is a PNG file not a JPEG.  And though it will print if you “Flatten” the image, you will lose the Transparency of the image, so if you must merge layers, use the Merge, not Flatten, under Layers.  If you flatten layers, all the background, etc, will print white. Ick.

Because of the transparency, and the way the design looks on different colored tees, it’s a good idea to upload the image and check the “private” box, so only you can see it. Then, play around with the colors, check for flaws, make your edits to the image file in Photoshop or whatever you’re using. When it’s good, uncheck the private box and go public with it, (unless of course you are only making it for yourself and want to keep it private).  Some things you might see when you upload a new design, are that colors may need to be adjusted, (lightened or increase saturation etc), or flecks of things you didn’t get with the erase may show.  If you want it to be available on all colors, you might need to make two versions, one for darks, one for lights.  Or, uncheck color options of shirts that do not work with your design, in Redbubble’s editing mode.

Making iPhone cases on Redbubble isn’t much different. It starts with their template and must stay within the size and file type required.  I’ve seen my art on a case someone bought, and it was very nicely printed and a good quality case.

We have a few of my tees and they’re also very nice, among my favorites for comfort, fit and appearance. The site says not to dry the tees in the dryer but I accidentally do all the time with no ill effect so far. I don’t recommend straying from their directions,  just saying I have and nothing happened in my case! (I never use the hot setting, maybe that’s why.)

My Sock Chicken



I made this with no pattern or instructions, (those things are contrary to the way I work!, in two afternoons.  Took most of three pair of the famous Rockford Socks, which I could not find anywhere, not in dept stores nor craft stores. My mom finally found them in one of her quilting and craft catalogs! I quickly got to work and made my first sock doll.  I have always liked these dolls, about the only kind of doll I DO like, and now I have one!


Not for sale!  (At least not yet, wait til the honeymoon’s over.)


© Cindy Schnackel, please don’t pin my stuff to Pinterest. Thanks.